10 influencers you need to know in football analytics
We’ve got you covered with the influencers who will teach you how to understand the intricacies of a match
The field of football (soccer) analytics is a rapidly expanding one. It can be confusing for someone entering it to find reliable and up-to-date information from people who know the subject. Data analysis is confusing even if you know the terms and needing to know everything from Expected Goals to Relative Distance can be difficult. In order to help, we made a list of influencers we believe could help anyone dive into football analytics. We will follow this up with another list of recommended pages for even more analysis.
Introduce yourself to Expected Threat, tracking videos, and… job postings?
With a degree in computer science from Cornell, and a lot of research into the field of football analysis, Karun Singh pushes the unique science of football analytics further with his work. On his own blog, he writes about football analysis and discusses the metric of xT, Expected Threat, in great detail. He also runs a Fantasy Premier League for data analysts, letting the experts pit their skills against each other.
Tom Worville writes for The Athletic, which itself is one of the top sports news outlets for anyone who wants to know anything. He doesn’t limit himself to his writing there, though. His Twitter and WordPress accounts are full of wisdom, and very few understand the intersection of data science and football the way he does. He does non-written content as well; this video’ for instance, would appeal to any football fan, and this episode of Friends of Tracking is a great one to watch as well.
Rob Caroll (Twitter and Website) With his website, The Video Analyst, Rob Caroll pushes the field of football analytics further and further. While his personal Twitter is a combination of his own insights and thoughts and a lot of great work he promotes, the website he manages is an invaluable resource for anyone looking into sports analysis. He posts articles - a fascinating one being this look into Moneyball - but also has options for newer analysts, with job postings for data analysts and courses on Tableau and other methods.
Listen to the doctors
Dr. David Sumpter has an extensive portfolio, even purely looking at the youtube channel he co-hosts, Friends of Tracking. However, it would be a mistake to limit his work to just that. He has written multiple books on the subject of football analysis, his Twitter and Medium are insightful and educational, and his work has reached many places in the field, including apps like Twelve.
Another host of Friends of Tracking, Dr. Catherine Pfaff teaches mathematics at Queen’s University but also talks about football analysis and explains quite a bit of it on her Twitter page. Her own personal research is also in football analytics, and she is well worth a watch for the future and her current work.
An influential figure in the world of football analytics, it’s fair to say that Dr. Javier Fernández literally has a PhD in football. His former work was as FC Barcelona’s head of analytics, and he brings that expertise and insight into his posts, where he promotes the work of others but also brings his own incredibly well-researched views into it. His angle is often scientific, bringing in research papers about machine learning and football.
Get down to the nitty-gritty of tracking data
xG Philosophy Deceptively simple as a concept, The xG Philosophy tracks the xG, or expected goals, of teams in matches and compares it to the actual results. It thus creates an invaluable tool for any analyst looking to work with xG, a well-known metric in the world of football today, but it is also used by fans, who now track this metric obsessively. They also have a book explaining it in-depth, The Expected Goals Philosophy. If your own analysis is going to include xG as a metric, you can not stray far from their research.
While he writes for a publication dedicated to Barca, Sam Gustafson himself has a wide interest in football data. His Twitter is full of links to others’ analysis as well as his own, and his medium includes a wide variety of deep dives, from the data of a specific Swedish player to analysis of potential inverted fullbacks.
On his youtube channel, Nouman analyzes specific players and their contributions to the game. While this may sound surface level, he dives deep into the data and shows multiple facets in how they respond to other players’ movement, the overall tactics of the team, and many other aspects. He creates visualizations, explains his ideas in both text and voice, and overall supplies a very in-depth view of the tactical game. On his Twitter account, he writes shorter form ideas, analyzes specific statistics, or compares players to each other.
As a performance analyst and an academy coach, Eric Laurie is an expert at taking the complex concepts in football analytics and making them understandable for a wider audience. His work, which has a special focus on Manchester United, appears in many different outlets and often has a productive angle: What teams can do to improve and how different ideas can be applied. His twitter threads often create discussions of their own. Some of the top names in football analytics chime in with their own takes, making the threads even greater sources of insight.
These lists can never be fully exhaustive. If we’ve missed someone, please reply in the comments with suggestions!