Monthly Archives: January 2016

A(n association) football playbook

Earlier tonight I tweeted this

It’s something that I’ve thought about for a while. It seems that sports where analytics are big are those where things are more easily quantifiable, either in terms of large numbers of actions, or split into set plays. Football is a lot more fluid, we have set pieces (which are still probably a decent vein to mine), but can open play be split up in a similar way? Continue reading


Andreas Christesen (vs Dortmund 23/01/16)

Andreas Christensen (vs Borussia Dortmund, 23/01/16)

(Ball-playing; positioning; awareness; decision-making/fundamental errors; speed/strength (/how to overcome them))


There were a couple of moments when team-mates on the ball around him seemed to think about passing to him and then decide against it, which can sometimes give you an idea of their skill on the ball, an spectre of an absence of trust. There was once instance where he took a heavy touch which led on to a bad pass, though for the rest of the match he was largely average; nothing special, nothing bad. He did manage a midfield splitting pass which set up a good Mönchengladbach attack though, which hints at an ability that perhaps just needs to be refined. Continue reading

Sam Byram (vs Manchester City 23/01/2016)

Sam Byram (vs Manchester City 23/01/16)

For those who haven’t come across one of these before, this is a kind of scouting report, looking at one player in one match. I normally focus on centre-backs, but it’s always good to branch out. The categories are what I think you should look at for defenders, though there is of course crossover between them.


There was a sense that some of Byram’s team-mates preferred not to pass the ball to him, which is perfectly understandable given that it was his debut against Manchester City, and isn’t the same type of low-level criticism of him as it is when it happens with other players. He was, in fact, largely calm on the ball, including a lovely long pass which would have been called a hoof had it not been so graceful which got onto Match of the Day.


There were a few iffy moments, Continue reading

Aymeric Laporte vs Barcelona (en français)

[NB: La français est ma deuxième langue donc je sais pas comment bien la traduction est, en particulier plusieurs des termes specifique au foot.]

Aymeric Laporte (contre Barcelona, 17/01/16, 1e mi-temps)

J’ai décidé seulement de faire le première mi-temps pour ce regard à Laporte parce que, franchement, pour jouer 45 minutes contre Barcelona (en particulier quand votre gardien de but est exclu dans les premières quelques minutes) est le même que joue au moins un jeu complet contre la plupart des autres équipes.




Laporte n’a pas eu beaucoup du temps d’habiter sur le ballon dans ce mi-temps, pour les raisons compréhensibles. Il y avait une passe déplacée en particulier qui donné à Barcelona une attaque vite et une bonne chance. Continue reading

Aymeric Laporte (vs Barcelona)

Aymeric Laporte (vs Barcelona, 17/01/16, 1st half)

I decided only to do the first half for this look at Laporte because, quite frankly, playing 45 minutes against Barca (especially when your goalkeeper gets sent off within the first few minutes) is the same as playing at least a full game against most other sides.



Laporte didn’t get much time to dwell on the ball in this half, for understandable reasons. There was one misplaced pass in particular which set up a quick Barca attack and a good chance. Continue reading

Jores Okore (vs Leicester City)

I guess you could call this something like a scout report on a match a player is in, although scouts are expected to look at multiple players in a game so for real-life scouts this kind of thing, I imagine, is totally unfeasible.

I split a centre-back’s qualities up (the ones *I* think you should look for at least), although these overlap. Awareness feeds into positioning, as does decision making, and all three of these feed into how a player can overcome any deficiencies they may have in speed or strength departments). There’s no reason to the order of them, this one just means I can remember it better.


Jores Okore (vs Leicester City, 16/01/16)

Ball-playing; Positioning; Awareness; Decision-making/fundamental errors; Strength and Speed (/how they overcome it)


Nothing particularly of note. As ridiculous as this sounds, the movement of his body as he passed looked smooth, as did the ball as it left his foot – which is important because I think a bouncing ball can be a real hindrance. I have a belief that getting the ball flat, rolling on the pitch instead of it bouncing and bobbling around is a fairly important marginal gains area. At one point early in the match it did seem like the Villa midfield were reluctant to pass the ball to the centre-backs, but other than that there’s nothing much to speak of.


Okore’s positioning in this match, at times, made it apparent why there was some talk about him being a quite a good player a while ago. Continue reading

The difference between defenders and attackers

It’s struck me, recently, that being a defender is quite easy. Relatively. And I say this as a centre-back.

Not that I have data to back this up, but from watching centre-backs quite closely over the past few months it seems that most of their work is fitness or team-structure based. If you can a) largely keep up with a forward for 90 minutes and b) you and your team-mates know the system well enough to be roughly in line with each other and to cover for each other when one is dragged out of position, then you can be a somewhat competent centre-back for maybe 85% of the time (I plucked that number out of the air – a lot of the time is the point). Continue reading