The Data Base Sense

01-10-2012 18:20


    Technology has conquered our lifestyle; collecting information is one of the most important function, extremely valued by society and even called by Alvin Toffler in his book “The third wave” (1980) as the Information Age. Information became raw material for who collects being in a favorable strategic position in relation to opponents. Manchester City F.C with Opta Pro decided to provide free access to data base relative to season 11/12 of every Premier League player in every match (MCFCAnalytics). Regardless lose some favorable strategic position in relation to opponents, but by other side gaining some new ideas for Performance Analyzing. However the usefulness of the data base provided is inevitably associated to knowledge we have about football. The ability to give a logical sense, allowing a functional understanding of the game is essential for a successful career in Performance Analysis. The Performance Analyst competence depends essentially of which variables are collected and how is interpreted. Taking as an example, if a technical staff of a football team; make each of one a performance analysis, we could have the following situations as a results: Fitness Coach collects data from a physiological standpoint, already psychologists collect data form psychological standpoint; manager and coaches collect data according how they interprets the game, studies, their experience and culture ranging from each staff element; resulting different analyses of the same game.


    The same happens between Performance Analyst, different interpretations of the game lead to different data collect and different Performance Analysis.  MCFCAnalytics provided a set of data arranged in various categories like: goal, shot on target, shot off target among others. Several data listed report numbers of events; important for the assessment of performance in a game, but we can´t reduce Performance Analysis to enumerate events without explaining. Taking the goal as example, goal isn´t a good baseline for team performance analysis or how it is organized since the Goal is the result of a series of actions in order to emerge the goal. MCFCAnalytics provides us the number of shot, this only tells us how many times the balls are kicked, but tells us nothing about his performance; for example a shot made ​​without pressure is necessarily different than one made with opposition. Data like Shot on target; Shot off target; Chance conversion / Goals-to-shots ratio; Shooting Accuracy already shows some features shot take, giving us an idea of the player’s performance. Sport Performance Analysis can´t stand by enumerate and compare set of data already provides by MCFCAnalytics, but interpret these, combined with a strategic-tactical to find a explanation for why certain value appears in the data.



Manchester City F.C General Dynamic Transition (Defense-Attack)

Data base sense is inherent in how the team plays, their movements, player´s behavior and game strategy, so his representation and perception is essential for understanding the database. Figure 1 shows us the formation of Manchester City F.C (Formation 8 by Opta Pro) for the game against Manchester Utd; round 36 (30/04/2012). With 1 - Joe Hard, 2-Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany 5-, 6 - Joleon Lescott, 3 - Gaël Clichy, 8 - Yaya Touré, 4 - Gareth Barry, 7 - David Silva, 10 Carloz Tevez, 11-Samir Nasri; 9 - Sergio Aguero.

Figure 1

Manchester City uses mostly Formation 6 (68.4%) of their games, if we look more specifically in home games the percentage rises to 78.9% and in games outside, drops to 57.9%, formation 8 is used in 13 % of the season. To justify each formation option all over the season 2011/2012 is necessary define the competitive context where the team is inserted, this is conditioned by team management, injuries, sanctions, physical condition, international commitments and opponent strategy. Figure 2 and 3 represent the Manchester City Offensive dynamic organization during the game; the interpretation is made by scenario. Scenario 1 - Attack begins in GK. This situation could cause two other possible scenario; Scenario 2 - If the opposing team is in the defensive midfield; then the GK begins the attack by passing the ball to the defense and Scenario 3- If the opposing team is in the offensive midfield then the GK execute a long pass directly to the Midfield or Strikers, creating Scenario 5, 6 and 7. Interaction and decision making is represented by arrows between scenarios, greater use of a path (way to solve a problem to another) can be explained by a strategy team or by the interaction between the opponents, forcing the team to have specific behaviors.



    Substitutions may be explained by an attempt to increase performance in a specific scenario or create a new advantage scenario. The perception of how the Manchester City team is organized and interacts with the opponent team is what will made sense to data base provided. The number of success and fail in different situations requires a specific analysis, to find answers for increasing team performance.

Figure 2 and 3

Defense Line dynamic in transition (Defense-Attack)

He was defined two scenarios for defensive line (Scenario 2 and 3). Scenario 2 evidence passes in defensive third of the field, however scenario 3 evidence long passes directly to Middle third of the field. Table 1 show high number of pass has performed by Kompany (8) and Lescott (13) two defense center with no pass missed, we can explain this fact due to poor pressure made by Man Utd in ​​this zone or due to GK preference create Scenario 3. We can see a lot of passes made in defensive third of the field by Barry (8) and Yaya Touré (8), player´s who have tasks connecting defensive and offensive sectors creating Scenario 6 and 7.

Table 1

Building a bar graph for long passes ​​(Figure 4), we can see a lot of passes made ​​by Hart (2 Successful; 11 Unsuccessful) which leads us goalkeeper prefer create Scenario 3, Yaya Touré also use many times the long pass with a great rate success to build offensive action (100%). We can see Zabaleta and Clichy executes many pass in Middle and Final third (31; 39), that mean they go up on the field to help in offensive action.

Combining this information we can say:

1.      Goalkeeper execute long pass (Create Scenario 3)

2.      Man.Utd execute pressing on midfield; Defense execute many pass (27) in defensive third in consequence of Scenario 6.

3.      Defense build offensive action by short pass (Some long pass is made to avoid Man. Utd pression, create scenario 6 e 7)

4.      Barry and Yaya Touré execute long pass (8;2) and connect defense and midfield sectors

5.      Zabaleta and Clichy up on the field (left and right flank; in Middle and Final third  he made 31 and 39 passes.

Figure 4

Midfield and Attack Line dynamic in transition (Defense-Attack)

Midfield Line have more activity in midfield zone, we verify a high number of pass (130) made ​​by the players who occupy these areas like Yaya Touré, Gareth Barry, David Silva (table1) this number is the result scenario 6 and 7. Players like Kompany, Lescott, Clichy also show a reasonable number of passes (39) which may be explained by the rise of the defensive line on field. Offensive players like Tevez, Nasri and Agüero performance also some passes in this area (17; 12; 10), explained back movement in the field. All player show a very good ratio Successful and Unsuccessful passes. After determinate the type and frequency of pass in different zone of the field used by each player; is essential determinate the characteristics and difficulties building transitions Defense-Attack. For a better understanding of the Manchester City Attack dynamics was built several graphic showing the direction of the pass made ​​by each player (Figure 5), to determinate which scenario occurs more often.

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 5 shows a higher number of passes forward than backward, situations which the pass is made ​​back (scenario 4) can justify the number of passes made ​​at defensive line, as well as the existence of scenario 7, with a strong pressing made by Manchester Utd; Man city can lose ball possession. When Man City is in scenario 7 attack doesn´t see conditioned to a specific zone of field, but we can see use many depth pass. Graph (figure 6) show us duel´s between the teams, is normal player´s with tasks more offensive are subjected to more pressure and duels. As expected Barry and Touré show´s to be key players for building transitions being they are the players with more duels and have some difficulty since the be lose many duel´s (54%; 22,2%). Clichy show´s also many duel´s (16), that me explained by the scenario 8, he carries the ball in open space in the right flank and when the opponent team makes pressure he have many duels (62,50% successful). Teves; Nasrir; Aguero are also the players pressed what would be normal since their tasks are directly implied in the goal area and its performance is close to the opposing team (40%; 38%; 14% successful).

Figure 7

Combining this information we can say:

1.      Midfield Make depth pass and build attack by any side of field (Create Scenario 9,10,11)

2.      Zabaleta and Clichy up on the field (left and right flank) and combine with Nasri and Silva

3.      Aguero try find empty space with many backward pass and tries finish (Scenario 9,10,11)

4.      Aguero doesn´t made strong pressure (1 tackle).




Individual task in dynamic transition (Defense-Attack)

After determining reference values ​​in some specific situations such as passing, location on field and duels, we can say how the team play´s (figure 8), but the variation of values depend the who the opposition is made and also the player behavior (decision make) in different scenario. For that the study of the specific ratio unsuccessful situation is necessary, to find were we doing wrong. Determining variable for the opposition like blocks, interceptions, recoveries and their localization on the field (Man Utd pressing) with the type of resolution given by player´s ; give us information to increase ours performance and fix what we do wrong. 

Figure 8


In this article we made a viewpoint about the data base sense, how interpret the number´s. A tactic and technical approach is essential to give sense a data base, even when we build data base we must considerate that, to collect only the important variable. At this point data base give us information who´s help us to determinate de offensive dynamic transition (Figure 7), after that we also can study each scenario individually. Success rate in different situation doesn´t give us any information about what failed; only tells us we fail and it can get to be subjective when you consider the value of opponent team. For that we must identify the “why” we failed a pass or a kick? This could have happened because a bad position on field? a bad pass technic? Kick isn´t strong enough? The data base only becomes important if we have the correct viewpoint and the proper tools to interpret the game.



Article by: Pedro Afonso;