Using analytics to maximise your club’s success during the transfer window.
With less than one month until the transfer window opens for business, teams are already doing their seasonal stock take and looking to improve their squad. As they emerge from the first half of the tough winter schedule, injuries, poor results and disappointing performances are just some of the reasons why teams might go shopping during the transfer period.
The transfer period also offers an opportunity for teams to discover new talent that, with the right coaching and the right “team-fit”, could go on to become the next superstars. It is the growth in athlete data and the availability of new technologies such as Kitman Labs Athlete Optimization System that is making analytics-based recruitment possible, enabling teams to make objective and value-based decisions during transfer time.
We speak to Darcy Norman, US Head of Performance Science at Kitman Labs, former High Performance Consultant for the 2014 FIFA World Cup winning German national team and once the fitness and rehab coach at Bayern Munich and Director of Performance at AS Roma. Norman offers insights into the value of data in today’s game and some of the common problems teams face when trying to make sense of it.
Analysing athlete data, while not the be-all and end-all solution to recruitment, can be an invaluable method to take the emotion and bias out of decision making. “Team-fit” is a term I often use to describe how well a player is likely to integrate within a team, based on their own attributes and how they might complement the team’s playing style and existing combinations.
A player might be lucky to make the bench on one team, but be a star performer within another, based on his fit. It’s through the use of data and analytics that we’re able to help clubs assess these types of scenarios and make a sound objective judgement on a player.
However, it’s important to be mindful that data is simply another tool we’re able to put into the hands of practitioners to help them make decisions day-to-day. By no means does it replace that institutional knowledge and instinct that comes with years of experience, but rather augments the decision-making process based on facts that may not necessarily be obvious or visible to the naked-eye.
At Kitman Labs we collect all types of data from athletes, which we then analyse and put into a visual format so staff can manage their players. The types of data include athlete health, such as injuries and medical records, athletic strength and testing results and technical and tactical data collected during training and games.
One of the biggest benefits of having access to a player’s data during the transfer window is that it becomes a solid sounding board to good decision making, and when used correctly can be impenetrable to any biases that exist within the club. The data presents you purely with the facts and none of the emotion that can lead you down a certain path. If anything, that data can highlight all of the possible opportunities for your team – both the good and bad. Having the most up to date and objective evidence at hand enables you to further validate or critique a decision, increasing the likelihood that you will make a positive decision for your club’s future.
One of the most common questions we get asked is: ‘but aren’t you trying to merge art and science?’ Humans are unpredictable and surely numbers on a screen aren’t going to tell you who will perform when it counts. And to a certain degree, they’re right. The data is not there to provide the Golden Rule, but rather to put a stick in the sand and have a conversation. It is really about risk mitigation which is important when you’re dealing with high-value investments like players in the top leagues of football.
I often compare it to the stock market. If we could predict exactly what would happen using all of the data, then we’d all be rich. But the truth is, there lies an element of unpredictability. The data enables us to make the best possible decisions, based on the information we have.
During the transfer window, clubs may be looking at things like; what is that player’s propensity for injury, what are their strengths in a certain position, are they fast and agile, able to play at high intensity for a full 90 minutes, or how many days have they had off due to injury in the past 12 months?
There is no doubt that the availability of data has empowered clubs to make more informed and impartial decisions at transfer time, but more importantly, it is enabling clubs to better look after their players year-round, providing a long-term safeguard for their most valuable investments. Perhaps the biggest challenge clubs have is that they don’t know how to interpret the data or communicate their data-based decisions, and this is one of our main priorities at Kitman Labs.
We’re working with clubs to decode the data and offer suggestions on which actions to take as a result. That could be; to rest a player or alter their training programme as they’re at greater risk of injury, or to increase certain types of training so they’re at peak performance come game day. What’s the point in having access to all of this rich information, if you simply can’t make sense of it in a real and practical way?
Listen to the full interview here
ABOUT KITMAN LABS
At Kitman Labs, we’re committed to the evolution of performance. Through advanced statistical analysis, rigorous scientific research and unparalleled industry experience, our system evaluates athletic injury with unprecedented precision and embodies the cutting edge of injury risk prevention technology.
We’re committed to harnessing data enabling our users to find the true sources of injury and performance – and to intervene before injuries ever occur. Kitman Labs’ Athlete Optimisation System recently won the inaugural Performance Technology of the Year prize at the prestigious BT Sport Industry Awards 2018.
The System is proving increasingly popular within elite sport because, for the first time ever, individual athletes’ data is processed in one place. This enables coaches and sports science staff to interpret all individual data via real-time, intelligent alerts to help them understand athletes with unprecedented precision, make informed decisions and gain a competitive edge.
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