Manchester United made a high-profile signing last week, although the club’s new arrival drifted under the radar in comparison to transfers to e.g. Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.
Instead of appearing on the pitch at Old Trafford, Dominic Jordan will head a new division for United as director of computer science.
It’s a welcome addition to the team behind the scenes at United, where rival institutions such as Liverpool and Manchester City have taken steps in the computer world over the past decade.
“There’s so much potential for computer science for the benefit of the club,” Jordan said in his appointment, “from helping recruit players, automatically analyzing game patterns straight to using computer vision to extracting information for real-time video feeds.”
Although marginal gains are often emphasized, recruitment is an obvious area where computer science can help with United’s scouting process.
Dr. Ian Graham, Liverpool’s equivalent of Jordan, recently stated that transfers tend to fail due to a variety of reasons that can be grouped into seven generic boxes.
These boxes are:
- a current player is better than the new player,
- the player is not as good as first thought,
- the player does not fit the style of the team,
- the player is played out of position,
- the manager does not evaluate the player,
- the player has fitness problems,
- the player has personal problems.
Analytics has significant power to help with the first three of these areas, Graham said, with Jordan and a team of researchers able to ensure the Reds are adequately informed and insured before investing in new talent. services in the future.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, United have dedicated significant funds to a number of players who have once struggled to move to Manchester. Data provides no guarantee against failure, but it tends to improve decision-making once used correctly.
Scientific procedures can add value across different club departments, including fitness and accessibility.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is currently suffering from an injury problem at the heart of his defense, with Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire on the treatment table.
Some setbacks are random and spontaneous, while others occur as a result of stress management and excessive fatigue. Mathematical modeling can provide some insight into the probability of injuries occurring that Solskjær could benefit from.
Even his team’s style of play can be affected within a long time, with United showing a tendency to shoot from a distance in recent seasons, which is generally a poorly advised strategy based on historical data.
Manchester United enjoyed a sensational transfer window that secured the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ole Gunnar Solskjær is now under pressure to deliver silverware after an uneven start to the season. United face some big matches after the international break.
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Between the 2019/20 and 2020/21 Premier League campaigns, approximately 42 per cent of United’s shots come from outside the penalty area, compared to 31 per cent of Liverpool’s efforts and 33 per cent of those sent by City.
Occasional attempts at distance are not too problematic, but often a better decision can be made about the ball. A key finding of Expected Goals is the importance of shooting locations and how working possession close to goals before attempting to score can pay dividends.
By integrating the benefits of computer science throughout the club, United can develop to become wiser on and off the pitch under Solskjær, and when he eventually stops as head coach further down the line, numbers can be used to determine his replacement.