Starting this season, physical performance data of German Premier League footballers is being collected and published.
Video sensors are tracking players from both teams and allow a detailed analysis of their physical movements. 35 times per second (the video frame-rate) the coordinates of each player are stored. Among the things that can be analysed are spacial and movement profiles, sprints, speed, and heat maps. It seems that coaches and fans no longer only want to trust their own judgment, but prefer to see it in figures and stats. Football already employed quite detailed number crunching of teams such as fouls commited, ball possession, time in opponent’s half, shots on target, etc. This takes analytics to a personal level, where, I guess, it is hoped to help them learn from their behaviour on the pitch.
Criticism has come from some clubs that the tracking company does not restrict this information to club managers and coaches but also sells it to the media and to the general public. It is bemoaned that such analyses may give the wrong impression of being able to single out some players and make them scientifically responsible for a lost game. It is clear, though, that the analysis cannot come to contextual or qualitative conclusions of why a player performed the way he did. The danger that is pointed out is that figures, like milage run, may be taken by the public unreflected. Publishing performance data of players may even – it is feared – impact on the market value of some players or clubs.
What this will do to the sport is yet unknown, but we’ll just hope it still is fun to watch!