How the use of statistics in modern football is changing the game

For so long, we’ve seen managers and clubs take on players with little more than a hunch. Or because they see something that the majority don’t see.

It hasn’t always been the most successful method of business for clubs across the world, but there are always some diamonds in the rough. You don’t need to look too deeply, either.

Ballon D’or winner and World Cup finalist Luka Modric is a great example. As a child, Modric grew up during the Croatian Independence War. A far cry from the high-grade youth academies we see at any number of top-flight clubs today.

After being rejected by his childhood club, Hadjuk Split, Dinamo Zagreb took a chance on the then 16-year old, signing him. He was loaned out numerous times before turning into Zagreb’s shining light.

He eventually would sign for high-profile Premier League club Tottenham. After a successful stint in North London, he made the dream transfer to Los Blancos, Real Madrid.

The rest speaks for itself.

Four Champions League trophies, a league title, three domestic cup titles, three UEFA Super Cup triumphs and three FIFA Club World Cup victories.

Luka Modric will forever live on as a footballing legend.

Mario Balotelli is another great example. A footballer who has always had an attitude, the Italian striker originally trialled at Barcelona as a junior. However, he was never signed up by the Blaugrana for that very reason. Attitude.

However, Manchester City took a chance on him, recognising his talents. They believed that if they could harness that talent and help him drop the arrogant tag, he could help them win trophies.

Now, we know they were right. Before ‘Aguerooooooooo’, there was ‘Balotelli’. His influence in that play justified the chance Roberto Mancini and City took on him, regardless of anything else.

His City career may have been short-lived, but he repaid the faith and in turn, became a Manchester City legend.

Now in saying all of this, there are some footballers who have failed to repay their managers, fans and clubs. These are the times when perhaps, those who take the chance on these players when no one else will, should’ve listened to the majority.

Ravel Morrison sticks out like a sore thumb on a list of high-potential players that never fulfilled their destiny. Once touted by Sir Alex Ferguson as ‘the best he had ever seen’, Morrison’s career went downhill quicker than you could snap your fingers.

A once promising English football talent, Morrison now plays for Swedish club Ostersunds and with full respect to the Swedish leagues, it’s a far stretch from where he could’ve been.

Juan Manuel Iturbe, once dubbed ‘the next Messi’, was another immensely talented youngster who had the world at his feet at a club like AS Roma back in 2014.

But a slow start in the nation’s capital saw him out of favour and soon, out of the club. After several loan spells at AFC Bournemouth, Torino and Club Tijuana, Iturbe now represents UNAM in the Mexican league.

25 years old and no longer playing in Europe, it appears he may never get another chance.

All this can confirm one thing.

We never know just how high a player’s ceiling is. We can listen to all the talk, read all the hype. But at the end of the day, we never truly know until they get out on the park and on the big stage.

Which is why the use of statistics in player recruitment has become such a worldwide phenomenon amongst football clubs, especially in the age of technology.

There was always research done when clubs looked to sign players, but that’s child’s play compared to the amount that professional clubs do nowadays.

There’s no stone unturned. No book unopened. No margin for error.

Clubs get one chance to do it right and if they get it wrong, it’s disastrous. But when done correctly, it can be a masterstroke.

Davy Klaassen was signed by Everton prior to the 2017/2018 Premier League season. Despite a lot of hype behind a player supposed to be in his prime, Klaassen failed to cut it, managing less than 500 minutes in both Everton’s league and Europa League campaigns.

Klaassen, an attacking-minded midfielder, averaged at least one shot per game for Ajax in their Eredivisie and Champions League matches across five seasons. He was involved in 21 goals from 30 appearances during the 2015/16 league season. Then, the season before he joined the Toffees, he was involved in 23 goals from 33 appearances.

He was named the Dutch footballer of the year in 2016.

But when he joined Everton, he averaged a mere 0.3 shots on goal during his time in Merseyside with no goals or assists to his name, either. That’s for the Premier League and Europa League.

So why didn’t he work at Everton?

We may never know, but we can only assume that his playstyle wasn’t suited to that of the Premier League. He may not have been a physically or mentally prepared as he should’ve been.

Now at Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga, he has a second chance to show that he can cut it in Europe. But it seems to be a long road back.

It is possible, as players such as Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne have proven. Once cast aside by Premier League clubs, they worked hard and earned another shot in England.

Now, they are two of the best players in world football.

As an example of a player who has been able to prove his worth in what is regarded as ‘the toughest league in the world’, let’s take a quick look at Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Arsenal talisman was a proven goal-scorer at Borussia Dortmund, scoring nearly 100 goals during his 150 appearances at Die Borussen. He was also prolific during his tenure at Saint-Etienne, prior to Dortmund.

He averaged one scoring involvement per game in his last full season for Dortmund and was on track to repeat those efforts the following season. Before Arsenal snapped him up in the winter transfer period.

Also bear in mind that Aubameyang had also performed strongly in the Champions League prior to his move to North London, scoring 15 goals from 25 appearances.

He has repaid Arsene Wenger’s faith and also that of new coach Unai Emery at the Emirates, scoring 32 goals from 50 games. A remarkable record for someone so new to the Premier League.

Aubameyang is clearly a player who is well suited to the physical and fast-paced nature of the Premier League, something Davy Klaassen was perhaps not.

In conclusion, the use of statistics can go a long way to helping clubs sign up players who will become icons. But in some instances, it’s that something special that someone sees that determines a player’s success.

But one thing’s for certain.

The age of technology and the use of statistics has changed the way we and football clubs see professional footballers.

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Everton agree to 777 Partners takeover amidst seasons of turmoil

Goodison Park

Everton have agreed on a deal with 777 Partners, as the U.S. private equity firm is looking to taking over from Farhad Moshiri in a deal reports said was worth more than 550 million pounds ($1.06 Billion AUD).

Everton have no doubt been going into turmoil over recent years, between battling close relegation races twice, getting into Financial Fair Play trouble regarding their financial losses and struggling to pay for the new Bramley Moore Dock stadium in full before its completion in 2024.

After another slow start to the new Premier League season, it has left the club in a spot of bother regarding its ownership. Majority owner Farhad Moshiri has been publicly open to selling the club since the end of the 2022/23 season, claiming he could not keep up with the finances after the Everton annual financial report showed losses of over £430 million ($817 million AUD) over the last five years.

Founded in 2015, 777 Partners is an alternative investment platform that helps bold entrepreneurs transform visions into enduring value. The Miami-based company has subsequently branched out into sports club ownership with a vision to play a key part in football in the near future as mentioned on their website.

777 Partners have a number of clubs in its portfolio that have all been acquired over the last four seasons, including Italian side Genoa and Belgian team Standard Liege, while they also have stakes in Bundesliga 2 club Hertha Berlin and more recently A-League side Melbourne Victory.

However, even in their football ownership infancy, there has been major controversy surrounding their lack of investment into players for the clubs they own, as well as a general lack of care for on-pitch results which could spell major trouble for Everton.

Hertha Berlins recently held out banners in disgust for 777 after their shocking start to the Bundesliga 2 season, months after getting relegated from the first division under 777 owner Josh Wander with a dismal 29 points in 34 games, a club record low. The banners read  ‘Josh Wander, the only thing we assure you of is our disapproval of you’. In early September, Standard Liege fans held demonstrations inside their ground with banners such as ‘No money, no ambition’.

Another issue that could play a major role in the success of this takeover is the owners’ and directors’ test that must be passed by all potential owners of premier league clubs. Co-founder Josh Wander was charged and arrested for cocaine trafficking in 2003 and only ended a long period of probation in 2018. Wander admitted in an interview on Sky Sports Italia that this charge would come under additional scrutiny for the owners’ and directors’ test and could be a big roadblock. There are also a number of legal claims against the company still outstanding.

The future looks increasingly bleak for Everton with the poor reputation and record 777 Partners has with its current clubs and this takeover may do more harm than good if that is even possible. Staring down a possibly first-ever Premier League relegation, this change might be better than sitting still under the failure of Moshiri and Kenwright, but there is a rightful lack of optimism surrounding a lot of the club at the moment, especially with the loyal fans.

Kimon Taliadoros resigns – experienced CEO now needed for Football Victoria

Kimon Taliadoros

Last week, Kimon Taliadoros resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Football Victoria.

He also served as Chairman of Football Victoria for five years before his role as CEO.

Taliadoros stated in regards to his exit decision via media release confirmation; “After much reflection, I have decided to step down from my role as CEO of Football Victoria.  It has been a privilege to serve the game. I am grateful to the selfless volunteers and dedicated staff that provide the resilience and energy that drives football in Victoria every day.”

Throughout his tenure, Taliadoros played a strong part in guiding the development of the Home of Matildas facility at La Trobe University – which also acts as the governing body’s headquarters.

Stage one of the precinct, an overall $101.1 million investment by the Victorian Government, was completed just before the beginning of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

An overview of what the facility is eventually set to include, is listed below.

  • FIFA and AFC compliant elite training facility
  • Five pitches including
    • Show Pitch – Premium FIFA standard Hybrid
    • 1 additional Premium FIFA standard Hybrid
    • 3 FIFA standard synthetic pitches 
  • 400m2 high-performance Gym
    • Cardio
    • Weights
    • Additional Rehab/pilates / yoga multi-purpose space
    • Sprint track
    • Hydration station
    • Med ball wall
    • Warm-up / kicking zone
  • Sports Science / High performance
    • Prehab/rehab zone
    • Sports science lab
    • Doctor / Physio / Psychologist consulting suites
    • 2 Massage spaces
    • Strapping bench
    • Coaching hub/office
  • Elite-level Recovery / Wet Area
    • Hot & Cold Plunge Pools
    • ‘Endless River’ recovery pool with swimming jets
  • Multiple change rooms including a purpose-designed circular Matildas locker room
  • Referee change-room 
  • Auditorium / Theatrette and 3 configurable team meetings rooms with pitch markings in the carpet (team walk-throughs)
  • Approximately 800 seat grand-stand with additional terrace/balcony for standing room and/or functions – overlooking the main pitch
  • Function spaces and bar overlooking the main pitch (with commercial kitchen attached)
  • Public Café and match day canteen
  • Matildas and FV historical/interactive displays and memorabilia
  • Media production centre
  • Broadcast spaces and capability
  • Players dining room
  • Player’s lounge, study space, and 2 sleep rooms (sleep/meditation/prayer / quiet rooms)
  • Property office and laundry
  • Football Victoria offices within the main administration building
  • Public amenities throughout – including Changing Places, all abilities, gender neutral and parents facilities
  • Purpose-built international standard Futsal pitch (Stage 2 – subject to funding)
    • This facility will support wheelchair football, rugby, and other indoor events
    • The Futsal pitch will also provide an indoor training/game warm-up space

Taliadoros was also was responsible for the governing body’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, working around the impacts of lockdowns and reduced competition across the state. The organisation was also the first sporting entity to commit to 50/50 gender equity under his reign.

In the interim, the FV Board has installed Karen Pearce OAM – the current Head of Equity, Growth and Inclusion at the governing body, as acting CEO. She will continue in her current role as well taking on responsibilities of the CEO’s office in an acting capacity.

The board has initiated a recruitment process for a permanent CEO – and it’s an opportunity for the governing body to appoint an experienced individual, with fresh ideas, to take the game forward in Victoria.

The success of other governing bodies, such as Football Queensland, are an appropriate guide of what to do next for Football Victoria.

Rob Cavallucci and his organisation recently delivered a new home for football in Brisbane’s North, after an agreement between the governing body and the Brisbane City Council.

The facility will provide young footballers in the state with further development programs, to improve their skills at a young age.

It is just one of a number of initiatives that Football Queensland have implemented, since Cavallucci took over in 2019.

On the back of a hugely successful Women’s World Cup, participation numbers are set to soar in Australia and it’s important for the governing body in Victoria especially, to take advantage of this.

Increased funding from governments should be on the agenda to cater for the boom, with a lack of suitable football pitches across the state still an issue for many participants.

Improvement on a commercial front is also necessary.  The organisation should be focusing heavily on signing sponsorship deals for their major competitions and events across Victoria – something that they can definitely capitalise on.

To accomplish this, the game in Victoria needs a CEO with a wealth of commercial experience, with an extensive network to tap into – to take the state’s game to the next level.

Transformation is needed in the governing body now, before the momentum of the Matildas’ home World Cup achievements wear off.

Proactive business decisions must be made by the incoming CEO, instead of reactive, if the game is to grow into its full potential across Victoria.

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