written by – Rangers Report
Early on in the disheartening shambles that was the 2014-15 season for Rangers, I reached out to a group of sources who assess advanced statistics as part of their football analysis to gain an understanding of what a new progressive management team could bring to Ibrox & one source told me, “Scottish football is ten years behind the rest of the football world when it comes to analytics.”
Football clubs from nearly every major league – from England, to Germany, to even Major League Soccer have staffed data analysts to cultivate a competitive advantage over their opponents. Whether it be small clubs employing Moneyball tactics, like the Danish side FC Midtjylland or if it’s massive mega-clubs like Manchester City, teams are looking for the secret, winning formula that (hopefully) accompanies the analysis of enhanced stats. Even the ‘OG Moneyball guru’ himself, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt in the film) has been hired by AZ Alkmaar to crunch the numbers as a means of crafting the best (& most affordable) squad possible.
Scottish football? Not so much.
It’s likely that some clubs, like Hearts in particular, are employing advanced stats analytics when it comes to scouting & match preparation but if they are – they certainly aren’t actively boasting to the masses about it. Even if a team does proclaim their use of advanced stats as a management tactic, they’ll never tell the public what formulas they’re looking at – it kind of defeats the purpose of ‘cultivating that competitive advantage.’
As fans, the level of access to enhanced stats is nonexistent when it comes to Scottish football – especially in comparison to the major football leagues around the world. Football sites like Four Four Two provide exhaustive charts & analysis of literally every move in a football match, while bloggers like Michael Caley & @11tegen11 have shared their analytical insight to readers using readily available data.
For the enthusiasts of the Scottish game there truly is a void in comparison. We all know that the passes attempted in the Dundee v. Motherwell match simply doesn’t get the level of presentation that every EPL, MLS, or La Liga match gets.
One of my goals for coming back to contribute to Rangers Report is to provide readers with access to advanced stats – not only of Rangers, but also of the competition they face in their second year in the Championship.
You won’t see tracked data like what you see above, but the aim is to increase the amount of information available to Scottish football fans going forward.
Much of it will be shaped by the analytics coverage of the NHL that has emerged over recent years. Sites like War on Ice & Natural Stat Trick (among many others) have given hockey fans access to a depth of statistics that has truly enhanced how hockey fans watch the game. That’s what it comes down to – there is a passion to learn more about the sports we follow & if advanced stats add to our understanding of what happens on the pitch or the ice then that’s a gift to embrace.
Advanced stats is not the end-all, be-all when it comes to analyzing sport in the 21st century. The ‘eyeball test’ still can provide the immeasurable insight of effort, perseverance, ‘being clutch’ (the Americanisms are back!), or just the ungodly skill on display every weekend of the football season. It is the blending of what we see on the pitch while watching a match plays out in front of us – along with the aftermath that is the analysis of the data that the game provides that I hope to bring to our coverage of Rangers & the Scottish Championship in the upcoming season.
In future posts, I will look back at Rangers failed play-off run – both from a team perspective & a presentation of what each player contributed (or didn’t contribute) to Rangers failed attempt at promotion. After that, the plan is to compare the results of the team under the trio of managers from last season – all in an attempt to discover a groove at this type of analysis ahead of the 2015-16 season.
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