HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

Introduction

I currently work as a supervisor in live data production for primarily South/Latin American professional football leagues including the Copa Libertadores, Brazil Série A-B, Argentine Primera División, Uruguayan Primera División, Chile Primera División, Colombia Primera A, Ecuador Liga Pro, Peru Liga 1, Liga MX, MLS, and the Canadian Premier League. We produce live match details for media clients including lineups, goals, assists, cards, substitutions, and play-by-play details with the league detail level dependent on the data package requested by our clients. As I seek to turn a cool job into a viable career in the sport that I love, I have decided to begin taking statistics and data analytics courses in my free time while practicing practical applications using the extensive and easily exportable data produced in Football Manager. This story will document my journey from data monkey to data expert (hopefully, probably not). I will begin as an unemployed, unlicensed, former Sunday league footballer (as is the case in real life) applying for jobs in the lowest available division of the USA league system (USL League Two). My database will be limited to the countries I currently cover at work and I will use a data-driven approach in my recruitment and team selection. Let the game begin!

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

The First Step

After applying for every job in the USL2 Southeast Division, where I currently reside, I have agreed to become FC Miami City‘s manager. Nearly half of the clubs in the division turned me away for demanding they fund my first coaching course. I feared I would strike out in every interview in the division before needing to accept a role without the promise of a coaching license on the horizon. Luckily, FC Miami City agreed on the proposal after I promised to guide them to a top-half finish, exceeding their initial proposed expectations. 

 

The Club

FC Miami City was founded in January, 2014 as a member of the United Soccer League. The club has strong ties to Paris Saint-Germain, playing a role in the development of Paris Saint-Germain Academy USA players by offering them pathways to the USL. Our home ground, Central Broward Park, is a 20,000-capacity dedicated cricket stadium in Lauderhill, Florida, one of just two dedicated cricket stadiums in the country.

 

Expectations

With the fourth strongest squad in the league (according to the bookmakers), we should be able to easily achieve the agreed upon expectations of finishing in the top half of the table. I have yet to perform an in-depth analysis of our squad and it's strengths/weaknesses, but I will do so and provide a breakdown in my next update. Hala Miami City!

KEZ_7
17 years ago
3 weeks ago
1,876

This sounds pretty cool. Looking forward to seeing how you bring the data element in at that level 

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

 The Squad

Right from the jump, it became clear I would need to be creative in my tactical setup to accommodate our strengths and cover our abundant weaknesses, the most obvious of which being the near complete lack of options at center back. At the moment, our only natural central defender is Jesus Tinajero and the transfer window is closed for another month. We have strength in depth at wing-back and far too many strikers. Two solutions became clear, convert the wing-backs into wide center backs and utilize a two-striker partnership. With relatively high aggression, work-rates, and pace spread around the squad, a gegenpress style of play was also the clear tactical choice. Defending deep was not an option considering the lack of height and strength available in the wide center back positions. 

 

The System

I settled on a 3-1-3-1-2 formation, which I have honestly never used in any previous save. I normally prefer a somewhat standard 4-3-3 formation with the roles dependent upon the players available. However, I'm relishing the opportunity to build a new system and style to get the most out of my eccentric Floridian squad. The idea is to play a wide game with plenty of crossing, either from deep with our very competent crossers at wide center back or from the byline with our touchline wingers. Garcia will float around the edge of the box to pick up second balls and thread passes into the box. Smith & Jackson both possess strong tackling ability and work-rates, hopefully preventing counter attacks through the middle. As I mentioned before, this system is far outside my comfort zone so it is very much a work-in-progress. 

 

The Table

The season is already in full swing, with the club currently underperforming in 7th. Hopefully we can begin the climb the table as we work out the kinks in the new system and I will likely make further changes following a dive into our performance data to this point. I will likely post another update looking over our performance metrics and areas for improvement in the following update, stay tuned!

bigmattb28
10 years ago
4 days ago
1,499
Premium

Love a good Moneyball save. Def following.

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

Team Performance Data

It has been a slow process but I have finally extracted and organized the team performance data in several ways to better understand my team's playing style, strengths, and weaknesses prior to my arrival. As you can see in the screenshot above, my performance analyst was of very little help in this process. He did point out that we have been playing in a 4-2-3-1 setup for the most part, so at least he's aware of formations I suppose.

The first step was extracting the data provided in the Competitions>Stats>Team Detailed page within the game, which is not easily exportable like the player data in the squad overview or the recruitment hub. Being the data monkey I am, I manually entered each value into a Google Sheet to lay the foundation for my analysis. The goal was to identify areas in which we were the among the weaker sides in the league and those where we were strongest, first seeking correlations and possible causations and then digging into each area of the data which could be improved upon or further exploited.

 

Using a Python script, I derived correlation values between each of the team performance metrics to identify any surprising or interesting correlations that may not be expected. Unfortunately, there were no real surprises and pretty much all of the data points aligned as you would expect. Feel free to peruse the correlation matrix above for yourself but you likely won't find anything out of the ordinary. For reference, dark red indicates strong correlations, dark blue indicates strong negative correlations, and the lighter areas indicate weaker correlations.

 

FC Miami City Performance Data

The next step was to dig into our performance data and create visualizations that would help us better understand our standing within the league. I used Google Sheets to generate percentile values for each column to ease the creation of radar charts that would help display each area of our performance in relation to the other teams in the league. In the chart above, you can see how our shooting frequency and efficiency compares to the other teams based on percentile values of each metric. While we are taking very few shots per game, we are relatively efficient in our finishing ability. We are slightly underperforming our xG by -0.05 per game, however our shot on target rate (SoT %) is the strongest in the league at 43.33%. Our conversion rate is also very strong, while the rest of the shooting metrics leave us somewhere around the middle of the pack. Essentially, it seems we are creating few chances per game yet we are creating high quality chances in each game, and our finishing ability is strong enough in comparison to some of the other teams. To better understand our chance creation, I then created a radar chart to demonstrate our creativity metrics in relation to the league.

It quickly became clear that we are not a possession-based team and have been relying on our strong crossing ability to generate chances for our lone striker in our 4-2-3-1 formation. As I suspected, we are among the lowest in the league in terms of chances created per game, passes completed per game, final third passes per game, and fouls won per game. However we rank very high in the league in terms of cross completion rate, volume of crosses completed per game, and successful dribbles per game. Surprisingly, despite this direct play-style, our pass completion rate is also quite high in relation to the other teams. Hopefully with the new 3-1-3-1-2 system we can extract more value from these strengths by placing even more emphasis on wide play while also benefitting from an extra striker in the frontline. The final step of my analysis was to better understand our defensive tendencies.

In this visualization, I reversed many of the percentiles to better represent our strengths & weaknesses, meaning the lower percentile in areas such as “Goals Allowed Per Game” (GA/Game) indicates a higher number of goals allowed per game. As you can see above, while we rank very highly in expected goals allowed per game (meaning we are allowing very few expected goals per game), we are allowing far more goals per game than most of the other teams in the league. Considering that we are allowing very few shots per game and very few shots on goal per game, it's clear that our goalkeeping is an area of weakness. In addition, we are very weak aerially, which was already made abundantly clear in my initial squad overview when I realized we only have one natural center back. We rank fairly highly in the league in terms of the number of times we're winning possession of the ball in each game, which correlates strongly with points per game. However, we are allowing a relatively high pass completion rate for our opponents and a relatively high number of passes per defensive action, indicating a less engaged defensive style. Hopefully with our emphasis on a high pressing style of play, we can begin to disrupt our opponents' play more effectively and further limit the number of chances our goalkeeper has to face before we are able to find a replacement for the keeper to shore up that weakness. Over the next week, I will dig into individual performance metrics and potentially create another post here about those findings before finally beginning to play some actual football. Bear with me, please, haha. 

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

Player Performance Data - Goalkeeper

6(0) appearances

It took quite a bit of trial and error to clean and arrange the data across numerous spreadsheets to arrive at the graphic above, but we're here. I wanted to create a visual in a similar style to the lovely FBRef.com to easily compare the percentile values for all of my players' performance metrics in relation to the other players in their position across the wider USL League Two. The blue text labels to the right of each percentile bar state the true value of each statistic, rather than the number of the percentile itself. In the visual above, you can see how my starting goalkeeper, Adam Noble, compares to the other 87 goalkeepers who have played a minimum of 450 minutes in the USL2. The goalkeepers are missing quite a lot of statistics, mostly because they are not involved in the phases of play in which many of these actions occur but also because several key goalkeeping statistics seem to be bugged in FM24. However, we can still glean some insights from this graph particularly when paired with the “Defending” graph in my previous “Team Performance Data” post. Here is another copy of that graph below, for ease of reference:

 

He is around the middle of the pack in terms of his Average Rating, Player of the Match awards, and Points Per Game, however his Distance Covered (km) suggests he has been playing as a very active sweeper keeper. This surprised me, considering the relatively high number of Passes Per Defensive Action we allow our opponents. I had assumed we were not pressing high enough to disrupt opposition build-up but perhaps we have an inefficient or disorganized high press. This would also explain the high amount of goals we’re allowing despite conceding a low number of shots. Noble is ranked very low in the league in terms of Pass Completion, Saves, and Save Percentage, yet he is in the top 29% for Expected Goals Prevented and the top 33% for Expected Goals Prevented/Goals Conceded Ratio. This suggests he is facing primarily one-on-one situations when conceding goals, and doing quite well in that regard. I initially believed our defensive underperformance was the result of poor goalkeeping, but now it appears an ineffective high pressing style is causing our goalkeeper to face too many one-on-one chances. Noble may not be a top tier keeper in this division but his underlying numbers are better than I had expected. In the next few posts, I will continue looking at our individual performance metrics in each position of our team to find exactly where our main issues are arising, and where our main strengths could potentially be further exploited. 

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

Player Performance Data - Defense

Center Backs

5(0) appearances
6(0) appearances

 

Our primary starting partnership in central defense to this point has been Jesus Tinajero and Mike Kaplan. While Kaplan prefers playing as a right back, he is actually a fairly competent and natural center back. Combine this with his very strong crossing ability and he could be the perfect wide center back in the new system. Kaplan seems to be the more progressive passer of the two, while Tinajero is the more aerially dominant, traditional center back. Kaplan tends to cover more ground and press higher than Tinajero, while Tinajero registers more blocks and interceptions. They are both strong in the tackle and unafraid of an aerial duel, although Kaplan's aerial success rate is not quite as impressive as Tinajero's. I will likely try to maintain this partnership in these early stages to ease the transition into the new system, though with a left-footed wide center back to the left of Tinajero.

 

Full Backs

6(0) appearances

 

4(1) appearances
2(1) appearances

Andrew Herold, Francis Ankrah, and Max Snitko have operated as our full backs in the back 4 system thus far. Our backup left back, Mike Nolly, only featured in one starting appearance so I have not created a percentile chart for him due to the lack of minutes to justify a relevant comparison. Andrew Herold and Max Snitko appear to be the most creative among our defenders, with Snitko possessing the strongest crossing ability and Herold seemingly creating more chances from cutback passes into the box. Herold will be starting along with Tinajero and Kaplan in central defense, but he will need to rely more on crosses from deep rather than overlapping for the cutback pass. Hopefully that doesn't stifle his creativity too much. Snitko has no experience playing as a central defender but he could be an ideal candidate for the right wide center back role based on his very impressive crossing numbers and relatively strong aerial ability in relation to the other full backs in the league. I was surprised to see Ankrah with more appearances than Snitko given how Snitko appears to be performing better in most areas, so I will give Snitko a run in the team before trying Ankrah in central defense, particularly given Ankrah's weak aerial presence. 

 

As it stands, Herold-Tinajero-Kaplan will begin as my starting 3 in central defense with Snitko rotating in fairly often. Kaplan will be my preferred replacement for Tinajero when a rest is needed. I will have to rotate strategically to maintain fitness levels and avoid needing to use one of the full-backs in the central role of the back 3. Kaplan is also comfortable playing as a left back, so he could be a versatile option to rotate around all 3 roles when necessary. The league schedule goes through periods of quick turnarounds between matches and longer breaks, so I will try to use the Tinajero-Kaplan partnership sparingly during those periods when fixtures are coming thick and fast. This is when Snitko will see more frequent game time. Nolly and Ankrah will serve as last resort backup in the wide center back roles, as neither possess experience as central defenders nor the height/jumping reach to be effective in the air.  

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

Player Performance Data - Midfield

Defensive Midfielders

6(0) appearances
6(0) appearances

David Jackson and Harry Smith have operated as our double pivot in all 6 matches so far this season. They have similar profiles, both suited to the ball-winning midfielder role with limited technique but great tenacity and bravery. This made it difficult to decide who should occupy the deeper defensive role or the more advanced, balanced central midfield role. Several factors came into consideration, ultimately making it clear that Smith is more suited to both positions but will be my choice for the central midfield position. Smith possesses a more expansive passing range and a creative presence that would be useful in the more advanced role. Jackson on the other hand tends to play more progressive passes but fewer risky passes, hence the lower number of key passes played but exceptional pass completion rate. The way I see it, Jackson can safely progress the ball from deeper in midfield to either the wingers or to Smith ahead of him, who can then play the key pass that kicks the attacking move into another gear. While Smith possesses the greater aerial presence which could be valuable in the deeper role, I feel that he can be an asset in the central midfield role whereas Jackson could be more of a liability there. They are both somewhat inefficient in their tackling and fairly efficient in their pressing. Given Smith's slightly superior pressing efficiency and interception ability, as well as Jackson's propensity for blocking, I think Smith could be more suited to defending from the front and preventing the out-ball while Jackson disrupts opposition chances from behind. The final major factor in the decision was the players' relative pace. The data above is actually misleading in that regard, as Smith covers more ground and registers more high intensity sprints than Jackson, suggesting he relies on his pace more than Jackson. However, after looking at their actual attributes, I discovered that Jackson actually possesses far greater pace than Smith. Considering that the ball-winning midfielder will need to cover more ground than the more stable central midfield role, this pace difference was the confirmation I needed to make the final call.

 

Attacking Midfielders

4(1) appearances
2(4) appearances

Jose Antonio Dominguez and John Garcia have been vying for the starting attacking midfield role throughout the season, with Dominguez generally being favored by the previous coach. In my initial tactical setup post I selected both players in my ideal starting lineup, with Dominguez playing as the left-sided striker and Garcia playing behind the front two as the preferred attacking midfielder. This selection makes a lot of sense based on the data above. Dominguez tends to look for goal and make runs in behind more often than most attacking midfielders. He is ranked in the top 2% of USL2 attacking midfielders for goals per 90 and is overperforming his expected goals. However, the fact remains that we are very light in terms of depth in midfield but have too many options at striker. We currently have 5 strikers, not including Dominguez, and it simply does not make sense to stretch our midfield depth further to push Dominguez into a less familiar role despite being suited to it. As such, the two players will have to continue fighting for a starting role and occasionally rotate into the deeper central midfield role occupied by Harry Smith when necessary. Dominguez appears to be the more creative risk-taker of the two while Garcia seems to be better at occupying the half-space to safely circulate the ball and maintain pressure in the opponents' final third. Both players have their merits and will be useful for different opposition. Garcia will be used mainly against the more defensive teams to maintain pressure and concede fewer counter-attacks with Dominguez serving as a super sub. Dominguez will be used more against the sides who like possession and leave space in behind the defense. Garcia will be my preferred choice in the deeper central midfield when Smith needs a rest, so both players will receive frequent minutes. In the next post, I will analyze my strikers and wingers and then finally start playing some actual football.

HeadCoachFM
6 years ago
33 minutes ago
201

Player Performance Data - Attack

Wingers

6(0) appearances
6(0) appearances
0(4) appearances
0(3) appearances

For starters, this segment immediately made me realize an error that I missed during the data cleaning process. The Expected Goals Overperformance metric was malfunctioning within Football Manager so I had to adjust it using functions within my spreadsheets. I'll have to go back to my previous posts and adjust them for each of the other players, but at least I caught it here when it matters most in my attacking unit. 

 

Rhys Hughes-Mason and Rafael Galindo have started all 6 matches this season. Due to the relative lack of game time for the backup wingers Chris Wheeler and Tom Turner, it's not really fair to judge them on those few performances alone. However, it is interesting to see their impact off the bench to this point. Hughes-Mason and Galindo are both fairly creative, though I would like to see an improvement in their chance creation and assist numbers now that we'll have a two-striker partnership. It seems we tend to focus the build-up on Galindo's side as he registers more passes, dribbles, and shots than Hughes-Mason, although Hughes-Mason has nearly twice as many cross attempts per 90. They're creating a similar number of expected assists so it seems like a healthy balance overall. However, Galindo seems to be far more effective in terms of pressing and winning the ball. A similar trend can be seen when comparing Chris Wheeler and Tom Turner, with Turner being more involved defensively and in the final third. I'll likely give Wheeler and Turner some more minutes once the lads are more used to the new system, paying special attention to the training ratings leading up to matches. Galindo is our standout winger in terms of his overall performance and his attribute ratings, so there will be less rotation on his side despite Turner's impressive numbers off the bench.

Strikers

3(2) appearances
3(1) appearances
0(3) appearances

Gerardo Torres and Hugo Acosta have been sharing the starting striker spot, with Daryl Bradley proving an effective super-sub. Bradley has scored twice while Torres and Acosta have only registered one goal each. They all seem to have unique abilities that will allow me to create different partnerships depending on the opposition. Torres will play a prominent role as an effective supporting target man. Acosta and Bradley will share the other role, with Acosta acting as an advanced forward and Bradley as more of a poacher. Bradley will function as a poacher in attack but I'd like to see more defensive output from him as he doesn't seem to be involved in the press at all, so I'll need to find a role that suits him without necessarily using him as an actual poacher to improve his pressing involvement. Acosta is an efficient presser but at 34 years old his legs will start to go soon. We have two other backup strikers waiting in the wings to get their debut, Ashley Parrado and Aidan Martin. Parrado will serve as backup for Torres in the supporting striker role, though he is more of a deep-lying creative forward rather than a target man. Martin is a talented advanced forward so he will compete with Bradley as backup to Acosta. We have a good balance of strikers with differing abilities so I'm excited to see how the partnerships develop over the remainder of the season as we seek to increase our pressing efficiency from the front. 

 

Now that we've taken an admittedly drawn out look at all of our players' strengths and weaknesses, it's time to play some football! I'll provide an update on our performances once we're about halfway through the season, and for my next data-focused project within the save I will create a correlation matrix of the performance data and player attributes to get a better idea of how the actual players' abilities relate to each performance data point. I'll wait to do so until everyone has more minutes under their belt to get a more reliable data sample, and post my findings here. Thank you for your patience, if you're still here haha. Until next time!

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