How Liverpool employ missile tracking technology to recruit players and used a mathematical model to hire Jurgen Klopp

Telegraph Sports 1 month ago

Andrew Robertson was Liverpool’s best “overlooked” signing and one reason why the club hired Jürgen Klopp was because they worked out he had been one of the “unluckiest” managers in Europe over a 10-year period, Liverpool’s director of research has said.

Ian Graham has offered a fascinating insight into the work he does including using “missile tracking” technology to assess players and said that Mohamed Salah, whom he had urged Klopp to sign, would be worth far more than €150 million (£129m) if he were sold.

Speaking on the Freakonomics Radio podcast Graham, who runs the data analysis at Liverpool, was asked which player was his favourite “discovery signing” and talked about Robertson who arrived from relegated Hull City for £8m in 2017.

“The sort of players I really like shine through in the data but don’t naturally shine through for your typical football fan or even your typical scout,” Graham told the podcast. “He’s a sort of awkward, ungainly player or a player who has been overlooked for various other purposes. One of my favourite players is Andy Robertson who is one of the best left-backs in Europe.”

On the podcast entitled Can Britain Get Its ‘Great’ Back? Graham is one the guests interviewed by host Stephen Dubner and explained his liking of Robertson who did not start playing in the Premier League until he was 22 with a struggling Hull City side.

“Andy Robertson’s problem was his background as much as anything,” Graham said. “They [Hull] got relegated from the Premier League and he was the best young full-back in Britain at the time. He was a really strange case of a really attacking full-back playing in a really poor defensive team.”

Graham uses his background – he has a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Cambridge University – to analyse players. The Welshman, who grew up a Liverpool fan, created his own model to evaluate players and works out of the club’s Melwood training ground with his analytics team. For four years until 2012 he worked for Tottenham Hotspur before he was hired after Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool.

Graham and his team use data on every touch that every player makes during a game, where they are on the pitch and where it happens, employing “optical tracking” which is the same technology developed by the military for tracking missiles. With this the analysts receive “25 frames per second” of where exactly every player is on the pitch during a game.

In the podcast Graham explained that one of his least favourite measures is a player’s “pass completion rate” as he argues that it often distorts in favour of players who attempt only easy passes as opposed to those who play more risky balls which have a greater chance of leading to a goal being scored.

“So some of the best passers in the game have some of the lowest pass completion percentages in the game and that’s because the risk reward pay-off is very, very skewed in football,” Graham said.

There is therefore an argument that it is very easy to “massage statistics” so that a player can achieve a high pass completion rate without actually helping his team create a goal-scoring chance.

“The passes I really love are the passes that go in behind the opposition’s defence and take four or five defenders out of the game. Those passes are really hard to make but someone who gets those passes correct half the time is a world-class attacking midfielder,” Graham explained.

Graham’s work is allied to traditional scouting with Liverpool having detailed data on hundreds of thousands of players with his team of analysts helping the “filtering” down of possible targets to be looked at. Graham does not examine video evidence or scout players himself beyond analysing the data.

That process also applies to hiring a manager with Graham playing “a small role” in pursuing Klopp in 2015 when he succeeded Brendan Rodgers. “Our owners and me and all my colleagues were huge fans of Jürgen and his Dortmund team in the early 2010s,” he said. “They played the most exciting brand of football in Europe and coming from a place really not of financial dominance. They won the German Bundesliga twice at a huge financial deficit compared to Bayern Munich and so he was always one of our dream hires as manager but his last season at Dortmund was disastrous.

"So they were in the relegation zone and the German media said: It’s all over for Dortmund. Klopp’s lost it and there’s no way back for them.'”

ch Juergen Klopp celebrating after the German Cup DFB Pokal semi-final football match FC Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund in Munich
Graham analysed Klopp's last season at Dortmund and concluded that far from being finished his side had suffered remarkable bad luck

Graham disagreed. He created a mathematical model of every pass, shot and tackle during Klopp’s years at Dortmund to evaluate each game and how they should have ended. It showed that even in Klopp’s final season at Dortmund, when they finished seventh, they should have come second. The analysis proved that the results did not match Dortmund’s performances.

“So I analysed 10 seasons of Bundesliga performances and Dortmund were the second unluckiest team in that 10-year history. It was just some terrible luck cost Jürgen,” Graham said.

Graham said that Klopp has embraced the work that he does.

“My concern about Jürgen was his act that you see on the cameras every week was just that – an act,” he said. “And that the real person would be someone different but it really isn’t. Data analysis is something that is new and because football is a very conservative sport it’s something that is very difficult to get across.”

In the podcast Graham discussed how Klopp has embraced his work. When it came to signing Salah from Roma from £34m in 2017 Klopp had to be persuaded but, of course, the forward has been an astonishing success.

Graham was asked how much the 27-year-old would now be worth in the transfer market and said: “He’s not for sale. If we could benchmark him against a recent player that we sold which was Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona your minimum starting bid would be €150m at which point the answer would be ‘no, stop wasting our time’.”

Source link
Read also:
The Sydney Morning Herald › Sports › 1 month ago
Ian Graham, Liverpool's director of research, has offered a fascinating insight into his work, including using "missile tracking" technology to assess players like Mohamed Salah.
BBC News › Sports › 2 months ago
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praises the quality of Liverpool's goals and their second-half performance after their 3-1 victory against Newcastle at Anfield.
Evening Standard › Sports › 1 month ago
Jurgen Klopp has called on his Liverpool players to disprove the suggestion that they are the perfect next opponent for struggling Manchester United.
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
STEVEN GERRARD is just the man to take over from Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, according to former Red Emile Heskey. Gerrard’s Rangers side sit top of the SPL and Klopp recently endorsed the Anfield legend to replace him if he was to leave. Jamie...
The Sun › Sports › 3 weeks ago
JURGEN KLOPP had THREE meetings with Manchester United before snubbing the chance to replace David Moyes. Klopp has Liverpool fans dreaming of landing a first league title since 1990. But he was United’s top choice to take over from Moyes — and...
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
JURGEN KLOPP concedes there is “absolutely no chance” of Liverpool signing Kylian Mbappe. The Reds’ stock at the top end of the transfer market is sky-high following back-to-back Champions League finals. But Klopp admits landing Paris Saint...
The Guardian › Sports › 2 months ago
Napoli showed how to play against Jürgen Klopp’s side by looking to exploit the space behind Liverpool’s full-backsIls sont les meilleurs! In the buildup to this game Jürgen Klopp had been at pains to play down any suggestion Liverpool came to...
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
JAMES MILNER believes there is a Fergie Factor in the way Jurgen Klopp has transformed Liverpool. The midfielder’s comparison between his boss and the man who promised to “knock Liverpool off their ****ing perch” may not go down well in most...
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
JOEY BARTON has admitted he was wrong to call Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp a ‘giant German cheerleader’ with a ‘terrible record’. The Liverpool-born former Manchester City star, now manager of League One Fleetwood Town, has retracted his...
The Sun › Sports › 2 months ago
JURGEN KLOPP wants Steven Gerrard to succeed him as Liverpool boss – but claims fellow Anfield legend Kenny Dalgish could be the favourite. German Klopp still has long-term dreams at Liverpool, not just the Premier League title this season after...
Sign In

Sign in to follow sources and tags you love, and get personalized stories.

Continue with Google