These are the show notes for Episode #8 of the Soccermetrics Podcast, with featured guest Zach Slaton of Forbes.com. This interview was recorded on 11 January 2014 from the Atlanta office.
Zach is an engineer by training and the proprietor of the soccer analytics blog A Beautiful Numbers Game. He has since worked for the last two years as a columnist for Forbes.com on topics related to soccer analytics, and his writings have also appeared on the Transfer Price Index, Tomkins Times and Howler. Zach interacts with diverse members of the football analytics community on a regular basis, from those who work on deeper statistical modeling of match events to those who engage with analytics on the broadcast media side to interested fans who want to understand their team better, and all those in between.
I felt that Zach would be a great person with whom to discuss the major developments in the field during 2013. To this end we presented our respective lists of the positive and negative developments and storylines in soccer analytics during the previous 12 months. Here are some of them:
- Opta Sports becoming the 800 lb (or kilo) gorilla in soccer data
- Increased recognition of the importance of randomness in football
- The fallout from another content-free Soccer Analytics panel at SSAC 2013
- Apparent stagnation in technical progress in soccer analytics
- Publication of The Numbers Game and The Nowhere Men
- Increasing restrictions on data availability
- Opta and Prozone setting up analytics forums and institutes
- Limitations of possession percentage being recognized by football media
- Arsenal purchasing a US-based soccer analytics firm (identity still unknown)
- Backlash over unpaid performance analysis adverts by English Premier League clubs
- The retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson
Web links to relevant resources referenced during our conversation:
- Mitch Lasky: Soccer analytics at SSAC and beyond
- Opta acquired by PERFORM Group
- Prozone’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Liverpool John Moores University
- Opta Analytics Forum
- Managing Manchester United (Harvard Business School)
- Arsenal’s 2013 AGM Report (Arseblog), where acquisition of analytics firm announced
- Fallout from unpaid performance analyst advertisements in Daily Mail and The Guardian
- Zach’s online contact information:
As always, we welcome your feedback on the episode, whether on content or technical matters. You can make your feedback in the comments section (recommended for content-related discussions) or by emailing [email protected] (recommended for technical issues).
I do apologize in advance for any issues with the audio — the Skype call dropped twice and we had some problems with the audio recording. Some of the crosstalk and dead air has been edited out, but not all of it. In the meantime we’re working to make sure those problems don’t manifest themselves again.