“From kick-off every touch of the ball is captured, including the player involved and pitch location,” explains Paul Neilson, head of performance analysis at Prozone Sports, which provides the technology to all twenty Premier League clubs.
This data, along with details of 2,000 to 3,000 ‘events’ per match, is used by teams to improve their fitness and performances, scout upcoming opposition, and find new talent. Neilson says that teams are becoming “more scientific” in their recruitment.
“In sport we are looking at an extremely large data set,” he says. “Most of the Premier League teams will now have 10 years of Prozone data, and the bigger clubs are doing some very interesting stuff.” He points to Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal as teams that have “really invested” in data and have recruited “key people” to analyse it.
Another team at the forefront of big data in football is West Ham United. Head of performance analysis David Woodfine says the east London club goes through data “with a fine-tooth comb”, examining players’ work rates and checking up on key stats like entries into the final third of the pitch, crosses, shots, and shots on target. Statistics are so quickly available they can be shown on a screen in the dressing room at half time.