The start of the 2021-22 domestic season coincided with two significant milestones in the history of event data collection. It is now 25 years since Opta data was first collected from Premier League matches, and 15 years since the on-field location of all ball events started to be automatically logged.
In the decade-and-a-half since, Opta data has continued to evolve year-on-year, driven by the needs of leading broadcasters, digital publishers and professional teams. As well as taking into account rule changes, updates to the dataset are devised based on the outcomes from an annual consultation period, with clients providing feedback on the data they use seven days a week.
The most significant development to be introduced in 2021 has been the introduction of a new event, ‘control’, which is now available post-match for over 25 major competitions. This is included in Stats Perform’s Premium Plus Opta feed and available on request to clients.
The control event captures every ball touch of a player in possession, which has resulted in around 1,000 extra ball events being captured in every game. Its introduction provides data analysts, particularly those using raw data feeds at professional clubs, with an opportunity to undertake further in-depth analysis of players, both in a recruitment context and when analysing opponents.
In this article, we are going to share some examples of how control can be applied to unlock new insights, as well as how it can improve existing processes.
Accurately Capturing the Trajectory of Ball Carries
Over the past two Premier League seasons, Jack Grealish and Adama Traore have been standout players when it comes to creating chances from ball carries, something which was highlighted by The Analyst in their 2020-21 Season Review.
These carries are defined as when a player dribbles the ball five metres or more and historically has been recorded based on the start location and end location of a carry. However, following the introduction of control, we can now capture accurate dribbling trajectories of ball carrying players and compare dribbling tendencies of different players in a club’s squad, or across a wider competition.
Analysing One-Touch Passing Performance
With many possession-orientated teams looking to play at a high tempo, analysing a player’s ability to complete one-touch passes is another area of performance which can now be facilitated using control.
By being able to narrow down a player’s passes in a game, based on the number of touches they take, recruitment analysts can begin to use data to identify players who complete a higher volume of first-time passes compared to competition averages, as well as singling out players who need to take a touch before looking to distribute the ball. Like a player’s first touch, this is one aspect of player evaluation which has traditionally been analysed by scouts, using subjective scorecard templates.
Whilst that still remains an important element of a holistic scouting process, being able to objectively establish the outcomes of a player’s one-touch passes, over multiple matches, can help identify trends across a broader data sample – and further compliment richer passing analysis which can now being facilitated using a merged event and tracking dataset, available via Stats Perform’s ProVision tool.
Improving the Synchronisation of Raw Event & Tracking Data
In addition to being able to establish if a player typically cuts inside, takes on defenders on the outside or regularly changes direction when carrying the ball, or is effective at completing high-tempo, one-touch passes, there is also a further practical benefit for analysts who utilise a combination of a raw Premium Plus feed for their domestic league, and a feed of tracking data captured from Stats Perform’s SportVU system.
All post-match event timestamps are synched to be accurate within one video frame, which means that the event files and tracking files for a domestic match can be fully synchronised to the frame. It means that if an analyst aligns the kick-off tags for each half, across both event and tracking files, they can utilise both feeds in parallel to enhance their analysis processes.
Opta Data Collection
SportVU Tracking Data Capture
Helping Forward-Thinking Teams Conduct Deeper Player Analysis
By extending Opta event coverage, capturing every ball touch across key competitions, analysts have further avenues to identifying deeper performance trends when assessing players and their on-field influence.
This investment in enhancing collection, coupled with the ongoing development of new Qwinn powered metrics, is helping teams who work with Stats Perform successfully evolve their analysis processes.
If you are currently utilising Opta Premium Plus feeds and would be interested in knowing if the control feed is available in any competition you subscribe to, please contact us or speak to your Stats Perform account manager.