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May 20, 2013

Opening the Door to Player Analytics in Football or The Max Kruse Problem

By Ted Knutson

Scene: The board room of one of the top football clubs in England. The club Owner and Director of Football are sitting down to do an end of season recap.

The director’s assistant knocks on the door.

PA: Excuse me sir, there’s a package for you. It’s marked urgent.

DoF: Thank you, Anne.

The director opens the package. It contains a photo and four pieces of paper.

Owner: Who’s that in the photo?

DoF: Some guy named Max Kruse.

Owner: Who?

DoF: Max Kruse. Apparently he plays for Freiburg in Germany.

max_kruseOwner: They play football in Germany?

*silence*

Owner: That was a joke. Of course I know they play football in Germany. I’m going to the Champions’ League Final later this month… I know this.

DoF: The first piece of paper says, “They should have bought him.”

Owner: Who?

DoF: Everyone, apparently.

Owner: Everyone should have bought him?

DoF: Every football team in the English Premier League.

Owner: Why?

DoF: Take a look at the next piece of paper.

Player League Age Position Apps Goals Assists Shots Key Pass Drib PS%
Player A Bundes 25 AM, FWD 33(1) 11 8 2.4 2.7 2.7 82
Player B Bundes 20 AttMid 23(5) 10 9 1.9 2.3 3 83.7
Player C EPL 26 AttMid 36 4 4 2.3 2.7 1.7 87.4
Player D EPL 25 AttMid 31(4) 12 12 2 2.7 0.6 85.1

Owner: It’s just a bunch of stats with no names.

DoF: Yeah, I think this Max Kruse guy is probably one of the names on the list. I have no idea who the other guys are though.

Owner: Well no, obviously. I don’t even know why you would track most of these stats anyway – this isn’t baseball.

DoF: Here, this piece has the names.

Player League Age Position Apps Goals Assists Shots Key Pass Drib PS%
Max Kruse Bundes 25 AM, FWD 33(1) 11 8 2.4 2.7 2.7 82
Mario Goetze Bundes 20 AttMid 23(5) 10 9 1.9 2.3 3 83.7
Luka Modric EPL 26 AttMid 36 4 4 2.3 2.7 1.7 87.4
Juan Mata EPL 25 AttMid 31(4) 12 12 2 2.7 0.6 85.1

Owner: That’s a fairly impressive set of players there. Maybe we should buy this guy.

DoF: We can’t. This sheet says Borussia Moenchengladbach got there first, back in April.

Owner: Hang on, let me guess what they paid. What did these other guys sell for?

DoF: Last season Modric went to Madrid for £26.4M. Mata transferred from Valencia to Chelsea two years ago for £23.5M. Bayern Munich apparently activated Goetze’s release clause a couple of months ago and bought him for £32.5M, a price some German scouts I know thought was too cheap.

Owner: Let’s see then… I bet Kruse went for… £25 million?

DoF: *mumbles something*

Owner: What was that?

DoF: £2.25M. *cringes*

Owner: TWO POINT TWO FIVE MILLION?!? THERE’S A GUY OUT THERE – IN A MAJOR LEAGUE MIND YOU, NOT PLAYING IN BUMFUCK NOWHERE – WITH STATS LIKE LUKA MODRIC, JUAN MATA, AND MARIO GOETZE, AND SOMEONE ALREADY BOUGHT HIM FOR £2.25M?!? WHAT THE FUCK AM I PAYING YOU FOR?

DoF:

Owner: What’s the last piece of paper say?

DoF: “You’re doing it wrong.”

End scene.

Article by Ted Knutson