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Doppelgängers: Finding Similar Players

By StatsBomb | November 18, 2020 | Main

At StatsBomb, we are committed to providing our customers with the tools they need to succeed. Our analysis platform StatsBomb IQ is designed by and for football professionals, and includes a number of essential features for those working within the recruitment space. It will also soon count upon an upgraded scouting section that will take into account the feedback we’ve received from end users.

Among the tools currently in IQ is one that can act as a useful starting point for any scouting process: Similar Player Search.

The concept is simple: a player is selected as the subject of the search and the algorithm then produces a list of players with similar statistical profiles, ranked on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being an exact match. The subject could be a well-known player, a potential transfer target or even one of a team’s own players for whom they require a backup or future replacement.

There are various filters that can then be applied to more closely tailor the results to the requirements of the end user. These include:

  • Gender
  • Position
  • Minutes Played
  • Age
  • Competition: open selection or by region or tier grouping
  • Season

It is also possible to adjust the importance assigned to each metric. For instance, if a team is looking for a player capable of replicating the passing and creative output of a league-leading attacking midfielder but are not as concerned about matching the defensive output of that player due to team play style or other factors, the former elements can be weighed more heavily in the similarity analysis.

The results can act as an ideal jumping-off point for a more involved scouting process, providing a list of names to investigate in further detail. StatsBomb Data covers 70 competitions and close to 50,000 players worldwide, so there is plenty of opportunity to come across some lesser known names. That is particularly valuable for teams operating on a tighter budget.

It is important to note that the simple fact of approximating the statistical output of another player doesn’t necessarily suggest similarities in ability, potential, physique or even always play style. Saying that a certain player matches the statistical output of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for example, just means that they produce a lot of shots, win a lot of aerial duels and are good at retaining possession. It says nothing of their other technical or physical attributes.

It is most convenient to think of the subject of the search as an avatar for a certain set of statistical outputs; a shortcut to a given profile of player.

For example, give me a player whose output looks like that of Sadio Mane:

Or maybe Alejandro Gómez:

Or even Toni Kroos:

The possibilities are endless. Keep an eye on our social channels for more examples under the hashtags #doppelganger and #similarplayers.

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We are currently offering an extended 14 day free trial of our analysis platform StatsBomb IQ to potential clients.

For more information, please contact: Sales@StatsBomb.com.

Article by StatsBomb