StatsBomb CEO Update, May 2021

Marketing has been bugging me to write something about the company as a whole, and given we’re approaching summer already, I guess it’s time to update people on StatsBomb’s progress.  First things first… We are hiring. I know it seems like we post things on social media about hiring a lot, and that is because we are almost always hiring new people. That’s what happens when companies triple in size every year like we have. We’re a great place to work, sitting at the intersection of sports*, data, and technology. We’re also flexible around working arrangements and qualifications for talented people. Join us! https://statsbomb.com/careers/ * Multiple sports. Soccer/football + American Football this year. Next year…? StatsBomb Conference 2021 I teased the tiniest bit of info around this in the last week, but now I will reveal a bit more… Our conference is one of my favourite things in the entire calendar. (And I’m not just saying that because it falls near my birthday.) Feedback on our first conference in 2019 was that it was one of the best conferences people had ever attended. Credit for that goes to a lot of people – from the organisers in our team, to the A/V people who broadcast it to the world, and especially to the speakers who unequivocally brought their ‘A’ games to the stage. As it’s a StatsBomb conference, the focus remains on research and ideas people are excited about, which we think is a formula that yields great presentations. Concrete details on the confirmed speaker lineup will appear on social media in the coming weeks, but they already include:

  • A sitting General Manager of an NBA team
  • Director of Research at a League – and Champions League – winning club.

There are also at least four other analytics people at Champions League level clubs making sure they have permission to speak at the event before we confirm them, but I’m extremely excited about October already. Research Data Another reason for excitement will be the data that is on offer for participants in the research paper competition. We’re going to offer two different options:

  1. 190 games of StatsBomb Data AND StatsBomb 360 Data from the 2020-21 German Bundesliga or Spain’s La Liga. (It will be all league matches for the top 10 teams in either league.)
  2. A smaller subset of games (40-60) of StatsBomb base Data, 360, AND tracking data from REDACTED.

More details about the research paper contest will be released in June, but this should be enough info to get the ideas flowing. Tickets Unlike a conference like Sloan where thousands of people attend every year, our event is not huge. We’ll have the following ticket allocations:

  • 300-350 General Admission at £250 + VAT
  • 50-100 Student tickets at 50% discount

There will also be customer tickets (allocated first), and staff/speaker tickets as well. The wiggle in student allocations is largely around vaccine timelines for that group. I just wanted to let everyone know what the structure will look like ahead of time, so you can be prepared when we start announcing ticket sales on social media.  NOTE: There is extreme complexity around vaccinations, venue restrictions, and international travel right now. We are doing our best to navigate this in a sensible way, but obviously most of these elements are also not within our control. Our mandate is to provide a safe, happy environment for attendees to enjoy. Streaming Part of the conference will be broadcast live. Most of the talks will also be released on YouTube in the weeks after the event completes. All of the research papers will be published to the world. If you want more details, you’ll need to wait until October. Sponsors We will also be selling a small allocation of external sponsor slots to interested companies. Contact conference@statsbomb.com for more details. 360 Data 360 Data for the 2020-21 Premier League season will be done this week. La Liga is scheduled to finish a week later, and the rest of the Big 5 will complete in June. Expect to see more visualisations and analysis from us on the new data set as we begin to wrap our heads around what is possible (and useful) in contextual event data. This data set is so cool, and our entire team is excited to have access to multiple full seasons now and see what we can do. Live The Live Data event launch is booked for August 12th. It will happen online, so no need to worry about tickets for that. We have some partnership work with current customers happening in the meantime, but by August we’ll have a fantastic visual, interactive product to display along with the exceptional data. If you are a team or business interested in obtaining our Live data before the new season begins, send an email to ted@statsbomb.com and I will personally route you to the correct person. Set Pieces There is a shortage of qualified, smart set piece coaches in the world. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter mentioned as much during our panel at Sloan this year. Our online Set Pieces course will once again be made available in early July. It will be made available for online purchase for one month and then it will disappear into the ether once more, possibly for good. I’m likely to go back to only teaching this course in person, or via agreements with certain FAs. Don’t complain to me about the price we charge. I actively recommend talented people for set piece roles across football multiple times a month right now. Every PL team will have a slot for this type of coach/analyst soon and they will make six figures a year because they help teams score goals. Eventually the best set piece people will be fought over like the best head coaches are right now. Do the work, and the jobs will be waiting for you. Continued Thank Yous Collecting great data is hard. Even if you get every detail on 99% of events correct, with 3,400 events per match, that still means there are 34 that aren’t quite right. Feedback from our customers and fans helps fill that remaining gap, and we’re glad you are as passionate about seeing perfect data on your favourite teams on FBRef as we are about producing it. As a company we have been very lucky to not only survive, but to continue growing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenue was up nearly 25% in the first quarter of 2021 alone, and we added so many new customers that we now need to hire more people to support them. This is very much a virtuous cycle, and it would not have happened without belief and support from our customers, and also the fans that have supported the blog and now the company. Enjoy your summer, everyone. And especially… enjoy the Euros. Ted Knutson CEO, StatsBomb @mixedknuts Ted@statsbomb.com

StatsBomb enter a new market by partnering with UDN Sports of Japan

One of Japan’s most prestigious player agencies, UDN Sports, has signed a partnership with StatsBomb to access insights from StatsBomb’s industry leading football data set. This is the first entry into the Japanese market for StatsBomb, one of the fastest growing sports data companies in the world. UDN Sports, based in Tokyo, represents more than 100 professional players in Europe and Japan, including current Japanese internationals Shinji Kagawa, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Yui Hasegawa. The partnership will see UDN Sports benefit from StatsBomb’s cutting edge data covering over 3,400 events per match across more than 80 competitions around the globe. The agency will also gain access to StatsBomb IQ, the most advanced and customisable football analytics platform available. UDN Sports joins over 100 professional clubs, federations, agencies and media outlets around the world in choosing StatsBomb data to enhance their ability to make well-informed decisions. UDN Sports Agent, Kunihiro Fujita, said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to enter into a partnership with StatsBomb, one of the world’s leading data collection and analysis companies when it comes to thinking about improving the performance of Japanese players. In recent years, we have seen a rapid increase in adopting data as a tool in sport, and we expect that the data collection and analysis not only on a team basis but also on an individual player’s basis, will become an even more important factor. We believe that utilizing StatsBomb data will help to improve the performance of individual players and contribute to the development of the Japanese football.” StatsBomb’s Business Development Lead, Ismail Tari, said: “It is great to be working with Japan’s most renowned sports agency UDN Sports. Throughout our conversations, the UDN team has shown fantastic ambition and understanding of the role our data and IQ platform will play in the future development of Japanese football and its media. We’re delighted to be expanding into Japan and are looking forward to many great projects together.” Ted Knutson, StatsBomb Co-Founder and CEO added: “It’s great for StatsBomb to be working with UDN Sports and for our industry-leading data to have an influence in Japan and beyond. This is another good example of how StatsBomb can work with player agencies as well as clubs and federations across the world. Our recent expansions into Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have been really exciting and we are looking forward to seeing more growth in Japan and Asia now too.” About StatsBomb StatsBomb is the world’s fastest growing football data company. Founded by former analyst Ted Knutson, StatsBomb was formed to empower data analysis teams by ensuring they have access to the best football data set ever created. Having started as an analytics blog, StatsBomb initially progressed to consulting on data-driven recruitment and performance analysis for professional teams. In 2018, having become frustrated with limitations of the data available at the time, StatsBomb acquired ArqamFC, a data collection company based in Cairo, Egypt, and started to collect and supply its own data. The introduction of StatsBomb data was a turning point for the analysis of football as it introduced previously unavailable metrics such as pressures, the height of the ball at the point of shot impact, goalkeeper positioning, freeze frames for shots and the foot with which each pass is played. In 2021, StatsBomb improved this data even further with the launch of StatsBomb 360, adding a snapshot of all visible player locations to more than 3,400 on-the-ball events that are collected per match. Having gained rapid traction since its inception, StatsBomb is now servicing customers across the professional game, as well as betting and gaming operators, and is active in over 20 countries.

StatsBomb congratulate partners RCD Mallorca on their promotion to the Primera División

StatsBomb are delighted that RCD Mallorca have achieved their objective of an immediate promotion back to the top flight of Spanish football. The club partnered with StatsBomb last summer to access insight from our industry leading data set and have been highly engaged users of StatsBomb IQ, our advanced and highly customisable football analytics platform.

RCD Mallorca are one of nearly 100 professional clubs across the world to benefit from access to StatsBomb’s cutting edge data covering over 3,400 events per match across more than 80 global competitions, enhancing their ability to scout and recruit players, analyse upcoming opponents and evaluate team performance. Mikel Gandarias, Scout and Data Analyst at RCD Mallorca, said:

“Success has arrived at the end of a very long season that was almost a direct continuation of the previous campaign. Our plans were already being worked on before our relegation because there was very little time to develop them. We have been very consistent throughout the season, with a strong defence and good attack. During our planning and throughout the season, StatsBomb’s data has helped us make good decisions. It has been an important tool in our day-to-day work. The success of promotion is the fruit of a great collective effort.”

Pablo Peña Rodríguez, StatsBomb’s Head of Tactical Innovation and Business Development, said: “We are delighted to partner with RCD Mallorca supplying them with cutting edge data and analysis tools. From the very first day, we encountered a very ambitious team willing to do things in an innovative way to regain the place they deserve at the highest level of Spanish football. We would like to congratulate the club and their fans for a fantastic season and wish them the best of luck in their return to La Liga.”

StatsBomb’s global growth continues with ground-breaking partnership with Clube Atlético Mineiro in Brazil

One of Brazil’s biggest football clubs, Clube Atlético Mineiro, have signed a partnership with StatsBomb, empowering their analytics department, led by Rodrigo Picchioni and Pedro Picchioni, with the most detailed football data available. This is the first time StatsBomb, one of the fastest growing sports data companies in the world has expanded its marketing-leading services into Brazil.

The partnership will see Clube Atlético Mineiro receive StatsBomb’s cutting edge data covering over 3,400 events per match, across dozens of leagues and competitions across the globe. Alongside the data, the club will have full access to StatsBomb IQ, the most advanced and customisable football analytics platform available.

Clube Atlético Mineiro join around 100 professional clubs and federations around the world in enhancing their ability to scout and recruit players, analyse upcoming opponents and evaluate team performance.

Plínio Signorini, CEO, Clube Atletico Mineiro said:

“Clube Atlético Mineiro has chosen the best data provider in the world to start its analytics department. One of the strategic principles of our club is, after all, to be a reference in Latin America both on and off the pitch. In order to achieve that, it is crucial to seek innovative and efficient partners such as StatsBomb.”

StatsBomb’s Head of Tactical Innovation and Business Development, Pablo Peña Rodríguez said:

“It is great to be working with one of the biggest clubs in Brazil. Throughout our conversations, the analytics team at Atletico Mineiro have shown fantastic ambition and understanding of the role our data and IQ platform can play in their preparations. We’re delighted to be expanding into Brazil and are looking forward to more opportunities in the region.”

Norwich City: Championship Champions in 2020/21

Norwich City are back, promoted as Champions of the Championship for the second time in three seasons to return to the Premier League for the 2021/22 season. Talk of ‘trusting the process’ has been heard numerous times in recent weeks – The Canaries stuck with the same formula that had already earned them promotion in 2018/19; same manager, same principles, same players (mostly).

The dual pursuit of success and self-sufficiency instilled by Sporting Director Stuart Webber came at a sporting cost last season in their Premier League relegation, but having sent Daniel Farke “to war without a gun” in 2019/20 – the highest figure Norwich spent in the summer of 2019 was £750,000 – Farke certainly had the benefit of a full range of weapons in 2020/21. The squad had been refreshed with depth and quality but, more importantly, Norwich retained their best performers from the previous two seasons to lead the charge back to the top flight.

Of the eleven most-used players this season, four were in the eleven most-used in 18/19 (Emiliano Buendía, Tim Krul, Teemu Pukki, Max Aarons) and only three were summer signings: Oli Skipp, Ben Gibson and Jakob Lungi Sørensen. Grant Hanley, Todd Cantwell, Kenny McLean and Mario Vrančić were all less-prominent parts of the 18/19 group but were this time around well ingrained in Farke’s playing style and much more prominent members of the squad.

There’s little doubt that Norwich have been better this time than when they won the league two years ago. The 2020/21 iteration felt more complete as a side, almost entirely down to performing much better defensively than in 2018/19. They scored 18 fewer goals in this campaign, but they conceded 21 fewer across the 46 games as well, nearly half-a-goal-a-game drop-off on their last Championship season.

The improvement at the back can be put down to a few different factors, most of them more refined performances from individuals in executing the gameplan as the underlying numbers remained similar: in 2018/19 Norwich conceded 53 (non-penalty) goals from 47.2 expected goals, in 2020/21 it was 33 conceded from 45.7 expected goals.

 

 

But there was more balance to the side now. Kenny McLean and Oli Skipp anchored the midfield and kept the middle of the park on lock to allow the attacking talents to dovetail in advanced areas of the pitch without fear of being hit in transition. Skipp had a particularly stellar season on loan from Spurs, receiving immense credit for his positional sense and tidiness in the midfield and often covering for Max Aarons’ raids down the right wing by preventing the opposition from transitioning down that flank if possession was lost.

 

If the ball did reach dangerous areas, Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson were almost always there to clean up – Hanley made the most interceptions and the most clearances (both adjusted for possession) of all centre backs in the Championship – and Tim Krul also had a much better season in goal too. After conceding 52 goals from 49 post-shot expected goals in 2018/19, which takes into account the placement of the shot to judge the probability of the goalkeeper making a save, he fared far better in 2020/21 to save Norwich roughly seven goals, conceding 22 goals from 29.2 post-shot expected goals. His Shot Stopping % of 7% – the measure of goals saved above average, as a percentage of shots faced by the goalkeeper – ranked the highest of all Championship goalkeepers this season.

 

 

Norwich finished the season with the second-best defensive record and the second-best attacking record, combining for the best goal difference overall. Their attacking game and approach in possession drew the most attention and praise, in-part because of the ease on the eye and in-part because of the elite talent, especially so at Championship level, they had executing it.

The Canaries had more of the ball than any other side in the second tier this season but also moved it into the areas that matter more than anyone else: entering the final third more than any other team, completing the most passes within 20m of goal (Deep Completions), and completing the most passes within the opposition penalty area.

 

 

Their short passing and combination play resulted in some wonderful football being played at times, Cantwell and Buendía in particular regularly producing technical quality way above Championship level when tucking into central areas from the left and right flank respectively.

That technique and invention compounded with the intelligent movement of Teemu Pukki resulted in a regular supply line of through balls splitting the opponents’ defence. Rarely did a game go by without Norwich getting in behind the opposition, completing 105 through balls for an average of 2.3 per game. For context, the teams with the third and fourth-most through balls in the Championship, Brentford and Bournemouth, completed 108 defence-splitting passes combined.

 

 

Of the players to complete the most through balls in the league, three were from Norwich, with Buendía and Vrančić making the top two and Cantwell rounding out the top five just below Harvey Elliott and Callum O’Hare.

Buendía’s starting position on the right flank is on teamsheet only. In reality, it’s Aarons who’ll keep the width when Norwich are in the attacking phase with Buendía tucking into central areas – where he can cause more damage with a greater sight of goal. It’s clearly observable when looking at his through balls, only two of which were played from an area wide of the penalty area, the rest coming from a more narrow starting position.

 

 

It’s also notable how many of those threaded passes were played from deeper areas. These were not typically passes that broke the opposition’s deep block, often they were quick and laser-like passes in transition where Buendía and particularly Pukki’s skillsets thrived. After winning the ball in their defensive third, if Norwich could get the ball to Buendía lurking intently in the space between the opposition midfield and defence then it would spell trouble for their opponents, with Pukki playing on the shoulder and poised to make a perfectly timed run in behind.

Buendía’s influence on this Norwich team and the Championship itself was so great that there have been discussions in recent weeks as to whether this has been the greatest individual season ever witnessed in England’s second tier. The quality shown in the final third has been closer to that seen in the Champions League than the Championship, with the Argentine finishing the season on 14 non-penalty goals and 14 assists, backed up by accruing the most xG assisted in the league (13.2) from the most key passes (120).

 

 

His influence in the final third bears out in how often Norwich were able to get him on the ball in those areas, with Buendía completing 760 final third passes across the season (19.4 per 90 minutes) and 82 open-play passes into the penalty area (2.1 per 90 minutes). Both were league best numbers, as was the fact that just 8% of his passes in the final third went backwards, a league-best figure amongst Championship attacking midfielders and wingers and a number that illustrates his ability to keep the attack moving towards goal.

That he’s one of the league’s most active defenders is just the cherry on top. The truth is, Buendía very likely would’ve won the Player Of The Season award for his attacking play alone, but his contribution on the defensive end only adds to the mesmeric nature of his performances.

His determination and work rate has landed him disciplinary trouble at times, picking up 2nd yellows for a red card on two occasions this season, but his discipline out-of-possession has been a key part of Norwich’s success, providing support to Oli Skipp and Max Aarons in defending the right flank. Adjusted for possession, given Norwich had more of the ball than any other side this season, Buendía recorded the most pressures of any player in the Championship in 2020/21. Of course, none of this would’ve been possible without another exemplary season leading the line from Teemu Pukki, playing the role of 20+ goal striker yet again. Pukki’s role in the team remained the same as it always has – lead the press and provide a nuisance when the team’s out of possession, make devilish runs and finish lethally when the team’s in possession. Following on from earlier, 1-in-5 of Pukki’s shots came after a through ball. One of the most archetypal forwards in the league, both in role and in attributes, Pukki was behind only Adam Armstrong for the percentage of total touches that are a shot, with 5% of his touches being a shot on goal. The Fin eventually finished third in the goalscoring charts, both with & without penalties, but his expected numbers were ahead of Ivan Toney and Armstrong – Pukki finished with 27.3 expected goals + expected goals assisted, the most in the Championship this season. Deserved champions, the common consensus is that Norwich are much better prepared than last time to attempt Premier League survival next season. A period of uncertainty around whether they can keep their best stars in yet another transfer window will surely ensue, but one thing we can be certain of – the process will remain the same.