Knutson's Transfer Model Review

By admin | December 19, 2013

Knutson's Transfer Model Review

I have had a lot of requests to do transfer shopping pieces for various teams, and I’ve always replied that I’m waiting until late December to do them so that we have more data. (And secretly because I kind of hate transfer pieces done well outside of transfer window periods, but that’s just me.)

We’re nearly there, which means I have a lot of writing and evaluation ahead of me. I’ve been working on a back end to make this stuff easier and also learning some visualization stuff to improve how we present the stats. I’ll start rolling out the shopping pieces shortly after Boxing Day.

However, before making any recommendations, it probably makes sense to review the model I put together in the summer to try and unearth talents. In this case I use the term “model” fairly loosely – there was very little math involved, and it was mostly just breaking down stats into per90 metrics and sorting for key performance indicators.

The rationale behind this was that many football front offices aren’t using stats well enough in their transfer shopping. I said this without any personal knowledge, but because guys like Max Kruse were blazingly obvious from a statistical perspective, and yet went from Freiberg to Gladbach this spring for a measly 2.5M euros.

Obviously there’s also the potential case that clubs are completely aware of all of these players, but simply aren’t interested or can’t work out deals for them. Scouting networks are impressive things, with thousands of players falling under their umbrellas. On the other hand, some of these players seemed like clear slam dunks, and others transferred for well below their actual market value based on statistical performance.

My guess is that some clubs use heavy analytical scouting and likely combine it with video scouting to narrow down targets. Others… not so much. The market is still inefficient regarding obvious statistical performers. I doubt that will be the case in five years time.

Anyway, doing these over the course of a month this summer probably took about 80 hours. The problem I have run into is that doing all the stats work and formatting to do the full review would take a ton of time away from creating new content, which was the point of all this anyway. My time is unfortunately finite, especially around the holidays. On the other hand, some review needed to be done. That’s how I arrived at the kludge below.




19 of the 36 players evaluated have been hits or stars so far this season. At the other end of the scale, 5 have been meh and 2 definite duds. (Of the duds, I was not impressed by Aspas, but I thought Pizzi was a future star.)

I’m probably most happy with what I had to say this summer about Kruse, Gonzalo Castro, Koke, Diego Costa, and Luca Cigarini (“a poor man’s Pirlo”). Click on the names and go back through them if you are interested – I haven’t changed anything since these were written in June, including suggesting Costa could make it to Brazil’s World Cup squad if he had a good season. Obviously I did not expect Spain to poach him instead.

I’m less happy with how Pizzi worked out. He’s basically disappeared at Espanyol, after having a torrid season last year. I still think Lamela, El Shaarawy, and Ljajic are three of the brightest young forwards in Europe, though their seasons have been complicated by injury and playing time issues.

Anyway, feel free to look back through what I said this summer, and look at the stats for these players today and make your own judgments. In most cases I have leaned toward being harsh instead of lenient (Example: Ben Yedder is doing alright on a bad team, but I was hoping he’d show more improvement overall).

It is possible I am biased, but I'm very happy with how the predictions turned out from this summer. Transfer scouting is an imprecise business, but using stats as a baseline for older players has to be the way forward. All of this was done with basic public info, and version 1 of a methodology, and tried very hard to only touch on players that were outside the mainstream.

Ben and I have something kinda cool we’re going to try out on Monday that will include a Google Hangout at 10:30UK time. Until then, enjoy your Christmas parties and weekend football.


P.S. We've accumulated a ton of new readers since we started at the end of July, almost all via word of mouth. You guys are what drive it, and I want to say thank you and hope that you continue to tell your friends when you see stuff here that you like.

And since there are so many of you that didn't know us this summer, it's possible you missed out on some pieces I did scouting big name forwards earlier this year as well. Here are the words for the piece, and here's a Tableau vis I used to try and map the characteristics.