Published in 2003 and eventually turned into a Hollywood film, Michael Lewis’ Moneyball focuses on the analytical, evidence-based and sabermetric-driven approach that Oakland Athletic’s general manager Billy Beane used to assemble a competitive baseball team despite their financial shortcomings. For several decades, millions of people either interested in or directly involved with the sport -along with other prominent sports that utilize these advanced statistics (NBA chiefly) -have used these advanced statistics to gain a better understanding of who and what can be measured as valuable. I myself am a statistics junky. Over the past two summers, I have had the pleasure of working at Relativity Sports, LLC in the basketball department. Using incredibly involved and detailed analytics site such as SportVU and CourtVision, I was given the task of not only conducting statistical analysis to develop player comparisons and project future salaries, but also to regress previously negotiated contracts against player statistics to determine agent effectiveness. Unlike baseball and basketball however, the sport of soccer is extremely fluid, which makes it increasingly more difficult to count things or take down data. It’s only been in the last five to ten years that companies like Opta have sprung up and begun to track this data and sell it to different teams or soccer blogs, like EPL Index. Since its inception in 2002, Opta has collected, packaged, and distributed the most detailed sports data in the world.
As the most popular sport in the world with nearly 3.5 billion fans worldwide, the game of soccer has proved capable of transcending ethnic or racial boundaries and temporarily uniting fans from different walks of life. By the same token, the Barclay’s Premier League, known more commonly as the EPL, is the most popular football league in the world. From top to bottom, the EPL is considered to be the most balanced league. Founded in 2008 and powered by Opta, eplindex.com is a blogging sites that covers each of the 20 English Premier League teams in great detail through a variety of statistic based articles that cover matches, players, teams and matchups to name a few. Created by blogger Nick Collins, the blog has grown considerably over its seven-year existence. From daily podcasts chronicling recent happenings and news to in-depth player profiles, to interviews of some of the league’s biggest stars, the blog has evolved into a multi-dimensional forum for all that is relevant in English football.
Upon first stumbling upon this website nearly 2 years ago, my attention was immediately drawn to an article titled “EPL’s Under-Rated Midfields / Tactical & Statistical Comparison to Europe’s Elite”. As a life-long fan of Liverpool, I was instantly intrigued to see how this article compared its two “underrated” midfields – Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu of West Bromwich Albion and Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork of Southampton – to the established and, in my biased opinion, best midfield duo of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva. First and foremost, the team at EPLIndex.com utilized their very-own “Tactics Board” to give the reader a better understanding of how each of these midfield duos lined up on the pitch in relation to their surrounding teammates. Created in 2013, the Tactics Board allows all bloggers or tacticians to choose a season from 2008/09 onwards and then select any team that has played in that particular year.
Once both squads and starting 11’s have been chosen, the board then allows you the ability to draw free hand, circles, dashed lines, etc., in order to experiment with what specific tactics and knowledge you, as a manger, would impart upon your squad. Using this incredibly nifty and interactive app, the authors at EPLindex.com showed the three different ‘states’ or positions that these midfielders would be in based on the respective positioning of their teammates and opposition.
From there, the article goes into an extremely involved statistical analysis of nearly every relevant aspect of a midfielder’s game. From total tackles to total passes to pass accuracy and number of times dispossessed per game, the table allows the common sports fan to gain a more well-rounded and accurate understanding as to which players are truly valuable, and which are seemingly overvalued. While the article does not provide the reader with subjective rankings in regards to what midfield duos are in fact the best, it does give us enough relevant statistics to make that discernment for ourselves.
In addition to its statistically and analytically-driven articles, EPLindex.com differentiates itself from the thousands of other soccer blogs because of the sheer depth in which it researches and analyzes each of the 20 teams in the EPL. Unlike the majority of soccer blogs that tend to publish articles on the game of soccer as a whole, EPLindex.com only covers the English Premier League, meaning that each of the 20 teams is afforded unusually in-depth and comprehensive overview on a seemingly daily basis. From coach interviews to podcasts to player profiles to tactical breakdowns and beyond, the website truly provides the fan with everything that they might want to know.
While statistics and advanced sports analytics themselves can appear to be incredibly daunting, EPL Index provides the average EPL fan with an increasingly straightforward and organized yet multi-faceted look into statistics that the human eye cannot quite discern due to the fluidity of the game. It allows one to identify closer with some of the more seemingly unknown players like Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin, whose sheer skill and football prowess is often times overlooked for players on bigger name teams (like Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, etc.). Since its inception nearly 7 years ago, the blog has grown considerably. Alongside its spike in popularity came the advent of a number of interactive and cool features such as its Tactics Board and Podcasts. I look forward to reading it in the future.