Football climax and the penetration of AI artificial intelligence
Football is increasingly dominated by technology, even though robots replacing humans standing on the piste can only be a matter of time.
At the end of 2018, Arsene Wenger came to the office of the famous channel editors BeIn SPORTS, Richard Keys and Andy Gray to attend an interview. It should have been just a regular talk, until Wenger talked about the future – what the French strategist always wondered.
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When he became Arsenal’s manager in 1996, he created a real revolution in the Premier League with completely new methods. Currently, when resting after more than two decades of working in the UK, Wenger predicts: robots can completely replace people as coaches, for about 20 years.
Upon hearing this, Keys and Gray immediately burst out laughing.
Even when Wenger said the robot did not direct the instructions, but would be the right-hand man of the head coach, the two veteran commentators did not agree at all.
When reviewing the information, Wenger was indeed wrong. Since there was no need for another 20 years, there was a robot used for tactical problems … last January.
The team in the seventh league in England, Wingate & Finchley, received advice on tactics and personnel from a robot. This robot is placed on the piste in the match against Whitehawk FC – the competitor is competing fiercely with relegation.
The robot built by GreenShoot Labs was first introduced at the Big Bang Trade Fair, to stimulate the interest in science in young people. The robot is similar in structure to a speaker, connected to a personal computer (PC). Its name is Alexa.
When the coach asks what tactics scheme to use, Alexa will ask back the information about the opponent. The more detailed the information, the more specific the advice of Alexa. Alexa is actually just a primitive version of a really useful robot in the future. In the age of big data, who owns more information and better distributions, the easier it is for that person to succeed.
The world’s leading clubs are having very detailed information collection systems. They also did not hesitate to use them. Some clubs have also realized: science will help them solve mistakes caused by human feelings. In other words: when watching football for analytical purposes, stand to believe in … your eyes. To better understand this, temporarily switch from football to … baseball.
Two decades ago, Billy Beane, Oakland A’s manager, had a serious problem: his team was one of the poorest clubs in the American Major League. If a New York Yankees club can spend 100 million dollars a year, Oakland can only spend 40 million dollars. If the Yankees could acquire the best athletes, Oakland would only accept the remaining athletes.
Many people who have declared Oakland will fall out and disappear. But no, for four consecutive years, they always ended the season in Top 8, in a tournament of 30 teams. Which secret helps them play well even with a limited budget? The answer is to remember Billy Beane has a different mindset, in an age where all the big clubs recruit athletes based on the advice of scouts.
Scouts work on experience. They believe in what they observe. But Beane doesn’t believe them. He was the one who said the immortal sentence: “We should not believe our eyes.” The reason Beane said that part of the reverse is because he believed in the power of science.
Decades ago, two famous psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky made a series of experiments, to show that our brains are easily fooled. When something happens, we often handle it based on known experiences.
These two scientists went to ask people a familiar question: which is more dangerous to human life: tornadoes or asthma? Most answers are tornadoes. In fact: asthma causes 20 times more deaths than tornadoes.
Daniel Kahneman, who will later win the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, points out: relying too much on experience has made the majority of stock investors in Wall Streets hug. “Feelings are easy to make mistakes, but the numbers are not,” Kahneman said.
This claim is also true for baseball. So, 20 years ago, Billy Beane cautiously observed the transfer market. He doesn’t believe in scouts anymore. More precisely, he did not believe in … their eyes. Instead, he looked to people who were doing market research based on statistics. And he found that athletes were underestimated by scouts, just because they had a defect: a bit overweight, or an impenetrable path. These things are very … intuitive, and strike the viewer psychology.
Billy Beane believes that these things will not affect their performance. He believes hidden behind them the untapped potential. And he recruited them – athletes without a club would like to buy. The opponent believed that Beane was too mad. Even Oakland scouts … think so.
But Beane’s team started winning, and won continuously. Opponents will soon realize Beane’s range. In 2002, trader John W. Henry bought the Boston Red Sox team, and asked the club to operate under Beane’s strategy. Two years later, Boston Red Sox first national championship after 86 years.
Now, Beane’s strategy has become so famous. The book about Oakland A, Moneyball, was written by Michael Lewis in 2003, soon became a classic and made into a movie.
But does “Moneyball” apply to football? Entrepreneur John W.Henry desperately wanted the answer. And so in 2010, he bought the Liverpool club.
Applying Beane’s model to Liverpool, Henry hired Damien Comolli, a French manager who worked for Tottenham. Comolli himself is also a friend of Beane. But the first two years, Liverpool did not play well, and Comolli was fired.
Henry began to ask the question: why not succeed? The answer is Moneyball applied to baseball better than football, because the nature of these two sports is different. Baseball is a sport of continuous breaks. Just stop, play and stop. Meanwhile, the ball in football moves constantly, it requires a different data system. A team, though controlling all statistics such as kicking, passing, holding the ball, can still lose 0-4 as usual.
Another reason Comolli was fired was that the data he had at the time was too limited. Tuy Opta – a company that provides statistical data – was born in 1996, and in the early 2010, it still stopped at basic parameters such as passing, kicking or tackling. And looking at the ball rolling parameters, you can’t determine whether a defender is good or bad. As Paolo Maldini once said: a midfielder only tackles the ball after he made a mistake in the previous judgment. So the less defender the better, the better? This sentence is not applicable to Alessandro Nesta or Sergio Ramos, the defenders who like to spread the ball.
Now, when the football statistics industry officially exploded, Moneyball was able to be applied to football according to Henry’s wishes. Particularly, the statistics on defeats have been much more diverse. They not only classify the goal and the goal, the goal but also the category “can be scored”. For example, a team that only released 10 long-range kicks in a match will have less chance of winning than the team that only has three shots, but all within 5m50. In the past, only a short pass, a long pass, now has a pass line that opens the opportunity to score (key pass). For those who haven’t played Football Manager for a long time, they may be … shocked when they discover this game is getting more and more complicated, with extremely detailed statistics. For those who are really passionate about tactics, those parameters are great. But for those who care only moderately, that parameter system is really a labyrinth.
But that detailed source of data is helping big teams, with a strong team of data analysts, more chances to win in the match.
Statistical companies such as StatsBomb and Wyscout are holding advisory roles to recruit players for three clubs: Juventus, Tottenham and Real Madrid. When you need to strengthen a certain position, these three clubs rely on the data analysis company to give you a list. Then they will review the list and select the most reliable ones.
These numbers also help a club predict the performance of players in the future. Henry’s Liverpool did so successfully with Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk. Both of these players are great players compared to themselves before. So, despite spending a lot of money, Liverpool still has a big interest because the value of the two rookies is now much higher than the number they have spent.
By applying Beane’s model, plus lessons from Comolli’s defeat, Liverpool is following Oakland’s path of success the day before. Not only Salah or Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum … are the results of the process of collecting and analyzing meticulous information.
After helping clubs recruit good players, the next step, science will provide tactical advice. The parameters are increasingly collected more and more detailed to serve this purpose. For example, StatsBomb has created an algorithm called xGBuildup, indicating that in a match, a team usually attacks on which wing, which players often make a decision pass, who invades the round. most banned …
In early February, Opta held a seminar in London. There, analysts introduced new models. Representatives from top clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or PSG all contributed. Artificial intelligence is also commented on in this workshop. And this is when we come back with … Alexa.
Alexa gives advice based on the information the user submits to it. Meanwhile, future robots that Wenger talked about will self-collect, analyze and give advice. If AI has been used in chess and medical analysis, there is no reason it should not be applied to football. Of course, Wenger did not say it would replace a coach. Because how smart a robot is, it is impossible to analyze three very human factors: psychological, motivational and emotional.
But in the ever-growing world of football, denying the development of science also means putting yourself at a disadvantage. Twenty years from now, sometimes every coach will play with a robot. And when the club made a decision to replace someone, the audience had the right to believe it was the result of an intelligent robot analysis.
But football will still be beautiful, because people never know Lionel Messi will shoot, hit the ball or trick the goalkeeper, Cristiano Ronaldo will try to lift up or … fall off the pitch. Football will still be beautiful because even though there are tens of thousands of statistics or meticulous diagrams, it can’t be equal to a pat on the right hand, saying: “You will do it”, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did with Paul Pogba the days by.