What should go into player ratings?

Soccer analysts – and sports analysts in general – put a lot of effort into evaluating players. Whether it’s for recruiting, team selection, scouting the opposition, planning tactics, or predicting results, measuring players’ ability and performance is crucial. Yet there is surprising little written about the content of player ratings. That’s too bad, since a club probably won’t want to use an analyst’s ratings if it can’t understand the underlying components, or indeed why the analyst chose them. I like to begin this discussion is by building from the ground up in the most general way. Let’s start by talking…
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Expected goals from situations

There’s a shift taking place in the soccer analytics landscape, and it’s probably overdue. For the past year or so, expected goals models based on shots have been very much in vogue. But recently, several analysts and commentators – notably Max Odenheimer, Richard Whittall, and myself – have pointed out that every situation on the field has some chance of turning into a goal. The big questions are whether these situations can be measured and, if so, whether the resulting models are superior to existing alternatives. The answer to the first question depends in large part on the quality of…
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Shot quality, shot quantity, and tactics

One of the great things about soccer is that there are many ways to score goals and win games. I’ve been thinking a lot about why teams choose different tactics, and I decided to test some of my ideas with data. The results offer food for thought. Let’s start with two assumptions, which we’ll check against the data later: 1. There is a tradeoff between shot quality and shot quantity. This implies that shot quality isn’t fixed, and there’s a cost to improving it. Teams have at least two ways of creating high-quality shots. One is to keep passing the…
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