There is something happening in the world of football right now that is in its infancy but is revolutionary and could cause a big change to the way football managers operate; the arrival of football analytics has the potential to alter the role of the football manager forever.
The journey begins with Danish football club FC Midtjyland and its owner Rasmus Ankerson. This is a football chairman who has put his faith not in a football manager but a team of analysts from the betting industry. This has proven to be successful for the Danish team, and their progress has been considerable enough for teams in the UK to have now sat up and taken note.
In an era of ‘marginal gains’ and these gains resulting in millions of pounds of revenue, clubs worldwide are going to be more open to such revolutionary techniques and strategies.
Now in the UK we have a situation at Brentford FC in which the manager having had a very successful season, is leaving the club as the owner of Brentford FC wants to try the analytical model as pioneered by the Danish team, FC Midtjyland. The manager did not want to play second fiddle to analytics but he understands the owner has full remit to run the club how he wishes, to pursue this strategy to gain Brentford an edge amongst its peers.
Matthew Benham the Brentford FC owner is a professional gambler and former hedge fund manager and is naturally keen to run with the models that have brought him enormous success. A telling anecdote from this is when Benham was asked if Brentford would get promoted from League 1 and gave the response not “yes” or “no” but that Brentford was 42.3% certain to go up that season!
Such a data driven approach has paid huge dividends personally for Mr. Benham so why not use the same models to bring success on the football pitch?
But not just in English lower leagues or Danish leagues is this becoming relevant, even at the top of the food chain in European Football we see its influence, Bayern Munich’s head of analytics Michael Niemayer discussed Pep Guardiola’s view of his work:
On arriving at Bayern, the first thing he said was; “The match analysis department is the most important department for me. I see a big part of my work in the auditorium. If you want to bring your ideas to the pitch, you have to use these technologies and you have to use match analysis.”
As the future of football changes, there may be a change in the role played by a manager. It is not the death of the football manager but maybe those who adapt to new technologies and utilise the latest resources will find longevity.
After all is said and done, Football is still an industry based on decisions and you will always need a manager to convert the tools at his disposal into decisions on the pitch; for now anyway.