Crunching fantasy football numbers to become big business
Big data firms looking to help fans of fantasy football as Premier League launches ‘pay to play’ model
“Then you look at that player’s influence within the team. You examine last year’s data and we have six or seven years’ worth of information on a number of players in our Premier League game and you can look at their trends for point scoring.”
Prof Chris Anderson, of New York’s Cornell University, recently co-wrote The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong, a book which attempts to cut through the “decision biases” common among football fans, pundits and even managers.
He notes that many fantasy league players are susceptible to relying on conventional wisdom over the type of proven data Trigg is speaking about.
“Take players coming in from Spain, Italy or Germany, ” he says. “There’s a lot of credence given to playing games in the Premier League as an indicator of quality. What we find is that across the top four leagues in Europe [player performance] is pretty interchangeable.
“There are tactical differences but in terms of basic outputs by the workers on the shop floor so to speak, it’s very similar,” he adds.
As for picking his own team this year, Anderson says that without any fantasy data tools to hand, “I look forward to being just as wrong as anyone else this season!”
Fantasy picks: Gary Hooper, Wilfried Zaha and Romelu Lukaku
The official Fantasy Football game from the Premier League sees participants handed £100 million to spend on 15 players. You win points based on a player’s performance which is ranked using a number of criteria such as goals scored and minutes played.
Interestingly, the official Premier League game has
this year introduced a new bonus points system which rewards a player with three points for a pass completion rate of more than 90 per cent in any game. Of the experts The Irish Times spoke to, here are some of their fantasy picks this season:
Andrew Laird, senior soccer editor, Rotowire: “We like Gary Hooper at Norwich, Wilfred Bony from Swansea and Arouna Kone from Everton, specifically because of the available time on the pitch they’ll get.”
Jon Trigg, MD, Silent Manager: “Wilfried Zaha at Manchester United. His pro- bability of playing is fairly high, his probability for assists is high and the chance of getting the odd goal is also high.”
Chris Anderson, author The Numbers Game: “Lukaku at Chelsea. If early in the season he gets in the team I can see him having a terrific season.”
Steve Watt, Opta Sports: “If you’re looking for any new guys on the cheap I really fancy Emanuele Giaccherini at Sunderland, Norwich’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Nicolas Anelka at West Brom to be great buys. – the latter dependent on whether or not he can be bothered on that particular week!”