Everyone’s heard the old “German Efficiency” adage and it’s a truth that stands the test of time. They identify the goal, plan the path, achieve the objective. And almost always in jig time.
But in rare cases, like their national team, they take a step back, analyse the problem and realise that there is no jig time fix. After a series of poor major tournaments, heading for the exit door early bells in Euro 2004 and the World Cup in 2006, Germany invested in youth that eventually seen them lift to World Cup in 2014, absolutely leathering Brazil on route.
It’s this sort of big picture thinking that has their club teams light years ahead of the pack when it comes to out of the box thinking.
Which brings me to the main crux of this blog. Football Manager. More importantly, the database that Sports Interactive compiled to make it the leading game in the market for management.
Forget the actual game itself and the mechanics, that’s not important. What teams like Celtic should be looking at is the database. There are hundreds of thousands of players profiled in the database and with an accuracy that stands up to the acid test.
In the 2012 addition of the game, the developers had a list of top 20 “Wonderkids”. The term is self-explanitory, but in terms of the game, it really means players which, if handled correctly, have the right coaching team around them, get the game time they need to develop, will make it into the top echelons of the game.
Now, obviously, I don’t think it factors in a players personality. Whether he’s a dick, or whether he can handle the pressure of big games etc. That much, I would hazard a guess as to being just that, a guess.
But lets look at the 2012 list of Wonderkids and where they are today and what their total transfer fees added up to;
Mario Gotze – Dortmund – £53m
Ter Stegen – Barcelona – £10m
Kurt Zouma – Chelsea – £27m
Adryan – FC Sion – £0
Jack Wilshere – West Ham – £2m
Xherdan Shaqiri – Liverpool – £52m
Yaya Sanogo – Toulouse – £0
Oscar – Shanghai SIPG – £88m
Erik Lamela – Spurs – £42m
Phil Jones – Man Utd – £17m
Christen Eriksen – Spurs – £13m
Neymar – PSG – £279m
Paul Pogba – Man Utd – £94m
Raheem Stirling – Man City – £50m
John Fleck – Sheffield United – £0
Jack Robinson – QPR -£0
Serge Aurier – Spurs – £32m
Jordan Ayew – Swansea – £19m
Carlos Fierro – San Jose Eathquakes -£0
Thibaut Courtois – Real Madrid – £40m
£818 Million worth of Transfer Fees. Now forget the attainability of these players. But that’s an incredible strike rate for the database. And this is 2012 when the likes of Sterling was 15, Pogba, 18 and Neymar still played for Santos. Nobody had really heard of these players. Sports Interactive and their team did.
15/20 players predicted to be the best bunch coming through who have either forged a good career for themselves, or are operating at the very top of the game. Now, looking at that list, there’s not many that would fall into Celtic price bracket these days. But back when this list was compiled, they’re 15-20 years old, and they didn’t make their big money moves for a good few years. Theres a small window to do something there.
Jumping forward to now, there is a similar list floating around just now with players in the same position as these players were back in 2012. This is the top 7 of each position based on data gathered by Sports Interactive’s team. Many are way out of our reach already, but this is the very top echelons and just page one of thousands of players. But all you need to find is 1.
There are many factors in how Sport Interactive compile their database, much to much to accurately convey here, but for the interests of stream-lining, they use two main indicators of where a player is and where they’ll think he’ll be in the years to come. Current Ability (CA) and Potential Ability (PA), each ranging from 0 – 200.
In terms of the SPFL, around a 130 CA player will win the league. Anything higher will rip the league to ribbons. 150s is a comfortable Premier League player. 160+ is walking into the world class players and 170+ are the players who win the Champions League every year.
Currently Celtic have 7 players at the club considered 149 PA or above. 4 at 155 and above and 2 at 160 and above. Ntcham at 160 and Tierney at 170 (which rates him as potentially one of the top 5 full backs in the world.
For context, Messi is the only 199 Current Ability player in the database.
Easy enough, right? Not so much.
To get this level of detail, Sports Interactive have a system in place that pits a network of scouts all around the world. There are 6 main researchers, then under them you have 100 head researchers who look at specific leagues and nations as a whole. Below them are around 1000 assistant researchers, who look at the individual clubs in those nations.
To get the most accurate product possible, they have a system of checks to prevent fans of a particular team getting too giddy and over-exuberant with players ratings etc. Including a filter that goes back up the pyramid to be signed off by the head guys.
The leg work has been put in by the guys who compiled the database. You just need to consult it.
Which brings me to the point – Why aren’t we using this database to identify players. It’s literally a resource that costs about £29.99.
If I flicked the game up now, I could pull at least ten names of RBs who would be worthy of us looking at. The process isn’t a complicated one.
Use the database to identify a pool of players based on talent, affordability etc > Go watch these players live > make a decision on their talent merits >
“This isn’t Football Manager. You can’t just pick a player and sign him in days.” The Snake famously said that a while back when we grumbled about signings.
Despite the condescension, most fans know that.
But we’ve had the inclination that Lustig was done for the better part of 2 years. We knew he was leaving come January. We had circa 7 months to identify a pool a candidates, which clearly, we didn’t do. If we had used this this database, it would’ve been a far simpler process.
Have our scouting team watch them live. Gather data on what kind of person they are. Do they thrive under pressure, do they crumble in adversity. This is a massive avenue that from my research, only Borussia Dortmund seem to have taken advantage of.
It’s not a one size fits all solution by any means. But it is absolutely a launching pad to get these types of players names on the desk before they hit the heights that puts them out of our reach.
This isn’t just a game. It’s a highly sophisticated, well funded, in depth and likely, the best scouting network in world football.
It’s efficient, stream lined, simplistic in its goal, highly accessible and trumps anything else on the market comfortably. It’s a German way of thinking, if you will.
Football has moved on from sending your best scout down the park to see if anyone is any good. Nor is it mired in the old ways of having “contacts” who put you onto a player. It’s a technological age, and we need to step up and join it. grab those small inches off the park and it’ll give us the yards on it.
The data is there to be used. So the question is, why aren’t we taking advantage?