While doing the dishes this evening, after dinner, I got to thinking. I've been avidly reading Statsbomb's stuff this year, as well as the excellent stats work MCofA's been doing and when I think about all of those things, and the big tactical soup that is AVB's Spurs, a few thoughts pop into mind.
What we don't know statistically far outstrips what we do know, but that isn't necessarily the case at top clubs. As Ted Knutson pointed out, the defensive stats which we can't get publicly do exist, but Opta charge 5000 pounds per year per league to access them. Somewhere in Europe there are a few smart teams employing a couple of statisticians to look over all that data and apply it to team tactics. I don't doubt many are trying to, but the smarter teams will be going beyond immediate application and basing their youth coaching around the data.
If you start young, and coach them based on the most statistically effective positioning and tactics, you would wind up with a class of academy players who not only played well as a unit, but which would have a great deal more footballing smarts than their contemporaries. They'd know what was likely to "work" and then be able to execute those specific strategies, rather than wasting talent on ambitious ideas that would never work. Until other teams caught up, it would lead to average players looking much better, by playing smarter and making teams much more efficient, despite personel changes over time.
I don't think we've seen as much of this yet as we might think, since individual coaching philosophies are still so dominant. But I think in the next few years we might see a couple of teams come along with particularly strong youth movements, and the selling on of particular players won't seem to hurt them very much at all. It will probably also involve a young coach promoted from the youth team, who both knows the stats and the players, and so uses them accordingly.
I think it would wind up at the point of teams having no set formation beyond the most effective for particular game states against opposing formations. A 0-10-0 which may become anything from 3-4-3 to 5-4-1 depending on circumstances. And until other teams pick up on the logic behind that approach, I think that team will likely clean house.
Any ideas on who might be farthest ahead on this? Or should I just stop thinking football and start thinking whisky?