EPP was recently featured in the Liverpool Echo after highlighting Liverpool as being one of the Premier League’s leaders for their use of analytics behind the scenes at Melwood.

Liverpool’s data-driven transfer model at Melwood hailed as a Premier League leader

By Paul Gorst (This article was first published in the Liverpool Echo on 6th August 2019.)

Liverpool have been hailed as one of the Premier League’s leaders for their use of analytics behind the scenes at Melwood.

The Reds currently employ Ian Graham as their director of research at the club, and while it is manager Jurgen Klopp who has the final say, the boss is willing to listen to ideas as the European champions strive to further develop the data-driven model that helped them win the Champions League last season.

Graham joined Anfield from Decision Technology – a London-based business management consultant company – in 2012 and was appointed by Michael Edwards, who has since risen to sporting director with the club, boosting his reputation among fans for a string of successes in the transfer market in the process.

It has previously been claimed that both Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita were recommended to the club based on the strength of the data supplied by Graham’s research.

Graham is also said to have developed a computer programme designed to add value to raw data of performance numbers provided by models such as ProZone.

His exhaustive and extensive work has been highlighted over the last few months, but he has been providing Klopp with the essential information since they first met in November 2015.

David Slemen is a founding member of Elite Performance Partners, a company who work with clubs across the Premier League, and he told Training Ground Guru how the Reds’ willingness to embrace analytics places them as one of the top-flight’s frontrunners alongside Manchester City.

He said: “For a club with ambition to learn anything new, this position is simply non-negotiable. Being able to perform at elite level requires evidence-based practice.

“The ability to interrogate internal and external evidence bases within the context of your own team ensures improvement and proper statistical analysis can help uncover a range of insights, ranging from recruitment (identifying prospective signings, for example), sports science (establishing links between GPS data and variables such as injury occurrence) or coaching (such as modelling how to create space).

“In the Premier League, Manchester City and Liverpool have been the leaders at introducing analytics into virtually all their club processes.

“At Liverpool, Ian Graham’s title as ‘Director of Research’ is a variation on this role – he was appointed in 2012 – and Lee Mooney has been Director of Data Insights at Manchester City since July 2018, while having worked for the club for four years in total.”

Slemen adds: “The England cricket team – now world champions – have long been adopters of detailed statistical analysis with Cambridge maths graduate Nathan Leamon leading up the delivery of insights and Giles Lindsay using AI/machine learning to develop new coachable insights that impact performance.

“This perhaps makes it a surprise that Manchester United, the club with the highest turnover and most league titles in England, does not have a dedicated data science team.”

Liverpool’s relatively early delve into the depths of analytics places them as somewhat ahead of the curve and their chain of command is the envy of football ahead of the new Premier League campaign.

Sporting director Michael Edwards, chief scout Barry Hunter and head of recruitment Dave Fallows dovetail perfectly to ensure the Reds’ recruitment has been virtually flawless over the last three years.

Since the summer window of 2016, the Reds have been able identify players such as Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keita, Fabinho, Alisson Becker and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Nine of those 10 players had a role in helping the Reds to a sixth European Cup last term, while Oxlade-Chamberlain will have a more prominent spot in the squad this time around after battling back from a serious knee injury.

A lot of that transfer activity at the club has supposedly been defined by the analysis of Edwards and his team, which includes director of research Graham.

In a piece for the New York Times earlier this year, journalist Bruce Schoenfeld highlighted the work undertaken behind the curtain at Melwood by a team that includes Graham, astrophysicist, Tim Waskett, former junior chess champion Dafydd Steele and a Harvard high-energy physics genius in Will Stearman.

A 97-point Premier League season and a Champions League trophy would suggest Liverpool’s director of research is operating at an exalted level.

You can find the full article from Dave Slemen on The Director of Analytics here.