FT.com, By Simon Kuper, June 17 201
Abu Dhabi's ruling family owns Manchester City, and one thing it has done since buying the club is hire a large team of data analysts. Inside the building I found Gavin Fleig, City's head of performance analysis, a polite sandy-haired man in a neat black City sweater. Hardly anyone outside Carrington has heard of him, and yet Fleig is a prime mover in English football's data revolution. Largely unseen by public and media, data on players have begun driving clubs' decisions - particularly decisions about which players to buy and sell. At many clubs, obscure statisticians in back-rooms will help shape this summer's transfer market.
... Fleig gave me the sort of professional presentation you'd expect from a "quant" in an investment bank. Lately, to his excitement, City had acquired stats on every player in the Premier League. Imagine, said Fleig, that you were thinking of signing an attacking midfielder. You wanted someone with a pass completion rate of 80 per cent, who had played a good number of games. Fleig typed the two criteria into his laptop. Portraits of the handful of men in the Premier League who met them flashed up on a screen ...
In recent years, after many false starts, the number-crunchers at big English clubs have begun to unearth the player stats that truly matter. For instance, said Fleig, "The top four teams consistently have a higher percentage of pass completion in the final third of the pitch. Since the recruitment of Carlos Tévez, David Silva, Adam Johnson and Yaya Touré to our football team, in the last six months alone, our ability to keep the ball in the final third has grown by 7.7 per cent."
See excellent game stats visualizations and read more.