The Boston Red Sox gained a competitive advantage by being among the first Major League franchises to use statistics to guide player-personnel policy. They aren’t, however, the only Fenway Sports Group enterprise to make decisions in that vein.
Like Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Liverpool FC director of football, Damien Comolli, is also using statistics to guide his decisions — a notion introduced to him by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“I am indebted to Arsene for that. One day, when I was at Arsenal, he brought to my attention that Manchester United were the team with the best percentage of successful passes in their opponents’ half and that Roy Keane was the player who won most tackles in the Premiership,” he told News of the World.
“He added, ‘You understand now why they are always top?’ I have been interested in stats from that day.”
Comolli explained that his decision to sign Luis Suarez — one that has been wildly successful thus far — was statistically based.
“You have to act quickly. For Luis, I asked scouts to make inquiries in Holland. I looked at his stats over the last three years – especially the number of matches played.
“With Luis, we took account of the number of decisive passes, his performances against the big teams, against the little ones, in Europe, the difference between his goals scored away and at home.”
Liverpool has struggled with injuries this season, a trend that Comolli is hoping to reverse by statistically accounting for them in transfer policy.
“We are going in the direction of players who don’t get injured. We are going to take more and more account of the health of a player in the future. It costs so much having players who don’t play,” he explained.
Because of statistics, one player in particular has caught his eye as far as the summer market is concerned — St. Etienne midfielder Blaise Matuidi.
“In France, all the figures prove that the player who wins most possession at the feet of his opponents is Blaise Matuidi.
“That is an extraordinary strong point. When the team plays high, it means goal chances.”
Liverpool has just two league losses since the end of the January window, Comolli’s first at Anfield.