Featuring 160 games and over 700 clubs from the top-tier to tenth division of the English football pyramid, the FA Cup poses unique challenges for data collection and analysis.
Ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool, Stats Perform’s Sr. Data Editor & Audience Engagement Manager, Matt Furniss, disclosed the lengths data providers need to go to effectively analyse knockout tournaments in a Q&A with Insider Sport.
A data provider for bookmakers, media rights holders and digital and print media outlets, Stats Perform conducts statistical analysis of a range of tournaments, including the FA Cup, and has unique insights into the comparatives between different competitions.
Furniss observed that a key challenge with the FA Cup is performance analysis, arguing that data from knockout tournaments needs to be ‘taken with a pinch of salt’ due to the often vast differences in skill between participants.
“I think that due to the nature of cup competitions, like the FA Cup, seeing clubs from different levels play one another, there is an element of taking some of the data with a pinch of salt,” he explained.
“Seeing a player like Romelu Lukaku score a hat-trick against a fourth-tier side in the cup holds less importance than scoring one in an important Premier League fixture or a Champions League knockout game.”
In order to provide football fans and its partners ‘with the best analysis possible’ from the FA Cup, Furniss added that Stats Perform needs to go the extra mile in comparison to league analysis.
He continued “Data can be a lot harder to collect in full detail – measuring every single action, its on-pitch location etc – in the earlier rounds of the competition.
“We have in-ground analysts at every single match from the First Round onwards, so we collect the top-level data metrics for every ‘proper’ match following qualification.
“The earlier rounds also see clubs that our in-office analysts might not know so well, from non-league. This means that the analysts will have to go through some training to recognise the players so that live analysis becomes easier.”
Assessment of such matches can also be extremely draining for analysts, Furniss observed, due to the possibility of 30 minutes of extra time or penalty shootouts on top of the usual 90-minute match.
For Stats Perform, the group’s Opta Data solution plays a central role in its analysis of the FA Cup, as with other tournaments, alongside the work of its in-ground and in-office analysts.
“Stats Perform has a results database of every single FA Cup proper match (outside of the qualification rounds) in the history of the competition since 1972,” Furniss explained.
“That’s over 17,500 matches, of which we have much more details for all 140 previous finals (including replays). We have information on every player to have played in those finals, plus details of every goalscorer in terms of DOB, position, nationality, goal time.”
Read the full Q&A HERE