Football analysis with FBRef

In the past year of football analysis, FBRef has become my favourite platform for collecting data, comparing players, and identifying hidden success stories. The website, powered by StatsBomb, is an awesomely free open-source platform for football statistics. In this article, as part of our Introduction to Football Analysis course, I'm going to be taking you through how to get the most out of FBRef, and how to use the well-known platform as a tool to strengthen your analysis. Let's dive in!

Game of Numbers #4 – Counter Attacking to Score Goals

In the quest to establish beautiful football, possession-based play often reigns supreme, with the bitter ugliness of grit and determination seen as a lower standard way of approaching the game. But when done right and done effectively, counter attacking football can be the deadliest approach to winning football matches. That notion came to prominence over the weekend, as both of last season's Premier League title contenders dropped points, and Bundesliga giants RB Leipzig crashed down the stairs at Union Berlin.

Game of Numbers – #3 – The Evolution of the Target Man

Target Men are often seen as the bottom of the barrel centre-forward in terms of footballing ability. But increasingly, it's becoming more difficult to quantify 'Target Men', recognizing the vast skillsets they employ. The likes of Aleksandar Mitrović and Sasa Kalajdzic are easier to distinctly categorize as 'Target Men' for their physical, imposing frame that allows them to score headed goals for fun. But it becomes more difficult to keep the likes of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez in that same specification, recognizing the vast array of traits they possess, particularly speed on the break. Target Men have historically been seen as slow, technically inept individuals who use their physicality, whether that be height or strength, to get one up over the opponent. But more and more, we are seeing an evolution of the 'Target Man' in 2022, to include a vast array of traits.

Game of Numbers – #2 – Walker & Cancelo Back Where They Belong

Leave it to Manchester City to always be doing something interesting from a tactical perspective. Tactics were bound to change at the Ethiad with a new striker entering the door. City even made strides to accommodate Erling Haaland by purchasing yellow shirts for everybody. But the real tactical change against West Ham United came out from the back, with the re-emergence of an old City favourite that quietly died down in 2021-22. In large part, Bernardo Silva's 'Bernardo Silva Role' meant that the City fullbacks were responsible for inverting less in build-up phases, as the Portuguese playmaker drifted toward the ball to help the Citizens break through central corridors instead.

Keira Walsh – Player Analysis

Keira Walsh is brilliant. You know it. I know it. And thanks to the Women's European Championships, the whole world knows it too. In today's masterclass, I dissect that brilliance in a long-form Player Analysis, helping you and I come to a greater understanding of how you too can play (or coach) with the brilliance of Keira Walsh. Here is our analysis.

Why Oleksandr Zinchenko is perfect for Arsenal

Arsenal's transfer business this summer has been shrewd and accomplished, and now after signing both Zinchenko and Jesus from the Sky Blues, Arsenal could very well be on their way toward building back toward Premier League title acclaim. Here is our analysis of why Zinchenko is perfect for Arsenal, and why the signing may be the start of something special for the Gunners in 2022-23.

Why Gabriel Jesus is perfect for Arsenal

Gabriel Jesus arrives at Arsenal Football Club as the complete package, capable of fulfilling a number of different roles and tasks. Not only is the Brazilian a competent creator and scorer of great goals, he is also a highly active contributor both in and out of possession. Jesus catches the eye in not only 1v1 situations where he can use his pace and power to explode away from defenders, but in stellar perceptions of space to find pockets to receive and work his way around defensive blocks.

Why Marc Cucurella is perfect for Manchester City

Out of all the names to be linked with Manchester City, Marc Cucurella would have been an obscure choice beyond belief this time last year. But after a successful first season in the Premier League with Brighton & Hove Albion, the versatile Spaniard may now be a few weeks away from securing a dream move to the Champions. Cucurella is one of the most versatile players on the planet, making him an ideal candidate to be City's next rising star. Here is our analysis of the 23-year-old, and his potential fit for Manchester City.

Explaining the Ball-Playing-Centre-Half – Player Role Analysis

As the name suggests, a 'Ball-Playing-Centre-Half' is a centre-back that excels in possession of the ball, from passing to long passing to carrying to dribbling. They can simultaneously exist as 'Sweepers' or 'Stoppers', providing another interesting asterisk to the role not found in many other positions. Unlike say a fullback or goalkeeper where we have created clearly defined separations and almost polarizations on a style scale, 'Ball-Playing-Centre-Halves' can also be 'Stoppers' or 'Sweepers'.

Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 1)

It's easy to use the eye test and conclude that players like Jadon Sancho and Timo Werner haven't lived up to the hype. In a recent video, Tifo Football suggested that this phenomenon doesn't just apply to Bundesliga clubs, but a range of leagues around the world. So with that, we aim to use data from the 2021-22 season to determine whether or not 'Bundesliga Tax' is a real phenomenon, and what leagues Premier League clubs should prioritize in sending their scouts to this summer. Here is our analysis of what we're dubbing 'EPL Transfer Tax'. In Part 1, we examine the top seven sides in the league based on points during the 2021-22 campaign, drawing conclusions around the business that 'Top 7' clubs conducted prior to the start of last season. In turn, this could inform decision making ahead of the 2022-23 season, and potentially the wider future at hand.

Explaining the Inverted Fullback – Player Role Analysis

Fullbacks are not always the flashiest of players, nor do they garner the greatest attention, even despite their importance to creating and generating chances in the modern game. That is precisely why a system like our Role Continuity Evaluation System works on so many levels, as we are able to adequately assess the important characteristics to a player's performance, while minimizing the scrutinization over less important facets of the player's game. Within the system, we break down full-backs into three broad categories: 'Wide Warriors', 'Wing-Backs', and the topic of today's article - the 'Inverted Fullback'. So with that, we explain the tasks, functions and role of an 'Inverted Fullback' and outline some of the very best in the position in 2022.

How to make substitutions like Pep Guardiola

Fifteen minutes to go in the 2021-22 Premier League season, the title looked likely to change hands for the first time in months, with Liverpool having every chance of stealing top spot away from Manchester City. But then came Pep Guardiola and three inspired second half substitutions, stealing the crown right at the death. Here are three ways to best support the substitution process, and make effective changes to change football matches.

Chelsea 3-2 Manchester City – Women’s FA Cup Final Analysis

What a game. If you missed this one, seriously, go back and watch the explosion of emotions and hard-felt performances across the pitch in Chelsea's narrow 3-2 win over Manchester City. The Citizens were dominant on the day going forward, yet Chelsea kept pushing and probing to take the lead not once, not twice, but three times. Their relentless goal-scoring when the odds seemed stacked against them ensured City always had an uphill battle to climb, and eventually became too big of a task for Gareth Taylor's team. Here is our match analysis of the 2022 Women's FA Cup Final between Chelsea and City.