Grimandi questions role of stats in scouting

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Gilles Grimandi, Arsenal’s chief French scout, has questioned the use of data in scouting and expressed concerns that it might be affecting how players play.

It’s well known that a mountain of data is collected for each player, way beyond the normal stats Joe Public has access to, and clubs use this to narrow down potential targets before they’re scouted with human eyes.

So, if they need a tough tackling midfielder, they’ll look at the stats to identify possible recruits using the relevant stats.

However, the Grimster, perhaps with a touch of luddism, told L’Equipe, “This job has evolved a lot. Data is taking a stronger and stronger place. You have to really argue to be against data.

“In a club, statistics give people the chance to exist who have little knowledge. And these numbers act as a safety guard for decision-makers who lack courage. That, yes, that annoys me. The other problem, is that the players are aware of this trend.

“I ask myself to what extent they’re playing to make their numbers good, the duels they have won, the amount of kilometres they have run. It is not particularly positive: I can win 100% of my duels if I refuse to accept everything that I am risking to lose. We see more and more players fleeing the duel and I think that there is a risk that this continues until statistics count this refusal of a player to engage himself.

“Among very talented youngsters, the duel is a missing weapon.”

It seems obvious that using data as part of the scouting process is now a must, but obviously, as even the statsiest person will tell you, numbers never tell you the full story.

He also touched on the work he’s done thus far, revealing he’s attended over 40 matches, and he’s not there to enjoy the spectacle.

“I focus on one player and I am disengaged from the tactical aspects,” he said.

And with the Gunners set to face Monaco, there’s a familiarity on both sides, with Wenger an ex-manager and Grimandi an ex-player.

“It is strange, I felt it coming!”, he said. “It is the French team that I know the best. We are also the English team that they know the best.

“Arsène watches them regularly, and I have seen them nine or ten times this season. We also have a specialist who watches all our opponents, which is a different role to mine.”

For more from Grimandi on scouting, data and Arsenal’s season so far, check out Get French Football News from where the translation comes.

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tdotgoonah

Loic Perrin…welcome to afc lol it has a january afc transfer smell to it lol

Striker

Well, I doubt it would happend because the media is just throwing shit tons of player names in the air and links us with them. It rarely happends that the media are right about anything in terms of transfers. As for Loic Perrin? I have not seen much of him but what I can tell you is that he is a quite stable defenders. Believe it or not, but french teams are usually very good defensively.

Games in Ligue 1 tends to be very closed down.

YouTube Graduate

His stats are excellent!

assistantref

He would fit the bill but it seems a reach having looked into the situation some more. He’s a Francesco Totti type player, only ever played for St. Etienne and a legend for them, hard to see him leaving in january or even leaving the club period. Although you never know. The dumb transfer pieces never seem to mention that he’s always been a one-club player and is their local legend.

The Playmaker

We are jinxed when it comes to experienced French defenders. Cygan, Silvestre, Squillaci.
Gallas wasn’t bad though, but he came with a lot of baggage. He practically forced Kolo out of the club. Not to mention that we gave Cole at his peak to Chelsea for a cheap price to get him.

YQFGooner

I wonder who he’s watching 9 or 10 times.

James

I’d like to think it was Geoffrey Kondogbia.. Can play cdm or anywhere across the back line.. He’s 21 and a monster at 6ft2.

raron aamsey

I tend to think that football, as a very fluid game with many possible outcomes in a passage of play, has no real use for statistics beyond their casual consumption when watching Sky, and possibly in medical departments and so on. An intelligent, knowledgeable person will be able to tell you far more and better things from just watching the game than statistics ever will, and is far less likely to mislead you with anomalies and inaccurate ‘data’.

Gilles Scott Heron

That’s the point Gilles is making; players are working on their stats, not the game

mo974

spot on like your pseudo! long live gilles…happy new year. and to all arsenal supporters.

Steve

Helpful, or harmful, depending on who is interpreting them.

Kos

The ‘Denilson conundrum’ where a player will just pass sideways and rack up huge pass and pass completion numbers

Dick Swiveller

Well, you can certainly SOUND like you know what you’re talking about by simply looking at the game, but stats can help you see things and keep your mind in the right place to actually analyse; it’s why people write things down instead of trying to remember everything they ever see, you can’t do that much in your head. Unless you’re Bergkamp. He could do that.

MPLS

Any individual working purely on watching without the augmented intelligence of raw data will have their own biases just as subjective as how raw data are compiled into stats and interpreted. Wenger’s ‘preferential vision’ if you will, in a different application. The data and the observers are both vital parts of the process, hopefully balancing one another. Some things like presence, leadership, and fit with a team’s ‘personality’ need to be witnessed. Likewise I have watched a few matches and thought a player rather pedestrian on the day but then see they had 7 tackles or something else like that… Read more »

phatty

Grimster… Something quintessentially French about that mugshot

Ahmad

Wow, I never thought of that. The idea that players avoid certain action play to keep their numbers/percentages high.

Arsepedant

Happens in North America all the time, especially in baseball, which is a very statistically-oriented game. Almost every baseball contract is for a base amount plus incentives, and the incentives are normally determined by – you guessed it – statistics. So practically every player in the major leagues is, to one extent or another, trying to pad his numbers whether it benefits the team or not.

DFS

I lived for a decade and a half in the States but had no idea Major League Baseball players ‘pad their stats’.

A pitcher can only throw more strikes, a batter make more hits, a fielder make more catches or throw more outs.

Unless ‘padding their stats’ has become an erstwhile expression for ‘playing better’ can you explain how baseball players ‘pad their stats’?

David

you beat me to it. Basketball is one of the worst sports for worrying about your own stats. Baseball as well: Wade Boggs, a hall of famer, had one of the best hitting averages in baseball. He would happily take a walk over trying to drive a few runs in because it was less risky and better for his overall average.

Stats are a guide, you still need to know about a player’s attitude, upbringing, goals, etc to know if they are a good fit.

DFS

A walk is a walk and that is a stat. Besides which, it is not the batters prerogative but the pitchers to throw a pitch to facilitate a walk. Its to stop the batter hitting a strike.

Ditto with basketball, how do you pad your stats at either of these sports?

Greg

Grimando talking sense

SoqedHozi

If grimmy has been watching Monaco so much, he must have been following a particular player. Sadly this is little help given we’ve been linked to half their first team.

Striker

You’re not really talking about that mercenary Falcao right?

£60m or whatever man utd paid for him is fucking madness. And according to sources they pay him a yearly salary of £15m..

Moutinho would be great addition however.

Dick Swiveller

He’s a Mendes client, I think, so we probably can’t afford the prices he’d go for. Well, we could afford them, but they’ll be too high for another player we don’t really need (unless he’s turned into a DM in the last few years).

DLDC

No reasonable person would argue that you should use data gleaned from the statistics as your only basis for making a decision. But to totally dismiss their value is even more ludicrous. I hope this attitude doesn’t permeate the entire organization. A Luddite attitude indeed.

DFS

I agree. The idea players in mid-game are ducking ‘duels’ to improve their stats is patently nonsense. As ludicrous as stating a striker will only shoot when he can score a goal. I lived in the States for years – the deeper the stats kept (across all sports) the more they reveal and everyone accepts and embraces this. Moneyball simply underlined this (the irony being baseball fans were the most stat obsessed fans by the nature of the game anyway) and put to bed the notion old time scouts could simply ‘eye’ the game. There will always be a need… Read more »

WengersNoseHair

I think Grimandi knows what he’s talking about. And nowhere does he ‘totally dismiss their value’. He’s saying some people rely solely on stats without scouting the player. I’m guessing that sort of things leads to paying £26m for Soldado. Even Wenger has said he only looks at a handful of the stats that are available. People are reading things into Grimandi’s comments that aren’t there.

TOGooner

Totally agree. Arsene is a very thorough manager by all accounts and I think he takes in a plethora of information for his decision making, and stats are surely critical – I can’t imagine a scouting report being free of hard numbers.
There are no equivalents for baseball-type stats like ERAs or OBPs in football, and nor can there be. But even in baseball, scouts are essential and the good ones are paid quite well. A lot more than the statisticians collecting and processing the stats, which are likely subcontracted.

The BearMan

Is not Grimandi the person that recommended Arsene bring in Arsenal’s best ever player. Namely Squalaci?

Maddolove

Squillaci ( Big S) was a French international and should have been a better player than his contribution to Arsenal. I have comments saved whereby he and Kos were called Laurel and Hardy of the EPL. He found out very quickly that the EPL was not suitable for him, but like every smart footballer he was earning a small packet at Arsenal and stayed to the end of his contract. Grimaldi may have recommended him, yes, but Arsene was looking for an old head to led the BACK FOUR alas mentally Big S was not strong enough ( it’s difficult… Read more »

jack jack jack

Yes, Garibaldi surely can’t be blamed for the Squid’s inadequacies – his rep was that of a solid, experienced French international defender.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

…and they don’t collect stats on mental strength. I’m sure Gallas had good stats as a defender, but they wouldn’t have been able to tell us that he would throw a tantrum in the centre circle when the going got tough. If people were keeping stats on me as a a chess player I’d be sure to only play chess against people I was sure I could beat. The quality of opposition isn’t easily handled by stats. Chess, War, Football – it’s all the same really. You try to pick only the fights you are pretty sure you can win,… Read more »

Indra - Indonesian Fan

This is a very great insight from scout point of view, although the part on player becoming data-conscious is quite questionable to me. The last part is intriguing though, on how arsenal have this specialist who watch opponent… That spy guy suggestion must be quite useless for Wenger’s stubbornness

Bendtner's Ego

No player in their right mind would be manipulating their statistics on the pitch just for the sake of looking better for moneyball purposes.

If they are, I’d sign them in a heartbeat because they clearly have the cognitive capabilities to instantly analyze what is happening on the pitch, whether or not they need to manipulate a point in time to their advantage, AND being able to arrive at the proper position to make the appropriate play. We’re talking about synaptic response times of well under 100ms.

In short – it’s just not possible on a long term basis.

assistantref

I don’t think this is nearly as clear as you are making out. I can totally see a player seeing a long ball coming at an opposing player near him and deciding not to contest it because he’s got a smaller chance of winning it than losing it and it’ll just look bad on his stats for the match. That is hardly an impossible scenario. It’s obviously not something the player is going to be deciding on the spur of the moment but I can totally see an agent telling his player “you know what, if you want a move… Read more »

Bendtner's Ego

You are absolutely dillusional if you think that the speed and reaction times in Sunday Football equate to the pace of the BPL.

These players are making split second decisions on whether they can close a man down to make a play or whether to hold back and maintain shape so the team isn’t exploited by the gaping hole you just opened up.

Players are making decisions based on the amount of screaming they’ll get from their manager, not about how good their Opta stats will look.

assistantref

There is something rather ironic about some person named after TGSTEL denying the possibility that players might do something they see as in their own best interest rather than the best interest of the team or the manager in order to secure a move to a bigger club.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Long Ball. Coming your way. You see the other guy getting ready to head it. You think.. “He’s got a better position when it get’s here and he’s 4 inches taller than me”, you move behind him to block him off before the ball arrives rather than jumping and failing to win it. Are you telling us you don’t think people can make decisions like that in the 2 or 3 seconds it takes for a long ball to arrive? Have you never been in a situation where you could see you were going to end up on your arse… Read more »

DFS

As noted, the idea a player could be so-quick thinking as to regularly make such calls is ridiculous. Even if solely reviewing by stats, issues would immediately become apparent. Using the Grimandi premise – Player A ducks fifty-fifty challenges so as to win 100% of 5 tackles/duels a game. Player B challenges 10 tackles/duels per game and loses 3 consistently at a lower 70% success rate. In only 5 games Player A will have been exposed as making 25 tackles whereas Player B will have made 35. Just how much of an idiot would one be not to see something… Read more »

Bendtner's Ego

Correct, but I think this example only tells part of the story. Consider these scenarios: 1) Allardyce: “Every time Arshavin gets the ball, I want you to immediately rush him, close him down and get body to body on him to force a turnover, which we will then use to start a counter attack.” 2) Allardyce: “Against Walcott, I want us to drop a little deeper due to his pace and we’ll try to force him wide, with the centerback or holding midfield to come over for support.” Now, since Arshavin plays on the left side, the right fullback is… Read more »

Gutbukket Deffrolla

If you can’t win the duel do something else that will help the situation (foul him, pretend he fouled you, start moving towards the most likely recipient of his header, etc etc). If your manager is any fucking good at his job he will know you made an assessment of your chances and then acted on it. If he sees anything he doesn’t like he’ll tell you about it later. In the example you gave of Player A and B you had Player A ducking out of 50/50 tackles, but player B was winning 70% of 70-30 tackles (because he… Read more »

Son of Wenger II

Nice to see Son of Wenger I talking sense.

I wonder what stats they had for signing Igor Stepanovs or maybe Christopher Wreh?

kafka

The main question as others pointed out is, who has he been watching for 9-10 games?!

Crispy

The catering team ?

DFS

Brilliant!

assistantref

Could be Kondogbia. Just a guess.

ZAFgoon

Possibly Kondogbia?

Joey

Who has he been watching in Monaco?

Gutbukket Deffrolla

He has watched over 40 games. Statistically speaking there is a good chance the 9 or 10 games where he watched a specific player were 9 or 10 of the games Monaco were not playing in…

…or he has learned from Wenger how to tell fibs about who he watches so that other people don’t know who he is watching

Steve

“In a club, statistics give people the chance to exist who have little knowledge. And these numbers act as a safety guard for decision-makers who lack courage.”

How ironic. This describes Arsene Wenger to a tee. It’s everything that’s wrong with his selection policy and tactics.

Paul

Well maybe Arsen n grimster should pick using stats as they haven’t a clue about defensive players or DM’s as flamini and arteta are hopeless. Then again they were both failed/average defensive players themselves. I would question Grimandi as a scout full stop.
Sick of reading bull about arsenal and how they are government and run. Change needed and maybe more emphasis on conditioning and training methods. Apparently arsenal are in the Stone Age when it comes to this I have heard from people who worked there.

Anon

Here it comes! The classic “Wenger doesn’t do tactics! Literally Redknapp!” brigade!!

palace gunner

Good scouting and alot of analysis plus pundit talk is alot to do with the stats of players and that source of game but an example messi v ronaldo or sterling v hazard as long as arsenal fc can get some signings or strengthen certain areas it will make a difference, happy new year to ya coyg.

GHunner

This is a very valid point he makes. There are a number of Arsenal players who in my opinion exist simply because of the stats that protect them even though when we watch them play we aren’t quite sure whether they belong here or not. Take Ozil for example. If this guy hadn’t played for RM and had all those stats to back him up(a factor which in my opinion is a function of the quality of attacking players he works with) would he really be first team material for us? He is arguably one of the most passive players… Read more »

GHunner

“By far the slowest, clumsiest, least skillful top striker we have had since TH and the Dutch Skunk.” is meant to describe the HFB and not the latter, I must clarify. Apologies to any gooners offended.