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.