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Quantifying the relation between performance and success in soccer

by   Luca Pappalardo, et al.
University of Pisa
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche

The availability of massive data about sports activities offers nowadays the opportunity to quantify the relation between performance and success. In this study, we analyze more than 6,000 games and 10 million events in six European leagues and investigate this relation in soccer competitions. We discover that a team's position in a competition's final ranking is significantly related to its typical performance, as described by a set of technical features extracted from the soccer data. Moreover we find that, while victory and defeats can be explained by the team's performance during a game, it is difficult to detect draws by using a machine learning approach. We then simulate the outcomes of an entire season of each league only relying on technical data, i.e. excluding the goals scored, exploiting a machine learning model trained on data from past seasons. The simulation produces a team ranking (the PC ranking) which is close to the actual ranking, suggesting that a complex systems' view on soccer has the potential of revealing hidden patterns regarding the relation between performance and success.


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