Bristol City use data to assess their own players and other clubs, to help inform on recruitment and monitor the output of the Robins squad.
As an example, manager Nigel Pearson referenced the physical data that the coaching staff regularly analyse at the weekend.
Speaking about Bournemouth’s clear superiority in the 3-2 win on Saturday, the City boss made mention of Scott Parker’s team’s dominant running power: “Bournemouth are top of the league in physical stats. Not only are they technically very good, they physically are too.”
The Cherries unfortunately recorded their highest Expected Goals total of the season against City in the defeat (3.53 Expected Goals as per the WyScout model), and the underlying numbers for the Robins’ season do lead to cause for concern.
It is not by chance that the West Country outfit lie 19th in the league and have conceded the third most goals (72).
City average Expected Goals of 1.2 per game this season. But 1.8 against.
Beyond looking at simple goals scored and conceded this season (51 for, ninth most; 72 against, third most), Bristol City rank 14th for Expected Goals for the campaign. And 24th out of 24 for Expected Goals Against, ie, the worst team defensively in the whole league, as per the WyScout stats model.
Surefire improvement is needed next season or there will likely be a relegation battle given that the three worst clubs will be replaced and other sides may not have points penalties, as Derby County and Reading have done this year.
So how do City tighten up at the back? Well for a start by settling on a system and recruiting for that way of playing. We can expect some improvement from the younger players too however.
Pearson has explained previously that he would ideally like to play a four at the back, though he has also said that the current squad is more suited to the three at the back system used.
Looking at the WhoScored.com website, which uses match statistics and then rates the players per performance out of 10, and is often used by Sky Sports and other media outlets for their team of the week selections, it’s a good resource for immediately examining which players have performed well.
A glance over the Bristol City team and specifically the most used formations identifies the 4-2-3-1 formation as the second most used tactic by Pearson and his coaching staff across 2021/22.
It also shows the player ratings per position. And it’s clear that in the four at the back formations, the Robins have a problem down the left-hand side of the pitch, where neither Jay Dasilva or Callum O’Dowda have fully convinced.
Interestingly, Rob Atkinson and Tomas Kalas show up well statistically - measuring interceptions, tackle success, pass completion percentages, aerial duels won and more.
In fact, Atkinson ranks as the best performing player this season statistically (6.94 per game), just ahead of City’s three star attackers: Chris Martin (6.91 per game), Andi Weimann (6.9) and Antoine Semenyo (6.89), in that order.
As has been well covered, the Robins don’t show too well in the full-back positions, although both George Tanner and Cam Prings’s performances so far have been promising. The two tyros both score well, when taken into account their numerous involvements from the bench, and flitting in and out of the side.
It should be noted that substitute appearances reduce a player’s score out of 10.
But City could certainly do with more in midfield, where beyond Alex Scott and Matty James, few other players are in line or above the league average player ranking of 6.67 out of 10 per performance.
Despite Pearson’s recent publicised wish to build a successful spine to his side first, it could be argued that the Ashton Gate outfit already possess four good centre-backs - albeit with Nathan Baker unavailable.
The three main attackers are good too, leaving left- and right-back and central midfield to improve over the summer.
City use data to help with their recruitment, and beyond the rudimentary publicly available stats, and no doubt the club will be fully aware of where they need to get better.
Physical data is important and is an area where the Robins have looked to gain an edge previously, with head of technical recruitment Sean Gilhespy telling this writer last year about one company City work with in particular.
“We’re working with a company called SkillCorner and we were actually the first Championship club to work with them, which has been a bit of a problem area: finding physical data, because clubs are rightly quite protective over it but it’s such an important part of player identification.”
There is not a lot of money to spend and there may be trading necessary to get to where the club wants to be, with an important summer ahead. There is certainly much work to do.