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A Network Theory Perspective on Soccer

The article linked below discusses how analyzing the passing formations used by soccer teams granted insight into how certain teams worked and why they might be particularly good at the sport. The article discusses mainly graph-like networks, assigning each player a letter value and looking into who they pass to; for example, an ABAB pattern is when one player passes to another, then the second passes back to the first, and then first back to second. It does not matter which two players pass back and forth; the fact that there are two players in this formation makes it an ABAB pattern.

I found this really interesting because I tend to think of networks as somewhat frozen in time; though things like social network graphs can obviously be changed as friendships are formed and broken, at any one moment there is a decently stationary graph. For a sports game, however, that isn’t the case: things are constantly moving and changing, and which formation a player chooses to use depends on an incredibly large amount of variables. Because of this, I enjoyed reading about how Barcelona stands out so much; they have clearly trained hard and thought a lot about their formations and strategies, and the fact that that is so visible in the data is quite cool.

Article: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/530791/how-network-theory-is-revealing-previously-unknown-patterns-in-sports/

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