A NEW BALL GAME
Numbers do not lie.
Starting tomorrow, teams and players in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League will come under the spotlight even more, with statistical analysis laying bare the reality of their styles, strengths and weaknesses.
InStat Football has been contracted by the S.League to run a pilot programme this year, providing some 2,000 numbers of statistics for both coaches and fans.
From pass completions to defensive challenges and interceptions, and statistics-based individual player ratings, coaches will have access to a wealth of information on their charges, as well the players from opposing teams.
InStat is a match-analysis company based in Moscow and counts around 300 professional clubs as its clients, including Real Madrid and Chelsea.
FIRST IN THE REGION
Singapore is its first foray into the South-east Asian market.
Speaking to The New Paper after InStat's briefing to clubs yesterday, project leader Alexander Ivanskiy said the information provided can be used in many ways.
"There is a lot of information provided, but a coach can look specifically at the numbers that concern him," he said. "A coach concerned with possession can study the pass completion rate of his players, even the number of offensive passes made in the opposition half.
"Those playing a counter-attacking game can track which one of his players is the best at making interceptions and then starting an attacking move with an offensive pass."
A detailed analysis will be sent to the inboxes of coaches some 12 hours after each S.League match, with a simpler version loaded onto the S.League's websites for fans to peruse.
S.League coaches welcomed the additional weapon installed in their arsenal.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Geylang International coach V Kanan said: "This is a very useful tool that we can use to analyse opponents, while also showing us the areas in our own teams that need improvement.
"We can look at the stats, then alter our training sessions accordingly, even draw up individual training for players who have certain aspects of their game to work on."
Tanjong Pagar United coach Patrick Vallee believes InStat's expertise will help improve communication between players and coaches.
"Sometimes players may disagree with what coaches say about their performance in games but, with these stats, we can give them detailed and specific feedback," said the 2010 S.League champion.
"Players will be clear on what is expected of them and they can see for themselves if they have achieved what they are supposed to."
Newly signed by Warriors FC, Hafiz Rahim played for Home United last season and many felt he was the best performing local player last year.
Others argued that Tampines Rovers' Mustafic Fahrudin, Home's Juma'at Jantan and Tanjong Pagar's Ahmad Latiff deserve a recall to the national team after their performances in 2013.
While raw numbers could empirically prove - or disprove - such conclusions, Vallee warns that numbers do not always tell the whole story.
"An assist only counts if your teammate actually scores from your pass," said the Frenchman.
"This means there could be an effective attacking player who is just unfortunate playing in a team who can't score.
"Numbers paint a picture, but what's really important is how you use that information."
InStat has already developed real-time fitness data-tracking software and will launch it with Real Madrid and Chelsea next season.
It is also being prepared for use by the Singapore national team.
"This system tracks the fitness data of players using only two cameras without players having to wear measurement equipment," said Ivanskiy (right).
From distance covered to speed and a player's physical condition at any point in a match compared to the start of the match, coaches can track fitness data from the bench using an iPad.
"We are probably doing (fitness tracking) with the Singapore national team but, unlike the system we are launching for Real and Chelsea next season, the one for Singapore is unlikely to be done real time," said Ivanskiy.
There are various possibilities available with the InStatsystem but, for now, the S.League is looking at giving its teams a boost.
"Match analysis software have been around for a long time and, with this, we're looking to help professionalise teams in the league," said S.League director of operations, Kok Wai Leong.
"This is a massive step for us."