How data is forming a key part of City’s recruitment strategy
PUBLISHED: 17:00 01 September 2020
Scouting is an ever-changing area of expertise - Connor Southwell looks at the number crunching that goes into the signing of a Norwich City footballer.
Life under Stuart Webber and Kieran Scott has seen Norwich City recruit from all corners of the globe.
Whether it’s from Luxembourg’s first division or the Premier League, City’s new signings come from a host of different areas.
Data, like in life, has become an intrinsic part of how football clubs recruit fresh talent. It has allowed clubs to adopt scouting methods that can alert them to talent from areas of the globe that they would have previously missed.
It allows clubs with modest resources to cast the net wider in terms of assessing players’ performance across a range of matches and conditions.
Emi Buendia is perhaps the most successful example of City utilising data to source talent. The Argentine was flagged up to the Canaries’ recruitment staff after analysts were alerted to his impressive statistics whilst playing for then Spanish second-tier side Cultural Leonesa.
Scott is particularly keen not to be driven solely by data, with City’s recruitment chief keen to ensure the conventional methods of scouting, ie, physically watching a player, are also used prior to the Canaries opting to push on with signing a player.
Buendia was identified by analysts searching for desirable statistics that Daniel Farke would want from a creative midfielder.
Once those particular markers are met, and they can differ depending on position, then City will thoroughly scout that player, adopting both video and physical scouting before pushing onto sign them.
That process doesn’t apply just to foreign recruits; Norwich will do their homework on domestic players as well, but it allows them to search wider as they’ve been forced to do under financial constraints experienced in recent seasons.
Ram Srinivas is the co-founder of MRKT Insights, a data-driven company offering insights to aid decision-making in football.
His company currently works with a host of clubs, including Swansea City and American side Tampa Bay Rowdies, as well as a number of EFL clubs.
Srinivas believes data has played a key part in City’s success spanning the last three seasons under Webber and Farke.
“Overall, I think it’s been superb. There’s no contesting that,” he said.
“From the signings they made in the wake of Daniel Farke’s first season, I noticed two clear trends, one of which was picking up players who’d performed very well on data in undervalued leagues such as Buendia and Onel Hernandez.
“The other was players coming in that were very undervalued. Mario Vrancic for example. I think he was somebody that showed a lot of initial promise at one point in his career.”
The Canaries’ recruitment has shifted somewhat this summer.
With more financial muscle owing to shrewd management of their finances in the Premier League, City have opted to recruit more Championship experience in Jordan Hugill and Kieran Dowell.
However, there has still been a raft of signings from outside the usual circles, including Denmark with Jacob Sorensen and Poland with Przemyslaw Placheta.
Speaking about City’s new flying winger, Srinivas said: “Placheta is more of a direct attacker. I haven’t watched him and found him to be one for ball retention.
“Largely, I see him as someone who tries to penetrate in the final third in a direct manner so his ball usage was quite high in Poland.
“The funny thing with Placheta is that he wasn’t a statistical stand-out for the majority of the season.
“We were monitoring the Ekstraklasa every week of the season and he wasn’t the obvious one to really take a hold of until late February.
“His goal return sky-rocketed after lockdown and it’s good to know that Norwich were monitoring that market so closely.”
Perhaps the most intriguing addition was Danel Sinani from F91 Dudelange in Luxembourg last season.
Srinivas has watched Sinani before and believes the Canaries have located a clever player.
“Sinani is an interesting one because there is no data on the Luxembourg league,” he added. “His Europa League data is very decent. They played against decent teams like Sevilla. I watched both his games and I was impressed. He didn’t look out of place at all.
“He actually struck me as someone with a very good all-round skillset. For Luxembourg he’s played as a central midfielder and so far he’s played as a winger for Norwich.
“He gets into good goal-scoring positions, I have seen this and the statistics back it up too. Norwich did well to identify him and take a chance on him.”
- Srinivas was speaking on episode three of The Rebound, our Norwich City preview series, which can be watched in full above