BLOG: 12 of the best in 2018

Article by Ryan Bahia

For a few years now, we have looked back at some of the strongest, most relevant, innovative work from this industry from the past 12 months, and we are delighted to do the same for 2018.

There are of course a number of articles and analysts – some established and some new to the field – that have not been included here, purely to keep this as concise as possible. If there are any you think you think should be included, please include them in the comments section below.



For a player who has excelled at Tottenham and one who brings a unique style to the Premier League side, relatively little had previously been written and explored around the player’s approach and output.

January saw OptaPro data analyst Tom Worville produce the first section in a two-part series on the Korean forward.

Read it here


Garry Gelade is a name that many readers of this review will be familiar with. With extensive experience in this industry (as well as regularly producing innovative analysis), Garry marked his 10 years in this space with an overarching piece that focused on the impact of analytics, particularly as a decision support system.

Read Garry’s article here

February is also the month of the OptaPro Analytics Forum, which will again take place in 2019. At the 2018 Forum, one highlight was Marek Kwiatkowski’s talk on an evolved and personalised expected goals framework, which can be seen here.


Presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference earlier this year, Luke Bornn (Sacramento Kings) and Javier Fernandez’s (Barcelona) paper showcases a cutting edge technique to showcase space creation within professional football.

Read the paper here

Published ahead of the 2018 MLS season, March also saw American Soccer Analysis publish an analytical preview for every team in the competition.

Read the previews here


Three At The Back, the football analytics podcast from OptaPro, featured Wolverhampton Wanderers Sporting Director Kevin Thelwell.

Alongside the implementation of a club philosophy, Kevin discussed his background in academy football, with conversation revolving around player pathways and the integration of an academy culture alongside the first-team.


Originally delivered as a presentation at the KPMG Sports Analytics and Sports Technology Conference in Amsterdam, Michiel Jongsma shared applied insight focusing on PSV Eindhoven, discussing how the side changed their approach to get back to winning ways in 2017/18.

Read the analysis


June saw a series of articles from Sport Techie focused around technological innovation in football. Timed with the World cup, a host of key themes relevant to the game were discussed with a number of experts and practitioners from within the game.

Read the series here


Slightly different to what we’ve seen already, July saw U.S. Soccer deliver the country’s first football-focused hackathon. Participants from all across the country came together in Chicago to answer some key questions around the sport.

Further information on the hackathon and the projects can be found here


Someone who has gained a reputation for creating innovative visualisations, Neil Charles applied wind maps to football using passing data.

View the visualisations here

Also from August, OptaPro’s Three At The Back podcast spoke with Manchester City Women’s Manager Nick Cushing. Nick provided detailed insight on his role, his processes and his relationship with the team’s analyst.


The i newspaper spoke with Atlanta United Head of Technical Analysis and Recruitment Lucy Rushton. Having since won the 2018 MLS Cup, Lucy spoke about the impact of analytics in football and her unique role in creating a squad from scratch.

Read the interview


Marek Kwiatkowski’s article focused on analysing shot generation habits and patterns. One key finding of this analysis explored home advantage often resulted in a higher quantity of shots, but not necessarily of higher quality.

Read the analysis

October also saw Kirk Goldsberry, writng for ESPN, discuss how LeBron James transformed into a ‘hyper efficient offensive mastermind’. The article includes a host of engaging shot maps and graphics, which can be found here.


Two articles from November focus on performance analysis in rugby union.

BBC Sport spoke with Scottish Rugby analyst Gavin Vaughan on his role, and OptaPro spoke with Gloucester Rugby Head of Performance Analysis Darren Lewis on his role, club processes, and the integration of both video and data analysis.


December saw OptaPro publicly share its MLS analytical regular season review for the first time. Showcasing metrics on shooting patterns, playing style and involvement across all teams and individual players, the online review can be found here.

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