Simon Rolfes is Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Sporting Director, and between 2005 and 2015 he played 288 Bundesliga games and won 26 caps for Germany. In this weekly column, he will write about the new, innovative Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that you can see during games.
Tactics are becoming more and more important for football fans as well as for coaches and players. A discussion about football today will generally be on a very different level compared to 20 years ago. That makes the recent introduction of 'Average Position' a particularly interesting tool for those tactic-obsessed fans.
If you've watched a live Bundesliga game recently, you'll have seen that between the 10th and 15th minute, the Average Position overlay appeared on the screen. The tactical formation on paper often morphs into a very compact mass, which can be seen by showing the average position of the players on the screen.
In order to determine these positions, around 3.6 million individual pieces of data are collected per game. But what added value do I get from this Bundesliga Match Fact?
For me, there are two key things. Firstly, thanks to Average Position, you get to know the characteristics of individual players very well. You can draw conclusions as to how the player interprets his role on the pitch. Does a winger stay hugging the touchline, or does he often cut inside? Does one of the centre-backs go forward a lot more than his counterpart? Do the front two play together or is one a support striker in a playmaker role?
The second point is the behaviour of the whole team: how high up the pitch is the back four? Is the strategy more about ball possession or playing on the counter-attack? How high up the pitch do the forwards press? Average Position provides a clear picture of the system in which a team is playing. Perhaps the broadcaster showed a graphic of a team set out in a 4-2-3-1 formation before the game, but after barely quarter-of-an-hour, you can clearly see it's a 3-4-3, for example.
What I find particularly striking about this is that the Average Position shows that a team is always a lot more compact than the formation set out on paper. The distances between individual players are also a lot smaller. Or to put it another way, there is very little room in the area where the ball is. It is one of a team's most important tasks during a game to find space and exploit it. Average Position allows viewers to clearly see that in an instant.
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