Actions Speak Louder than Goals:Valuing Player Actions in Soccer

Assessing the impact of the individual actions performed by soccerplayers during games is a crucial aspect of the player recruitmentprocess. Unfortunately, most traditional metrics fall short in ad-dressing this task as they either focus on rare actions like shotsand goals alone or fail to account for the context in which theactions occurred. This paper introduces (1) a new language for de-scribing individual player actions on the pitch and (2) a frameworkfor valuing any type of player action based on its impact on thegame outcome while accounting for the context in which the actionhappened. By aggregating soccer players’ action values, their totaloffensive and defensive contributions to their team can be quan-tified. We show how our approach considers relevant contextualinformation that traditional player evaluation metrics ignore andpresent a number of use cases related to scouting and playing stylecharacterization in the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons in Europe’stop competitions.

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