What Happened Next? Using Deep Learning to Value Defensive Actions in Football Event-Data

3 Jun 2021  ·  Charbel Merhej, Ryan Beal, Sarvapali Ramchurn, Tim Matthews ·

Objectively quantifying the value of player actions in football (soccer) is a challenging problem. To date, studies in football analytics have mainly focused on the attacking side of the game, while there has been less work on event-driven metrics for valuing defensive actions (e.g., tackles and interceptions)... Therefore in this paper, we use deep learning techniques to define a novel metric that values such defensive actions by studying the threat of passages of play that preceded them. By doing so, we are able to value defensive actions based on what they prevented from happening in the game. Our Defensive Action Expected Threat (DAxT) model has been validated using real-world event-data from the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 English Premier League seasons, and we combine our model outputs with additional features to derive an overall rating of defensive ability for players. Overall, we find that our model is able to predict the impact of defensive actions allowing us to better value defenders using event-data. read more

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