The time has come again for the English Premier League, the time of the year that you either love or hate: The Summer Transfer Window.
During this time, most teams aim to sign new, exciting players to either maintain their dominance, improve their form or avoid relegation. It is one of two periods when Premier League clubs can sign players and with it being the longest, it is the one that clubs tend to prepare heavily for.
As this is such an important time for clubs as the work they do in this window can impact them for the rest of the season, they leave no stone unturned to find the best players for them.
The ideal signing is somebody who is undervalued but exceptionally talented, this used to be through scouting network or simply buying young players who have shown potential when playing against their own youth teams. However, the use of either of these methods is increasingly becoming seen as archaic.
One of the main issues that clubs have today when buying a new player is the internet. Suddenly a player who is amazing in their own country but hadn’t been heard of outside of their own borders is known by millions. Before the widespread use of the internet the first time a fan would hear a particular player’s name was when they were signed, today they have thousands of football websites talking about a potential transfer and the opportunity to look at hundreds of videos of these players in action or read any number of blogs and sites dedicated to the statistics surrounding the player.
With the amount of regular information being easily findable from millions of sources, it means that selling clubs are looking at ways to increase the chances of their players being bought for more money, and buying clubs are looking at better ways to assess the potential for new players.
Luckily data is beginning to show clubs how this should be done, with considerable amounts of effort now going into the development of data programmes to help find the next big thing before their competitors.
The problem that this is having is that the biggest clubs are buying the best talent at a younger and younger age. Take Martin Ødegaard, who signed for Real Madrid at the age of 16 after only playing one season of professional football or Chelsea who signed Jay Dasilva at only 12 years old.
There are several companies who offer this kind of service, such as Prozone and Opta, but there are also significant numbers of clubs who have attempted to outdo these companies with their recruitment processes. This requires even deeper analysis than you would normally find, including metrics that to many would seem outside of the realms of scouting.
For instance, when you look at the Chelsea model of recruiting players, unless they are automatic starters bought for excessive amounts of money, they are likely to be sent to another club on loan before they are either improve to the stage where they can become first time regulars, such as Thibaut Courtois and Kurt Zouma, or sold on for a significant profit, such as Kevin De Bruyne.
The model means that they become the middle men for player transfers, helping them to avoid the FFP rules and increase cashflow into the club. The scouting model needs to change to incorporate this, bringing in players who may not make the first team, but would benefit from training with Chelsea and provide significant potential profits from their sale.
We have seen that the amount of data being held on players is increasing all the time and this is helping to inform clubs about who they could be looking at as potential recruits. To help with this, it is often common for clubs to hold data on their players for a long time, detailing their development and thus allowing potential buyers to see the attributes that they may eventually possess and how these can be developed.
We have seen a huge step forward in the ways that clubs look to recruit players, long gone are the days when computer games were used to scout players (this was a practice used by Everton a few years ago) and now fully customized and increasingly powerful systems are helping scouts to choose the best possible players to bring in.