Since the actual Premier League table has become pretty irrelevant right now, many of the competition’s players have turned to another ranking system to help enliven drab lockdown days.
It is an app connected to those GPS vests you will have seen players wear, that has proven invaluable to teams at this time.
The company is called STATSports, and they supply the technology to most of the Premier League and the Championship. Mauricio Pochettino absolutely swears by them and recently visited the company's base in Newry. His devotion is something that has become even more apparent in lockdown.
Because, throughout all of this, club coaches have created mini-league tables for their squads - some involving groups of players as teams - that have become akin to fantasy football tables. It’s helped fitness conditioning, and also helped many involved through an odd time.
The app that the players can remotely download for the technology - which is available to the average consumer - has global ranking systems featuring a handful of main metrics like max speed, total distance ran and max speed.
Many players have become obsessed. Erik Lamela is regularly posting screenshots of his rankings to Instagram, tagging in teammates and friends. He’s learned by example.
Because, if you go through the monthly stats for total distance run, regularly at the top or very close to it is Pochettino himself. He’s only ramped up his use in lockdown. At the time of writing, he’d run 117,619m in April. His son Sebastiano isn’t too far behind - in ninth to Maurico’s seventh at the moment - but the younger Pochettino is third in the overall monthly rankings for speed at 10.11 metres per second. This can be seen on the consumer app because those using it have themselves visible.
Part of the appeal for non-professionals - since anyone can buy it - in using the technology is that they can compare themselves against the best out there. The app allows professional ‘benchmarks’. Scrolling through the stats is instructive. The only footballer ahead of Pochettino junior on speed for April is Reading’s Femi Azeez, at 10.5m/s in first. The top-level footballer highest in distance run for April is Grant Hanley, at 127,913m. They can also compare against other sports, with rugby players like Anthony Watson there.
The figures also help to alter a few perceptions about players and positions. That defender you thought was a carthorse? He’s posting fearsome stats. Ryan Shawcross, as an example, is consistently up there with maximum speeds.
It also offers insight into what informs team selections in the modern era, since clubs assess all this meticulously. GPS vests like those supplied by STATSports have become one of the major tools for measuring players’ physical conditions, who is in peak form, who is dropping off, who is close to the red zone.
One figure the club medical professionals look at a lot is step balance - which assesses if you’re putting more weight on one foot than the other. If a player is carrying a knock, for example, they might unconsciously compensate and adjust without even realising, That can shift the balance to 45-55, and make any injury much worse.
Players can also see the data live on their phone or smartwatch, so they can instantly check if they’ve hit the prescribed work by performance staff - like 1200m of high-speed running.
It is all the more valuable now because it allows clubs to track the condition of players while they’re at home. Pochettino has meanwhile persisted with it while he’s out of a job. And almost showing he can still do a job on the pitch.
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