Former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and current Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola is considered by many to be a footballing genius. He has revolutionised the tactical approach to football and that revolution has come about through his careful study of the geometry of the game. But can abstract mathematics really help a team improve its performance?
David Sumpter thinks it can. Unlike the simple statistics applied to (lesser) sports, football is best understood through the patterns the players create together on the field. From the geometry of shooting, through the graph theory of passing, to the tessellations created by players as they find space to move in to, all of these patterns can be captured by mathematical models. As a result, football clubs are increasingly turning to mathematicians.
David Sumpter is Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. His scientific research covers everything from the inner workings of fish schools and ant colonies, the analysis of the passing networks of football teams and segregation in society.
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