How to Understand Radar, A World Cup Player’s Guide to Athletic

Last week, we launched The Radar – the athleteA guide to 100 players in the Qatar World Cup we think you should follow.

They range from well-known stars like Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, to rising stars like Jude Bellingham and Pedri, with plenty of little-known players between them who we feel have the ultimate talent for some of football’s biggest clubs.

As all eyes are on the World Cup, we want to make sure all readers can absorb our analytics content as easily as possible, including those who are somewhat new to the sport.

Whether you watch one game a year or a thousand, football is for everyone. So let’s take you through the different sections of the player profile, and explain what you’re looking at.

This is how to read radar…


Profile section

The first is the Profile section – this is the part of the player’s card that will start when you click on the player’s name; In this case, Poland and Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski.

For each player, we have written a short profile explaining their style, profession and what to expect from them in Qatar.

In each section of the profile, there is a detailed visualization that highlights something impressive about this player.

In Lewandowski’s case, his custom perception is a “warm plot”, which shows how his goal-scoring compares to other strikers in Europe’s top leagues. As you can see, Manchester City’s Erling Haaland (who is not on the radar as a Norwegian, and Norway failed to qualify for the World Cup) has a better strike rate than he did since the start of last season.

If you click on the visualization, it will open and fill your screen, allowing you to zoom in if needed.

“But what are goals without penalty?” -We hear you ask.

Well, penalty kicks have a very high success rate. An uncontested shot from 12 yards is very different from a shot on goal when there are a lot of opposition players in the way or they are trying to get the ball away from you.

Goals scored from penalties can inflate a player’s stats and make them look like the best goal scorer in the world when they might just be playing for a team that has a lot of penalties and is good at taking them when they have the chance.

This is why goals without penalties – total with successful penalties removed – is a better way to measure a player’s scoring prowess. (Lewandowski would be tempted to agree, having missed a penalty for Poland in their first World Cup match…)

Also, using stats per 90 minutes gives a more accurate idea of ​​how players compare to their peers.

If we used every match, there would be no context to the minutes played – one player could have played 10 minutes as a substitute and another could have played the full 90 minutes, but they both played ‘one match’.


Data section: Explanation of our pizza charts

First, you’ll see all of the pie “Pizza Charts” in the data section of each player’s profile.

This uses data from smarterscout, a free-to-use website that breaks down soccer player game elements into different measures of performance, skill and style using advanced analytics.

A full explanation of these metrics is provided in our Smarterscout guidebut this data simply gives a series of ratings of zero and 99, as to either how mostly A player performs a specific stylistic action (for example, the amount of shots per touch), or how effective They are in it (eg, how much they contribute to their team’s chance creation) compared to others who play their positions.

We can use Lewandowski’s example below.

As you can see, he contributes more strongly to FC Barcelona’s shot creation (xG Shot Creation Rating: 97 out of 99 – don’t worry, we’ll explain what xG is shortly) compared to other forwards, and he’s quick to fire with his attacking touches (Shot Size: 92 out of 99). ).


Department of the future

This is the simplest of the three.

There are no visualizations, only information on a player’s contract and transfer status – when his current deal at the club expires, if there are negotiations over a new deal, and which clubs are/might be interested if the player is to leave.


Explanation of some other data visualizations for radar

player positions

Soccer players can play in many different positions on the pitch. Some are more set in their ways than others and will only play one or two, but others may play in five or six different positions over the course of a season.

There are 13 sites smarterscout refers to, this one we mentioned earlier that uses advanced analytics to break down the elements of a footballer’s game into a number of metrics, in order to capture each player’s profile.

They are listed and indicated in the visualization below, which plots the area they occupy on the playing field. The minutes share line determines the percentage of minutes played at each position.

  • LB – left back
  • LCB – Left Central Defender
  • CCB – central defender
  • RCB – Right Central Defender
  • Right Back – Right Back
  • LM – left midline
  • DM – defensive midfield
  • CM – central midline
  • Right midfielder – right midfield
  • LW – left wing
  • CM – central attacking midfield
  • RW – right wing
  • ST – FW

The remaining position, which is not part of the smarterscout dataset, is goalkeeper, often shortened to GK.


The player’s ball advances

One of the main attack metrics in the smarterscout pizza charts we talked about earlier is “xG from ball progression”. This simply shows how much of a player’s actions increase the likelihood of his team scoring on possession, by getting the ball up front and into dangerous areas.

To dig a little deeper, smarterscout’s “Ball Progress Breakdown” lets you see How The player’s actions propel the ball into dangerous areas, either by passing, carrying/dribbling the ball forward, receiving into advanced positions on the field, winning key aerial duels, or making tackles and interceptions to regain control.

This is broken down into a neat waffle chart to show the player the proportion of these actions.

For example, you can see above that Tunisian midfielder Anis Slimane’s way of advancing the ball is rather diverse.

His off-the-ball passes mean he’s a threat on receiving the ball in dangerous areas, and his strength out of possession tells us his defensive interceptions contribute well to his team’s ability to win the ball up high.


What are the expected goals?

Ah, the headline football analytics.

Simply put, expected goals (xG) is a way to measure the probability that a shot will become a goal.

Not all shots are equal in quality – one shot might be a guess 40 yards and another might be a 2 yard. Therefore, xG measures the quality of each shot before the player shoots, taking into account many factors, including:

  • Shot angle
  • The distance from the goal
  • Be it with the head or with the weaker/stronger foot
  • Whether it’s a cross, a through ball, a short pass, etc
  • Whether there are many defenders on the way

In practice, we can then explore if a player scored more or less goals than he should have had based on the quality of the chances he was given.

For example, Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min, who will play for South Korea in this World Cup, had noticeable patches in form as he vastly outperformed his xG figure over a 900-minute period (a sample size equivalent to 10 full matches).

For a more detailed breakdown of these metrics and other key football analytics terms, check out the athleteFootball Analytics Lexicon.


Finally, what is the international “cap”?

Keen soccer fans may take this for granted, but it’s worth noting what “hat” means in international soccer, given what we and other media refer to during the World Cup.

The number of matches played by a player is simply the number of matches played at senior international level.

The term originated from the United Kingdom, where players used to receive an actual hat(s) for each game in which they represented their country, to celebrate achievement.


The commemorative hat presented to England striker Wayne Rooney when he reached 100 ‘caps’ for his country (Photo: Michael Regan – FA/FA via Getty Images)

This is no longer the case in the modern game, but the term “cap” survives when referring to a player’s international career.


There are a whole host of other metrics and data points we discuss on The Radar, many of which include their own explanation alongside them.

Ultimately, we want to make sure you understand every scale, every term, and every graphic we include in Radar.

Please comment below if there are any other terms you would like explained.

In the meantime, enjoy!

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Catch up on the latest World Cup news, analyses, schedules, fixtures and more here

(Main graphic – Images: Getty Images / Design: Sam Richardson)

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