Monday, 7 April 2014

Visualising Everton 3 - 0 Arsenal

I've been playing with 3D visualisations of Opta football data over the past few weeks, trying to build a picture of the action areas in a game. This post is me thinking out loud more than a finished product, but there's definitely something about 3D mapping that does work.

3D is usually to be avoided (particularly in pie charts!) and I've said as much in my guide to data visualisation for marketers. The problem when visualising touches in a football game on a flat pitch though, is that very often you'll see something like this:

It's obviously displaying too much data. Converting to a heat or contour map helps, but unless differences between areas are very starkly defined, it doesn't make important areas of the pitch really jump out.

So, 3D...

I've taken the data from the Everton vs. Arsenal game yesterday and with R and rgl, used it to create a contoured surface. Add flags for for shot locations and a textured surface for the pitch and you get the images below.

You can see - as we've found before - how Everton concede the centre in favour of the wings and the importance of Leighton Baines on Everton's left. Despite that ball movement through the wings, Everton's shot locations are more central than Arsenal's, with Arsenal taking a number of inaccurate shots from wide on the left. Everton's two goals came from almost the same spot, with the third being an Arteta own goal.

I'll keep posting these from time to time and working on the visualisation. They're not a finished product, but I like the effect and think it's worth persevering with. Any ideas, or games you'd really like to see? Let me know in the comments.