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The Soccer-GPA: objective and comprehensive grading of the 2020 UEFA Champions League Final

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Jesús Rico-Sanz, PhD

Soccer Performance & Science Institute

 

Introduction

Three decades ago, I developed a coding system to analyze the technical actions with the ball during match play (Rico-Sanz, 1992). I utilized the system to analyze the performance for all the players in the Danish National team (1992 European Cup Champion) and their opponents during all the games they played in the EURO92. I presented the results of the analysis at the First World Congress of Notational Analysis for Sports (Rico-Sanz, 1993). I proposed that an objective grading system was necessary to give objective and game-specific feedback to players and to make them aware of their attacking and defending technical and tactical performance (Rico-Sanz, 1994). Technical match analyses in soccer usually provide statistics on success of passing, goal attempts, and corner kicks. However, these statistics do not grade the quality of the technical performance during the match.


With regards to tactical performance evaluation, I am not aware of any objective grading of the players’ efficiency in executing the fundamental principles of play. Objective grading of match performance is essential for the development of players (including professionals), for talent identification, and for performance ratings by the media. Based on my initial coding system that I used since the 90s, I developed the Soccer Grade Performance Average (Soccer-GPA) to provide a more comprehensive and objective grading of the technical and tactical performances of players during the attacking and defending actions of a soccer match.


Methods

The 2020 UEFA Champions League Final was analyzed with the Soccer-GPA panel. For this study, the panel was designed inside the Dartifsh LiveS platform (www.dartfish.com). Each technical and tactical event was assigned a code based on a set of objective criteria (error <2%) and graded accordingly based on the success of the actions. Attacking technical actions for each player were categorized into ball controls, dribbles, passes, headers, and goal attempts; while the attacking tactical performance was categorized into mobility, composure, break-in, vision, and threat. The defending technical actions were categorized into blocking (dribbles, passes, shots), intercepting, clearing, and heading; while the defending tactical actions were categorized into effort, pressure, cover, compactness, and guard. Due to the large volume of data generated and for the purpose of simplicity and clarity in this article only the GPAs for the attacking technical actions will be presented for each player in each team; namely Bayern Munich (Bayern) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).


Results

A total of 974 attacking play actions were recorded for Bayern and 534 for PSG during the 2020 UEFA Champions League Final. The total number of ball controls, dribbles, passes and headers, and scoring attempts are shown below. Ball controls include aerial ball and ground ball controls; Bayern had 381 ball controls and PSG had 216 . Dribbles include dribbling to shield the ball, to beat an opponent, and to bring the ball to open spaces; Bayern had 105 dribbles and PSG 54. In the category of passing and heading, Bayern had 458 passes and 18 headers and PSG had 251 passes and 3 headers. Scoring attempts include shots and headers to goal; Bayern had 12 scoring attempts and PSG 10. The game was decided on a header by Coman in the second half; Bayern won the game 1-0.

Total number of attacking actions with the ball for Bayern and PSG during the UEFA Champions League Final 2020.
Total number of attacking actions with the ball for Bayern and PSG during the UEFA Champions League Final 2020.

Thiago was the player with more touches on the ball for Bayern Munich with 1 scoring attempt, 77 passes, 1 header, 7 dribbles, and 54 ball controls (total 140 touches), while Neymar was the player with more attacking technical actions for PSG with 3 scoring attempts, 24 passes, 11 dribbles and 38 ball controls (total 76 touches). Below is the distribution of the attacking technical actions for each player for both Bayern and PSG.


Total number of attacking actions with the ball for each of the players during the UEFA Champions League Final 2020.
Total number of attacking actions with the ball for each of the players during the UEFA Champions League Final 2020.

Each technical attacking action for each player was then graded following a set of objective criteria.The individual Soccer-GPA for the attacking technical actions for each individual player for Bayern Munich (red color) and PSG (blue color) during the UEFA Champions League Final of 2020 are shown below. For both teams, goalkeepers are in yellow and the reserve players are in purple. Please note that Choupo-Moting (PSG) entered the field late in the second half and had only two touches, thus too few to average accordingly and therefore he is not included.


Individual Soccer-GPA for all the attacking actions with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Final 2020
Individual Soccer-GPA for all the attacking actions with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Final 2020

The goalkeepers for PSG and Bayern had similar attacking technical GPA. Regarding the defensive line, the highest GPAs for PSG and Bayern were for Bernat with a GPA of 1.54 and Kimmich with a GPA of 1.60, respectively. Ander Herrera had the highest GPA for the PSG midfielders with a GPA of 1.76, while Thiago obtained the highest GPA for Bayern midfielders with a GPA of 1.54. The PSG forward Di Maria earned a GPA of 1.79 which was the highest of the game; while Lewandoski earned a GPA of 1.45 which was the highest for the starting forwards for Bayern.


Conclusion

The Soccer-GPA provides objective and comprehensive grades of the match performance of soccer players and teams, ranking players’ and teams’ performances, giving references for player development, and setting standards for talent identification. The Soccer-GPA can be used to set development plans and assess progress of players and teams during the season and from season to season. At the elite level, coaches and club owners can make decisions to select players, offer contracts or renewals based on the true performance value of players. The Soccer-GPA season average and variations from game to game are important considerations to determine the objective value of a player and his/her consistency in performance.


References

Rico-Sanz J. A model for technical and tactical analysis in soccer. Communication to the 1st World Congress in Notational Analysis in Sport. Liverpool, 1992.

Rico-Sanz, J. Technical and Tactical analysis of the Danish National Team during the European Cup 1992. Proceedings of the First World Congress of Notational Analysis of Sports, Liverpool, 1993.

Rico-Sanz J. Match Analysis. Science & Football. 1994 July; (8): 4-7.

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