Football is continually evolving and is now at the forefront of the use of AI in sports. From talent recruitment to injury prevention, and in-game decision-making to set-piece routines, AI is revolutionizing football. The biggest clubs across Europe have incorporated artificial intelligence into every aspect of their operations. Here we look at eight AI quotes from some of the greatest names in football.
"Football is not artificial intelligence.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has a reputation for making tongue-in-cheek comments during interviews and this looks like one such remark. Despite making the bold remark against AI, his employer and Manchester City owner City Football Group have just hired Laurie Shaw, an astrophysicist, as their Lead Artificial Intelligence Specialist. City have hired four such AI specialists, so despite what Guardiola may say publicly, the club are leaning into the AI revolution heavily.
“In 10-15 years, it will not necessarily be a football specialist who will be a manager for a club. It will be management specialists rather than football specialists, because the football decisions will be made by technology.”
Arsène Wenger, the legendary manager of Arsenal Football Club, has long been a revolutionary figure within the world of football. Currently the Chief of Global Football Development for FIFA, Wenger has strong opinions on how far the application of Artificial Intelligence in sports will go.
“When you play 50 or 60 games a year - for a club like Manchester United for example - if you’re [going to be] successful, how you manage your squad is so important.”
Tony Strudwick, former head of performance at Manchester United, and now at Catapult Sports, is a global leader in sports applications of artificial intelligence. One area of focus for Strudwick is the use of artificial intelligence to manage player resources over the course of a season. This is something Manchester United have always been a leader in, from the analog methods of managers like Alex Ferguson and now with the help of artificial intelligence.
"Data gives you the opportunity to be less biased in your decisions."
"It’s not that data tells you who to pick, but data can tell you where to look,"
Rasmus Ankersen, Brentford's co-director of football, is a pioneering advocate for artificial intelligence and his club are at the forefront of the AI football revolution. Brentford have developed a reputation for finding hidden gems in the transfer market, allowing the club to compete far beyond its financial means. Ankersen talks about how data is key to any AI system, something we have looked at previously here. Brentford's Moneyball approach to football has seen the club become a Premier League regular and it all comes from innovative use of data.
“Football is the most difficult sport to crack. There are 22 players who make 15-25 micro-decisions per second. Everything is related and it is a low-scoring game.”
Giels Brouwer, Founder & CIO of SciSports, discussing the difficulties of advanced analytics in football. Football, despite being the world's most played and watched sport, is quite unusual from an analytical perspective. Scores are typically low and much of the action happens off the ball. SciSports groundbreaking machine learning algorithms to provide players, coaches and clubs with actionable insights.
“Kogina provides me and my technical staff with essential information that helps me understand what is happening on the pitch and make the best decisions from the bench.“
Xavi Hernández is one of the greatest footballers of all time. He is also a founding investor in the artificial intelligence and sports analytics firm Kogina. As a player, Xavi epitomized intelligence and good decision-making and it is a real vote of confidence in football AI for him to be among the early adopters.
“Zone7 is the perfect partner to help us harmonize the data we’ve been collecting, optimize player performance, and lower injury incident rates.”
Victor Orta is the Director of Football at Leeds United and he is another football executive who has seen the benefits artificial intelligence can bring to the game. By monitoring all aspects of player performance AI can identify risk patterns that lead to injury and produce real-time injury threat alerts. This is estimated to reduce player injury incidence rates by 50%.
“The insights produced are widely used across our football operations – in scouting and talent identification, in game preparation, in post-match analysis, and in gaining tactical insights.”
Ivan Gazidis is one of the top executives in world football and is currently the Chief Executive of the storied Italian club A.C. Milan. The South African-born businessman is an Oxford graduate and a long-term believer in the use of artificial intelligence in football. As discussed previously on Aiifi, artificial intelligence is revolutionizing every aspect of modern football and Gazidis calls out both on and off-field aspects of the sport.
Quotes About AI in Football
Some of the best minds in football are working to apply AI to the sport and these quotes give us a glimpse into how they are going about it. Artificial intelligence is changing how football clubs recruit, train, play, and even protect their players.