ALL eyes at Elland Road may well be firmly fixed on the dugout and the work of head coach Marcelo Bielsa, but ears have regularly had their attention diverted by the excited support of Director of Football Victor Orta.
If coaches are judged by their results, then Directors of Football are assessed by the quality and success of their signings. Short of bringing Lionel Messi to Leeds, it is hard to imagine Orta will top the move which brought Bielsa to England, certainly not in terms of attracting Argentinian geniuses.
If Orta’s is a voice you are not familiar with yet, then you are in for a treat on the opening day of the Soccer Innovation Summit as he will share how Leeds make use of big data to reduce risk in the transfer market.
His choice of words for the title of the presentation are interesting. There is no bravado of how data is driving them to make game changing signings, no big moneyball claims, though very few clubs harness the work of their scouts on the ground, with big data and AI like Leeds and Orta.
While there are still those who question the wisdom and sustainability over a season of Bielsa’s ‘murderball’ training sessions and intense pressing in matches, it does bring a certain clarity to the work Orta and his team perform at Leeds in recruiting players to fit such a regime.
Over his three seasons in charge there have been plenty of stories of Bielsa’s attention to detail, use of data, which if truth be told, is no more or less than most clubs operating in the top two tiers of English football, though not all of them sent spies to training grounds.
Orta, up until last March, had his own spy network busy overseeing games and identifying talent to join the Bielsa revolution. Covid put an end to that, and like at every club in the world, there has been a greater emphasis on video analysis in the due diligence process on potential targets.
The next big shift Orta envisages is in which leagues he will need to target due to the restrictions in European players coming into the UK after Brexit kicked in at the start of 2021. No doubt one such destination will be North and South America.
The MLS has been richly mined by Bundesliga teams again this winter. Surely it is only a matter of time before the Premier League clubs follow suit.
Wednesday March 3, 2pm (EST)
VICTOR ORTA: How Leeds use big data to reduce risk in the player recruitment process
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