Packing Rate – the Art of Outplaying
RWTH graduate Matthias Sienz is a software developer at Impect GmbH. Part of his responsibilities include analyzing the German national team's games during the Eurocup.Copyright: Sebastian Dreher
Football players are under constant observation. Every performance variation can affect the assignment in the next match. They are not only observed by trainers and team members, but also by special service providers, who put them under the microscope. "When evaluating their players, trainers partially use data from external companies," explains Matthias Sienz. "These data consist of various statistics on passing, paths, tackles, and much more. Players are confronted with these and often the analyses show another opinion." Sienz is head of software development at Impect GmbH, the company, which is causing furore with its new "packing rate" method of evaluating players. Sienz completed his Master's in electrical engineering at RWTH. He's currently pursuing a computer science degree as well.
Impect GmbH was founded by Jens Hegeler, a player from Hertha BSC Berlin, and former professional player Stefan Reinartz, who played for various teams including Bayer Leverkusen. During his active period Reinartz was puzzled numerous times by what coaches and analysts thought about his playing. Many times he would leave the pitch thinking he had played well – the naked numbers later claimed something else. So he began to develop his own method. He wanted to concentrate on the most important factor for successfully making a goal: getting past the opponent. Reinartz named it the Packing Rate.
System with a Future
After evaluating innumerable games it was clear that his system had a future. In order to professionalize his idea, which at this pont was just a bunch of pieces of paper, Reinartz brought his old friend Sienz in – they attended school together in Overath near Cologne. Sienz first needed to get through hundreds of pages of drawings. "We started with Excel," he recalls. "Now we work with a cloud-based system."
The basic principle of the analysis system is very simple: players are number from the back to the front – from the goalkeeper to striker. Then, before and after a pass, they check how many opponents are between the player with the ball and the opposing goal, and count the difference. The packing rate reveals how many opponents a player has outplayed over the course of an encounter. "Say, for example, that Jérôme Boateng has the ball as a defense player and all eleven opponents can still defend their own goal. He passes the ball to Müller, who is surrounded by the opposing defense. When Müller accepts the ball, there are still five opponents between Müller and the opposing goal. If Müller can successfully accept the pass, Boateng outplayed six opponents with his pass," explains Sienz. "Added up over the entire game, you then get the packing rate of a player." However, since it is more difficult and more important for shooting a goal to outplay the defense and opposing goalkeeper, the last six players are worth more. The so called Impect value is calculated from outplaying the defense players.
Other factors are important though, for a complete player analysis – the so called key figures. "These include actions like taking the ball from an opponent, accepting the ball, pass utilization, and even losing the ball." For the latter it is important to note whether it was a striker or defender who lost the ball – if the defender lost the ball the consequences tend to be much worse. "When evaluating our key figures, other followup actions are incorporated, whereby we differentiate among over 40 different patterns for packing rate offensive actions alone."
Consultants for the German National Team
German Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen was the first German association to try out the new method of analysis. Soon after Thomas Tuchel, who at that point wasn't part of a team, was also interested. When he then took over as coach for Borussia Dortmund, he deployed Impect. Sienz and his colleagues – who include Daniel Sabinasz and Alexander Graß from RWTH – now advise other Bundesliga clubs and even the German national team.
Stefan Reinartz presented his method before the Eurocup began. Packing rate is on everyone's lists. There isn't a sports journalist, who hasn't mentioned the method at least once. "Using an intermediary at the ARD, we are in contact with Mehmet Scholl and provide him with data about the Germany games for his analysis, but also for all the other Eurocup matches," says Sienz. During the first match for the German national team against the Ukraine Toni Kroos received top points. He had a packing rate of 112 and an Impect value of 14. Boateng was second best wtih a packing rate of 75. "The values become particularly interesting, when you compare them with those from the Bundesliga," says Sienz. "There, the average packing rate is 28."
Source: Press and Communications