Meet Watson, the newest recruit in the race to the top of the Premier League. He’s no winger or centre back, but rather IBM Watson - to give it the full title - is the latest Virtual Reality tech helping teams analyse their own, and opposition performances.
Don’t let the outdated graphics fool you, Watson is helping take analysis to the next level. And leading teams are starting to take notice, desperately hunting for whatever it is that will give them the extra inch over their rivals.
Brendan Rodgers’ high-flying Leicester are one such club, they are planning on installing Watson in their brand new training ground, being built at the cost of £100m over 185 acres. It is set to be the most advanced training facility in Europe, according to the club. The former Park Hill Golf Club is being transformed into a venue that includes a 500 seater indoor pitch, along with 12 other outdoor pitches.
Along with Liverpool and Manchester City, they are believed to be the only three Premier League clubs making full use of the statistical data available to them. Perhaps then it is no surprise that those clubs make up the top three in the Premier League.
Joe Pavitt, of IBM’s technologies department, is the brains behind Watson. It’s simple, but oh so effective function, is that it allows the user to stand on the pitch and relive key moments of the game with a few simple words. Forget drop-down menus, sliders and filters, Watson knows the language of football. It understands you.
So with just a few words you can bring up a wealth of data, for teams to analyse in seconds.
Another thing of beauty about this software is that with a click of the button, you are transported onto the field of play, to run through any goal or chance that happened during the game. This gives players a unique real-life insight into the mistakes they may have made on the pitch and how they could have done better.
The best way to see this in action is to watch IBM’s funky tour of the technology, as you can see exactly how it will help both players and coaching staff.
Last season Watson was used in an experimental capacity by Leatherhead United and seemed to have a dramatic improvement on their results. Having lost six of their first nine games, they ended the season in eighth and used the AI to help monitor and improve performances.
It is not only on the pitch where this technology can help, but it can also be used to predict transfers. In 2016/17, IBM’s Innovation Centre predicted that Riyad Mahrez would move to Manchester City after using data to predict what type of player a club needs and who they could realistically bring in depending on variable such as length of the current contract.
One thing is for sure. This is no longer a fad. The top teams in the country will all be using Watson and in a sporting world that is obsessed with statistical data, this really could be the next big advancement.