Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Taking Gooooooooaaaaaal! to Another Level

The Guardian newspaper has developed a great resource for Premier League soccer fans. And yes, there are a lot of soccer fans. And they're rabid.

The Guardian's Chalkboards tool is somewhat similar to ESPN’s GameCast, but takes interactivity several steps further.

The database-driven tool allows users to tailor what statistics they want from a specific team and organizes the data into an informational graphic. Users can track a specific player's shots on goal, successful goals, etc., then e-mail the graphics with other fans or imbed them in their blogs. This could be a great resource for settling bar bets.

I took the site for a spin, tracking passing by Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in two 2008 matches against Newcastle United. Look at how much more active he was at home as compared to the road.

There are some problems with the site. It offers imbedded code to post your charts into a blog, but they sometimes don't work. That's why I had to link to the Ronaldo chart rather than imbed it into this blog.

Also, the database downloads are somewhat slow, but the reward is worth it once you've created the chart. You have to be a little patient with the tool as it processes requests. I expect this will improve in weeks to come.

Over the years, I have seen NBA and MLB scouts use similar software packages in charting shots, pitches, etc. for their reports. But this is the first time I’ve seen a publication offer an online, interactive tool that is this sophisticated.

It's worth checking out, even if you're not a soccer nut.

Footnote: The Poynter Institute recently wrote a great piece about this tool as well.

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