Why not let AI manage the England football team?

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I mean seriously, why not?

Following the fallout from England’s dismal display in Euro 2016 the press is in a frenzy about who should get the job. However, does a national team really need a flesh and blood manager? The FA were apparently paying £3.5million a year for the selection prowess and tactical masterclass of Roy Hodgson. That would fund a lot of AI research into what is a relatively narrow field of expertise with lots of available data points.

All the players are carefully coached and managed throughout the season by their home clubs. They play 50+ games each year and their performance during those same games is what should qualify them in (or out) of the national team.
With the wealth of data collected, from number of touches, to average positions, sprints, miles overall tackles, shots, crosses, assists. etc. Not to mention all the biometric data that indicate levels of effort, fatigue and so on, it should be relatively straightforward to select a squad based on data.

Deep analysis of opponents should inform what tactics are deployed during the game. I don’t think a lot of processing power would have been required to work out that Iceland are a danger from long throws, they tend to target the same player, so put your best defensive header of the ball on that man.

Any number of scenarios could be worked through ahead of time to accommodate emerging situations on the pitch (goals, injuries, red cards etc.).

The benefit of using AI to do the selection is the removal of emotion and sentiment. Did Rooney do enough during the club season to warrant his place? That data doesn’t support it. Surely there is no way the data would support Harry Kane taking corners. He didn’t seem to take many at all for Spurs. What evidence was there that supported playing Sterling on the left and Sturridge on the right? It was plain to see that all it did was reduce their ability to cross the ball to almost zero.

Instead of emotive, gut feel, egocentric selections AI would at least have solid, evidence based reasons for any given selection and tactic played. It would make for less theatre in the post-match press conferences I suppose – although even after Iceland all we got was a prepared statement anyway.

In addition, there is the somewhat tricky challenge of communicating a plan during training and the match itself. In the short term you’d use coaches for that wouldn’t you? But the in the future, who knows – maybe an all seeing Manager-Bot will be seen hovering (literally) in the technical area?

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Andy, who lives with his family in the UK, is Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions. A regular speaker at industry conferences and events, Andy delivers insight on the rise of AI, the challenges businesses face and the future of intelligent conversational applications.

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