Quantifying momentum

For my first project, I’m working on a momentum indicator.  I’m hoping it will end up useful for pre-game, post-game and real-time analysis.

A quick search for ‘momentum and football’ brings little of interest. A couple of articles talking about players/teams building streaks/momentum over a season (or the course of years). This is not the momentum I am concerned with.

Other sites talk about inertia, momentum and the physics associated with kicking a ball. This is not the momentum I am concerned with.

I am looking to explore is the idea that momentum is a tool a team can use to have an impact on the game within the 90 minutes. Possession has been used as a proxy for momentum (here) but this may not be the complete picture. How does luck trickle into the building of momentum through 50/50 situations? How much bearing does a goal have on a team’s momentum? Can we measure team psychology consistently and accurately? Can we create an indicator that allows us to analyse momentum in a potentially game-changing way?

I am looking to create an indicator that reveals at a glance where the balance of momentum lay at any particular point in a game. Something that removes the emotional response to individual game incidents and their extremely short-term implications. There are many questions to ask concerning momentum: Which teams are good at building it? Which teams are good at breaking it up? How quickly do teams recover it? Does it have any bearing on goals (unlikely if you see goals as a shock event rather than a predictable event)? Do teams build momentum better at different times in the game? How about at different times in the season? What other indicators can momentum be teamed with?

A team can actively look to build their own momentum or break down an opponents, so I will think of momentum as something that builds or breaks. At kick-off, momentum must be neutral. by definition – neither team has suffered the consequences of any event within the game.

A decision must be taken regarding time. Since all events within a game are subject to time constraints, time becomes a tool for each team to use. The question is whether time can be used to affect momentum?

Perhaps worth noting: momentum is not the same as initiative. A team may momentum and lose the initiative. They may also build momentum without applying pressure. The relationship between pressure and momentum should be considered.


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