June 22 2016

Configuration and football

The optimization dilemma

If you live in Europe you probably know about the ongoing 2016 UEFA European championship in football*. In every corner of Europe people are hoping, cheering and shouting together. In fact, I have to admit that during game days my brain is not entirely focused on CPQ. Instead, a significant portion of it is dedicated towards football - and I don't think I am alone!

The other day Sweden played a really bad 1-1 game against Ireland. After the game a few brain cells, that were still geared towards CPQ, formed an idea about configuration and football. The aspect that was going through my head was whether Mr Erik Hamrén (Sweden's national team coach) would have any use of a CPQ system to select his starting eleven? If so, how would he use it?

I mean, alsmot every dedicated football fan has his or her own idea about the line-up the national team should use. After the disappointing game against Ireland everyone had a solution on how the line-up against Italy should be, in order to fix all the issues that surfaced.

Mr Hamrén, who selects the starting squad sure had a delicate issue at hand. Should he optimize the defence against the powerful Italians, despite the fact that we did not have a single shot on goal against Ireland? Should he start with reliable players like Sebastian Larsson over more creative players like Erkan Zengin?

Looking at it from a mathematical and CPQ-perspective there are over a million possible line-ups he could choose from. If Mr Hamrén would consider each of these it would not only render him sleepless but also jobless, since no coach would ever consider each player for each position. You would not put Sweden Mega Star Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a goal keeper, defender or even on the bench, right?

A configuration approach to football

So, how could this problem be ”solved” with a configurator? My thought on this would be to categorize each player in their main Player Type: Goal keeper, Defender, Midfielder and Striker. This would limit our options right away without any real trade-offs.

Most defenders and midfielders are specialized in one position, like central position or the wing position. If you have a wing position you are typically specialized towards either the left or the right wing. Still, these positions are more volatile than your Player Type. Thus, I would instead place a grade on how suitable a certain person is for each position and use this in the optimization. For example left wing defender Martin Olsson is a highly specialized wing player and would score high as ”Wing” but low as ”Central” etc. Thus, there could be a line-up in which he would be optimized as a central defender but it is highly unlikely.

Then you have to mark each player up according to skills like: speed, shot accuracy, passing accuracy, header skills etc and map that agains the tactic you want to optimize for, like: ”Defensive stand with counter attacks”. You also need to take into consideration the player’s current shape, possible injuries, yellow cards and how his style is combined with the players around him...and...and...Phew!

I would love to prove my point on how aweseome this Line-Up Configurator would be and how it would out-perform Mr Hamrén but I guess CPQ should probably be used where it is best: for manufacturing, and... well... there is a new game soon and I don’t want to miss it!


Heja Sverige! (i.e. ”Go Sweden”).


* as you may know, in Europe soccer is referred to as football


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