Google’s DeepMind launches AI soccer coach

Google DeepMind has officially launched a full AI system that focuses specifically on advising soccer coaches on corner kicks. TacticAI is described as being “an AI assistant for football tactics.”

Launched in collaboration with Liverpool FC, one of the best-performing teams in the UK, this is an artificial intelligence system that can provide experts with tactical insights through predictive and generative AI.

Announcing the news through a blog post on Google DeepMind yesterday (Mar. 19) the tool works by “using a geometric deep learning approach to help create more generalizable models.”

We’re announcing TacticAI: an AI assistant capable of offering insights to football experts on corner kicks. ⚽

Developed with @LFC, it can help teams sample alternative player setups to evaluate possible outcomes, and achieves state-of-the-art results. 🧵…

— Google DeepMind (@GoogleDeepMind) March 19, 2024

This means teams worldwide could sample alternative player setups to evaluate possible outcomes to achieve the results they’re looking for.

To benchmark TacticAI, they have a dataset of 7176 corner kicks from the 2020 to 2021 Premier League seasons which are randomly shuffled and split into a training and a test set.

When in use, the tool is built to address three core questions. These include:

  1. For a given corner kick tactical setup, what will happen? e.g., who is most likely to receive the ball, and will there be a shot attempt?
  1. Once a setup has been played, can we understand what happened? e.g., have similar tactics worked well in the past?
  1. How can we adjust the tactics to make a particular outcome happen? e.g., how should the defending players be repositioned to decrease the probability of shot attempts?

In a blind test with football experts, TacticAI’s suggestions were “indistinguishable” from real corners in previous games. When this group was asked to choose preferred tactical advice, they favored the AI’s ideas over the original 90% of the time.

Google and Liverpool FC’s multi-year partnership

Three years ago, Google announced a multi-year deal with the soccer club Liverpool F.C.

In their first joint paper from 2021, titled ‘Advancing sports analytics through AI research,’ soccer was then highlighted as being an interesting opportunity for AI. A year later, the Graph Imputer was created.

Graph Imputer showed how AI can be used with a prototype of a predictive system for downstream tasks in football analytics. The system was able to predict the movements of players off-camera when no tracking data was available.

The newly unveiled TacticAI is the third exploration into AI and sport by Google DeepMind and Liverpool FC.

Featured Image: Via Google DeepMind

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Sophie Atkinson