DeepMind collaborate with Liverpool FC to optimize corners

March 20, 2024
football AI

DeepMind teamed up with Liverpool FC to create TacticAI, an AI system set to transform how football teams approach tactics, starting with corner kicks. 

Remember the unforgettable moment in the 2019 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, with the quick corner that led to Origi’s legendary goal? 

You will if you’re a Liverpool or Barcelona fan – and that’s the kind of play TacticAI aims to create more of, blending the art of human intuition with AI optimization. 

TacticAI, detailed in a study published in Nature Communications, uses geometric deep learning to produce models capable of predicting corner outcomes and analyzing tactics.

AI Tactics
A: For graph representation of corner kicks, each player is a node in a graph with detailed features. Graph neural networks update these node features through message passing based on interactions with neighboring nodes. B: TacticAI analyzes corner kicks by applying all possible pitch reflections to maintain robustness against orientation changes. This creates four versions of the same scenario, processed by TacticAI to derive player interactions. The outcome predicts the receiver and shot attempts and suggests position or velocity adjustments for players. Source: Nature Communications (open access).

TacticAI actually started with an earlier project named Game Plan back in 2020, which sought to harness AI for football analysis and strategy, evolving into sophisticated predictive models capable of anticipating off-camera player movements. 

For this new study, researchers collected data on 7,176 corner kicks from the Premier League’s 2020 to 2021 seasons. Each corner kick was transformed into a graph representation, where players were nodes featuring data on their positions, movements, and physical attributes at the time the corner was executed.

Researchers then applied geometric deep learning through graph neural networks (GNNs) to analyze spatial interactions and strategies during corner kicks.

Compared to traditional approaches, TacticAI’s predictions were the preferred choice of expert evaluators 90% of the time, and it could also predict both receivers and shot-takers. 

At its core, TacticAI serves three primary functions:

  1. Predicting the likely outcomes of a given corner kick setup, such as identifying potential receivers and estimating shot attempt chances.
  2. Analyzing the effectiveness of past tactics in similar setups, providing insights into what worked or didn’t.
  3. Offering tactical adjustments to influence future outcomes, for example, suggesting defender repositions to lower the opposition’s shot attempt chances.

From there, TacticAI was measured against three benchmark tasks:

  • Shot prediction: TacticAI reached an F1 score of 0.71 in predicting shot attempts from corner kicks. An F1 score closer to 1 indicates higher accuracy – so 0.71 is excellent. 
  • Receiver prediction: This involved determining the player likely first to receive the ball post-corner. TacticAI demonstrated a top-3 test accuracy of 0.782.
  • Tactic recommendation: Proposing adjustments in player positions and movements to optimize tactical setups. This is where qualitative expert evaluators generally preferred TacticAI.
TacticAI enables coaches to refine corner kick strategies, enhancing outcomes for both offense and defense. For instance, in a scenario where a shot was initially likely (A & B), TacticAI proposes defensive repositioning to lower shot chances (D). This decreases the likelihood of attackers receiving the ball, except for one positioned far from the goal (C), illustrating TacticAI’s ability to craft various tactical scenarios for in-depth analysis and selection. Source: Nature Communications (open access).

Are corners one of the most unpredictable sports set pieces? Perhaps not anymore. 

TacticAI might result in more injury-time winners – and right now, Liverpool FC is set to take advantage.

Liverpool fans – you lost Klopp, but at least you have TacticAI. 

Join The Future


Clear, concise, comprehensive. Get a grip on AI developments with DailyAI

Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


Stay Ahead with DailyAI


Sign up for our weekly newsletter and receive exclusive access to DailyAI's Latest eBook: 'Mastering AI Tools: Your 2024 Guide to Enhanced Productivity'.


*By subscribing to our newsletter you accept our Privacy Policy and our Terms and Conditions