Arsenal appoint former Candy Crush creator as data scientist
Written by Simon Austin — July 18, 2018
ARSENAL have made the final appointment to their new-look backroom team ahead of the upcoming season - and it could be the most interesting one of all.
Mikhail Zhilkin has no previous experience in football, is a graduate of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and helped launch of two of the most successful Candy Crush games in a previous guise.
The Russian's title will be data scientist and he will focus on injury and physical data, creating insights to be used by the coaching and performance staff at the club.
The idea will be to get individual insights on every player, so that training and recovery can be made as bespoke as possible. Injuries have been identified as one of the major problems for the Gunners in recent seasons.
Zhilkin, who speaks excellent English and has a dry sense of humour, grew up in Cheboksary in western Russia and graduated as a Master of Science in Applied Physics and Mathematics from the highly-respected Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 2006.
While still a student he set up ZX Games, an online project selling remakes of classic video games like Lode Runner and Boulder Dash which was also very successful.
In February 2013, he was appointed as a data scientist for King.com - the company behind the hugely-successful Candy Crush franchise - and went on to become technical lead.
Zhilkin was the data scientist behind two of the firm's most popular later editions, Candy Crush Soda and Candy Crush Jelly,
Last year he spoke at the Data Innovation Summit in Stockholm on the subject of automation. The themes he explored were "getting rid of repetitive tasks so you have more time to move forward” and how “data scientists could make themselves redundant”.
Arsenal have embarked upon a complete overhaul of their football staff in the last 12 months, with new heads of performance, recruitment, football relations, medical and contract negotiating, along with new head coach Unai Emery and his assistants.