Thursday, 20 June 2013

Video Analysis - Iago Aspas

While the football season has mainly ended for the major leagues around Europe, I’ve decided to spend some time getting up to speed on the major analysis platforms used. I’ve used many of these before (Prozone, Sportscode, NACSport, Dartfish etc) but there are more and more coming onto the market (such as S20APP).


The first one I decided to look at is LongoMatch. This is a free piece of tagging software available for Mac & PC and while it is stripped down compared to a lot of more comprehensive models I have to say it’s excellent for the job it does. You can set teams, key indicators and you have up to 16 customisable tags which you can then mark against teams, players and time. It’s easy to use and although when I’ve used it previously it had a few teething problems (such as when you did something out of the order it expected the system would crash and you’d lose everything since your last save) that seems to have been fixed now and I didn’t come across any problems.


So the example I used, while only loosely what I would call analysis focussed on Iago Aspas, Liverpool’s new £7m signing from Celta Vigo (although this hasn't yet been completed it's expected to be in the next few days). I already had a game downloaded (Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao from 03/05/13) and setting the key indicators to match the key Statszone indicators from the iPhone app. Once I had gone through the game and tagged the relevant points it is easy to pull whichever ones you need to into a playlist and export this into an mp4 file. I then used iMovie to cut this into a presentation using some of the graphics from the Statszone app (this can be done in LongoMatch – I just found this easier to do in iMovie, just personal preference)


Just to clarify, I’d consider this to be the very tip of analysis, it’s only 1 game and anybody can look good in isolation and although the graphics help with some context it is pretty standalone. With more games however, LongoMatch can be used to build up a library which allows for much more comprehensive video analysis over a season.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Book Review - Inverting The Pyramid

I thought I’d try something a little different for my blog so just wanted to give a short review of a book I’ve just finished reading.
Now I’m a little behind with this one as Inverting The Pyramid came out in 2009 and was critically acclaimed, winning author Jonathan Wilson the 'Best Football Book' category of the 2009 British Sports Book Awards.

I’ve got to say it took me a while to get into. The first half of the book is very in depth, and delves right back to the beginning of how football started in the 1850s and you have to get about 100 pages in before it starts to get really interesting with the development of tactics throughout the world in the modern game.

The more I read the more I was hooked though, it includes some excellent pieces around the Dutch system, Italian Catenaccio, the South American attacking midfielder and the modern day 4-5-1/4-3-3

Although Roy Hodgson claims that he’s never told his players what formation to play, all teams have a formation, no matter how fluid it is. He might not need to explicitly say “this week we’re playing 4-4-2 lads” but I’m sure he’ll base his tactics and system around a starting point.

Despite my primary focus being Performance Analysis, any analyst knows how vital it is to have a rounded view of all aspects of football as analysis is one of the fields that integrates with so many different areas. It is important to know the type of formation and tactics that are being used when analysing the game. There is no point berating the attacking midfielder for not getting back and covering the back 4 when a 4-2-3-1 is being played for example.

A couple of chapters of the book I found particularly interesting.

Jonathan talks a lot about Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the great Dynamo Kiev coach who pioneered 3 separate generations of World Class teams. His tactical astuteness and forward thinking in terms of how to get the best out of his players was second to none but what I did find interesting was the following

“Lobanovskyi arrived at Dynamo as part of a team of four. He had specific responsibility for modelling playing systems; Zelentsov was in charge of the individual preparation of players; Bazylevich, having been prised from Shakhtar, took care of the actual coaching; while Mykhaylo Oshemkov dealt with what was known as ‘informational support’ – that is, the collection of statistical data from games”

The mention of Oshemkov’s role is a pioneer of performance analysis. He goes on to detail some of the areas that were captured and bearing in mind this was in 1973 it is astounding to think that the things they were doing at Kiev 40 years ago there are STILL some teams not doing now!

Another part was around Arrigo Sacchi, the legendary AC Milan and Italy manager and how he turned a very good team into one of the best the world has ever seen. Saachi had never played professionally but had dedicated his life to coaching and was a great innovator. Something aimed at a lot of performance analysts is how can they understand the game when many have never played before. Here is a great piece from Inverting the Pyramid

“Still, the problem of credibility remained. Sacchi admitted he could barely believe he was there, but responded tartly to those who suggested somebody who had never been a professional footballer – Berlusconi, who had played amateur football to a reasonable level, was probably a better player – could never succeed as a coach ‘A jockey,’ he said, ‘doesn’t have to have been born a horse.’”

I loved that quote. Studies have shown that many top class professionals don’t make good managers and often can’t explain how they’ve done the things they’ve done as a player. Look now at some of the top clubs and the managers they have, how good were they as professionals? Jose Mourinho, Roy Hodgson, Brendan Rodgers, Nigel Adkins? Sure, it’s more fashionable and appeases the fans more if it’s an ex-player but that does not mean that you have to have been a great player to really understand football.

I like anything that I think will help give me a more rounded view of the game and this book has done exactly that, therefore I’d recommend it to anybody who has an interest in the more in-depth side of football and wants to know more about the development of the tactical side of the game.

The writing style really grabs you and as it’s a couple of years old it’s extremely good value for money on Amazon

Jonathan Wilson is a sports writer who I follow on Twitter and he always has a lot of interesting things to say, he’s definitely worth following and he has another book which came out recently called ‘The Outsider: A History of the Goalkeeper’ which I’ll be looking to check out in the near future.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

How the EPPP will affect Performance Analysis

By now most clubs will have had their EPPP assessment and many will have found out the grading they have been assigned. Of course over the last season most clubs have been playing in the structure set up by the Premier League and Football League and it seems to be a reasonable success so far.

If you Google EPPP there is actually very little information on the internet. 1 page on the Premier League site and a Wikipedia page along with some media reports. I thought this was strange but as seems to be typical in football a lot of what goes on is behind closed doors.

I recently managed to get a copy of the initial rules produced by the Premier League in how the EPPP would be governed (available to download via my Google Drive) and thought I would look to see how these affected the area I am in, Performance Analysis.

Most clubs use Performance Analysis as a matter of course these days, but it is interesting that the rules state the minimum number of analysts.

Rules 93-96 cover the number of analysts per club

93 – “Each club which operates a Category 1 Academy shall employ a minimum of two Full Time Performance Analysts”

94 – “Each club which operates a Category 2 Academy shall employ a minimum of two Performance Analysts, one on a Full Time basis and the other at least Part Time”

This is encouraging, although I am sure most clubs who have achieved Category 1 status already have 2 FT analysts (these tend to be the bigger clubs, in fact there are only a couple of clubs outside the Premier League who have achieved this). It’s a shame that there wasn’t the encouragement to have 2 Full Time analysts at Category 2 clubs, in fact as a proviso the league have felt the need to stipulate that clubs are able to have analysts who are on placement from a Masters Degree. Does this mean the League are encouraging unpaid internships without explicitly stating it? (see my previous post on this debate)

95 – “The Performance Analysts shall undertake Performance Analysis of Academy players registered with the club”

96 – “The Performance Analysts must undertake Continuous Professional Development organised by the club”

Both acceptable and encouraging. CPD is important in all walks of life, the LFE has organised a Diploma course at Northumbria University for analysts to continue learning. I have completed this course and while I’m glad I’ve done it, if you’ve done a degree (which is the minimum requirement for most clubs) it would be a complete waste of time. I have learnt 100 times more by reading articles from some of the more prominent posters on Twitter and trying to apply some of the theories myself than from this course. It doesn’t mention the number of hours of CPD required but for other roles it indicates 5 hours a year. Not much really so I suppose it is up to the analyst to want to continue to develop. Hopefully this won’t just be a case of learning how to use one of the analysis systems (such as Prozone, Gamebreaker, Dartfish etc that provide courses) but maybe attending conferences such as the Science & Football exhibition, courses such as the Sports Performance Level 3 provided by Navitas or expanding into using actual statistics in their analysis.

No mention of Category 3 or 4 clubs? Read on….

Unfortunately the Premier League have added another little guidance note which says if somebody in another role can do the job of the Performance Analyst then the club does not need to employ one. In most cases you would hope the club would want to employ a specialist in this area although I can see the advantages of combining this with a coaching role and such.

120 – “Each club operating a Category 1 or Category 2 academy shall:

120.1 – “Have such technical facilities as are necessary to undertake the Performance Analysis required of it by Rule 120.2”

120.2 – “Undertake Performance Analysis (including, in the case of a club which operates a Category 1 Academy, by undertaking GPS evaluation in the Professional Development Phase and in the Youth Development Phase if the Full Time Training Model is utilised) of training activity and matches in the Youth Development Phase Games Programme, the Professional Development Phase Games Programme and the Professional Development League”

120.3 – “Use the results of such Performance Analysis in its monitoring of the coaching and development of Academy Players in the Youth Development Phase and the Professional Development Phase”

120.4 – “Make available to the League such Performance Analysis data as it reasonably shall require  to undertake the benchmarking of data for that Academy of national trends”

Pretty standard, have facilities available, use analysis on training & games for all levels (including GPS analysis in Cat 1 academies), use the analysis to help with coaching and development and make the results available to the league. It doesn’t actually state what information the league would want so if they haven’t told you in advance to collect something how would you know the league wanted it?

121 – “Each club operating a Category 3 or Category 4 academy shall comply with Rule 120 but only in respect of players in the Under 17 to Under 18 age groups”

Finally! Mention of Performance Analysis for Cat 3 & 4 academies! No stipulation of staff to employ but encouraging that all clubs would need to analyse under 17 & under 18 age groups.

122 – “Subject to a club complying with Rule 120 or 121 and to a sufficient number of clubs likewise complying, the League will make available to it benchmarked data derived from comparing the Performance Analysis data it has submitted to the League with that submitted by other clubs (on an anonymised basis)

So hopefully the league will supply benchmarked data, although not stated what this is yet or likely to be it would be good to see how various KPI’s compared to that of other clubs.

There is also further guidance that the League are still developing this and will consult with clubs to formalise and add into the rules. They may have already done this, The set of rules I have were produced at the start of the 2012-13 season.

Just 2 more mentions of Performance Analysis in the whole document

186.4 – “The Sports Science & Medicine Programme of each club should detail the planned provision to each of its Academy players of at least the following areas – Performance Analysis (other areas include Sports Science, Physiotherapy, Medical Services & Psychology)

So let players know they are being analysed and how they can utilise it? Good stuff! In my experience a lot of Academy players are very interested in analysis, much more so than the older generations of players as they are becoming professional with it as a standard tool.

269.7 – The Match Analysis Suite must be

For Cat 1 & 2 – “A room large enough to hold 20 people and equipped with such appropriate video and IT technology as is necessary to undertake, and present the results of, Performance Analysis”

Cat 3 – “A Match Analysis suite is recommended but not mandatory”

Encouraging for Cat 1 & 2 academies, a little disappointing they have not at least said for Cat 3 & 4 there should be a 1-2-1 area where analysis can be delivered? Where is the encouragement of involving players if there is nowhere for them to view it?

That’s everything in the rules. Although they cover a lot of other areas it doesn’t look like EPPP is gonna be the boom for analysis that everybody though it would previously. There are a lot of people graduating from degrees or finishing internships looking for jobs and the number of jobs available does not seem to be growing with the number of analysts available. Basic Economies of Scale would dictate that isn’t sustainable and I have seen several cases recently where very talented analysts who can’t get a paid job are moving into other careers.

It would have been good for the Premier League to push for either a mandatory qualification (such as with Scouts requiring the FA’s Scouting Talent ID qualification) or at least a supporting body – Sport Scientists have the LMedA but Performance Analysis doesn’t really fit into this area.

At least Performance Analysis is beginning to become recognised by the League as an essential part of the football ethos, hopefully it will continue to thrive and be used comprehensively and outgrow the rules encouraging clubs to make better use of it.

Thanks for reading.