In the modern game, professional clubs have significant numbers on their backroom staff. Teams now have a variety of professionals with a broad range of knowledge and functions. One such member of staff that clubs employ, if they have the resources, is an opposition analyst. This is the person in charge of collecting and organising information about upcoming opponents.
The role of the opposition analyst is to make the job of the coaching staff and head coach as simple as possible. They should give the staff as much information as possible on an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, for the head coach to then use in their own preparation for a match. This can be extremely useful in any team’s short, medium and long-term planning.
Traditionally, and still at smaller clubs, the coaching staff might comprise a manager, an assistant manager, a fitness coach and a goalkeeping coach. The manager or their assistant would usually act as the opposition analyst, watching their next opponents live, where possible, in preparation to face them.
That is no longer the case for most professional clubs, though, as the evolution of the game and its increasing complexity led to the emergence of the opposition analyst. They became an established part of football clubs at the beginning of the 21st century.
The job of an analyst is not only to observe a team or a specific player, but to decipher what they are doing, why they are doing it, and any weaknesses or failings in their approach. So, the main function of the opposition analyst is to take in information on the opposition, analyse that information, and provide that analysis to the coaching staff. This will save the coaching staff valuable time, which they can then spend on the training pitch.
To do this, the opposition analyst must focus on each individual in the team, as well as how the team functions both in and out of possession. The analyst may use different forms of technology, such as Wyscout or Bepro.
The opposition analyst’s job will usually break down into the following categories:
This involves collecting as much information as possible about the opponent. They would then analyse and present it in a clear, concise and effective way to the head coach and other relevant members of the coaching staff.
The responsibility here is to watch a match as it plays out, trying to work out what is happening in real time and feeding information and analysis back to the coaching staff either during the match or at half-time. This type of analysis involves the use of video-editing software and data that an analyst can send directly to the head coach and their staff for immediate viewing.
This would usually happen immediately after the match, or possibly the day after. The objective is to determine what happened in the game, what worked and what did not go so well, and to try and help the team improve in future.
An opposition analyst will usually watch a number of the upcoming opponents' recent matches that provide similar circumstances to those their team will be in. For example, if their team plays a direct style, the analyst will observe the upcoming opposition's recent matches against teams that also play direct football.
To do this, they view videos of the opposing team in all phases of the game. They then clip up their analysis – usually around 350 clips – and then work to reduce it to around 40-50 clips to present to the head coach. Before the match, instructions are given to the players using the videos as well as still images.
It may also be within the remit of the opposition analyst to produce reports on individuals in the opposition team.
Most coaches will adapt their team’s approach depending on the opposition, so having as much information as possible about upcoming opponents is extremely beneficial. Also, the presence of an opposition analyst will save the head coach valuable time that can be used elsewhere. They won’t need to attend one of their opponents' matches to scout them, for example.
In short, an opposition analyst can help to optimise the team’s output. They work to guarantee that none of the coaches' or players’ efforts are focused on the wrong things in the lead-up to a game.
Too much information can sometimes be difficult for players to take on board and interpret. This can lead to confusion or mistakes by individuals, which leads to failings in the overall approach or shape of the team. Also, some players can struggle with their team changing their approach on a weekly basis. Some coaches will thus prefer to concentrate on their own team’s strengths rather than trying to play to any opposition weaknesses.
Clear communication between the opposition analyst and the head coach is fundamental. Two-way and regular communication helps both parties have as much information as possible, and will help the team function to the best of its abilities.
The analyst may get limited time with the head coach, so they need to give the coach everything they need in as clear a manner as possible. Equally, the coach will need to be clear as to what exactly they want from their opposition analyst.
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Author: The Coaches' Voice