Over the course of this weekend, as management staff put their players through final preparations ahead of another critical first-team game, support staff working in a club’s scouting and analysis departments will be working around the country assessing upcoming opponents for the following week and beyond.
Building a detailed understanding of your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses is, and always has been, a crucial aspect of preparation in any elite professional sport, but given recent advances in technology and the new resources which are now available, how does the modern football club now go about assessing each team they are due to play?
To try to give you an insight into how some of the leading clubs in England now go about scouting the opposition, we have assembled a panel of experts for a new episode of the Scout7 Podcast, who each have first-hand experience in the process from a management, scouting and analysis perspective.
Our first expert, Terry Burton, has more than 40 years of experience in management and coaching at youth, reserve and first-team level. He is joined by the current Head of Performance Analysis at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Phil Boardman, and the former Assistant Chief Scout of Liverpool, Mike McGlynn, who is now working for Bolton Wanderers scouting their future opponents.
Left to right: Mike McGlynn, Terry Burton, Phil Boardman
One thing which comes across is the importance of each department working closely together with one another, so that they can provide the first-team management with the full picture.
Whilst innovations such as the wide-angle filming of matches, which allows an analyst to see all 20 outfield players in shot on video, now plays a key part in helping the backroom staff find out about a team’s shape, their different patterns of play and understanding how their various set-piece routines work, the role of the scout watching the game in the stand remains crucial.
Whilst the scout’s role has undoubtedly evolved, in part because a club no longer needs to rely solely on their detailed report to evaluate teams, their interpretation of the game and their insights based on what they have seen with the naked eye help the staff at the training ground build a more rounded understanding of the match, which compliment what they review via video applications.
The scout also has an important role in helping analysts interpret match event data, to ensure that events are not misinterpreted based on the data alone. What comes across clearly is that this joined-up approach is the best way of ensuring no stone is left unturned in the build-up to a game.
Through a sharing platform, English clubs in L1 and L2 can now access wide-angle video via Scout7.
Other interesting insights which are discussed in the podcast include the specifics of set-pieces, from both an attacking and defending perspective. We look at how video can help identify set-piece trends for a team over the course of a season and how the number of variations can change depending on the level of football you are operating at.
There is also the subject of how technology is changing the way key messages are now communicated from the staff to the players, with tablets now playing a key role in getting tailored messages out to players individually, which means that everything no longer has to be communicated in an office or as part of a structured team meeting.
Whilst technology has revolutionised many aspects of the football industry, the fundamentals of football as a game remain the same and as all of our experts were quick to stress, all they can do is provide insights to aid the preparation. Once it comes to the match itself, it is up to the players themselves to deliver the goods on the pitch.
However one thing is clear, given all the video and data which is now available, it is very difficult not to know the strengths and weaknesses of your opposition inside-out, particularly if that resource is being used in the correct context by experienced scouts and other industry professionals who understand the needs of their manager and his staff in the days leading up to the game.
I hope you enjoy listening to the podcast.
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