• "We will see fewer and fewer players with that self-confidence" - Lionel Scaloni on Robotic Footballers, Analysis, and Youth Development

    Lionel Scaloni, Argentina's World Cup winning coach, bemoaned the state of analysis within the game and the negative impact on players, including our youth.

    His criticism is fair, but not because analysis lacks value. Rather, the issue is with the application of analysis. Copy and paste, which is the norm in this global state of the game, misses the point. 

    So what is the point? Find out here.

  • How to effectively scout your opposition - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Detail is king.

    During his time as José Mourinho’s Chief Opposition Scout, André Villas-Boas said the following about his head coach and scouting expectations: “Jose is obsessed with detail – He will leave nothing to chance, even if his team are playing the worst side in the league.  My work enables Jose to know exactly when a player from the opposition is likely to be at his best or his weakest.”

    This article offers an extensive approach to constructing opposition scout reports. Data-driven research, tactical analysis, important questions and suggestions for studying the opposition offer a guide for a comprehensive report. With the research on hand, attention turns to red teaming and presentations.

  • Interactions of attackers that lead to goals - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    In this tactical analysis, the topic concerns the interactions of attackers that lead to goals. Since scoring is the most difficult aspect of the game, analyzing and developing a clear understanding of the most effective attacking principles allows teams to improve their shot creation with the personnel available on the wage bill. The full analysis examines five tactical interactions that top clubs use to create more effective attacking moves. This post focuses on the last two, using the half space and vacating key areas.

  • Creighton University: An inside look at NCAA Men’s Soccer’s most data-driven team - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    “The math should matter.”

    A brief quote taken from The Athletic’s interview of Los Angeles Chargers coach, Brandon Staley, struck Ian Sarachan and Aidan Reynolds.

    Assistant coaches for Creighton University in the American NCAA, the long-time friends latched onto the line and created a theme.

    The math should matter, especially for this Creighton team. In an NCAA soccer scene that has been a slow adapter to data analytics, the Creighton coaching staff found their secret weapon. Head coach Johnny Torres wanted something different, something that connected to his love of attacking football and high pressing.

    Investing in data analytics was the answer, both for the coaches and the players. “We really wanted to grow the minds of our players. To do that, we motivated them in so many different ways, and a lot of it was through the use of data,” said Reynolds.

  • How short centre-backs have a big influence - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Football has a rich history of undersized centerbacks. One of the poster boys is the Englishman, Bobby Moore, who stood at 182 cm tall. The legendary, two-time Ballon d’Or winning German, Franz Beckenbauer, was 180 cm tall, and fellow Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro also stood at just 175 cm tall.

    Defending against flighted balls and tussling with target men are not new concepts. They’ve been around the game for generations, if not from the start. While the game has evolved, football’s rich history not only points to several great, undersized centerbacks, but also shows us the best centerbacks in the history of the game are considered short.

    This tactical analysis goes out to the centerbacks who stand at 186 cm or shorter. We’ll show how top undersized centerbacks in the modern game use their size intelligently, consistently gaining an edge on the opponent.

  • Training runs behind the backline in a two-forward system - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    In a three forward system, teams like Real Madrid like to isolate the wide forwards, enabling them to either run onto a pass sent behind the lines, typically in the half-space, or running at a defender 1v1. With the current Barcelona squad, the front three are very narrow, offering vertical runs and outlets for deep completions and combination play. In either situation, the three forwards are tasked with occupying the entirety of the opposition’s backline.

    In a two forward system, the occupation of the opposition’s backline is more targeted. In the majority of these tactical systems, the two forwards look to occupy just the centre-backs. They might position themselves between a centre and outside-back on occasion, but it’s nearly always the central player’s responsibility to pick up the central forward.

  • Training runs behind the backline in a three-forward system - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    In this training article, I’ll start with a tactical analysis of the benefits of running in behind the defense. From there, we’ll look at different exercises for training these runs and some of the coaching points you’ll have to address. This is the first of two pieces on the topic. At present, we’ll break down runs in behind the defence within a single or three forward system. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to three forwards systems in this article, though most single forward tactics will incorporate high, wide wingers who fill the function of wide forwards, leading to a degree of equivalence.
  • A comprehensive guide to direct possession - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Often when you hear someone speak about direct vs possession football, you’ll find “direct” used in a pejorative manner.

    Whereas possession is associated with structure, control, intricate movements, and purposeful attacking, direct is often derided as a less aesthetically pleasing form of football. It’s simple, less intricate, and more easily replicated. There’s also the reduction of direct play to a hit-and-hope Route 1 philosophy. Any old squad can have success with the direct approach whereas possession is the burden of talent.

    That’s where we’ll make our first distinction. Rather than distinguishing direct from possession, we’re reframing the concept to think of it as direct possession vs indirect possession.

  • Timeless lessons in defending from Paolo Maldini - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Few players can boast the longevity to have matched up against both Maradona and Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, only one player comes to mind.

    His name is Paolo Maldini.

    Though he played in a different era, Il Capitano’s brilliance on the pitch leaves us with timeless lessons in defending

    This tactical analysis is part retro scouting report, part tactical theory. We’re going to dive into the core principles that made Maldini the defender he was, highlighting those characteristics for a contemporary audience. By the end, the goal is to have concrete ideas to take with us to the training ground, either as a coach or a player.

  • Ideologues vs Tacticians: The battle for domestic and continental titles

    Are certain tactical styles more conducive to hoisting trophies?

    Put it in this perspective, Arsène Wenger won four league titles and 17 domestic cups, but he never won the Champions League. The Invincibles conquered England but bowed out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals.

    Do you remember which club won the Champions League in that 2003/04 campaign? None other than a Porto side coached by a young José Mourinho. In the Arsenal ideologue’s most famed season, it was one of the game’s preeminent tacticians who claimed the highest honor.

    Is there something the 2003/04 season is trying to tell us?

  • Exploring innovative throw-in routines and principles from Europe’s best - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Thomas Grønnemark entered the spotlight as Liverpool announced they had hired a throw-in coach.

    A largely overlooked phase of the game, Grønnemark revolutionized re-entries from throw-ins. His tactics are centred on the three pillars of long, fast and clever.

    Throw-ins are still underutilized in the game, but there are several teams that stand out, especially in the EPL. You may have guessed, but most of the featured clubs have either worked with Grønnemark in the past or are currently working with him.

  • Identifying the best moments to engage opponents - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    The game’s best pressing teams have an orchestral quality to them.

    Each movement is heavily synchronized and rhythmic. These sides often alternate between low-tempo structural movements and high-intensity chasing. These teams collectively identify the best moments to engage the opposition and showcase hypnotic teamwork to execute the defensive phase.

    This analysis identifies the tactics that makes these sides so special.