When the young successful coach Julian Nagelsmann (34) made the switch from RB Leipzig to the German record champion Bayern Munich for a reported 25 million euros at the end of April, his regular video analyst Benjamin Glück was the first he took with him. Only then was the rest of his technical staff appointed. Why he? Because the two have been working together since 2013 and speak “the same language”, Glück said about this himself in an interview with the club.
Nagelsmann’s choice of a permanent video analyst as an extension typifies the changing role of these specialists in top football, says Alfred Schreuder. “I understand that choice. Because that video analyst has fully captured his vision and way of playing in images and Powerpoints and also knows exactly his training method.” Schreuder, who was appointed coach of Club Brugge at the beginning of this month and previously worked for FC Twente, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Ajax (assistant) and FC Barcelona (assistant), has gradually seen the role of the video analyst gain in importance. . “Their job title is still video analyst, but for me they are actually assistants in practice. They are just important.”
Schreuder, who has been working continuously with video analysts since 2010, immediately thinks of the performance with head coach Erik ten Hag in the 2018/2019 season, in which Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. “Erik did a lot with video images, even during the break. That’s pretty normal for players now. At the office, our video analyst sat directly behind Erik and me, so that you can always discuss what is happening at each training session and can achieve the goal.”
The rise of the video analyst in modern professional football is also the result of increased technological capabilities and data. “In the beginning, at Sparta in 2007, I filmed the matches myself and burned a DVD with a few clips on it”, Pier Tensen recalls. He put the DVD on assistant coach Fred Grim’s desk at the end of the day. Tensen, now head of video analysis at the PSV youth academy, was busy for a day with all the work surrounding it. “Now I have my laptop completely sufficient with all the Eredivisie matches. It can no longer be ignored.”
Pier Tensen (right) with Adil Ramzi, this season’s assistant coach at Jong PSV. Photo Prestige/Soccrates
The Dutch company Provispo installed extra stadium cameras at all eighteen Eredivisie clubs last season. Since 2018 there is ChyronHego’s tracking system, which records an average of 25 movements of players and ball every second. It provides over 3.5 million data points per match; countless variables across dribbles, passes, sprints, lines and lines. Data that flows into the analysis platform of data company SciSports from Enschede, which is a global leader in this. All video analysts can “pick up” on this platform.
“Think of it as a big funnel,” Tensen says. “I am at the top and collect a lot of images. This results in a compilation that I discuss with the trainers. Then the amount of images gets smaller and smaller, until a final product that we show to the players. You know everything about an opponent in advance through video images and statistics. Where their qualities lie, where you can hurt them.”
In addition, the Dutch video analysts exchange their self-made images among themselves and there is a joint app group. “We help each other,” says Alex Abresch, who started as a video analyst at Excelsior in 2012 and worked his way up to the Bundesliga. “Of course we work for competitive clubs and you can’t share everything, but we all know each other. We are like a family.”
The careers of most video analysts also have striking parallels. They started as youth trainers – often unpaid as trainees from a sports school – and were then asked by their club to do ‘something’ with video images in addition to training. After that, they grew as an analyst to the first team and got an increasing role in the technical staff. An individual becomes ultimately responsible. Michele Santoni, now trainer of FC Dordrecht and previously Almere City, worked in the past as a video analyst for Frank de Boer at Ajax and Internazionale.
Alex Abresch shows images on his laptop to PSV players during the winter break of 2021. Photo Prestige/Soccrates
The KNVB says it closely follows all developments in the field of video analysis, both in football and in other sports. The football association has been offering basic training as a video analyst since 2017. “It is good for the KNVB and for the clubs to know what quality is going around in our country in this area,” says head of video and data analysis Steijn Spreij, who also works as an analyst for the Dutch national team. “With the aim that the development of the video analysts will contribute to the development of football.” So far, 95 video analysts have been trained by the KNVB, which has made video analysis part of the trainer courses.
To “get along” with today’s professional footballer, the images a video analyst provides must be short and sweet, says Alfred Schreuder. Because when the rest signal sounds, the video analyst actually springs into action. In a short time a selection is made of images from which a trainer can choose. This requires craftsmanship and tactical knowledge. “He needs to know how you think,” says Schreuder.
According to Yori Bosraagt, newly appointed as a video analyst at the Scottish Rangers FC, the current generation of players watches fewer matches on TV. “They have to rely on the images of opponents that we provide. In this way, viewing images has also become training.” At the top clubs, every tactical training is also filmed. Bosschaert: “We do this with a drone for a better overview from the air. This makes it very clear to players what is expected of them in matches. Fixed patterns; how to be offensive, or put high pressure against three or four defenders.”
Bosschaert is part of the permanent team of trainer Giovanni van Bronckhorst. He took him from Feyenoord to Guangzhou FC in China, and after an interim adventure with Bert van Marwijk with the national team of the United Arab Emirates, also to Scotland. Following the example of players and trainers, the video analyst also makes transfers. In the summer of 2018, for example, Abresch was bought from FC Utrecht by PSV. “A great example of the fact that, in addition to football players, staff members can also develop at FC Utrecht,” said director of football affairs Jordy Zuidam at the time. Abresch owed that step to trainer Mark van Bommel, with whom he worked for the Australian national team. Van Bommel then took him to VfL Wolfsburg.
“A matter of trust,” says Abresch. “A trainer ends up somewhere and wants to transfer his philosophy as quickly as possible. He only has to look at his analyst and know it. That also saves time and energy.” An additional disadvantage: due to the dismissal of Van Bommel after thirteen duels at the German club, video analyst Abresch also lost his job.
Now that the field is developing rapidly, more people are needed. Most Dutch clubs work with one video analyst for the first team, the top clubs already have at least two. In the Premier League there are even three or four per team. This is how specialisms arise within video analysis: the analysis of opponents, the honing and deepening of a playing style or the individual development of players. Pier Tensen: „The highest youth teams also have their own analyst. But there really are still a lot of video analysts needed in the Eredivisie. There is still so much work.”
Pier Tensen (36)
Worked for Sparta, FC Utrecht and the KNVB, now employed by PSV.
“Last season we completely rehearsed a corner for the European game against Olympiakos. With images of their previous match against Manchester City, we showed players in training how they defend a corner with five men in a row, and where the space is created for us as an attacking party. We put a block in the game as prepared with three strikers and let Eran Zahavi come out freely, who headed in the 1-0 for us.
“In my years at PSV I have seen youth players such as Cody Gakpo, Noni Madueke and Jordan Teze move up to the first team. In their youth they have often been involved with individual and competition images and that has made a positive contribution to their breakthrough. That generation of boys is actually no different.”
Davey the Younger (29)
Worked at PEC Zwolle and Ajax, now employed by FC Twente.
“During a match I am in contact with the assistant coach. I code the game from the stands: the important match moments, but above all: where are the opportunities and the dangers? About ten minutes before halftime, I discuss with the bank which images we want to show. Then it’s selection and feedback.
„Take Michel Vlap’s goal against PSV. We saw beforehand that if they put a lot of pressure with their backs, there could be space between their two central defenders Ramalho and Obispo. When we let our striker pull out with a long ball, Vlap could make a running action in the depth as an attacking midfielder. Then it falls exactly as you trained in advance that 1-0. We lost this match ingloriously, I must say, but that goal is a lucky moment as a video analyst.”
Alex Abresch (34)
Worked at Excelsior, NEC, KNVB, FC Utrecht, Australia, PSV and VfL Wolfsburg, now without a club.
“As a video analyst you shouldn’t put on too big pants. I am a support staff member and do not see myself as an assistant. Trainers are gradually interested in what you see, because you are at all training sessions and competitions. So I advise and tell what I see.
“With the Australian national team, I can remember the 2018 World Cup match against France. We saw in advance that their fast attackers Mbappé, Griezmann and Dembélé always waited until defenders of the opponents made a decision by, for example, stepping in. That was the moment for them to accelerate. We advised: wait as long as possible with your decision. So we decided to defend ‘ceasingly’ with four men. Although the French had a lot of the ball, their attackers barely got through. As a neutral spectator, you don’t notice those moments, but we are cheering.”