Jamie Carragher: The Art of TV Analysis
Jamie Carragher: The Art of TV Analysis
Monday night on Sky Sports has become an appointment to view because of the forensic analysis of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
Carragher, who played 737 games for Liverpool during a 17-year pro career, has worked on Monday Night Football since retiring as a player in 2013.
We caught up with the former England international to get the lowdown on how he analyzes matches, how he uses technology as part of his role, and the key part that Wyscout plays in this process.
The Closest Thing to Still Playing
Carragher says his move into punditry was a natural one.
“I used to watch everything when I was a player — Monday Night Football when it was Andy Gray, Match of the Day when Alan Hansen was doing that — and I was always interested in the tactical side of the game and the smaller details,” he explains.
“Everyone knows Monday Night Football is more of a tactical show and a little bit different than anything else we have in this country. Rather than just saying, ‘he scored, he made a mistake,’ we go into things a little bit deeper.
“It’s the closest thing I can take to being a player. It gives me a real buzz and I get a little bit of nerves before the show, because I know there is that much detail and prep that goes into it.
“You want it to be seen as the best show out there in terms of football.”
How to Analyze a Game
A major element of Monday Night Football is looking back over the big talking points from the weekend’s matches and analysing them.
Carragher, 42, who is Liverpool’s record appearance-maker in Europe, watches the matches at home and then again when he arrives at the Sky Sports HQ in Isleworth on a Monday.
His preferred camera angle is the one that allows him to see all 22 players on the pitch at the same time.
“That’s a really big thing for me with analysis, because you can see what’s going on off the ball,” he explains. “I can see so much more from that.
“You’re trying to find something a little bit different and go that little bit deeper. As deep as I would say my coaches would go when we were going through a game on a Monday morning.
“That’s the best way of explaining it — it’s almost like a debrief, hopefully, for supporters and giving them an insight into what a Monday morning meeting would be like on the back of a game with a manager and the detail he would go into.
“I basically go through every player and ask, ‘what is their job?’ I don’t know for certain, only the manager and the player can know that, but with my experience of being in those situations I can look at them and ask if there was something they could have done differently.
“Everyone knows Monday Night Football is more of a tactical show and a little bit different than anything else we have in this country. Rather than just saying, ‘he scored, he made a mistake,’ we go into things a little bit deeper”
Monday Night Football also features a live Premier League game and Carragher is tasked with providing analysis at half-time and full-time.
There is a screen in the studio that shows all 22 players in a single shot “so we can spot things off the ball.”
“In the first half you spot little things, but you only have three minutes at half time, so if there’s a goal, that’s it, that’s done.”
Otherwise it’s a case of looking for “little details or trends in the game and building something together with the producer that you may use at the end of a game.”
When we spoke to Carragher, it was a day after he had worked on Southampton’s 1 – 0 victory over Liverpool at St Mary’s.
“Last night we looked at the goal Southampton scored and there was something interesting with Jordan Henderson and the role of Stuart Armstrong, who pushed him back, which kept (goalscorer) Danny Ings onside.”
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Why Wyscout Is Key
Wyscout plays a crucial role in Carragher’s punditry and preparation.
With footage and data from over 450 competitions and 550,000 players worldwide, Wyscout allows analysts to underpin subjective opinion with video and data evidence.
“I use Wyscout a lot for my work with Sky Sports,” the former centre-half says. “There are so many new players coming into the league every season. We talk about pundits doing their homework, but it’s very difficult to be up to speed with every player who comes in and know their background.
“I’ve never claimed to know as much as maybe supporters of an individual club, who know everything about their club, players that come in and who they’re looking to sign.
“Wyscout is great tool when a player comes in, to have a look at his characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. It’s been a huge help.
“It’s really good for me if I want to highlight or look at one player, I don’t have to go through a full game, I can just go look at someone’s best actions on Wyscout.
“My role is more to provide the analysis of an action in a game and put myself in the shoes of a player, because that’s my experience.”
Evolution of Analysis
Carragher made his professional debut as a player in the quarter-finals of the League Cup against Middlesbrough in January 1997.
In all he played for four different managers at Liverpool — Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers — and says the level of analysis changed significantly during his career.
“I think we’d moved to DVD by the time I’d come through, but it wasn’t as in-depth as it was towards the end of my career under Brendan Rodgers.
The world of video analysis and data science has moved on at pace since he retired in 2013.
“Players go in individually and get clips; everyone has laptops and iPads and phones, getting things sent to them for analysis; and every club, certainly in the Premier League, will have two or three people who will look at the analysis,” Carragher agrees.
“I use Wyscout a lot for my work with Sky Sports. There are so many new players coming into the league every season. We talk about pundits doing their homework, but it’s very difficult to be up to speed with every player who comes in and know their background”
“A lot of coaches — in fact almost everyone in the Premier League — record training sessions and there is analysis on that, so it’s a lot more in-depth than when I was playing, there’s no doubt.
“Hopefully the players now don’t pick too much up of it and think they can take over from me on Monday Night Football!
“I was fortunate that I had a good football brain, in terms of understanding the game, so when a manager or coach spoke to me I quickly got what they were talking about.
“There were other players who were a lot better than me at other things, maybe technical wise, or pace, height, but one of my strengths was reading and understanding the game and I think that helps me in the job I do now.”
“Wyscout is great tool when a player comes in, to have a look at his characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. It’s been a huge help.”
With all this technology and data, Carragher says there is a risk of the 24-hour surveillance of players, although he feels coaches and managers are aware of this.
“I think I’d find it hard having someone analysing my training session every single day. We all like a little day off, we all switch off now and again in training at different times.
“When managers use it for training, I don’t think they use it as in the 90-minute session, but there may be a tactical part, maybe for 20 minutes, working on the front two, the back four, the whole team, 11 v 11, and you’re looking at what you can take into the game.
“When it’s serious tactical stuff, I totally get why coaches are looking to bring that analysis on board before the game — rather than looking after the game at what went wrong, we’re better looking before the game and hopefully fixing it.”
Not only have players, coaches and managers become more adept at analysing performance — fans have too, Carragher says.
“What I would say is that fans are so much more educated on the game now,” he insists. “You see them with social media, podcasts, fan blogs and I don’t think you need to have played the game to have an understanding of the game.
“Supporters in the past, maybe 20, 30 years ago, were seen as maybe not having a clue about the game and that was wrong. You only have to look at fanzines to understand that.
“The fanzine culture of supporters up and down the land has now gone on to their own analysis in some ways and they’re all analysing their own games.
“I know that better than anyone, with Liverpool being such a big club with such a big fanbase. There are so many people wanting to give opinions and a lot of them at times you listen to and at times they might not listen to me, there’s no right or wrong.