With over 200 appearances in the Premier League and 13 caps for England, Micah Richards enjoyed a long and successful career as a player. Now a leading television pundit, the former fullback has experience at the top of the game both on and off the pitch.

In this exclusive interview, Richards describes to us the different coaching styles of Mancini and Guardiola, the growing influence on video analysis in the professional game, and also how technology allows modern pundits to provide the most in-depth analysis.

Micah Richards says he’s always been a keen student of the game, even from his earliest days as a teenage sensation at Manchester City.

“When we used to have meetings, I was always the one who would question things,” remembers the 32-year-old, who is now one of Sky TV’s top football pundits.

At the start of his career, data and video analysis was still in its infancy. The former England international made his City debut in October 2005, when he was only 17, and recalls: “When Stuart Pearce was managing me for my debut, he just used to say, ‘You’re faster, you’re stronger than them. Show him (your direct opponent) down the line and do what you have to do.

“He didn’t want to give too much information, but as the game evolved, as I got older and more comfortable with analysis, that’s when I got fed more information.”

Micah Richards describes how video analysis evolved during the span of his career.

Richards’ most successful period at City was under the Italian Roberto Mancini from 2009 to 2013, during which time they won the FA Cup and Premier League. Tactics and analysis were key to the club’s success.

“Roberto Mancini was an absolutely amazing manager and person as well,” says Richards. “He was like marmite to some people, you either loved him or hated him, because he had a vision and until we could implement it in the way he wanted he wouldn’t rest. 

“When he first came, around the winter time, we were doing double sessions, which had never been seen. You do double sessions as a young player, that’s normal, you train morning and afternoon, but once you get to the first team you don’t, because it’s all about looking after your body and getting as much as you can out of those two hours of training. 

Micah speaks on the contrasts between Mancini and Pep's coaching style and tactics.

“He had us in at 5, 6pm, we had floodlights on the astroturf, and we were just doing shape. If you weren’t in the right position, then you’d start all over again. He implemented his style.

“A lot of people don’t understand how good a manager he was. If you think about all the big names we had in the dressing room, to play a certain way in such a short space of time was remarkable.

“I’ve never seen such a change in such a short space of time. It’s about a commanding manager and his way or no way but it improved us immensely. A lot of people can’t fathom that.

“We did a lot of defensive work and structure. We missed out on the Champions League (2011), got into the Champions League (2012), won the FA Cup (in 2011), then won the Premier League (2013). Every year there was just an improvement. It wasn’t just down to good players, it was down to his management style.”

Richards sitting on the BBC Sport punditry panel with Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

City’s first team performance analyst at this time was a Portuguese named Pedro Marques, who is now the Technical Director of Benfica. Together, they would look at video analysis of Richards’ own performances and of his opponents too. 

“As analysis evolved we started getting clips of individuals,” says Richards. “Say I was playing against Gareth Bale, I might talk with Pedro and he would give me analysis on what he does.”

Current manager Pep Guardiola is renowned for asking a lot of his full-backs in both defence and attack, but Mancini was the same as well. 

“He used to want his full backs really high,” remembers Richards. “Me and Pablo Zabaleta, or Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy; as soon as the midfielders got the ball he wanted us higher than the wingers and for the midfielders to come in, whether it be Samir Nasri, James Milner, David Silva, Adam Johnson, they’d come right in and we’d provide the width from full back.

“As analysis evolved we started getting clips of individuals. Say I was playing against Gareth Bale, I might talk with Pedro and he would give me analysis on what he does.” - Micah Richards

“The current Manchester City play the best football they’ve played since I’ve been alive, but my starting position under Mancini was higher than anyone else on the pitch at times.

“We were an attacking team until we went ahead. We’d start with four at the back and if we went one or two up he’d bring on another defender to block the game out.”

Since retiring from playing in July 2019, Richards has gone on to become one of TV’s top football pundits, working for the likes of BBC Match of the Day and Sky Sports.He says Wyscout has been crucial for him in his new profession - and that he wishes it had been available when he was playing. 

“It’s by far the best tool I’ve used since I’ve known football, that’s how far I would go,” he says. “That’s not a sales pitch or anything, that’s real life. 

“People will ask, ‘How come you know so much about that player?’ or ‘Micah’s not watched that player, he’s just guessing,’ and I’m, ’No, no, no, I’ve got this app which is ridiculous.’

With over 550,000 players across 900 professional competitions, Wyscout is the world-leading tool for scouting and analyzing players.

“I would say to every player to use it, because it’s a real life Football Manager, isn’t it? I used to love that game growing up and this is into more depth and it’s real life.

 “I love Football Manager, so when I got the app it was perfect, the best present I’ve had for a while, because it’s something I love to do.”

Micah explains how he would prepare to cover a Champions League game using Wyscout and video analysis.

The video and statistics platform has information on 550,000 players and teams and Richards says he finds it particularly useful when he’s researching overseas sides.

“I know pretty much every player in the Premier League,” he says. “I use it more for the Champions League, for leagues where I don’t know the players. We’ve got a Euros coming up, a World Cup, so it’s always good to be a step ahead. 

“People will ask, ‘How come you know so much about that player?’ or ‘Micah’s not watched that player, he’s just guessing,’ and I’m, ’No, no, no, I’ve got this app which is ridiculous." - Micah Richards

“I like the fact it can go into more depth, about the appearances, what foot they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what positions they can play. Then, when you go into analysis, you can speak with confidence, because you’ve not only got the facts there but you can also watch the clips as well.

“I use it for absolutely every piece of detail I can get. For example, I did a piece on Robin Gosens for Atalanta and before the game I was like, ‘He’s got x amount of assists and he will be the outlet for them.’ 

The Wyscout platform can be accessed at anytime on both laptop and mobile devices.

“Within two minutes, he should have scored! Everyone was talking about Ilicic and Duvan Zapata  but I was like, ‘No, this is the key man.’ I wouldn’t have known that without having the research of Wyscout. I would have known his goals and assists but not his true strengths and weaknesses.”

Richards says the development of video analysis has enhanced both football and TV coverage of it.

“It’s evolved so much, it really has,” he says. “It’s to the next level and I love it.”

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