Home → Elite → Football → Performance Analysis Football Performance Analysis Coaching From DVDs to Custom Algorithms: The Latest Trends in Football Analysis 10 Oct, 2021 6 Min Read By Simon Austin @ground_guru When Steve Rands worked for Scunthorpe United at the start of his career, he says “I was the only analyst in League One” and “we used to clip up DVDs and send them to the players.” Now analysis has “become a discipline in its own right at University”, while the elite clubs have “proper data scientists, data analysts, cameras on the training ground, telestration and custom algorithms”. Rands is a pioneer of the football analysis industry. After working for Scunthorpe United for three years, he joined Manchester City, eventually becoming their Head of Performance Analysis under Pep Guardiola. From there he moved on to Derby County, Swansea City and, last month, Nottingham Forest, heading up the analysis department at each club. Speaking exclusively to Hudl, Rands outlined a number of big trends he was seeing in the industry. Steve Rands during his time as Head of Performance Analysis at Swansea City. The first is the merging of coaching and analysis, which used to be very separate disciplines. When he joined Derby in June 2018, joining Frank Lampard at the club, Rands says he became a “hybrid coach-analyst” and that that’s been his role ever since. “Part of an analyst’s job is that you’re the most tech savvy there and are going to be teaching them (the coaches),” he explains. “It’s also about how they can take the pain out of your work as well. "The majority of coaches I’ve worked with recently all know how to use Hudl. They will clip up training themselves, which will alleviate pressure on the analyst team. "They can then go and pull players in and show them certain things without having to use the analyst’s time and that’s really powerful. “That merge between the two roles is starting to happen. It’s now more common to see an analyst sat on the bench, giving instruction directly to the player instead of having to go through a coach. There is that pattern now where each is crossing into the other’s domain and it’s working.” This means that analysts are no longer simply coding game after game, but are "actually having to think about more of the analysis side, like how can we affect behaviours of the coaches and players and how can we influence?" Because players are becoming more involved in the world of analysis now as well. Rather than analysis being something that is simply delivered to players, it’s something they engage with and even produce themselves. “If you look at the type of players that the Academies are producing now, they just want to get better and better,” Rands explains. “Millennials want more and more information and for the power to be in their own hands. “Tech and analysis really fit that and I think that’s why you’ve seen a big boom in that. Tech is going to be really important and we have to match media for the player’s attention.” “That merge between the two roles is starting to happen. It’s now more common to see an analyst sat on the bench, giving instruction directly to the player instead of having to go through a coach". Players are used to consuming high-level analysis on programmes like Monday Night Football and Rands says football can learn from some of the techniques and technologies that broadcasters use. “Telestration is of such a high level in broadcast that the players want that at their clubs as well,” he says. "If they don’t get that they could switch off. It’s really important that we match whatever is going on out there, because there’s so much at stake to try and grab the attention of the players.” Earlier this year Hudl launched Studio, which offers advanced telestration and graphics within their existing suite of products. One of the biggest booms in football over the last few years has been in the use of data and this will only continue, Rands insists. As well as traditional event data - number of passes, tackles, shots and so on - clubs now have access to tracking data, giving the positional co-ordinates of the players and ball throughout the course of a match, or even training. Allying tracking and event data enables clever data scientists to derive valuable insights about their team’s physical, technical and tactical performance. “X, y data has opened up a whole new realm,” admits Rands. “For me, technical ‘on the ball’ data was just 2% of the match. Now the other 98% has been opened up. "It’s changed from just coding set plays or passes, to looking at line-breaking passes and how can we find the number 10. “During a match we can now get alert systems directed to us to say, ‘This pass was on but we never played it, why?’ Directly, we can influence the game as it’s ongoing.” Steve Rands as part of Pep Guardiola's title-winning Man City side. With such a wealth of data available, the key is to make sure it is contextual, fitting your own game model and objectives, and genuinely impactful, says Rands. “Using the philosophy the manager has set out, we can use data to understand if we’ve outperformed in a certain area or underperformed live during a game. That can impact decision-making, so it’s really powerful. “I’ve had a coach who wanted to understand why we hadn’t won certain games when we’d been hitting all of our metrics, so we found another metric, which was ball tempo. “We’d hit the positive possessions but were moving the ball too slowly. Them being inquisitive forced us to go down the path and find a new metric that can really affect winning or losing. “That then gets transferred into training, so we understand how long a striker has from when he receives the ball to when he’s shooting. We understand, ‘ok, there’s an x amount of time that will be more or less successful.’ “We understand from a goal kick, when a keeper gets the ball back in play and we’re playing short possession football, how quick he has to get it back into play to be successful, from data. It’s really important.” Similarly, data can now be allied with video to analyse the opposition in ways that were never previously possible. “Say, for example, we want to understand how a certain formation plays and we want to copy that formation, we can go get the best clubs that are playing that way, overlay our data on it, put it into Hudl, digest it, and it’s already clipped up for us,” Rands explains. A big part of Rands’ role is to keep abreast of the latest trends in technology and processes. “There’s definitely a time I go through each year when I throw myself into new products, generally during the February/ March international break when we’re looking at the budgets for the next season,” he reveals. “Using the philosophy the manager has set out, we can use data to understand if we’ve outperformed in a certain area or underperformed live during a game. That can impact decision-making, so it’s really powerful". “The main thing is don’t be afraid to try new things. I have a craving for knowledge and want to keep pushing the boundaries.” Whatever they’re doing, the big question an analyst must always ask themselves is whether their work is “affecting the why,” however. “The main thing is always to have the why in view,” Rands adds. “Too many analysts can get bogged down in the day to day monotony of churning out information. “Not many analysts know the why of their role. How are they impacting the team and the coaches?” For more information on how to take your analysis workflows to the next level, check out our High Performance Workflows ebook. We also have hours of expert presentations from leading figures in the performance analysis industry to view in the Hudl Elite Webinar Series.