Soccer

What Is Seen Cannot Be Hidden: Video Analysis Techniques at Montpellier FC

The French football club shows how the relationship between video and coaches can provide objective analysis to improve team performance.

This story originally appeared on http://www.mhscfoot.com/articles/2017-2018/equipe-pro/les-yeux-de-lombre, and has been translated. 

Love, art, food and football. In France, they all have one thing in common—passion. The French love to do things well, and they love to celebrate. But emotion can cloud judgment, leading to impaired decision making.

2011-12 Ligue 1 Champions Montpellier have adopted video analysis to disconnect from emotion and provide honest, clear and objective assessments. This has helped them to harness their prowess on a consistent basis.

“What is seen cannot be hidden,” Michel Mézy, footballing advisor to the President at Montpellier FC, said.

That is why ‘La Paillade’ employ two lead video analysts, Jonathan Llorente and Olivier Renard, both former footballers who identified the power of analysis early in their careers.

“(After football) I went as far as a sports degree and then I taught physical education” Llorente said. “At the same time, I always loved training and did all my coaching badges. Even as a player I was always trying to understand how the manager was working.”

As a former manager of the AS Lattes under 19 team, it was his housemate and mentor who helped Llorente move into video analysis. “I was living with Nicolas Jover (former video analyst at Montpellier) and in 2013 he offered me the chance to join the Montpellier club,” Llorente said.

Renard played football at Division d’Honneur (regional league) level with Agde, as a central defender before retiring at a relatively young age to focus on his studies.

“I played at senior level with Nicolas Jover and video analysis in football was always a passion of mine,” Renard said. “He allowed me to come and do a placement here and I ended up staying.”

Video analysis in France had previously been reserved for scouting the opposition. “But work on (your own) team, giving information to staff, your players, and correcting certain things is just as enthralling,” Renard said. “What I love the most in this profession is trying to spot trends, making the invisible visible, making images talk through compilations, montages or statistics.”

The week has a clear structure:

  • Match day consists of breaking down video live by move and situation, and preparing a mini statistical report for the manager to use at halftime and full-time.

  • On Monday, they provide video compiled by the manager to the players.

  • On subsequent days, they prepare for the coming match(es), with Llorente focusing on the opponent, while Renard focuses on Montpellier and the goalkeepers.

For both, the bonds with the technical staff are crucial. “This is where interpersonal relations are so important,” Renard said. “Our main aim is to assist the manager and staff. The better we know the manager, his style of play and (the way he) sees the game, the easier it is for us to anticipate and be more reactive.”

“Communication is also a big part of our job,” Llorente said. “On average I watch the last six of our opponents’ games and we need to pass on information to all staff members.

“This requires us to adapt to the people we work with, whether this be the assistant manager, manager, medical staff, physio, or fitness trainer. We don’t sit alone behind a screen, and this is what makes our job so rich.”

Each manager has his own way of using video analysis.

“Where one would like to watch the matches with us and choose the aspects he wants to highlight, another would arrive in the morning and give us a list of videos he wants to see and the aspects he wants to work on,” Llorente explained. “Michel Der Zakarian (current Montpellier head coach) is completely different. Immediately he got us to work on the team as a whole. He explained the principles he wanted to implement and it is up to us to search for corresponding clips to then choose.

“Being present at team talks lets me hear the team instructions, and therefore allows me to choose the video sequences live.”

Renard knows part of the challenge for any analyst is to sift through huge amounts of data to provide the most meaningful insights.

“For me, the key is simplicity,” he said. “We need to make our work visual and almost fun, so the statistics speak for themselves. We need to publish the best stats and ensure they help in performance. In just one glance, the staff should be able to say ‘that is interesting, let’s work on that’.”

Video analysis has undoubtedly become more important in modern day football. Montpellier was one of the first clubs to invest in video with Sportscode back in 2013.

“This is an aspect which has become increasingly important; this is why there are now video modules in training programmes for managers,” Renard said. “In my view it is a very useful manner of communicating as it is always more useful for players to be able to see a situation so as to be able to reproduce it on the pitch.”