It is now critical than ever to use analytical data and process information that can be easily synthesised and consumed by players to enhance team performance. German PhD research students revealed how Germany humiliated England in the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup, 4-1.
Before we dig into that, Brazil. 99 % of Brazilian coaches are Professors themselves, having to attend several University classes over a period of time. Usually it is the less successful or little known players who go this route and finally become coaches. Dunga is an example of those who have it easy getting a short-cut to the top. Brazilians study football the way they do medicine.
Stephan Nopp was leader of a group of 55 students at the German Sports University in Cologne. It took about 1,000 hours analysing the England squad and they gave German coach Joachim Loew the collected data. “The way England played against Germany was like we expected,” Nopp said. “The German coaching staff knew what would happen when England got the ball – we got it right. We began analysing all 31 teams after they qualified for the World Cup so, for England, we started nearly one year before the game.
Zimbabwe are said to be looking for a coach with a minimum of 5 “o” Levels. The country has a few leaders with Brazilian qualifications and are probably hoping to land a person who can be given such data, scrutinize and utilise it. It still stands to be seen if they have the money to collect such data, as it is not easy nor cheap. The Brazilians themselves had one Jairo who had done data collection for coaches for over 20 years when the Samba Boys won the World Cup in 1994.
Nopp went on to say, “One of the things we look for is how a team starts their attacks. For England, the ball went very often through the centre of midfield to Lampard, Barry or Gerrard, who had moved in from the left. Gerrard had a lot of action in the centre although he should be the left midfielder.”
For individual coaches, data sheets, coaching boards, models, projectors, pie-charts and any visual aids aids, are a must to have. It is another thing to utilise these resources efficiently. Improvisation when these are not available will go a long way driving the point home.
The students said this was very significant for them as they could predict what would happen when England had the ball and how Wayne Rooney would attack a defender so they could find a way to stop him. The team of students found out that England’s previous opponents succeeded with the long ball against them, hence the Germans decided to change their short-passing tactics.
A point to understand is that, it is one thing to gather data, and yet another to use it efficiently. Some coaches become fortunate enough to have what they need, yet they are too dumb to tell a cow from the bull. There is a breed of coaches that deal with little budgets and can not have the luxury of such research. It is African coaches with either club or national duties who suffer from this. They are made to understand that these are the expenses the clubs or Associations cannot afford. When an expat coach comes, suddenly the resources resurface.
An observation of the German group went on thus, “In the group matches, less than 10 per cent of Germany’s passes were what we would call long or uncontrolled. Against Australia, it was just two per cent. However, we upped that ratio to 30 per cent against England.” It tells you German coach was smart enough to dissect these bits and integrated the talent and ability of his players to get that far in the World Cup.
It is said the team’s assistant manager Oliver Bierhoff publicly thanked the students after their victory over England in Bloemfontein. Further research after the World Cup by the group noted that teams that play a fluid system like a 1-4-2-3-1 (Germans, Spain and Holland) had most success.
They noted also how the top players changed their positions compared to some years ago when these players stayed rigid. Arjen Robben, David Villa and Thomas Muller tended to start from the wing. They are important for assists and for goals. They emphasised the significance of counter attacks. Conversion from defence to offence is getting more and more important. Variance and adaptability were the best.
The students study concluded the outdatedness of a fixed 1-4-4-2 system, like England who used it and had a disappointing tournaments. I must say here that when it comes to formations, a player you know as an attacker should not considered an attacker because he is known to attack. It is their role that counts.
How much do you believe in statistics and data?