How does match analysis work?

The days when the coaching staff of a Bundesliga club would amount to just two or three people are long gone. Football has become more and more scientific, and specialised experts now have a fixed place in the coaching team. At TSG Hoffenheim, a particularly strong emphasis is placed on match analysis (formerly known as video analysis). Here Timo Gross, 29, assistant coach and match analyst at TSG, gives an overview of his team’s weekly schedule for SPIELFELD magazine.


The morning after a match is a busy one for the video analysis team made up of Timo and his colleagues Niklas Mayer, 28, Yannic Hess, 27, and Philipp Lussi, 26. Timo and co. carry out an analysis of the video footage from the previous day’s action in advance of the start of training. Gross then meets with head coach Alfred Schreuder to discuss his findings. Once that’s done, Schreuder sits the players down in the large video room at the club’s training complex in Zuzenhausen to go over the match analysts’ selected clips, focusing on tactical elements, individual actions and particularly well-executed sequences of play.  ''The video clips allow us to relive crucial moments from the game and make improvements. By doing this, we can pass the relevant post-match message onto the players,’’ says Gross. But there are a lot of considerations to make: ‘’What do I want to focus on? What message does the coach want to send the players going into the next week of training? Can we tie in this week’s post-match analysis with preparation for next week’s opponents?''


As the match analysis team are busy working all weekend, Mondays are generally a day of relaxation and recovery. ''I like watching football on my days off and, to be honest, I often take a look at our next opponents on Monday, albeit not intensely as on other days,'' says Gross. 


Once back in the office, the focus turns towards the next match in four days’ time; Gross and his team get to work analysing the team’s next opponents. Alfred Schreuder leans on their insights as he puts together a game plan. Gross watches the opposition’s last few matches - in the Bundesliga, against TSG or against teams with a similar style of play. ''Alfred Schreuder and I discuss our opponents and share our impressions so that we can get a clear idea of what it is we want to do. The things we’ll look at might include any set play routines they employ, which side they tend to attack down or their defensive weaknesses. The game plan and the week’s training content will then be based on what we’ve learned.''


It’s all systems go at the match analysis department. The team discuss the upcoming opponents with the rest of the coaching staff and continue to work on the game plan. The coaching staff watch the video footage in order to evaluate the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and look out for potential solutions. Timo Gross and his team are also busy getting stuck into the more in-depth side of things: player behavioural profiles are produced and assembled into video clips, meaning the TSG pros can benefit from an individual analysis of their opposite number. ''We have an unbelievable range of player data to choose from. Our work goes far beyond general attributes like 'good in the air' and 'fast'. We can also use the video clips to highlight solutions and give tips on the next game and how to deal with specific players,'' says Gross, going on to add: ''These are pieces of information filtered by us, which are most easily conveyed through video footage. This additional help is particularly useful for young and inexperienced players.'' Technology provided by the club’s software partner SAP gives TSG players videos and information which they can access at home so that they can continue their preparations after a day’s training at Zuzenhausen.


Not long to go before kick-off, the game plan is ready  - time for the analysts to hone in on the details. Team meetings revolve around the weekend’s opponents, while on the training pitch, the players work on implementing the game plan. Timo Gross and the coaching staff watch on from the sidelines. At times, they’ll interrupt the session and make the players repeat certain drills or set plays. Once the squad moves into an XI-vs-XI training game, Gross sets up his camera on a podium overlooking the halfway line and films events on the pitch. Looking down from his perfect vantage point, he evaluates how the players are implementing the coach’s tactical ideas. Gross can use a large video screen located by the pitch to show the footage in real time. 

''Whenever Alfred interrupts the session, I can show the desired clip on the big screen straight away. This means the players can see the footage as Alfred talks it over with them. This direct feedback is perfect for the players, as it allows them to see everything in the moment and not until after the session is finished.'' In the meantime, Gross and his team will begin preparing for the following week’s opponents. ''In order to have all the information we need in advance, our analysis of two teams always overlaps - we can’t start analysing a team at the beginning of the week in which we play them.''


The analysts focus on the practice match from the day before, with a particular emphasis placed on the analysis of individual players. How well is each player implementing the specific tactical instructions? Where there’s competition for a place in the starting line-up, which player is doing a better job? ''It’s crucial that players absorb information at this point, as this is what will allow them to act intuitively out on the pitch: if you take too long to think about things, then often the moment will pass.'' A new activity is then added to the agenda: set-pieces. As before, Timo and his team leave no stone unturned in their analysis of the opposition: which player takes each set-piece? What’s the routine at corners? How do the players move when attacking and defending? Once again, the analysts provide the players and coaching staff with video clips, data and personal observations.


Timo Gross and his colleague Niklas Mayer take their seats high above the pitch. At the PreZero Arena, these are located just below the roof, while at away grounds, the duo sit in the allocated video seats. ''We are responsible for providing live in-game analysis of all TSG matches.'' The duo take a close look at the implementation of tactical details discussed during the week and evaluate the opposition’s performance based on the following criteria: are they playing in the way we expected them to? What should TSG pay special attention to? How can we cause them problems? Gross is linked up with the coaching staff via headset: during the match, he talks to assistant coach Dick Schreuder and shares his impressions from on high. 

Throughout the first half, Gross and Mayer are also busy editing footage for Alfred Schreuder to show to his players at half-time. ''Live analysis is all about providing the coaching staff with the relevant information as quickly as possible so that they can then pass it onto the players. Things like: where can we find space? How can we deal with recurring dangerous situations? We can help find the answers to these questions.'' This is a big responsibility, so it’s no surprise that the video analysts form part of the coaching staff, and Timo Gross has the official job title of assistant coach. More than anything, Timo is grateful for the team he has around him: ''It’s only when all the component parts work together in unison that we can provide the coaches and the players with the support they need. I’m really happy with the work of my analysis team. We have a great blend of humour and hard work and it helps makes my everyday work in the Bundesliga both intense and interesting.''

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