How to Analyse an Opponent in Football

By Sergio Almenara

17-March-2021 on Tips

9 minute read

Sergio Almenara is a highly experienced football coach who currently works as an assistant technician at Inter Turku in Finland.

 

In his first article for Nacsport, he talks us through the process of analysing and scouting out an opponent…

Introduction

 

With years of practice, and by dedicating yourself to video analysis, your methodology will continue to improve and even become automatic in the course of time. It is, however, important to keep in mind that working methods must be adaptable and that, at the end of day, any approach is valid, as long as the objectives of the analysis are ultimately met.

 

When it comes to scouting out opponents, we have structured this process into three distinct phases.

 

Phase 1: Obtaining Information

 

Players

 

The first step is to do a general search for information where every detail is saved in case it proves useful in the future. This phase usually isn’t strictly ordered as the information flows freely and fluidly as we move towards our goal.

 

It should be noted that this phase can be extended based on the time you have to prepare for the next opponent. Sometimes we have a lot of time, sometimes less and sometimes we don’t have to do much because we (the players and coaching staff) know the opponent so well.

 

We research through the internet, on social media, club websites, sports magazines, newspapers, forums and more, trying to find the best information about the club we are about to face. We also investigate individual players accounts and websites.

 

Occasionally, we consult other clubs that have already played against our upcoming opponents which is very useful. If you’re playing in a regular schedule, you can usually find a team that has just played against your opponent. If you have a good relationship with the coaching staff in the other team, this type of network is a fantastic source of info. 

 

It’s also possible to consult specialist scouting websites which offer real statistical data. Starting line-ups, changes to the team, suspensions, latest results, match trends, when they tend to score, dynamics in the team, etc., can all be found here.  

 

scouting out opposition sergio almenara 

 

Tactical systems

 

On these sites, we also collect data about formations and the variants they use. All this information is consolidated and expanded into watching games. Most viewing is done on video and as we have little time between matches and we don’t have a video analysis department nor analyst, it’s the coaches, assistants and sometimes the junior coaches who manage the process and information.

 

If we have the opportunity to watch live, we do. This year, if everything returns to normal, we will have more opportunities to watch live games because the second team in the city of Turku have just been promoted to our league, meaning that we’ll be able to attend their games against opponents.

 

Last year, I even travelled abroad to watch a match by one of our opponents in the Europa League and we hope to do this again as soon as the competition resumes. 

 

scouting out opposition in football infographic 1

 

Phase 2: First Filtering of Information

 

The second phase begins with what we call “the first filter”. Here we view between 3 and 5 matches of our opponent and try to get as much information as we can.

 

Subsequently, we don’t use everything. As I said before, it depends on the time we have. In my experience, when it comes to scouting opponents, the quality and depth of information you obtain is always directly related to the time you have, being able to collect more information stands you in good stead for the rest of the process and allows you to get a much clearer picture. 

 

There are other things that can affect the quality of information. For example, the level of attention and concentration, the environment and whether or not you lost the previous week all play their part. We’re human, after all and all these factors can take their toll. 

 

scouting rival button template

 

Quantitative Information

 

I would divide this phase into two parts. The first would be the quantitative aspects such as the number of times they get into the box, the topology of the team, the number of times they lose the ball and where they tend to lose it, individual players who lose the ball, and many other factors.

 

 

 

Qualitative Information

 

The other part of this phase would be the qualitative aspects where we analyse the game itself: what the opponent does in attack or defence, how they are structured and when they vary the structure, how they generate chances and where they are weak, etc.

 

We look at all this info for both the team and the individual, looking for their strengths and finding how to neutralise them. All of this information is used to formulate our game plan and, hopefully, gives us a better chance of winning.

 

 qualitative and quantitative aspects of opposition analyses

 

Phase 3: Quality Filtering

 

The last phase for us is the second and third filtering of information. This is where we filter all the quality information which directly relates to what we believe will actually happen during the match. 

 

Before this point, we have a huge amount of data and it is essentially that we thin it out in order to get the most pertinent information. There is a process where we share everything between the coaching staff and try to identify what data is expendable. Players have to get the minimum amount of quality data possible. 

 

We always try to make the videos that we show players no longer than one and a half minutes, although there is a bit of leeway in this depending on how much we need to teach them. 

 

Relating this information to training sessions is absolutely essential. We dedicate part of the week preparing for the match based on what we’ve seen of the opponent in order to make modifications to the team and try out various scenarios on the training ground.  

 

We try to get players involved in the final feedback sessions, especially when we get them into training. They don’t tend to get involved in the dissection of the video much but, when we get them into their natural habitat, they get more involved, which brings us closer to winning.  

 

scouting opposition phase 3 infographic 3

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, it should be noted that this process is constantly in flux, being expanded on, reduced or modified. You must be open to this kind of process.

 

There are many different methods of analysing opponents and this one serves its purpose for us at the moment. Maybe in the future, like everything in football, there’ll be different methods and ways of working that we think are better.

 

We, at Nacsport would like to say a big THANK YOU to Sergio for his hard work on this article. If you'd like to hear more of his wisdom, why not give him a follow on Twitter @serg_almenara.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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