How Many Games Should an Analyst Watch to Prepare a Match?

By Duncan Ritchie

02-April-2021 on Tips

12 minute read

Well, this is one of the big questions, isn’t it? Defining the exact number of matches that an analyst must work with when preparing a match is one of the great unknowns in our industry.

 

In fact, we dare to say that there is no definitive answer to this question.

 

It’s no major spoiler to tell you that, out of everyone we spoke to for this article, there is no major consensus on the correct number of matches to watch. In short, defining how many videos to watch is entirely your decision.

 

That being said, the purpose of this article is not to answer this question with an exact number but rather to show you the variables which can affect the time and need for analysis and to give you the opinions of a selection of professional analysts. 

 

Hopefully, this will help you come to your own conclusion on how many games you should analyse.

 

So, let’s begin with some of those variables...

Game Schedule

 

game schedule golden state warriors

 

It may seem obvious, but not all sports compete with the same regularity. We often make the error of thinking of sport as a weekly event, the classic weekend match, but this isn’t always the case. There are teams that can compete up to three times a week, especially in sports such as basketball where there are various league, cup and intercontinental commitments.

 

This disparity in schedules means that the time for performing an analysis can differ vastly from team to team and week to week. And this is one of the reasons that we cannot put an exact number on the number of videos you should watch as five matches can refer to a period of one week or a month and a half depending on the team!

 

Competition and Conditions (Home or Away)

 

analysis at away game

 

This second variable can be inferred from the previous consideration. There are teams that behave differently depending on the competition. Take lineups and formations, for example. A coach may radically change both of these depending on the competition. A league cup fixture is not the same as a Champions League semi-final and the manager may decide to experiment more with the former than the latter.

 

Similarly, teams don’t always play the same at home as they do away. There are many coaches who vary their systems depending on these conditions and, therefore, this can affect the type of analysis you do and the amount of time you spend on it.

 

Pro Tip: We know that there are top-level teams that, instead of analysing the last 3 or 4 matches of their opponent, they instead focus on the last 3 or 4 that were played under the same conditions as the upcoming game. For example, if they are going to play in a cup competition, the analyst will study the last few cup games that the opposition played and forget about more recent league games.

 

Time Available for Analysis

 

available time for analysis

 

At Nacsport, we have clients from all different sports and categories. And, if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that there are almost as many methods of analysis as there are users. Everyone is different and everyone has their own workflows, so offering a one-size-fits-all solution is absolutely pointless.

 

For example, an amateur coach who also does his team’s analysis work will not have the same amount of time to dedicate as a full-time professional analyst at a big club. As well as their coaching work, they are probably also juggling a job and family.

 

It would be ridiculous for us to suggest that an amateur coach should definitely look at the last 12 matches played by their opponent, just as it would be ridiculous for us to suggest that the pro analyst stick to just the last match the opponent played.

 

Again, the number of matches you can analyse will be dictated by you and your own personal situation.

 

Short Tournaments with Maximum Demand 

 

Another variable we have to consider is the length of the tournament we are involved in. During an international knockout tournament, such as the Football, Basketball or Hockey World Cups, the time for analysis will be extremely short and the analyst may not get much sleep! 

 

Type of Analysis

 

In addition to taking all the above into consideration, you must also put some thought into the type of analysis which is best for your situation. 

 

There are various types of analysis with varying outcomes:

 

•    Analysis of your own team. More focused on improving your team’s performance. 


•    Opposition analysis. Tactically prepare the game based on the opponent.


•    Individual analysis. Focused on specific aspects of specific players.


•    Set-piece analysis. Looking at specific technical aspects of the game.

 

It’s possible that you don’t just concentrate on one of these areas but on a kind of hybrid analysis which takes in several of the above points.

 

The fact is, the more aspects of a game you want to analyse, the more games you’ll have to observe. This number will increase exponentially. In fact, we’ve seen some pro analysts who review and analyse up to 15 different games!

 

Pro Tip: If a top-level team analysed ALL of their opponents set pieces throughout the season, regardless of the type of competition, etc., just imagine the volume of data they would have to sift through in order to find the relevant information they need! No matter what the level, keep it as simple as possible.

 

Dynamic Changes

 

coaching staff changes

 

When deciding how many games to analyse, it’s also important to take any relevant changes that have occurred at the club you’re analysing, be that an opponent or your own team.

 

Changing in the coaching staff, recent results (both positive and negative), suspensions, injuries, etc., must all be taken into account.

 

You need to keep on top of this type of information and, instead of using video analysis as a stand alone, combine it with other types of data such as trends, statistics, streaks, etc.

 

Pro Tip: If a team has recently changed coaches, it might be worth knowing how the team has evolved under the new management in terms of tactical information such as formations, etc. This will need a more comprehensive analysis than normal as you may want to consider the psychological effect as well as the tactical. 

 

How Do the Professionals Do It? 

 

Let’s turn to the professionals and find out how many games they watch in order to complete a comprehensive analysis.

 

To give you a reference, we spoke to Greg Mathieson (Liverpool FC) and Victor Mañas (former analyst at Sevilla FC, PSG, Arsenal and Villarreal) to get their perspective.

 

Opposition Analysis at Liverpool FC

 

opposition analysis at Liverpool FC

 

In this article that we published last year, Greg Mathieson says, “In terms of how many matches I watch, the honest answer is as many as required!

 

“Sometimes it’s possible to find strong examples of what I want to present during the first 30 minutes of the first match I watch. Specific projects may require a broader analysis, covering 4 or 5 matches, for example.

 

Reenforcing the idea of dynamics and the importance of changes in coaching staff, Greg says, “For teams who have had the same manager for a longer spell, we might already have an idea of what to expect from our match. Our previous meeting might give the most relevant information.”

 

 

Víctor Mañas, the Exhaustive Analyst

 

victor mañas sevilla fc

 

Although his working method may differ from Greg’s, the philosophy of Victor Mañas is similar. His comprehensive nature gives a level of depth and volume to his analysis that is difficult to match. In fact, we’ve seen Unai Emery’s head analyst reviewing more than 10 matches before a big game.

 

We recommend reading this article by Victor Mañas which dives deep into his working methodology and philosophy and you can read more about how many videos he reviews for yourself.

 

There Is No Magic Number

 

Basically, from what we’ve been able to ascertain is that, in any sport, professional analysts must analyse several games in order to prepare for another. And the number of games depends entirely on the circumstances and schedules of both the analyst and the team. 

 

Although we have not yet published the final results, Nacsport is currently working on an academic study which tries to dissect the state of video analysis in Spanish football. One of the questions we asked in our survey of analysts (all analysts in Spain, not just Nacsport users) is precisely the title of this article: How Many Videos Should an Analyst Watch to Prepare a Match?

 

The majority have answered between two and five.

 

As you may have already guessed, and as we already stated in the opening paragraphs of this article, there is no definitive answer to this question. It’s up to you to decide. Take all the information available to you, think about your schedule and how much time you actually have for analysis. Think about the type of analysis you want to do and what you want to achieve. By taking all the points mentioned in this article into consideration, we’re sure you’ll come up with your own magic number.

 

Anyway, we’d love to hear your opinion. How many games do you usually work with? Let us know by leaving a comment on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you!

 

And as always, thanks for reading!

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