Marcelo Bielsa and the Importance of Video Analysis

By Matías Navarro García

01-May-2020 on Users

8 minute read

Matías Navarro García is an Argentine coach, analyst and author of several books on football and video analysis. One of his greatest influences is fellow countryman, the charismatic Marcelo Bielsa, whose philosophy he attempts to explain in this article.

 

Note: This article has been translated into English from an original Spanish article submitted by Mr. Navarro.

It’s difficult to find someone in the world of football who is more studious and meticulous than Marcelo Bielsa. The man from Rosario, currently coaching at Leeds United, seeks to eliminate uncertainty in the game with a method of analysis which borders on the scientific.

 

"You know my team better than I do," said Pep Guardiola after Barcelona’s 3-0 victory over Bilbao in the 2012 Copa del Rey final, the Catalan showing admiration for the Argentinian’s video analysis work.

 

His analytical process, which has been developed and updated throughout his 30-year career, is based on three main principles: analysis of his own team, analysis of an opponent and a detailed understanding of football.

 

Analysis of Own Team

 

Improvement Based on Video Evidence

 

In the ongoing search to address the shortcomings of both individual players and the team at large, Bielsa uses video, not only to express opinions about players and their decision making, but also to teach movement based on references from elite players around the world and, also, from players in direct competition for a position.

 

 

But video analysis is not only aimed at individual players, it is key in the evaluation of entire clubs. Bielsa believes that when accepting a new job, he must start at the beginning of season, so as not to inherit any negativity and, before starting, he must perform a meticulous evaluation of what he has to work with including:

 

A Watch Through of Every Match

 

The analysis process begins with two complete watch-throughs of every competitive and friendly match his new club played during the previous season, which takes four hours per match. From there he:

 

  • Extracts clips and statistics to be shared with players so they can recognise the good and the bad in decision making and execution.

 

  • Analyses set pieces with video images and animations showing how they develop, both in offense and defence.

 

  • Uses in-game situations to design training exercises whilst using video to evidence to the players why they are practicing these areas of the game.

 

  • Makes a study of tactical systems played in each match and the changes (in name, position and function) in order to recognise the multifaceted role of players.

 

This work is replicated for footballers on loan to other clubs and, also, with those who played for their national teams.

 

Although there are companies that record statistics, he prefers his technical team to collect this data, guided by his parameters and definitions of the game, for which video analysis tools help remarkably.

 

Click here to read more about Nacsport's professional level video analysis tools

 

Analysis of Opponents

 

"I can’t speak English, but I can speak about the 24 teams in the Championship."

 

 

During his first season at Leeds, Bielsa made headlines for sending a spy to a Derby County training session, an act which was denounced by the club and condemned by the press and public.

 

Because of this, the coach explained that it was not necessary to sneak into training sessions in order to understand an opponent. He opened the doors and gave details about his analysis methodology.

 

To get a detailed view of an opponent he, once again, watches each of their games from both the previous season and the current season up to their meeting with Leeds twice, after which he creates:

 

  • Tactical sheets for each team: starting line-up, in-game positional evolution and a calculation of which tactical systems they and their opponents prioritise in percentages and minutes, in order to define which are easier and more complicated to deal with.

 

 

An example of Mr. Bielsa's tactical sheets for a team

 

 

An example of Mr. Bielsa's tactical sheets for an individual player

 

  • A list of events: goals, situations, approaches and control (divided into 5-minute periods), detailed in text and accompanied by the analysis with corresponding images.

 

An example of a list of events for a team

 

  • An analysis of set pieces: the players who participate, the signals they make and the movement they make, both in attack and defence.

 

As detailed by Bielsa himself, he brings together approximately 40 minutes of attacking and defensive plays for each team: "When you watch all this material, you can easily find offensive plays and defensive weaknesses."

 

Logically, this first analysis is streamlined before being shown to the players whose concentration does not exceed 15 minutes. In the end they are shown an 8-minute video of offensive plays and another 8 minutes of defensive plays.

 

Understanding the Game

 

When not leading a team, Bielsa does not rest on his laurels. He busies himself creating work groups with other coaches in order to understand the dynamics and evolution of football. The criteria and parameters we looked at in the Analysis of Own Team phase is established at this point, when there is plenty time watch and analyse.

 

If he states, for example, that there are 11 ways to score, 10 base tactical schemes (which may later be varied slightly) or 5 ways to miss, none of these numbers are random and, in fact, each is supported by detailed analysis of the game.

 

One of these renowned groups was formed for the 2006 World Cup, a period between his resignation from the Argentinian National Team (2004) and his arrival in Chile (2007). Among others, Eduardo Berizzo, Claudio Vivas, Javier Torrente, Pablo Quiroga (his current right-hand man) and Ricardo Lunari all participated in this work.

 

The latter detailed some of the key points in analysis taught to him by Bielsa: “He showed me how to analyse video, how to stop and counter rival teams. He had me draw out the standing of each team and how duels could be established in every part of the field”.

 

Attention to the Smallest Detail

 

Within this "forensic work", as Lunari himself defines it, he details two reports that he was assigned:

 

  • He noted how many forward, back and side passes the Argentinian players were making during this World Cup. "There are footballers who play very well, but who are not productive for the team," argued Bielsa.

 

  • He had to watch every World Cup match and breakdown each gambit that happened during the match, separating plays and grouping them by characteristics (e.g. individual play, counterattack or build-up) and the area of the field in which they happened.

 

As we can see, video analysis is crucial for Bielsa in his daily work. To get to know his players in detail, to analyse opponents or to thoroughly understand the continually changing dynamics of football. Something which demands constant professional development in each and every member of his coaching staff.

 

To read more about how to set up a methodology for analysis at a professional football club, click here

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