How to Analyze an Opponent for the Second Game of the Season

By Sergio Almenara

21-September-2021 on Tips

7 minute read

In the majority of domestic competitions the world over, teams will play each other at least twice during a season. So, what does this mean for the analyst? Is the initial analysis sufficient for the second time around? Will there be sufficient changes in the time between two matches to justify another full analysis? Is the second analysis easier than the first?

 

To answer these questions and more, let’s turn to our good friend Sergio Almenara, assistant coach and analyst at FC Inter Turku, runners-up in the Finnish soccer league last season.


This is Sergio’s third collaboration with Nacsport, having previously written articles on how to analyse an opponent and key performance indicators in football. So, without further ado, let’s see what he has to say on this important topic...

Introduction

 

What is the process of analysis when you face an opponent for the second time during a season? As a general rule, there are a series of parameters that an analyst must take into account, although this doesn’t mean that everything from the initial analysis should be discarded.

 

So, let’s take a look at these parameters. Try as we have, it’s impossible to order these in order of importance as this is a fairly subjective topic which greatly depends on the coaching staff and their priorities. For this reason, I’ve chosen aspects of the game that I consider to be of the utmost importance.

 

Opposition Analysis 2nd Game

 

The Number and Type of Matches

 

It’s fair to say that, during the back nine of any given season, and after many games have been played, we have a fairly clear general idea of our opponent. We know who they are, what their game model is and what types of behavior we should expect to face.

 

Therefore, depending on the information available, we’ll focus on analyzing these areas:

 

What happened in the first game?

 

•    The opponent's game plan in the first game.
•    Our own game plan in the first game.
•    Interactions between plans and structures.
•    Changes in tactics and behavior according to the current score in the game.
•    Post-game conclusions about what worked and what didn't.

 

Sergio Almenara Video Analysis Presentation

 

How did the opponent behave against other teams?

 

•    Whether our opponent played at home or away and how this affected the development of a match.
•    The changing dynamics of the game plan and its evolution.
•    The changing dynamics according to the score (winning, drawing or losing).
•    How substitutions change the dynamics.

 

In addition to this, we are always interested in preparing our analysis by referencing situations in which our opponent has faced a team with similar game models and structures to ours.

 

Players: Squad Changes

 

The opening of the winter transfer window usually means that there are at least some significant squad changes. 

 

In my opinion, it’s extremely important to take these changes into account when performing an analysis. We need to look at how these players fit into the game plan and assess how they affect the rest of their teammates.

 

And we’re not just talking about gathering information about new players who join the team. We also need to take into account the players who have left and look at how they affected team dynamics in the first match.

 

Opposition Analysis squad changes

 

A Possible Change of Coach

 

Without a doubt, this is one of the most important factors to consider - fundamental even - when it comes to preparing a match. A team is often nothing more than an extension of the coach on the field. The players on the team could be exactly the same as in the previous game, but the impact and idiosyncrasies of a new coach can have a seismic effect. 

 

Therefore, we pay particular attention to:

 

•    Changes to formations.
•    Changes to the game plan.
•    Changes to how players are used by the new coach.
•    Changes to the various dynamics discussed earlier.

 

Other Variables

 

In this section, I’ve gathered several points which I consider essential when preparing the second match against a known rival. These may be different in nature but, nevertheless, are just as important as everything we talked about above.

 

So, in my experience, we must pay particular attention to:

 

•    Streaks, trends and dynamics in recent games.
•    How much trust the club puts in the coach. This can lead to possible “desperate” decisions on the part of the coach, searching for different approaches to those that worked during the first game, taking drastic decisions with certain players, etc.
•    If the team is playing in any other competition apart from the league (cup or European competitions).

 

FC Inter Turku Sergio Almenara

 

Conclusion

 

Although it may seem that analysing an opponent for the second time in a year is much simpler than for the first match, when you consider the large amount of information we have to deal with, the truth is that it can often be even more complex.

 

Nevertheless, if we take all these factors into account, I believe that we can get close to the depth of analysis needed in these situations.

 

From all of us here at Nacsport, we'd like to thank Sergio for taking the time out to write such an informative article. If you have any question about anything in this article, please don't hesitate to get in contact with us through our website our any of our social media channels.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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