Juan José Vila Seoane is one of the pioneers in the development of tactical analysis within Spanish football. Although his latest professional experience has been for Spartak Moscow along with former Russian midfielder Valery Karpin, he counts on a widely known career with other Spanish teams (Deportivo Coruña, Valencia CF…).
Almost since he began his professional career, he has been working with Nacsport software. Nowadays, Vila is one of the most important users of our programs in football.
“A coach’s learning never ends”. These are Vila’s words. After so many years, what else can you learn now?
I can learn still a lot. Apart from being a coach, I am football tactics teacher. This situation obliges me to still keep learning. Sometimes, when we are coaches, we forget about learning and, as we are the core of the staff, we traditionally have not counted on our colleagues. Fortunately, we have learned a lot from other sports and everything is becoming more and more specialised so that the head coach can be helped. I really think that football, as a comparison with other sports, has fallen behind. Things are changing now, but it is not always easy to accept these changes.
You are an analyst ahead of your time and context. Probably, a forerunner in the usage of performance video analysis tools in Spanish football, a country where this discipline is still in its infancy. Why do you think this is so?
Coaches are probably one of the reasons why tactical analysis has not taken root in Spain yet. In football, we do not have historical trust for in-depth analysis in either our own teams or competitors’ which has made it difficult to open doors to new technologies. This philosophy is even more accentuated in Latin countries. Also, we find other barriers: people think football seems an easy game and it is not. We must deeply understand this sport. For instance, a goalkeeper needs a very specific training, different to other players, and analysing his daily performance means you can improve a lot.
I do not think it is necessary to count on a single performance analyst, but rather a whole analysis team. We also need head coaches to give us opportunities though!
They must believe in the benefits of performance analysis and they must trust on improving their positives and negatives. We need head coaches who do not have to control all the information which would be generated, but share their duties and trust with their colleagues. I know teams where information reaches players directly, without passing through the head coach’s hands.
These words contrast with so many football Spanish professionals around the world…
It’s normal. Spain are trendy in Football right now. We have won two Euros, a World Cup and right now, four of the eight teams playing semifinals in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League are Spanish sides… [at the moment of this interview, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Valencia CF and Sevilla FC are in semifinals of these two competitions]. But we still have much to learn. I was lucky then when I met Nacsport many years ago as it provided me with tools to improve my knowledge, but I think that I have equally provided the software with benefits thanks to my background. For example, many years ago, when I was starting with video analysis, it was unbelievable in Spain to analyse a live match. Thanks to Nacsport, I could make it real.
So… do you think there is still a long way to go to convince young coaches to include performance analysis and technology in their daily work?
I do think that there are head coaches nowadays winning and losing matches but they do not have any idea why the got their results. If they find answers to the questions, they will get a better knowledge of the game. Undoubtedly, they could benefit when making future decisions in the bench. Performance analysis and video analysis will make you a better coach and will provide you with better team performances. Your players will miss less and they will make better decisions.
What is the role of the analyst in modern football and how important are they?
If I had to coach again tomorrow, I would rather have an analyst instead of an assistant coach. Fortunately, the analyst role is being recognized more and more every day in Europe. Mourinho or Guardiola –to give just a couple of examples- have their analyst. Most of the top head coaches also have one. They are essential.
Sometimes, the work of a head coach ends on the pitch and they do not have enough knowledge or information to keep growing off the pitch. There’s where the analyst must appear: to complete his work.
According to your experiences then, what are the requirements a good analyst must have?
I think an analyst must have three important requirements. First of all and most importantly, an analyst must be a good coach. This is vital. As a coach, an analyst must know the principles and technical concepts of the game. Secondly, an analyst must have computer knowledge and, at last, he or she must have audiovisual experience.
Juanjo Vila is using Nacsport almost since he started with his professional career. Nowadays, he still uses the same software. How would you explain to our readers your feelings towards us?
I firmly believe in Nacsport. And I believe in the people involved in Nacsport because they have always given me what I asked for or needed. The software has every tool I need for an effective workflow.
Some time ago, we had VHS video tapes to show our players a little bit more about their performances. Afterwards, DVD appeared and, finally, with Nacsport there was the light! Without tools like yours, some analysis cannot be finished on time. It would be impossible to have access to the information for teams which are competing twice a week. But I won’t stand out Nacsport only for the ease of use, but also because for me it’s a database to store and select customised information.
And, after all these years, is there anything that surprises you nowadays in football?
Actually, one of the things that surprised me most were the faces of my players when I showed them the clips from the match they were playing at half time. And as I always say, one image is worth a thousand words. Obviously, a live match will always be better than however many drawings you can make on a blackboard.
How would you rate your professional career? Do you think performance video analysis has advanced?
When Valencia FC signed me, I was signed as the only analyst. But the following season, I was able to create a department with three more people. In Spartak, the same thing happened. I was alone the first season, but in the following year we had four in our analysis team. If the work is good, teams value it. At least, in those clubs where I have been working for, officials have trusted in my work. I am going to keep on working with Valery Karpin and, since I have been with him, he has become another Nacsport fan!