With the emergence of technology, a lot of things have changed in sports. In football, the way coaches see and take notes from the training sessions and matches has altered. And for a lot of coaches across the world, football analysts are the ones to thank for the work they put in to support the coaching team.
As with all things football, data and video-based analysis of the sport also took its sweet time to get into the Indian football industry. Once it firmly gripped the scene, since sometime around the start of the decade, clubs have caught on with how it can help improve the existing coaching setup and output on the field.
What does an analyst do?
Analysts are now an integral part of the coaching staff. There are subdivisions to an analyst's job - opposition analysis, set-piece analysis, own-team's analysis, training session analysis etc. In India, a few ISL teams used to have two analysts when they started out but now it's mostly all done by one person per team.
An analyst's workflow and output entirely depend on the head coach. Some coaches prioritise data and video output and have no qualms about trusting them and making decisions on that. Others consider it only as a backup tool. A research on the work of analysts in Indian football throws up the suggestion that Spanish coaches hugely favour analysis and usually wants all training sessions and matches on video. (Although it would be unfair to generalise as the methods differ from person to person). It must be noted that for analysis, TV footage is almost never used due to the camera angles. When shot, the footage needs to be taken from the top and it should cover the entire pitch so that the coaches can get a full view of all the players on the field.
The coaches let the analysts know what they require and the analysts then put their brains to work on the footage they have collected. They use data analysis software (such as Sportscode and ProZone) which help in exporting a report which is then sent to the coach's desk.
The workflow varies from one analyst to another. But usually, if there are 5 days between two games, the analyst creates documents and reports ahead of the fixture on day one. On the second day, the coach makes use of the analysis from the last game. Then there is a training session to correct the issues that were spotted. Then the preparation for the next game starts and opposition analysis comes into effect. Based on the key findings and weaknesses of the opposition, a report is prepared and submitted to the head coach. There is a boatload of data that is being transferred from the analyst to the head coach before and after every match. The data is also used as a scouting report at the end of the season to help decisions about recruitment and retention of footballers.
Analytics in Indian Football
SportsKPI, an Indian analytics agency, has Indian national team, FC Goa, NorthEast United, Indian Arrows etc as clients. Several ISL clubs are thought to be using the expensive tool Sportscode. Most Indian teams have subscribed to the video tool InStat which helps them collect and edit videos of matches. Nowadays, some of this work can also be done via mobile phones.
Data like statistics, player movements, patterns in training and its effectiveness can be picked up from the videos. Player attributes and his grasping levels can also be picked up from training footages and these help coaches in arriving at decisions regarding the players in his squad.
While the role of analysts has become important in India, it can be argued that Indian football still does not have enough resources to make full use of the technology available. There is a practical difficulty to pull off a Julian Nagelsmann, who has live data and video feed of training sessions available to him on a screen. As it stands, not all Indian clubs, especially in the I-League, invest in the analysis of the game. There are exceptions - Gokulam Kerala, Chennai City, Punjab FC, Mohun Bagan etc have put in the effort to make full use of opposition and own-team analysis.
ISL has helped Indian football take a step in the right direction when it comes to football analysis. Foreign coaches at several clubs made analyst a mandatory position among the staff. The clubs got access to tools which required the management to spend money on their licenses and steadily, analysis became a part of the process. While foreign coaches gave analysts an integral role, Indian coaches, like Derrick Pereira, have also used them to good effect in the past. During the I-League era, Mahinda United an Pune FC were the first sides to use technology and analysis.
For Aspiring Analysts
There are no specific courses to pick up for aspiring football analysts in India compared to Europe that has performance-learning training. Youngsters have to keep working hard, generate their analytical reports and they also have to get in touch with football clubs by sending them their work. If your work is good enough, you will get an internship and that is how most of the current analysts working in India started out.
Analysts are created out of sheer passion for the sport. Beginners mostly are interns who are given laptops, workspace and a monthly wage somewhere between 5000-10000 INR. ISL club analysts get paid more compared to those in I-League, as you can imagine and the average cost is between 30000-40000 INR.
Fun fact: an Indian football analyst once earned more than one 1 lakh INR after the head coach was impressed with his work and wanted to work only with him. So kids, if you are really good, you will soon have your grand payday.
If you speak to football analysts at any club, they will tell you that it is a full-time job that takes a lot of hard work. But one that's very rewarding if you love the game. Indian football clubs could soon go from having one analyst on their roster to employing a team of analysts to extract the full potential of what technology and excellent observational skills can do.