The role of a performance analyst in all this is to provide insights that the coaching staff can use.
As Matthieu Lille-Palette, Senior Vice President at Opta, has said, “In football, the wealth of GPS tracking data, player performance stats, injury susceptibility data, etc., are essentially useless without data scientists to translate them all into digestible information.”
The analyst has the expertise needed to understand what the data means. They can translate it into terms that other people working at the football club can understand.
For performance analysts, this means providing useful insights to the manager and the other coaching staff. To do this well, they need to act like an extension of the manager. Every manager has their own philosophy about how football ought to be played and the way they want their team to set-up. This means they’ll have their own questions they want answers for in the data.
The job of the analyst, first of all, is to answer the performance questions that the manager is asking. If the manager wants to know why the defence is struggling to deal with crosses, they don’t want the analyst to come back with a report on why the strikers are failing to get on the end of through balls.
Once the manager’s questions have been answered, the analyst, if they have the time, can then start looking at other parts of the data. But even in this situation, the analyst needs to be focused on what is useful to others. The best way to do this is by talking to other people at the club.
As an analyst told StatsBomb, “One thing I’ve learnt is that by simply asking questions and provoking discussion with coaches/managers/board level members, you’re able to quickly find questions or scenarios they would love to see evidence of but haven’t come across before.”
Analysts on their own don’t improve performances. What analysts do, working in collaboration with other staff at the club, is provide insights that help players develop their talents, improve their performance levels, and achieve better results.
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