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  • Josh Bryan

Opposition Analysis at Liverpool FC – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, Greg Mathieson talked us through his journey from player to professional performance analyst in the Premier League and how it led to him taking up the position of Head of Opposition Analysis at Liverpool FC. He also gave us an overview of his department, their work and how they interact with the players and coaches at Anfield.

In Part 2, Greg tells us how he analyses Liverpool’s opponents, how he prepares reports to present to management and how Nacsport and KlipDraw have improved performance analysis in his department and at Liverpool in general.

Choosing Which Matches to Analyse

Deciding which matches to analyse is the first step, and an extremely important one.

As I mentioned previously, match relevance is a crucial factor when building a true understanding of our opponent. I have to find and prioritise plays that are repetitive, against relative sides. Can I identify and show images that best replicate our approach, or how the picture could look versus us?

In terms of how many matches I watch, the honest answer is as many as required! It’s down to who the specific opponent is.

In some projects, it’s possible to find strong examples of what I want to present during the first 30 minutes of the first match I watch. Specific projects may require a broader analysis, covering 4 or 5 matches, for example.

For teams who have had the same manager for a longer spell, we might already have an idea of what to expect from our match. Our previous meeting might give the most relevant information!

Burnley, for example, are strong and consistent in their playing style and organisation, so I may only need to watch 2 or 3 matches to prepare. On the other hand, Chelsea, who change their formation throughout the season, may be more unpredictable and I’ll watch additional matches in order to predict how they’ll play against us.

We obviously want the best managers in the division, and there’s always an excitement and curiosity when studying new coaches (and teams). The same goes for European competition and the prospect of fresh challenges in the Champions League environment.

When to Start Analysing the Next Opponent

We work on a game by game basis and as soon as one match ends, our focus goes straight on to the next.

In terms of workflow, it’s possible to overlap projects, in particular when we have a successive opposition who perhaps have similar styles. For example, if we play Leeds United on Saturday and Atalanta the following Wednesday, it’s an ideal opportunity to relate both preparations and matches.

How to Analyse the Opposition with Nacsport

The key for us as a department is to look for solutions, which could be in any moment of the game. For example, when they’ve got the ball, where can we win it back? This forms the basis for our analysis processes.

I mostly work in the timeline environment and the interface is perfect for what I do. I arrange my workspace with my timeline at the bottom, my video player in the top left and my presentation window in the top right.

I split my analysis for Liverpool into the key moments of the game, which become my categories in Nacsport for organising clips and creating presentations.

Rather than working with a template and gathering lots of data, I do my tagging in the timeline environment with these categories on separate rows.

When I see something that relates to these areas, I click the row in the timeline and press “C” to create a clip at that moment. This means I can treat each register in the timeline individually and by pressing “Enter” I can open the Register Properties Window to add notes and easily edit the length of the clip.

I use standardised notes which allows me to easily find clips with Nacsport’s note search tool. If a coach asks me to see five high pressing situations by Man City, for example, I can find them quickly and efficiently. This is the beauty of Nacsport.

Apart from these categories and the keywords in my notes, I also add animations to my clips to illustrate the bigger picture.

So, I have a timeline for each game with clips under my main categories. I then use the Nacsport Presentation window to refine the clips and add KlipDraw animations and key points I want to raise with the manager and coaches.

How to Build a Presentation

All the clips we’ve created, along with the notes we’ve added, are organised into separate lists in the Presentation Window, depending on the category.

From here we review and further refine them into other lists. We add or change the notes and, importantly, add KlipDraw illustrations.

I need to filter all my clips down into a 15 minute presentation (for my team area presentation) and I do this by simply using the lists in the Presentation Window. If I want to keep a clip I move it further down the list. If it makes it to the bottom without being deleted, it’s in the presentation!

Moving registers around the Presentation Window to reorder their position within presentation lists means that making last minute changes based on requests from the manager or coaching staff is quick and easy.

New features in this environment like opening tabs of different presentation windows to copy across registers, copying a clip to another list when you’re editing notes and drawings, and changing clip and list colours with the “C” shortcut are small things which make a big difference and save us lots of time during the season.

I always work with pre-set structures for my presentations, so now having the ability to save multiple favourite list structures means that I can quickly create new presentations.

How to Highlight with KlipDraw

The beauty of using KlipDraw in our Nacsport presentations at Liverpool is that the static illustrations we create act like bullet points in our analysis videos. The illustrations allow us to take a breath and focus on the most important aspects of the game.

The varied palette of tools that KlipDraw offers allows us to create a standardised key for certain actions too. For example, if a team is pushing hard to overload a certain area of the field, I can highlight this using the shaded area tool. We can also use the various spotlighting tools and colours to highlight different roles taken on by each player.

When you only have 15 minutes to get your point across, these types of illustrations are essential to the process.

How to Share Analysis with the Coaching Team

I usually export two different versions of the video, one with KlipDraw illustrations included, a process as easy as checking a box, and the other with just the unadorned video clips. I usually export the clips as individual files too, rather than one video with the whole list.

The coaches also use this content for their own presentations so they can decide whether they want to use the KlipDraw versions or not. This usually depends on whether they are focussing on the same thing I’ve highlighted or not. They may ask us for additional KlipDrawn clips from a game if they feel there is something else they need to get across to the players.

There is a great level of trust at the club. From the manager, to coaches, to players, everyone wants to play their part in the team, us included. Since our first presentation, we’ve given the management team a foundation to work with and we’ve adapted our methods to suit their requirements over time.

We’re lucky enough to work with personalities who are open to learning and understanding our processes. We meet so often with the manager and coaches, more than 270 meetings at the last count, that it is mutually beneficial. We can listen and learn about the game and how they approach it. This allows us to relate to each other better and means we can give quality insights which are highly relevant to them.

Working on Big Games

We’ve got every single presentation saved, from Exeter City in the FA Cup to the Champions League finals. They all count and are all kept!

The busy nature of the schedule keeps our process flowing and the season seems to go pretty quickly.

Of course those big games are special, but that doesn’t mean our processes for opposition analysis change. We stick with our process and approach each project with the same level of attention and detail.

Of course, Liverpool have had great success in the last couple of seasons, winning the Champions League in 2019 and being crowned Premier League Champions in 2020, and it’s a testament to the players, management and coaches for everything they have put towards gaining these achievements.

Editor’s note: Although Greg may be too modest to take any credit, we’d also like to congratulate the opposition analysis team at Liverpool for their hard work and for playing their part in the great success of the club over the last couple of years!

Moving to Nacsport

We were using the Amisco analysis software at Liverpool before making the change to Nacsport and KlipDraw in 2017. The guys at AnalysisPro demonstrated the possibilities of these two programs. They took time to look at our processes and requirements and demonstrate how Nacsport could make our workflows more efficient.

The Nacsport interface and Timeline certainly made our life easier. Colour coordination in the Timeline and Presentation Window makes organisation much smoother. The ease of use of the Timeline for creating clips then editing them and adding notes through the Register Properties Window speeds up our workflows too. Having all of these environments in front of us means that the analysis, filtering, telestration and presentations can all be done in one place.

Also, due to the different tools available, it’s easy to adjust the software around our workflows as they evolve.

When you’re comfortable with your processes, you might be reluctant to change. The software we used before Nacsport was pretty dated and you’ve always got to be on the lookout for new things to evolve your analysis processes.

By introducing us to Nacsport and KlipDraw, and the processes they demonstrated for working with these, AnalysisPro elevated our workflows, allowed us to create better output for the team, and saved us time too.

Working with AnalysisPro

One of the biggest strengths of working with AnalysisPro is that they always take the time to understand our processes and requirements then, using their experience across different clubs and sports, they show us the best way to achieve our goals, from match video to presentation, in the most efficient way when working in Nacsport.

When working for a club of this level, in so many competitions, the turnarounds between games are quick, so shaving seconds off our processes and making everything as efficient as possible is crucial. That’s what AnalysisPro have done for us and it’s great!

They relate to our needs and show us how to meet our goals. They’ve also put forward our suggestions to the Nacsport team, who have added many features during the 3 years we’ve been using the software.

So, I’d like to say thank you to AnalysisPro and Nacsport. Your help and support have played a vital role in getting us to where we are today as a department!

And a huge thank you to Greg for providing us all with so much insight into the performance analysis processes at Liverpool FC. We enjoy working with you and love to see that your hard work is paying dividends!

If you want to learn more about Nacsport and KlipDraw, get in touch and we can show you how to replicate some processes of the European and Premier League Champions from even the starting version of Nacsport, Nacsport Basic (just £75!).

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