What Managers Are Looking For In Your Performance Data
Catching the boss’ attention is easier said than done. They won’t like to admit it, but studies have shown that coaches show a favourable cognitive bias towards blonde players as they stand out from the crowd, while selective perception is the increased likelihood of noticing the positive or negative things a player does based on previous information or narratives.
It sounds trivial to suggest managers may select players based on opinion or appearance, but these are just two examples that suggest starting line-ups aren’t immune to bias, or perhaps more importantly, those in charge don’t always get it right. With so much of a player’s good work often coming when not in possession, such as tracking back or pressing the opposition, you could argue that it’s even harder for scouts and coaches to decipher who deserves a call up and who doesn’t.
In the last decade technology has made sure those in charge of picking the best 11 players suited to facing an opposition have the necessary information to make such decisions, from how fit a player is, whether or not they work in a certain system or if they can deliver what’s required from them. No longer exclusively available to the elite, PLAYR is putting that innovation into the hands of every player at any level, meaning you can justify selection or push for a place with facts and figures, not just opinion.
But what are managers looking out for? We spoke to Wales’ Head of Performance, Tony Strudwick, to find out what his former bosses, including the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, often kept an eye out for.
“I think that’s dependant on the club’s philosophy and playing philosophy,” says Strudwick. “If you work for a coach that’s about high intensity pressure, then you will be looking at certain metrics in a game such as how quickly you can win the ball back and the intensity you train and play at – that becomes important. If you’ve got a coach who has a different philosophy, it might just be about efficiency and circling the ball.
“It depends on the club, but invariably the four or five key things people will look at is the distance covered, the speed, the maximum velocity you’ve reached, acceleration and declaration and power – all the parameters that are really embedded into PLAYR. I always like to look at the intensity over time, whether or not it’s in five-minute blocks, but looking at these really intense bursts and how you can sustain that. The fitter you are, the more you can maximise these moments of intensity.
“What you’ve got now, with multiple sources of information and the integration of sports science knowledge, I think invariably we’ve become self serving because we’ve educated players,” he continues. “The more educated players become the more educated players will be in five or 10 years time, and there’s a whole cycle of up skilling and updating your knowledge base about performances and how best to play and train. It’s critical information, but what we’ve found is certainly at the elite end, more players are engaged in this sort of information.”
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement five years ago, Manchester United have had four managers in David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ryan Giggs’ short spell as interim head coach. Despite the variation in leadership, one thing has remained constant according to Strudwick: the use of sports science.
“We had to have a culture of acceptance, we had to sell it to the players and we had to demonstrate the benefits of this sports science approach,” Strudwick says. “Sir Alex Ferguson obviously went, David Moyes came in, and although it was a small tenure, he maintained that. When Louis van Gaal came in, he maximised the benefits of that and particularly the wellness factor. It was something that was created and sustained over a 10-year period – we’re really proud of that.
“There’s a huge disparity because some coaches don’t use it at all. One in particular, the southern European model, doesn’t really buy into it at all. That’s all down to personal preference and philosophy. It’s used very differently, but that’s where the competitive advantage lies – it’s performance intelligence. What performance intelligence allows you to do is a get a steal over your competitors, and really the game changer is how you use that data.
“There’s a big disparity at how managers use it at club and international level. I think the challenge at international level is that players come from a very diverse range of clubs, abilities and philosophies. What they do at Spurs is very different to what they do at Manchester City, to what they do at Manchester United is different to what goes on at Arsenal. It’s about trying to marry all that together.”