One of the frustrating and at the same time wonderful things about soccer, is that teams often have different results against the same opponent. League position is not always the best factor to determine who is going to win on a given day. This could be because of the weather that day, where the game is being played, or the effort that the other team decide to put in; but often some teams are just better equipped to beat certain opponents. Maybe I have a formation or a strong player in a certain position that will be especially effective against them, whereas a relatively equal team with a strong player somewhere else struggle to find the same results.
By analyzing an opponent before we play against them, there might be things we can do to improve our chances of beating them. Equally, if you have seen what they do, you might be less surprised (read ‘vulnerable’) to whatever tricks they use on set pieces and in other situations. If they are a big tall team who like to get the ball wide and serve crosses into the box, you could spend a practice session working on defending those situations with your team, to focus them for what they could experience. Similarly, watching them you might see a weakness that your team in particular could exploit. This could things like: how much space they leave behind their defensive line, the speed of their fullbacks, how upset they get by the referee, or their lack of fitness levels in the second half.
For youth coaches there is a debate about whether they should even look at this area, since their first priority is player development. Our argument for writing this is that it is another area that players and coaches can learn about, which will help them better understand how the game works. Having tactical discussions with players and creating a plan to beat an opponent will not only develop their understanding, but it will unify the team – building their confidence.
We have interviewed professionals whose full time job is to watch upcoming opponents and break down what they do. Over the past twenty years – particularly with technological advances – the process has developed considerably. We don’t expect many clubs will have the funding that AS Monaco has, but some of what they do could easily be replicated at the club level.
|Interview with Joao Sacramento of AS Monaco||Interview with Luc Sanders of KAA Gent|