In this article we aim to explore some of the challenges you might face when report writing and providing feedback working at the top level of football. The only certainty in football is that it has a consistent way of being inconsistent! Things develop and change on a daily or even hourly basis, always keeping you on your toes.
There are a number of challenges you might face when report writing, here I’ll outline the key challenges that I’ve experienced: the ability to pick out the fundamental details rather than saying everything you see, deciding how to deliver your information, a new manager joins your club or a new manager arrives at your next opponent the game before you play them, handling the Christmas schedule, trying to source tactical game footage from lesser known European leagues and analysing an opponent who changes formation regularly.
The list could go on. As you can see, that’s quite a few variables to consider. We’ll explain some of these challenges in more depth during this article and aim to give tips and advice where possible. When it comes to facing these challenge’s, providing you’re flexible, work with an open mind & plan as much as you can – you won’t go far wrong. It’s also really important to remember why you’re ultimately there: to support the manager, coaches & players to help them win matches and improve performance.
Which details are key?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple right or wrong answer when it comes to which information is key to your manager and coaching staff. I’ve worked under various managers and they’ve all wanted different information from opposition analysis or reviewing their own teams performance. It’s vitally important that you build a strong relationship with your manager, get to know their actual needs rather than what you think they need. Be flexible and willing to adapt work you previously did, no one wants to spend hours on work that’s not being used nor deemed useful.
If we take opposition analysis for example, I think anyone who has a good understanding of the game could probably report on all the things that an opponent might do during a match: play short from the GK, sometimes long balls to the striker, play into channels, play into the #9, cross the ball, shoot from distance and have wingers that dribble. All of this information is true. However, if you put yourself in the perspective of the person receiving the report, they don’t know if they’re about to play Barcelona or Barnsley! The key is picking out the details that are most representative of that teams style, maybe think about what are their main characteristics or the 1 or 2 aspects of their play that they could hurt you with.
When a new manager arrives at your club, in 95% of cases it’s going to signify a change in direction. As I mentioned in the section before, it’s really important you get to grips with the needs of your new management as quickly as possible.
Don’t be afraid to show work you delivered previously but also be receptive to their requests and willing / open to change. Processes will develop over time as no transition is ever seamless – these phases are a journey rather than an instant fix.
When a new manager arrives at an upcoming opponent just before you are about to play them, it’s likely any previous matches of that team are going to become irrelevant for your preparations. It’s a good idea to look back at how the new manager set up their previous teams to give an indication of how they might play. If a manger has always favoured a 4.4.2 formation it’s unlikely they are going to start playing a 5.4.1. If they have always defended set pieces with man to man marking and payed with quite a direct style, it’s very likely both of these tactics will be enforced in their new team.
A constant change of formation
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of teams becoming equally comfortable playing within multiple formations and systems. Managers are happy to change formation on a week by week basis as well as within matches – even multiple times! This can throw up a different challenge as they might show different strengths / weaknesses depending on the formation they play.
It’s a good idea to try to analyse matches against teams that play a similar way to your team – this can give a good indication of how they might approach your match. Any previous matches against that team (providing the manager is the same) should also give a really good idea of how they might play – especially if they got a positive result. Sometimes, there isn’t a clear reason why a team changes formation for each match. In these instances, it’s a good idea to split your reports into how they set up with a back 4 or a set up with a back 5 – what are the strengths / weaknesses of both? I’ve also found that if you can match characteristics of a team regardless of formation, that can be really helpful & add clarity to your message (rather than getting too blindsided by formations). For example, if a team plays direct from goal kicks and always plays to the channels, that’s a consistent characteristic regardless of formation. The only difference might be, there is more space to switch when they play with a back 4 and more space between lines when they play with a back 5. So your report might read: They build up long from the goalkeeper and look to target channels regardless of formation. In a back 4 the space is wide, in a back 5 the space is between lines.