The 2017-18 ISL season was an experience of a lifetime. Being the analyst of ATK was a dream come true, even though things didn’t go our way. Interacting with world class players was something I only used to dream of, when I started watching football. The season started off poorly for us. We had quite a few injuries going into our first game, which is never a good sign. And its even worse if your marquee player is injured. We started the season slowly, and the injuries were only piling up. It was unlucky that the injury curse wouldn’t let go of us even until the end of the season. There was not one single game where we could field our first choice XI. In a 4-month long league, as most coaches say, the team with the fewest injuries is most likely to win the championship.
At ATK, I learned the importance of opposition analysis in football. The coaches were definitely interested in knowing our opposition so we can plan accordingly. The requirements of the different managers were different, but the objective was obviously the same, to exploit the opponent’s weakness and to play to our strengths. An analyst’s role is to study the opposition and give the required information to the coaches and the players to help them get the better of the opponent. It includes the formation, play style, frequent patterns of play, general combinations between players, weaknesses and strengths of the opponent. Aside from this at a team level, it also includes studying the main players. The player-specific strengths and weaknesses are key as well. For eg., there are players who are very one-footed, meaning they never use their weaker foot. Such players should be forced onto their weaker foot so they are not comfortable. Then there are players who play particular types of long passes onto another player, or players whose body fakes are very similar every game. These little details are very crucial factors that can decide the result of the game.
While all the above things are the technical aspects of the game, there is also another important aspect. The mental strength, or the morale with which we go into the game. I’ve always heard of the word momentum being used by coaches in press conferences, but until my time at ATK, I only thought of it as an excuse for bad performance. For a team on a winning run, everything seems to go right, while a team on a poor streak just doesn’t get that bit of required luck. It is very important for a team to be high on morale and go into every game with the belief that we can win the game. An analyst also has the job of motivating the team with motivational videos. It can be a fantastic speech from a famous movie, or a compilation of positive things of the team.
Post the match, I sat down with the coaches to understand what went right and what went wrong. Depending on the content, we used to have video sessions with the team to clarify to the players about what happened in the match and what was expected of them. I was involved a lot with the GK coach Jussi Jääskeläinen, who wanted specific videos of the GK from different angles which help the GK to understand themselves and learn better.
I was also handling the GPS data at ATK. We had a world class GPS system in place for all our training sessions and we live-tracked the performance of each player during the training. A detailed report of the session was also sent to the coaches and physios. The S&C coach would then take a call on the duration of the session depending on the intensity with which the players train. We had to find the right intensity, because too much intensity comes with a risk of injuries. The physios were also greatly benefitted from the GPS data, since they could get an idea of whether a player has completely recovered from an injury or not. Quite a few times we had players saying they were fully fit, but the GPS data showed otherwise and vice versa.
Thanks to SportsKPI and the ATK management for providing me such an opportunity.
Article by our Football Analyst – Aravind