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Performance Analysis at Swansea City

An interview with Steve Rands, the Head of Performance Analysis at the Swans, as published by Hudl Analysis:

At the Liberty Stadium, the Swans are set­ting up a world-class per­for­mance analy­sis team. Their head of per­for­mance analy­sis Steve Rands talks us through the val­ue of a clear analy­sis phi­los­o­phy and hav­ing, the right peo­ple in the right roles.

It’s no secret that play­er and per­for­mance analy­sis has become a spe­cial­ized sci­ence with­in the foot­ball indus­try, with clubs try­ing to estab­lish world-class work­flows to enhance the coach­ing staff’s capa­bil­i­ties of eval­u­at­ing, fore­cast­ing and analysing play­er performances.

Steve Rands has been work­ing in per­for­mance analy­sis for more than a decade, with pre­vi­ous spells at Barnsley FC and Scunthorpe United, before join­ing Manchester City in 2011 and becom­ing Pep Guardiola’s lead first-team ana­lyst. He then worked with Frank Lampard at Derby County, before mov­ing to Swansea last summer.

Before the Covid-19 lock­down, Swansea were enter­ing the final stage of the 46 game cam­paign, with 53 points reaped in 37 games in the Championship and still chances to achieve pro­mo­tion to the Premier League via the play­offs. During such a long cam­paign, it is crit­i­cal to have a well-func­tion­ing and effi­cient per­for­mance analy­sis team.

“During such a demand­ing sea­son, it’s real­ly impor­tant to have clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the coach­es and the analy­sis depart­ment,” said Rands. ​“That allows us to achieve a clear insight into the phi­los­o­phy of the coach. We are real­ly for­tu­nate that we have coach­es who are open and clear on their philosophy.”

“This has allowed us to define a clear play­er pro­fil­ing mod­el, one which has now evolved into data, and into which we can mon­i­tor con­cur­rent­ly through­out the sea­son. Essentially mon­i­tor­ing, cor­rect­ing and then review­ing our play­ers through­out the season.”

So, a clear lead is very help­ful when it comes to uni­fy­ing dif­fer­ent minds under the same col­lec­tive goal. And if the coach­es’ philoso­phies can be of help, Rands’ job as head of per­for­mance analy­sis has no less­er value.

“Being a ​‘head of’ means I’m the one that will set the vision of the depart­ment and this vision should rarely change from club to club. It’s some­thing I always can attach to our work,” said Rands.

“I think it’s also impor­tant to get the right staff in your depart­ment, per­form­ing the right roles. Quite often analy­sis can become grey at times in terms of the duties, par­tic­u­lar­ly when coach­es are known to throw the odd request in. So hav­ing spe­cif­ic staff, per­form­ing their roles at an opti­mum lev­el is impor­tant. For me, that means assess­ing their qual­i­ties and giv­ing them expo­sure to what they are good at.”

With evolv­ing analy­sis depart­ments, Rands’ job is also shaped accord­ing­ly, becom­ing what he defines today as ​“a lit­tle bit of a hybrid”.

“I sit some­where between the man­age­ment team (coach­es) and the analy­sis depart­ment,” said Rands. ​“This can become quite a jug­gling act at times, it’s real­ly impor­tant to have clear, trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion strategies.”

“Being a ​‘head of’ means I’m the one that will set the vision of the depart­ment and this vision should rarely change from club to club. It’s some­thing I always can attach to our work”

Those strate­gies find their out­put dur­ing the week­ends when Swansea dis­plays a world-class analy­sis work­flow dur­ing its games. Either home or away, Rands’ team boasts an impres­sive range of men and tools to grant the coach­ing staff with the best pos­si­ble analysis.

In terms of match­day, the Swans have a strong set­up, that’s pri­mar­i­ly com­posed of cam­eras — in order to record every aspect of the match with the most use­ful angles, and man­pow­er, tasked with cod­ing and analysing data.

“We usu­al­ly have some­one film­ing our game from our wide-angle broad­cast qual­i­ty cam­era. This will feed both ours and the away ana­lyst teams, along with our high-res­o­lu­tion broad­cast,” said Rands.

“Alongside this, we run three oth­er cam­eras: two behind the goals and a super-close-up direct­ly behind our defend­ing goal. This is for the action of our build-up, but more impor­tant­ly defen­sive issues. It also cap­tures sound – which is impor­tant for com­mu­ni­ca­tion from set-pieces. The bench has a tablet with all angles stream­ing to it with a 1-sec­ond delay.”

Attached to this whole process, there are coders in the stands. ​“We have two coders on match­day, each with dif­fer­ent cod­ing roles,” said Rands. ​“We also have our data spe­cial­ist inputting the data live and flag­ging any areas of impor­tance, either direct­ly from our game plan or from our usu­al method­ol­o­gy. I will sit on the bench, cap­tur­ing mul­ti-angle review clips for half-time/­full-time review.”

As a pro­fes­sion­al with years of expe­ri­ence in foot­ball, Rands has lived through the many stages and advance­ments of video analy­sis, which have devel­oped hand-in-hand with his career.

“Anyone who has worked in per­for­mance analy­sis over a num­ber of years will undoubt­ed­ly have had their role entwined with tech­nol­o­gy,” recalls Rands. ​“For exam­ple, when I start­ed, you had to phone up an ana­lyst for a game, wait for the DVD to arrive in the post, then had to export to your Macbook via a Canopus 110 box!

“As time moves on, tech­nol­o­gy gets bet­ter and bet­ter. I find embrac­ing it can real­ly light­en the load of what is still an evolv­ing and demand­ing role.

Take for exam­ple the report­ing mech­a­nisms. Initially, every­thing was done in the meet­ing room, a lot of this was stan­dard coach­ing off the pitch. But look­ing at it now, with the Hudl online plat­form, you’re giv­ing play­ers and coach­es more chances to inter­act direct­ly with one anoth­er in their own time.

“Overall tech­nol­o­gy is a huge aspect in help­ing us achieve our role as an ana­lyst, it is so impor­tant to embrace it.”

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  • Let’s hope this world-class performance analysis team doesn’t descend into the farcical like NHSx’s track and trace app. I wonder if the terms not crap and crap can be utilised for the Middlesbrough and Luton games respectively in their analysis of those two games?
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