The Technician: How UEFA's observers are providing a clear view for coaches
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Read this article in full in the new edition of UEFA Direct
Over the last 25 seasons, UEFA has published more than 130 technical reports on its club and national team competitions, based on input from top coaches who have acted as technical observers.
Put together, the reports create a technical and tactical legacy, providing a fascinating insight into the evolution of the European game over the last quarter-century.
The latest interactive report, on last season's UEFA Champions League, is available to view online now.
The evolution of the observer
Although members of the Technical Committee had previously contributed to tournament reviews, UEFA technical reports really kicked off at EURO ‘96 when UEFA covered coaching aspects of the tournament in England with a team of five observers: Gérard Houllier, Daniel Jeandupeux, Rinus Michels, Tommy Svensson and Roy Hodgson.
By 1999, technical observers’ remits had been extended to UEFA’s club competitions, with the first Champions League report produced following Manchester United’s epic victory over FC Bayern München in Barcelona in 1999.
During the first decade of the new millennium, coverage of age-limit tournaments gathered momentum – as did the competitions themselves. Technical reports on the UEFA Europa League appeared soon after its metamorphosis from the old UEFA Cup, and, these days, technical observers are on squad lists for the full spectrum of UEFA’s club and national team competitions.
Historically, technical reports have tried to support observers’ views with statistical evidence even though, in the pioneering days, data were rudimentary. And plans to enhance technical reports have sometimes been frustrated by fundamentals, such as lack of quality footage from age-limit tournaments.
To the present day. A library of technical reports is now available on the uefatechnicalreports.com platform, with match analysis now embedded within the day-to-day UEFA administration.
In addition to the broad-brushstroke analysis of playing systems, goalscoring patterns, set plays, goalkeeping, counterattacking, roles of full-backs, change-footed wingers and so on, reports now set out to illustrate match moments that the observers have pinpointed as interesting from a coaching perspective.
This is all benefiting from advances in technology, too, which make it possible to clip videos in real time and attach them to reports, using state-of-the-art visualisation and accurate match data.
During a high-intensity tournament like next year’s rearranged EURO 2020, with multiple games per day, this sort of rapid access to video and data will open up more time for tactical analysis, debate and, by comparing with previous competitions, looking at trends within the game as a whole and offering a more complete picture to coaches and coach educators via material which, it is hoped, can give added value to coach education courses.
What the observers say
Roy Hodgson – Crystal Palace manager and original UEFA technical observer
"The role hasn’t changed that much over the years. It’s still about producing a technical report that serves the purpose of passing on observations to people who are not so close to the tournament or might not have the same level of expert knowledge.
"Over the years, the technical reports have tried to pinpoint the aspects that were helping to make teams successful. Athletic qualities have evolved; formations have gone through 4-4-2 or three-at-the-back periods. And there have been knock-on benefits. For example, the technical reports on the EUROs, the Champions League and the Europa League are really useful to spark discussion when UEFA gets the top coaches together for the Elite Club Coaches Forum or a national coaches conference, and a lot of ideas have been implemented.
"Another thing I’d like to emphasise is that, while financial and marketing aspects of the game were evolving really quickly, the technical side was not very well covered. So the technical reports have been positive in highlighting the coaching aspects of the game."
David Moyes - West Ham United manager and technical observer at EURO 2016 and the 2019 Nations League finals, as well as for Champions League matches
"The most rewarding thing is to discuss so many things with a group of football people who have different opinions and ways of seeing things. For example, everybody likes to discuss topics like change-footed wingers and the impact they have on your attacking patterns. It’s really good to be part of that and I’ve brought information and ideas back from both the EURO and the Nations League. And I think the ideas you get from watching the amazing coaching at a top level can be exploited all the way down to junior teams."
Anna Signeul, Finland women’s national team coach and long-standing technical observer
"[Technical reports are] important for many reasons. As a historical tool for the development of the game by plotting trends and developments. As a learning tool for everyone working in the game at senior and youth levels and as an educational tool to stimulate discussion and catalyse analysis and debate, as well as promoting further investment into the game. As an observer, a EURO is a huge learning experience and I felt that EURO 2013, when it was expanded to 12 teams, was a great step forward."
Popularity with coaches
Jorge Braz – coach of reigning European futsal champions, Portugal
"UEFA’s technical reports are a very important documents in the analysis and evaluation of the major competitions that are the main references to understand the state of the sport, and the evolutionary trend of the game.
"The reports are prepared by coaches with enormous experience, who know how to analyse the most relevant information. The documentation, illustrations and detailed analysis of what happens, are very important for young coaches – a didactic document revealing the dynamics of the best European teams. Keeping up with the ideologies of the coaches of the main national teams in Europe, analysing all the details, is mandatory for me and my own technical team."
Lars Lagerbäck - head coach of Norway and quarter-finalist with Iceland at EURO 2016
"It is always valuable to get a total view and see the trends of a final tournament, especially concerning development of playing systems and priorities when it comes to the way of playing (possession play, zonal defending and so on).
"I think analysis and conclusions should always bear in mind the question ‘Why do you win football matches?’ For me this is crucial when it comes to education of coaches and players. An important aspect here is to try to analyse the teams’ ways of playing in order to get coaches and players to understand how individual playing qualities can affect the way the team can play – both with and without the ball.
"The technical reports have evolved in a positive way and statistics are a good tool to see how football is changing. The possibility to illustrate analysis with video clips is, of course, a good step forward."