Bleacher Report UK has teamed up with Liverpool FC and Warrior to take you inside one of the world's most storied and successful football clubs. Each day this week we'll be bringing you exclusive insight from a member of Liverpool's staff, culminating with manager Brendan Rodgers on Friday.
Tuesday's interview subject is Liverpool's head of opposition analysis Chris Davies. View his club profile here.
Bleacher Report: Can you give us an overview of your responsibilities at Liverpool and your typical working hours?
Chris Davies: My responsibility is to provide the coaching staff and players with every single detail they require about our forthcoming opponents. This involves their critically analysing their offensive and defensive tactics. My job is to relate the project back to our philosophy and strengths, and essentially suggest how we can defeat this team.
B/R: What technology do you utilise to analyse opponents?
CD: We use Amisco which has great video editing software, so we can clip up certain elements. Amisco also provide comprehensive quantitative data on our opponents, which can help to confirm our qualitative work.
B/R: How much influence does your research have on the starting XI Brendan Rodgers selects?
CD: Brendan has a clear idea of his team. He has great knowledge of our opponents and studies a lot of games himself. Brendan is predominantly more worried about us and how we perform, but he also respects an opponent's strengths.
B/R: Do you have much interaction with players? For example, might you break down the strengths of an opposition midfielder to Steven Gerrard before a game?
CD: Yes, the presentation and report I produce goes to all the players collectively. Individually, I will often have informal discussions with certain players in the lead up to games about details which may help them.
B/R: How have attitudes to opposition analysis changed over the last decade? Are there particular coaches who have led the revolution in this area?
CD: Opposition analysis has always been there. Managers from earlier eras will have meticulously studied opponents—either at live games or by video tape—but I think with the advances in technology we can now relay that information back to the players in a much more media-friendly format. New products and software are constantly emerging which will make the process of analysis a lot more comprehensive.
I wouldn't say any particular coaches have trail-blazed in this area. I'd actually say Brendan (Rodgers) has been a big advocate. This is my fourth season in the role under him, and in about the 160 fixtures we've had during that time, he has never once missed our coaching meeting to review the opponent. Every week, for one hour, we are there. He has a clear idea of what he wants to know about the opponent, so it makes his opposition analysis department function a lot better than most.
B/R: What are the most important factors when it comes to breaking down Liverpool's next opponent?
CD: The important factors are essentially the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Offensively, their style of play, key threats, transition tactics, physical profiles and how they score their goals. Defensively, their style of play, transition tactics, individual weaknesses, spacial vulnerabilities, collective weaknesses and how they concede goals.
B/R: Which of Liverpool's opponents have most impressed you during your time in job, and why?
CD: The standout teams are obviously the powerful top clubs like Manchester City, who are incredible of their day due to the sheer quality of their players. But teams like Swansea and Southampton are impressive because they have a clear method and play as a team.
B/R: Finally, how did come into this profession, and what advice might you give to somebody who wants to follow a similar path?
CD: I came into analysis as part of my coaching journey. I was a young professional player at Reading, where Brendan was actually my youth team coach. But for one reason or another, my career didn't really progress as I would have hoped past the age of 20. So with the advice of Brendan and some other people I decided to go back into education to study sports science and do my coaching licences.
After studying for three years, I then spent three years coaching in USA, New Zealand and Australia. When Brendan became manager at Swansea, I joined his staff to perform this [analytical] role. I would advise young people interested in this work to study for coaching badges alongside a performance analysis course.
This interview was presented by Bleacher Report UK in partnership with Liverpool FC and Warrior.
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