Everywhere you look, data has taken over football as more pundits, writers and supporters focus on statistics. Do you know your expected goals (or xG) from your passes allowed per defensive action (or PPDA)?
At Wolves, they have a 10-person analysis department led by Mat Pearson, with five dedicated to the first team and five to the academy, while training strategy manager Jhony Conceicao and football analyst first-team Diogo Camacho are part of Bruno Lage’s coaching staff and lean on the expertise of the analytics service.
Conceicao and Camacho describe themselves as Lage’s “eyes” and work with the analysis team off the pitch, as well as with Lage and the players on it.
Numbers are still vital to their work of analyzing team performance and planning a strategy for the fixtures ahead, but they insist that quality trumps quantity every time.
“We try to work more with qualitative information, but sometimes it’s important to check the numbers as well,” Conceicao said.
“From my point of view, I start my work without numbers. I start collecting the qualitative information and then I cross it with the numbers. If I do the opposite, it can influence my opinion when I start watching the game.
“We can determine whether our idea is correct or not and change when we see the numbers. Over the last 10 years numbers have become very important in sport.
“Most of the information comes through videos and we create similar scenarios of the opponent and after that we will discuss it.
“When we choose the videos to show to the gaffer, we also try to add some strategic suggestions. We then share the opinions between all the staff and the last word goes to the gaffer, he chooses the last clips to show to the players.
Conceicao and Camacho split the work equally to tackle the game Wolves just played and the game ahead – while dividing that up by looking at the opponent and Wolves individually, before putting together information and lessons learned .
It is, to say the least, complex. Then add a midweek game, especially a cup game against a lesser-known team, and their work becomes even more intense.
“In a normal week with a game, Jhony will be more focused on analyzing the opponent, but he’s also watching the team and I’m also watching the opponent,” Camacho said.
“In a normal week, I will start with our past game and then move on to the opponent. If there are weeks with multiple games, we need to share the games between us to maximize information.
“We try to be the eyes of the manager and understand everything the opponent is doing and try to understand deeply what our team is doing, according to Bruno’s ideas.
“We try to get as much information as possible and give the essential information to the rest of the team. Our job is to filter this information to Bruno and the rest of the staff, to obtain the best possible performance.
“When we look at the opponent, we always have our team in mind because the main points are the same.
“If we look at the opponent’s strengths or weaknesses, we look at how we can defend and attack them, and with our own team we look at what we are doing well and what we need to keep improving.
“We try to match what we see in training to what we see in games. You look for things to improve and then you work on them in training.
“It’s not always that we did something wrong, but that the opponent forced us to do it. So next time we need the right solution.”
Camacho turned just 23 last week and his move to Wolves was his first time working outside his native Portugal.
He started working as a first-team analyst at Famalicao in 2018 before his move to England last summer when Lage arrived at the club.
Not only is he thrilled with the move and making it a real success, but he always aims to bring in new ideas as a young voice among the staff.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “Everything happened very quickly, but after a few years in Portugal at Famalicao, I gained experience and learned a lot every day.
“Coming here was easier to adapt than I thought, because I’ve never lived abroad. The difference between competition and work is good. It’s the top and you have to be 100% focused % each day.
“Every match is difficult, every training brings something new. You always have to be focused.
“I try to learn from everyone and Jhony has been a great role model for me.
“He has a lot more experience than me and I try to learn everything I can from him. I also try to give what I know to Jhony and others.”
Analysts’ work is crucial and can mean the difference between winning or losing a Premier League game and Conceicao believes Camacho adds a lot of quality to the team.
“Every member of the analytics department is important to our quality,” Conceicao said.
“Diogo is a young boy who started a few years ago at a high level. He is an intelligent boy and he can bring us something new. He is important for our staff.”