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Olivier Deschacht's experience with data at the RBFA

“To be honest, I was not 100 % data driven“

Olivier Deschacht, the former defender of Anderlecht and recordholder with 602 official appearances for the Belgian club, is currently assistent coach of the U21 Belgian national team.

The staff members of the national team use data for different types of goals. Data driven decisions play an increasingly important role in analyzing multiple aspects of the opponent.

“We use data for example to examine the set pieces of the opponent to warn the boys for the strengths of the opponent. Off course also remarkable physical performances like a midfielder who runs 13 kilometer in a game or a striker who reaches a topspeed of 35 km/h and general match statistics, like the home and away results of a team are important to notice.”

The players of the U21 of Belgium are tracked in detail. “In order to have an idea of their workload, they all wear a GPS tracker during every training and game.”

At club level, data gets embedded more and more in the decision cycle of whether a player gets selected or not. Next to the physical parameters that were introduced years ago and are used more as a benchmark, nowadays more and more technical and tactical performance metrics are added to this decision cycle. The coach of the national team nowadays makes more and more data driven decisions, according to Olivier Deschacht:

“Most of the time, the lads are in perfect physical shape when they join us. If they run a bit less than others on training, we don’t necessarily push them. In clubs, however, those elements are crucial. Managers usually display the distances and high intensity runs per player in the dressing room. A player who covered considerably less distance than the others, will force himself to do more efforts during the next sessions. Or he will be punished by the manager.“

We all know that nowadays, data are indispensable. Some clubs use data more than others most of the time this also applies to coaches, but in the end, they all need them.

“ To give an example Hein Vanhaezebrouck is a maniac when it comes to data. He wants his players to have run 40 kilometer a week, game included. If you only ran 35, you will have to run 5 more the day after the game.“

The future of tracking & event data

“Nowadays, it is unthinkable to work without data, and to be honest, I was not 100 % data driven either. If Messi scored a hattrick but only ran 8 kilometer whereas the others ran more than 10, can you say he was bad ? But I know, the covered kilometers of a team are a reason to explain a defeat if the team only ran 110 kilometers and the opponent 114 kilometers.“

Modern coaches tend to use more and more data to develop and explain their tactical system to the players.

“You can use objective metrics to show your team where to run, how to put pressure on the opponent and how to develop automatisms. Anderlecht and especially Manchester City are the best examples on how they exploit this. Every player perfectly knows how to put pressure on the other team and how the attackers of the opponent will press them. “


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