Case Study: The Analysis Department at Villarreal

By Duncan Ritchie

06-July-2021 on Users

8 minute read

In the summer of 2020, Unai Emery, a coach well known for his dedication to and use of video analysis, joined Villarreal, a club which has been developing and improving their video analysis structure for many years.


This was the perfect storm and, on returning to Spain after sojourns at PSG and Arsenal, Emery optimised the video analysis department at Villarreal and led them to victory in the Europa League, Emery’s fourth Europa League title and the first title in the history of Villarreal.


Coaching Staff


During his career on the bench, Unai Emery has garnered a reputation for being an analytical coach with a working methodology focused on using video analysis as a way to obtain results. Proof of this lies with the team of coaches which he has put his trust in throughout his career, Victor Mañas, Pablo Villanueva and Javi García, who are all experienced analysts.


On arrival at Villarreal, Emery combined his own coaches with the in-house coaching staff and the team now consists of 8 members in total. The distribution is as follows:


•    Assistant manager: Pablo Villanueva

•    Physical trainer: Mario Segarra

•    Goalkeeping coach: Javi García

•    Assistant coaches and video analysts: Pablo Rodríguez, Víctor Mañas, Antonio 'Rodri' Rodríguez and Carlos Mulet.


Each one is responsible for the analysis of specific areas of the first team structure. Victor Mañas and Pablo Villanueva work on the analysis of the opposition. The two Rodríguez’s, Antonio and Pablo, are responsible for analysis of Villarreal, individual and collective respectively. Javi garcía is responsible for the analysis of goalkeepers, both Villarreal’s and the opposition. Last, but by no means least, Carlos Mulet came up from the junior teams this year and is in charge of filming and tagging training sessions. In addition, Carlos assists Victor Mañas and Javi García when registering in real time.


The combination of Unai Emery’s usual staff and the coaches already in place at Villarreal has created a team which complements each other fantastically well. As Victor Mañas explains, “Pablo Rodríguez has worked previously in scouting and brings a different vision in that sense. Imanol Idiakez has systemic knowledge of the game and provides important knowledge in his role.” 


Video Analysis Covering Every Angle


This structure has been designed by Emery and adapted to the resources available at Villarreal in order to cover all the angles. The roles of the video analysis department ranges from analysis of their own team to opposition analysis to individual analysis of parts of the game such as set pieces.


If looking specifically at a team’s strategy, they will usually analyse ten games, while for in-game plays, they’ll look at between four and six. However, there are a few nuances here as Victor Mañas explains.


“If we are playing at home, we’ll watch the last four matches that the opposition played away from home plus the last game they played, regardless of venue, in case we find something new there.”


They may also go further back into the archives, analysing older games, as there may be some connection to Villarreal’s own playstyle.


17 Manchester United Matches Analysed


This was one of Emery’s great anecdotes after winning the Europa League title. In the press conference after the match, Emery himself revealed that Villarreal had analysed 17 of their opponents last matches. Victor Mañas later confirmed this on social media by sharing an image of the 17 matches in Nacsport.


Translation: Unai wasn't lying! 17 games analysed to prepare the 5th final and 4th title. Let's go, Yellow Submarine!


“We analysed 17 games because we wanted to see what Man U did in the qualifying rounds,” explains Mañas. “Obviously the context is different, so we also looked at their semi-final against Sevilla from last season to get more references. From there, we analysed 7 or 8 of their Premier League matches to help us build a game plan. This allowed us to see patterns and situations and how they dealt with them, rotations, positioning of key players, etc. This was why we worked with so many games.”


The Tempo of Analysis


Time is precious for any video analyst and, at an elite team, this is even more true due to their busy schedule of multiple games per week. This means that it is important that the structure is well defined and that each analyst meets their deadlines.


The flow of data is hard and fast and Unai Emery leads from the front in this regard, rewatching the day’s game the same night or early next morning. He also begins the process of studying the next opponent.


But he’s not the only one to show this dedication. The day after a match, every analyst will have prepared a dossier of important actions in the game which is delivered to Emery himself. This usually contains around 60 of the most important highlights of the match as well as a written report. There is then a meeting of all staff members to discuss the highlighted actions and reports.


Once the post-match analysis is complete, it’s time to start preparing for the next opponent. Victor Mañas does the first analysis, creating a presentation with Nacsport which contains between 60 to 70 actions, many including drawings made with KlipDraw. This list later reaches the manager, who has already watched the full matches. He’ll filter these actions, perhaps adding more drawings, and use the resulting presentation to organise the game plan and training sessions.


Victor Mañas Villarreal


Work in Real Time


As if all this weren’t enough, Villarreal also work intensively in real time during matches.


Victor Mañas, Pablo Rodríguez, Rodri and Carlos Mulet position themselves in the stands, in constant communication with Imanol Idiakez and Pablo Villanueva who accompany Emery on the bench.


The analysts select four or five outstanding plays which can be sent straight to the changing room to be shown to players at half time. These images are usually set pieces or very specific actions that have happened in the game and give complementary information which the players can take advantage of.


This information is never intensive, since too much information can overwhelm a player.


“We make players aware of situations which have already been worked on during training sessions so they can find solutions,” explains Victor Mañas.


Other Keys to the Video Analysis Process


To make this volume of work doable, a working structure in which both coaches and analysts feel comfortable and can make the most of their time is necessary.


To this end, a common nomenclature in analysis templates is used in which a few categories and a large number of descriptors are used. The categories include the main actions such as set pieces, whether they are on or off the ball, etc. Descriptors serve to describe the action such as the area of the field the action happened.


Every member of the team works with this common template structure which contains a series of fundamental concepts which are reflected through the descriptors. By doing this, the organisation of the analysis work is much simpler when preparing final dossiers for each match or opponent as the information is simply combined into the same database.


Knowing everything about the work carried out at Villarreal, it’s not surprising that Unai Emery highlights analysis as one the key ingredients to his success. It is a methodical job, well organised and with a structure that has been bearing fruit for yours. There are no coincidences here!


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