Betfred Sport

England could take a leaf out of Swedish FA's book

Euro 2012 will soon be upon us - and England still don't have a confirmed manager to lead them into battle.

The powers that be in London could do worse than to take note of how their Swedish counterparts are doing things.

Ulf Kristiansson is an analyst and coach with the Swedish FA. Total Football editor Mark Roach picked his brains.

You are a match analyser for the Swedish FA - what does that role involve?

A big part of my job is as a match analyst, but I also work as an assistant coach for one of our youth national teams and I am in charge of a big information system project, aiming to ease the information flow between the players, their coaches and other functions around the players.

The match analyst role is basically an information service, breaking down games into their essentials and deliver that information effectively.

We work very intensively with assessing our own national teams and trying to provide as much interesting information as possible to coaches and players, but we also work with scouting upcoming opponents and try to optimize our own performance based on that information.

What is your own background?

I had to quit playing because of knee injuries and took on youth coaching while I was still in my teens. I got lucky and had the opportunity to work in two of the best youth clubs in Sweden. I decided that the education process was too slow and went on studying football coaching at university Level.

I kept coaching both youth and senior teams and during that period I started a company, trying to fill a bit of the gap in performance analyzing in Swedish football.

I had the company going for about a year full time and was working for the FA and clubs before being recruited by the FA in 2007.

What have been your main achievements so far in the role?

A couple of games spring to mind, but one of the things that has really made a difference is an online feedback system. I came up with the idea for this a couple of years ago and I am now responsible for it.

The system integrates all functions that we want in the communication between players and coaches in one platform - for example training load monitoring, video feedback, tactical instructions and discussions, and other development tools. It has really had an impact on how the federation works, and in my opinion in a very positive way.

Are you also involved in any other roles with the Swedish FA or other organisations?

I’m also assistant coach in one of our youth national teams and head the development of our online platform. Sometimes I also fill in as an observer scouting upcoming opponents.

In 2010 I worked for the Nigerian national team, but returned to the Swedish FA after the World Cup. I also still have my own business, but I’m almost not doing any work there myself anymore.

What are your main aims as match analyser for the Swedish FA?

Tricky question, but I guess it’s to optimise the workflow and information delivery in such way that we have as much positive impact on actual game results as possible.

This role is still relatively rare in Sweden and we have been struggling with justifying it, but for a couple of years now we’ve been experiencing a massive increase in the interest for this area and, most importantly, in the integration with the rest of the operations.

How many games do you watch each week?

It depends. If we’re in a final round, or preparing for one, it’s basically as many as you can fit in seven days. But it also varies with the work being done on each game.

When doing our most advanced breakdown of a game it could take us 8-10 hours just processing one game. The average number could be 10 games with some analysis and between three and five being analyzed in an really in depth way.

How do you compile your reports?

We are always trying to develop this part of the process and make the delivery as effective as possible, while containing as much information as possible. Each game generates a report of approximately 10 pages, containing massive amounts of information both on individual performance and team performance.

In addition to that, everything in the report is mirrored in our video feedback part of the online platform, making it really easy to evaluate all the statistics.

What is being done at youth level towards the development of players in Sweden?

There are a number of projects ongoing, mainly focusing on raising the knowledge level of the coaches at youth level.

For example, we are one of the few countries in Europe that have already been approved by UEFA for our Youth Elite Level education.

Many Swedish players have gone on to play at the top level in other countries in Europe - do you see this continuing?

Yes, that’s only natural for us. Our league can’t compete with the top nations on either quality or resources.

What is the philosophy around football in Sweden in general?

That’s a really hard question to answer, as there are so many styles of coaching. For example, if you take an English style of coaching and compare it with Spanish influenced coaching, you’ll find major differences in pretty much all aspects of reasoning.

But if you were to generalise, I think we are more focused on the collective performance of the team and less on 1v1s and duels than many other countries.

What are the main aims of the Swedish FA?

As with any other FA we have aims for the national teams - to qualify for the final rounds for our U19s and older - but also for maintaining football as the most popular sport in Sweden, engaging as many youngsters as possible and to provide them with a meaningful activity leading to a healthy, sound lifestyle with good values.

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