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UYL Datascouting & Youth Academies Challenges

Due some requests we have translated our last blog in english. Artikel in Deutsch hier

We want to live up to our "trademark" in this blog post and look at multiple topics as broadly as possible and combine them in a practice-oriented way.

We address the challenges of youth academies and are scouting the best players in the UEFA Youth League, purely based on data. A challenging program for today.

The UEFA Youth League is a club competition for U19 players that has been running since the 2013/14 season. The 32 youth teams from each of the clubs involved in the UEFA Champions League group stage and, since the 2015/16 season, the 32 youth champions from the strongest nations according to the UEFA club coefficient are eligible to compete.

The best football academies

Almost without exception, the Youth League talents were trained in the best youth academies (NLZ). These play an increasingly important role due to the exploding market values. For most clubs, it is vital to have home-grown players in the first team and to sell them on later at the highest possible profit.

The academies have become talent forges but also financial opportunities. The sports institute CIES has analyzed youth academies worldwide based on sales revenue since 2015.

Benfica had the most profitable academy with EUR 379 million in proceeds. Rounding out the podium. Real Madrid (330M), AS Monaco (285M) and Ajax (283M) completed. Flamengo, River Plate and Santos occupy the first three places among non-European teams.

The CIES also recently analyzed the number of minutes played in the professional team by homegrown players. In the current season of the top 5 leagues, no team has played more minutes with homegrown players than Athletic Club: 55.8%. The Basque team is ahead of local rival Real Sociedad (43.9%), while Celta Vigo (41.2%) completes the all-Spanish podium. Respect.

This is where you can really talk about sustainable strategy, work and talent development, as the minutes played by home-grown players are the most sustainable economically, humanly and in terms of fan identification.

In the Swiss Super League, it looks like this:

Challenges of academies in talent development and player selection

Let's look first at the most obvious, work vs. talent. The "work follows success in the lexicon" issue.

Work without talent is a waste Talent without work is a tragedy.

But the dogma of success through hard work has had its day in top-level football.

You can no longer differentiate yourself in top-level football with hard work. It has become a basic requirement. Talent is also a basic requirement, but what you do with it is much more important. There is a world between having talent and being a talent

For many years, the german football federation (DFB) has been one of the most innovative associations when it comes to training and developing young coaches and players. Let's start with a quote from the sporting director of the DFB national teams.

There are too few players with outstanding individual qualities in Germany. We have definitely lost the playing field mentality. We have too few outstanding individual players* compared to the competition!" Joti Chatzialexiou

No question the lack of "street footballers" has been noticed all over Europe for decades and a lot has been done about it. So that technically skilled youth players with (temporary) physical deficiencies or even players with "difficult" character in the selection system do not immediately meet resistance and defensive reactions and are "ejected" from the system.

The Youth League players have been trained in the best youth academies in Europe, where they have been developed academically, football-wise and also personality-wise. All these players have already survived numerous selection processes. Inevitably, we come to the questions "what is talent?" and "how do I recognize potential?". Two very simple questions about very complex issues.

The systematic, sustainable and qualitative assessment of player potential is a major challenge for academies.

The challenge of a selection process is first and foremost that it is very complex. And that it assumes the ideal case that the selection criteria are clearly measurable and comprehensible.

In reality, those in charge have few qualitative criteria to make good selection decisions. Decisions are often shaped by and dependent on individuals, opinions, and perceptions.

And in far too many places, despite other guidelines, the ambition of junior coaches and the focus on short-term and personal success still dominates.

Researches have shown for many years that physical factors are greatly overrated at ages from 12 to 16. This is known as the Relative Age Effect (RAE).

"False" 1st quarter talents take the place of "true" 4th quarter talents due to physical advantages. This problem is now recognized and acknowledged.

However, in national youthteams there are still a disproportionate number of players born in the first half of the year and a disproportionate number of players born in October, November and December.

Researches have shown also that geographic or socio-economic factors also play a role in the selection process. These decision-making patterns often eat into the system and become an unspoken culture.

Over time, certain traits are "over-selected" by the system and show strong consistency, giving the impression that they are important for the long-term development of players, when in fact they are only important for selection.

Ideally, a player's selection would reflect the result of an explicit decision about which traits are best suited for long-term success. Unfortunately, in sports, it is not possible to retroactively determine the correctness of a decision to select one athlete over another, as the careers of the two diverge 360 degrees after that decision is made.

The first selection processes are the most important, as they "cut away" the most players.

The fear of missing out on the next Messi or losing him to the competitors leads many academies to go for U6 or U8 selections already. An age where "talent" is predominantly family ambition and task repetition.

Risks and best practices in junior academies.

Recognizing the challenges and limitations of the selection process provides the foundation for possible reflection and improvement. Obtaining an outside perspective can also help identify blind spots.

Best practice: The selection criteria of youth players should not be the same as they are for adults.

Football itself and especially human talent and the assessment of potential is extremely complex and consists of many different facets and dimensions. This also makes it clear that there can be no standard process that can be put over everything and work well for all cases. Thus, it becomes clear that a differentiated approach to the promotion and selection process makes really sense.

In the youth player talent selection, it is a challenge not only to fall for the obvious talent, but also to see the skills that will, however, positively influence development in the long term.

Different risks of the selection decisions

A selection process and their decisions also involve risks of different magnitude depending on the type of player. The least risky decisions are those of players with low potential and weak performance, and players with high potential and strong performance. However, this only affects a maximum of 20% of players.

Everything in between with below or above average potential and performance has much more risk for misjudgement and bad decisions.

Best practice: classify each player into potential, performance, and risk, and define a differentiated decision-making process per category that is appropriate for the cluster.

Many federations have also adapted their training concepts out of fear of selecting the next Messi.

Best practice: To take the decision in the selection process as late as possible, so that the physical and mental development is aligned. And the players can be compared with each other as fairly as possible.

To my knowledge, Belgium was the first federation, sometimes a few more, to introduce the biological age. It allows players who have physical deficits due to delayed physical development to continue playing at younger age groups.

Integration of academies in club decisions

Another aspect is the integration of the youth academy managers in the clubs. Academies are still too often separate and isolated areas. Too often, junior players and professionals are still too firmly separated from one another.

Best practice: To ensure a consistent club strategy, the head of academy should not only be involved in a consultative way, but should also be represented in all football decision-making bodies.

Focus on people instead of just players

Coaches play the absolute most important role in the human and playing development of players. Leadership and social skills are integrated into coach education in all associations. However, it quickly becomes clear when looking at the scope that this must be a secondary issue.

Here, too, the DFB is taking a bold and new approach and has fundamentally reformed the development and education of coaches in recent years. In the future, the focus will be much more on leadership and social skills.

Best practice: focus trainer training more on people & development processes. This takes courage, additional skills among mentors and years. But it will be worth it.

Personality traits that are more difficult to measure and assess, in addition to talent, they are of great importance for the future and success of people and players. .

Resilience, creativity and the ability to learn are important and indispensable factors for success, both for players and coaches, and should be promoted and given greater weight in youth academies.

Despite the best academies and development, players cannot be trained individually enough. The player has become a self-entrepreneur who seeks support from external specialists when needed.

External coaching for players by specialists is becoming more and more important to achieve excellence and to use all possibilities/resources. Whether mentalcoach, tacticscoach athleticscoach or dataanalytics coach. In the end, it's not talent that pays the rent, but the development.

UEFA Youth League

The youth tournament has been held since 2013. The previous Youth League winners were:

2013/2014 FC Barcelona U19

2014/2015 Chelsea FC U19

2015/2016 Chelsea FC U19

2016/2017 RB Salzburg U19

2017/2018 FC Barcelona U19

2018/2019 FC Porto U19

2019/2020 Real Madrid U19

2021/2022 Benfica U19

In the current Youth League edition 2021-22 participated from Switzerland the U19 team of the

Young Boys participated. They were eliminated in the preliminary round against Manchester United, Villareal and Atalanta.

The Final Four tournament took place last weekend in Nyon. In the semifinals, Benfica beat Juventus and Salzburg beat Atletico Madrid. The final was won by Benfica with 6:0. Congratulations to coach Luis Castro and his team for winning the Youth League for the first time.

The Youth League is the first big showcase for the young players and stars of tomorrow. There are a lot of scouts and agents sitting in the stands. The players are well known to the scouts but not yet to the general public.

UEFA Youth League 2022 data scouting

It seems that currently there is almost no club that doesn't want to explore or expand its #DataAnalytics capabilities & opportunities in #Scouting and #GameAnalysis.

Today we want to select the best players of the tournament based on their performance data.

A total of 1,077 players participated in the tournament. Depending on their success they had played one to nine matches (data range up to quarter finals).

Therefore, our statements are only limited reliable, because they are based on reduced playing minutes. Experience shows that performance stabilizes after 800 minutes of play and allows a reliable analysis. Nevertheless, the Youth League is a unique chance to compare the most talented young players at the same level.

Analysis rules:

Pure data analysis

Only players with at least 300 minutes of play considered

Data source Wyscout

Datascouting Procedure

We bundle the individual metrics (over 100) into different core competencies.

After that we weight each metric according to our expertise and after that we also weight the individual core competencies. The result is a number that contains the calculated value of a player.

Thus, we have developed our own view, our own logic, our own algorithm on the data. With our own player evaluation algorithm, you can see not only the ranking of the players, but also how far apart they are from each other in terms of performance.

The individual and intelligent weighting is an extremely important point. Den for example a center back at Manchester City needs more passing & playmaking qualities than at a dedicated defensive team. And a wingback at a weaker team needs a different defensive/offensive ratio than at a top team.

We have now selected the most important metrics per position to our liking and also weighted them individually per position.

Now it's time to select the best players based on their data.

Goalkeeper (GK)

Requirements: Strong reflexes, good penalty area presence, good passing game.

Harvey Davies (19) Liverpool U19
Samuel Soares (20) Benfica U19
Zsombor Senkó (19) Juventus U19
Adam Stejskal (20) Salzburg U19

datascouting UYL 2022 - GK
datascouting UYL 2022 - GK

Central defender (LCB, RCB).

Requirements: Tackling strength, Heading strength, Good anticipation and positional play, Few fouls, Good progressive passing, Playmaking qualities.

Lukas Wallner (18,L) Salzburg U19/FC Liefering

Strengths: Generalist, aerial duels, technique, passing, creativity

Antonio Silva (18,R) Benfica U19

Strengths: Generalist, aerial duels, technique, progressive passing, creativity

Darío Benavides (18, R) Sevilla U19

Strengths: aerial duels, passing. Offensive

Samson Baidoo (18,R) Salzburg U19/FC Liefering

Strengths: Tackling, aerial duels, passing, offense.

datascouting UYL 2022 - CB
datascouting UYL 2022 - CB

Lateral Defenders (LFB, LWB, RFB, RWB).

Requirements: Box-2-Box, Good passing and progressive passing, Passing into final third and penalty area, Dribbling, Touching the ball in penalty area.

Kostyantyn Vivcharenko (19, L) Dynamo Kyiv U19

Strengths: Progressive passing, dribbling, creativity, offense

Álvaro Fernández (18, L) Manchester United U19

Strengths: Dribbling, progressive passes and runs, assists, offense

Rafael Obrador (18, L) Real Madrid U19

Strengths: Defensive duels, dribbling, progressive passes, creativity

Tom Rothe (17, L) BVB U19

Strengths: Defensive duels, progressive passes, creativity

Benjamin Böckle (19, L) BVB U19

Strengths: Defensive duels, progressive passes, creativity

datascouting UYL 2022 - DW
datascouting UYL 2022 - DW

Defensive Midfield (DM, RDMF, LDMF).

Requirements: Box-2-Box, Good passing and progressive passing, Passes into final third and penalty area, Playmaking qualities.

Ilya Gulko (19, R), Shakhtar U19

Strengths: Defensive duels. Progressive passes, Creative passes, Offensive skills

Ayman Foumou Kari (17, R), PSG U19

Strengths: Dribbling, Progressive passes, Creative passes, Offense.

Anders Nibe Hansen (18, L), Midtjylland U19

Strengths: Defensive Duels. Progressive passes, Key passes, Assists

Warren Zaire-Emery (16, R), PSG U19

Strengths: Dribbling, Progressive passes & runs, Key passes, Tuck passes, Assists.

datascouting UYL 2022 - DM
datascouting UYL 2022 - DM

Central Midfield (RCMF, LCMF).

Requirements: Box-2-Box, Interceptions, Good passing and Progressive passing, Box-2-box qualities, Dribbling, Assists and Goal scoring.

Arne Engels (18, R), Bruges U19

Strengths: Assists, Key Passes, Progressive Runs, Offensive Creativity

Göktan Gürpüz (19, R), BVB U19

Strengths: Dribbling, creativity, assists, key & slot passes

Lynnt Audoor (18, R), Brugge U19.

Strengths: Dribbling. Progressive runs, tuck passes, offense.

Oleksandr Yatsyk (19, R), Dynamo Kyiv U19.

Strengths: Dribbling, key and tuck passes, header, offense.

datascouting UYL 2022 - CM
datascouting UYL 2022 - CM

Winger (OW, AM).

Requirements: Agility, dribbling, creative passing, passing and scoring.

Oscar Fraulo (18, R) Midtjylland U19

Strengths: creativity, slot passes, key passes, offense

Peter González (19, L) Real Madrid U19

Strengths: Progressive runs, Dribbling, Creativity, Passes, Assists

Bruno Iglesias (18, R) Real Madrid U19

Strengths: Creativity, Key Passes, Passes, Assists

David González (19, L) Real Madrid U19

Strengths: Offense, Key Passes, Assists

Samba Diallo (19, R) Dynamo Kyiev U19

Strengths: Offense, Dribbling, Progression

datascouting UYL 2022 - OW/AM
datascouting UYL 2022 - OW/AM

Forward (FW)

Requirements: Get in on goal, efficiency in front of goal, set pieces for teammates, heading strength, good ball retention.

Xavi Simons (18, R) PSG U19

Strengths: Offense, Creativity, Assists, Dribbling, Finishing

Romeo Vermant (18, R) Brugge U19

Strengths: Creativity, Keypass, Offense, Header

Aral Simsir (19, R) Midtjylland U19

Strengths: Dribbling, passing. Offense, defense, creativity

Roko Šimić (18, R) Salzburg U19

Strengths: heading, passing, offense

Bradley Fink (18, R) BVB U19

Strengths: Assists, Key passes, Offense

datascouting UYL 2022 - FW
datascouting UYL 2022 - FW

Every future has its harbingers, which are visible for a short time in the present. Good scouting means to recognize the harbingers of the future. Also in the data!

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We combine the competences of football tactics, scouting and data analytics and advise and support clubs in interpreting and using data to make better decisions in scouting and match analysis based on data validation.


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