Football Footage: How to Improve Soccer Skills By Watching Game Film

Nov 5, 2021

If you want to be a better soccer player, you have to get out there on the pitch and put your 10,000 hours of training in. But some of those hours should be dedicated to sitting back and watching movies - game footage that is. Watching game footage gives players a chance to observe their performance and how their opponents play, in an unbiased way - the camera doesn’t lie during a market game.

More importantly, game footage can be used to analyze how a player can address a weakness or how a team can exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. This post will discuss the virtues of analyzing game footage and players can use it to improve their skills.

What Can You Use Game Footage For?

Soccer game footage has many purposes, and there are three main types of footage you can watch. You can examine footage of professional matches, footage of your opponents, or even footage of your team or yourself.

The more games you watch, the more patterns and characteristics of players you will begin to see. Identifying these patterns can teach you soccer tactics you wouldn’t learn by playing the game alone. Best of all, you can trust the footage to be a reliable teacher - the camera doesn’t lie and it shows you everything as it happened, even if your uncle says otherwise during Sunday afternoon games.

Uses of Game Footage in Soccer

  • Improve your tactical awareness and IQ
  • Understand your opponents/rivals better
  • Analyze your performance (if it’s recorded on film) to make improvements
  • Learn how to use new formations for your team (more for coaches)
  • Identify playing styles that may better suit you as a player

For the sake of this article, we’re going to discuss how you can use game footage of professional matches to improve your soccer IQ.

Analyze the Person Playing in Your Position

Before sitting to watch a game, pick the player you’re going to focus on for analysis. For example, if you’re a striker, you might analyze Messi or Mbappe. If you’re a defender, you might analyze Varane or Ramos.

You want to learn what they’re doing with or without the ball. What kind of runs do they make, what movements do they incorporate, how do they create space for football players and their teammates so that they can receive the ball?

You can focus on the players in your position on both teams, it doesn’t just have to be one. So in a match of Tottenham vs Chelsea and you’re a striker, you could analyze Harry Kane vs Romelu Lukaku. It’s okay to watch every player develop a better understanding/feel for the game and IQ, but try to focus mainly on the player you picked beforehand.

Take Notes on the Player You’re Focusing On

Analyzing your target player means taking notes. This can be done with a pen and paper or on your computer/tablet/phone. Continually analyze what your player of focus is doing and involved with so that you can take note of it.

Write down these techniques, plays, and maneuvers so that you can apply them to your own game. Ask yourself why a player made a certain decision, play, move - what was the thinking behind it. This will give you a clearer understanding of tactical decisions in soccer, and they will give you an idea as to what you should focus on strategically as well.

You can also make note of mistakes your focus player makes and ask yourself why they made that mistake or how it happened. And then think about what they could have done instead to prevent that mistake from happening. Learning about mistakes helps you to avoid making decisions that can lead to similar Monday Night Football mistakes as well.

Take Notes of What They Do When They’re Off the Ball

The next thing to do is to observe what the player is doing when they don’t have the ball. This can be tricky if the camera is not on them during play. However, as soon as they appear in the camera’s focus, watch them see what they’re doing. Ask yourself:

  • What runs are they making?
  • What moves do they make?
  • How are they using space?
  • How are they pacing and positioning themselves?
  • How do they communicate and make themselves available to other teammates who have the ball?

Ask yourself as many questions as possible and make note of as many details as you can. What a player does without the ball matters as much as what they do with it.

After the Match, Answer Key Questions About Your Player’s Performance

When the match ends, you’ll want to ask some questions about the player’s performance. Ideally, you’ll want to ask these questions after they’ve had a good match. For example, you can ask:

  • What were some common patterns, themes, actions they executed consistently throughout the game?
  • What was something they did often?
  • Were they shooting a lot?
  • Is there a move or run they execute more than once?
  • Is there a space they occupy more than once?

Once you identify the patterns, ask yourself why they’re executing these patterns. They’re doing these for a reason and they likely do this during practice. You’ll want to do the same. Also, look at what DIDN’T work for them when they tried. It doesn’t mean you’ll never do them, but it’s just something to keep in mind.

Contrast what worked with what didn’t work so that you can start to get a sense of what may work best for you (or may not work). Try to analyze your player across more matches as well to see if there are signature moves or plays they make. Also, start to circle or highlight certain plays or moves you’d like to incorporate into your practice and eventually, into your games

Reminders When Analyzing Game Footage in Soccer

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when analyzing game footage. Make sure the player you’re studying (and hoping to emulate) is the right fit for you.

  • Age, experience, and track record - Age affects tactical decisions. Older players may not be as fast and agile as younger players, but their tactical skills are usually sharper since they’ve spent more time playing. Of course, some players are just better tacticians than others, so you should choose your “idols” carefully. You should emulate players you naturally enjoy watching, but also keep an eye out for player ratings too since they’re a more objective way of determining their skillset.

  • Safety profile - We’re strong advocates for safety, especially for young players. So we recommend asking questions like: do they take unnecessary risks or play too aggressively? Do they execute certain skills such as ball heading with safe technique? Remember, just because your idol does something a certain way, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right (or safe) way to do it.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you can be flexible with how you analyze game footage. You can study players from any league, whether it’s La Liga, EPL or MLS. You can also dive into different eras as well - who says you have to study Ronaldo alone when you can look back at footage of Pele or Michael Owens. You’ve got options.

See Your Way to Better Performance

The best way to improve your game is to get out there and do the hard work after watching your favorite national teams - do the drills, do the practices, do the conditioning. But sometimes the best way to learn is to sit back and watch your favorite teams in the World Cup. Some of the best lessons you can learn come from the masters themselves - the greats who have made names for themselves on the pitch.

They bring expertise and experimentation that coaches don’t always relay, making these players the best teachers. And let’s face it - learning by watching great matches is a nice change of pace from the regular grind of training.

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