Stuart Reid- The Set Piece Analyst
We at Performance Analysis UK had the chance to speak to Stuart Reid, a man that prides himself on the specifics of set pieces and the affect they can have in professional football.
PAUK: What is your current role? SR: Currently I offer set-piece analysis (mostly focused around corners) to clubs around the world, I look at opposition corners and try to work out what they're doing and how to stop them, although the most valuable part of my work is looking at the opponents defensive set-up and how to break them down and create chances. I much prefer looking at the opponents defensive side rather than their attack, you can know exactly what the opposition are going to do offensively and still end up conceding! PAUK: Tell me about your background and what has led you to this point.... SR: My background is in IT (which has given me a good skill set that complements football analysis nicely), after I started paying more attention to tactics and the deeper side of the game I decided I'd try and get a job in football about 7 years ago. I read as much as I could, took my coaching badges and started writing blogs on tactics. Around 3 years ago I wasn't much closer to getting a job in football so decided to think outside the box and decided to specialise in an area where there wasn't much knowledge to give me a better chance of getting a job. I always liked a good set-piece routine so decided that was the way to go. I started watching and writing about teams who were good at set-pieces and looked at what they were doing which set them apart. This lead to a role at Leyton Orient during 17/18 (thanks Nick Gearing!) which in turn lead to a role at Millwall during 18/19. PAUK: What do you offer as an set-piece analyst? SR: When I speak to clubs I say my aim is to provide as much information as possible to the coaches as to what to expect from the opposition so they can prepare the players to give the team the best chance of success on match-day. I usually track runs, delivery locations, players involved and more. Offensively I also recommend attacking routines based on weaknesses that I have seen in the oppositions defensive set-up. I also have several custom tools I've built to help provide further information which also helps in the analysis phase and helps determine the approach that I'll recommend. PAUK: Best moment in analysis? SR: It's tough to pick just one, but the feeling I get when a goal is scored from one of my routines an indescribable feeling that I adore and keeps me wanting to improve so I can help teams score even more goals. It's great knowing you're directly contributing to a teams result. PAUK: Best player that you have worked with? SR: N/A - all my work is remote based rather than working with players! PAUK: What’s the ultimate goal for you and why? I have a couple, I'd love to work full-time in a club - although there aren't that many opportunities for full-time set-piece analysts at the moment although this is certainly changing. On a slightly selfish note, I'd love for one of the teams I work with to win a cup final with one of my routines - that would be a great feeling! PAUK: Are you more data or video heavy in your work and why are you more heavy on that area? SR: I use a lot of both, but I'd say I lean towards being mostly video-heavy - this is vital for seeing runs on corners and other such information which can't be done with data yet (until tracking data becomes the norm anyway!). That being said I fully see the advantages behind both and embrace both willing as both are so important in the modern game. PAUK: How do you use data to affect performance? SR: I use quite a lot of data that I think clubs tend to miss when it comes to set-pieces. I track a lot of data such as number of shots (on and off) taken from corners that all feeds into my own corner threat model that tracks how dangerous a team is likely to be offensively as well as how solid they are defensively compared to the rest of the league - this could help determine the approach taken on match-day so is quite vital. I also have some visualisations that provide an overview of teams corners which I think are pretty neat and unique. PAUK: Do you think EFL clubs utilise analytics to its potential? SR: I think certainly in the Championship a lot of good work is being done in this area, but lower down the leagues there's still a lot of room for improvement, but that's also down to the tight budgets and lack of fund to hire in people. A club I spoke to lower down the pyramid the other week said their analyst only looks at 4-5 opposition corners in the analysis stage, which as a set-piece analyst horrified me! PAUK: What do you think is next for the analysis industry? SR: Analysis departments at the top level are growing rapidly, I imagine this will start to filter down the leagues somewhat (although the lower leagues will still be limited by budget) which in turn will create more specialist roles (other than just analyst!). There's already been some movement on that in the Championship this season with Brentford hiring a "head of set-pieces" and Joe Carnall being appointed "Technical Coach" at Millwall. PAUK: What tool has the biggest impact on your job? SR: Without a doubt that has to be the video analysis platforms WyScout or Instat, being able the entirety of a clubs corners throughout the season available to watch in just a couple of clicks is invaluable and such a time-saver. PAUK: What advice would you give someone that wants a job in the industry? SR: Get work out there for people to see, people working in the game are always reading more about football, getting work out there for them to see is vital if you're wanting to break into football. That being said there's loads of websites out there now providing analysis of matches/players etc - so make yourself stand out by doing something different!
If you are interested in becoming an analyst or know more about what the life of an analyst involves, take a look at our Introduction to Analysis Course here!