Talking Loans with Fabian Unwin Chelsea's Loan Player Analyst
Much is reported and said about Chelsea's loan policy and how it makes up a big part of the club's business model. Many players have been developed by the loan system at Chelsea and now play for some of the top clubs around the world. Performance Analysis UK spoke with the Chelsea FC Loan Player Analyst, Fabian Unwin, about his role.
PA UK: What is your current role?
My role is to use video and statistical analysis to support our coaches and help aid the development of the players out on loan. I also report to management on how players are progressing and conduct research projects to identify best practice in our loan player programme.
PA UK: Tell us about your background and what has led you to this point....
I grew up playing and coaching football in Norway. After attending an officer-training course in the Norwegian Air Force, I went to England to study at Loughborough University. In my second year there I applied for all sorts of different jobs within football for my placement year and was eventually called in to interview for an internship at Chelsea’s scouting department. Upon successfully progressing through the interviews, I worked as a Scouting Analytics Assistant. During my year there, I accepted a full-time job to work with the loan players.
PA UK: How did working in your current role come about?
Chelsea were in the process of expanding the support system for the loan players and offered me the chance of being part of that. Part of my work with the scouting department was tracking the progression of the loan players so I was a good fit for the job. Having a keen interest and experience in coaching, it gave me the chance to focus my analysis work on player development.
PA UK: Best moment in analysis?
No stand out individual moment, but any analytical feedback you deliver to a player and then later see him applying to his game is immensely rewarding. Especially if this coincides with an improvement in performances. I have been part of, and helped facilitate, some very interesting discussions and it is always fascinating when you can get a player to open up and reflect on his own areas of improvement.
PA UK: Best player that you have worked with?
Had the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented players, many of whom have progressed in their careers to the highest level of European football. Singling out any one individual is hard though as I have had the pleasure of working with so many bright and driven people
PA UK: Are you more data or video heavy in your work and why are you more heavy on that area?
I tend to work more with video. It is a very useful tool for relaying feedback to our players and when used correctly it can have a very powerful impact on how they reflect on their own performances. By using video analysis tools and annotations on clips to highlight certain trends, one can deliver simple and effective feedback that cannot be replicated through words or numbers alone. However, all the work we do is tailored to the individual and dependent on what learning style they best respond to. We vary our approach and might incorporate written, audio or data analysis into video presentations.
PA UK: How do you use data to affect performance?
As mentioned, our chosen feedback processes are dependent on the individual. We set statistical benchmarks depending on age, experience and position for the level the player is currently at, as well as targets for the next level in the player’s developmental path. The players also have individual goals and focused areas of development that we monitor and measure.
However, the baseline for all our players is actual minutes on the pitch as it is a valuable representation of accrued experience. We split leagues into categories and track how our players are progressing compared to their elite peers around Europe.
PA UK: What is done with the information collected and analysed to affect the player that is out on loan?
The information is used to help inform our development strategy for the players and presented to the players where and when appropriate. It is also used to monitor and track player progression that is presented to senior members of staff at the club.
PA UK: What do you think is next for the analysis industry?
I think there is a continual process of finding the best ways of presenting data to coaches and players. Especially now, as we are obtaining and collating increasing amounts of metrics to judge a player’s performance by, it is the analyst’s job to present these in a way players and coaches are comfortable using and find beneficial. We have coaches who embrace and actively utilise data as a means of enhancing their work. The coaches are the key experts and communicators in the process and my job is to help enable them to convey their messages to the players. I strongly believe that you have to encourage players to take ownership of their own development, and educating them on how they can interact with and shape their own analysis is very important.
PA UK: What advice would you give someone that wants a job in the industry?
Do your research on what line of work you want to get into and what typical requirements are for those types of jobs. Just ‘wanting to work in football’ is unfortunately too vague. Work hard on improving and diversifying your own skill-set. Seek experience of working with various data and video analysis tools. These are often transferable skills can easily be adapted to software and tools used within clubs. In my line of work, you have to have a strong numerical understanding, be an analytical thinker with attention to details and have evidence of your passion for working in football. Professional football is a high-pressure environment that requires dedication and commitment. Coaching experience, badges and qualifications are desirable, as are other relevant courses. However, seek suitable experience for the job you would like to do as even within football analysis there are several different types of roles and prerequisites.
If you are interested in working in football or know more about what the life of an analyst involves, take a look at our Introduction to Analysis Course here!