Gerard Moore on “challenging but extremely rewarding” life as a football analyst

Over recent years, we’ve witnessed a data explosion in the world of football. A number of new metrics, tools and ideas have been introduced. As a result, a lot can change over the course of a season and it is difficult – bordering on impossible – to stay abreast of everything. Particularly if you’re a professional football analyst.

With this in mind, we caught up with Gerard Moore – formerly the Head of Analysis at West Bromwich Albion and one of the first people to sign up to the Analytics Toolbox – to discuss life as an analyst, how football has changed and the impact the influx of data and new tools has had on his role. 

The challenge

When asked about the key challenges he faces, Gerard was quick to point out just how invaluable time is for all analysts: 

“In every analyst position, there are different types of struggles but I find time is always something you are up against particularly with the turnaround of games. You’re always looking for your processes to be as efficient as possible.

“If I was to give a bit of advice it would be, ‘work within your schedule, look for the most effective way you can complete a task and work towards that.’ I think an analyst’s workload can become overloaded, so prioritising and managing your work will always be crucial to continuously be able to produce high-quality work.“

With time already at a premium for analysts and football schedules becoming even more condensed, opportunities to try something new are scarce. This can result in analysts sticking with something they are used to as opposed to trying something that might be more efficient. 

New tools, of which there are plenty on the market, could help time-starved analysts, but, ironically, they don’t always have the time to add them into their workflow. It is a vicious cycle and one that few can break. After all, the unknown can be a little daunting.

The importance of actionable insight

But, as Gerard goes on to explain, new doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes a new tool or service can add a layer to their workflow that actually slows them down. To avoid this, the former Tottenham analyst acknowledges the need to be ruthless in his approach. 

“Whenever something new is introduced to the market, I look to see if it fits into one of two categories. First, can it provide me with some new, effective information? Second, does it improve the efficiency of my workflow? If it doesn’t do either of those, I won’t spend time on it.

“It’s important that any tool or metric you choose to use is relevant to your work. I don’t want to provide information unless it’s actionable.”

In the world of analysis, providing actionable information is near the very top of the priority list. It is something Gerard mentions throughout our talk with him. He named it as the first of the three key principles for an analyst. 

“Firstly, providing actionable information, can you provide new information or a different perspective from your work to help a club/team’s approach or decision making? Secondly, manage your time effectively. As an analyst, you can be producing work on different tasks for various staff. It’s important you’re able to have good processes in place to manage these constraints, particularly during busy fixture schedules. 

“And finally, be progressive. Everyone is trying to push their work forward to find that extra edge, you need to try and be creative with your methods to find that. This could be creating a new stat or finding that key piece of information to help decision making but it can also be something specific for your club/situation by communicating or portraying information in a more effective way.”

Approach to pre and post-match analysis

Given the relentless nature of the modern-day football schedule, where, as soon as one game finishes planning for the next immediately begins, the ability to align your pre and post-match analysis is crucial. 

Gerard explains this when mapping out his approach to both in great detail:

“I see pre and post-match analysis informing each other, they’re within a continuous cycle. Pre-match analysis will provide information for the team and individuals which will impact their approach and targets. Post-match will give insights and feedback on the team’s approach and success in reaching those targets. This will then inform the pre-match for the next match.

“With my approaches for both, I make sure they’re specific to the management and players I’m working with. So over time, I’ve become more and more adaptable to adjust these processes to the different personnel.

“When preparing for a match, my pre-match analysis of an opponent will be bespoke to my team’s strengths and weaknesses and how that is communicated is again personalised to the people within the club.

“On the flip side of this, for post-match analysis, I’ll code well to cover all areas of the match and have codes related to our match targets. The post-match review starts immediately after the match, with instant data and video feedback available. Then within the following 24 hours, a more detailed reflection is produced with video and written reports. The Twenty3 Toolbox has been a benefit here as I’ve been able to visualise data intelligently.”

But, as Gerard explains, analysts are no longer just involved in matchday decisions and preparation, they’re involved in club-defining decisions. Everything they do needs to have a purpose and a reason, hence the desire for actionable intel and information.  

“The areas analysts are working in has developed, they’ve progressed from working towards a matchday to having positions where they have an impact on the direction and decision making at the top level of clubs.” 

The impact of data

When asked why he thought this was the case, Gerard was pretty emphatic with his answer.

“Data is the biggest change over the past decade for two main reasons. Firstly, the speed of delivery has allowed for quicker decision making and this has an impact live during matches. Secondly, the detail of data has significantly progressed. The more context that can be added to data, the better it is. This has progressed from xy data of actions to the circumstances the action occurred in and whether or not it was seen as a progressive action.

“Data is vital, as it provides so many insights to an analyst. Throughout my career, I’ve utilised it in many ways. I believe data underpins so many processes now but it’s important to use data correctly and portray it well. It’s easy to get lost in ‘big data’ but an analyst will know the key data to their processes and their club. I think that shows the difference to the top-quality analysts as they’re able to pull out the key information for their club and then can communicate across in the correct way.”

Separating big data and useful data can be tricky, but there are efficient ways to do it. One such solution is Twenty3’s Analytics Toolbox. 

Gerard used it while with West Brom during the 2020/21 campaign and was kind enough to explain how it had an impact on efficiency. 

“It was great to be one of the first to take the Toolbox on. It massively improved my workflow and allowed me to view my data differently to find new insights.

“Workload wise, it allowed me to create my data visualisations much quicker than I’ve ever been able to before. This helped in developing the reports that I already had, but I also utilised their [Twenty3] team to create my own bespoke report template. 

“The data visualisations bring together data and provide actionable information very quickly.  To give examples, I’ve utilised passing networks in my pre-match analysis to view how an opponent’s passing patterns differed with different personnel, formations and circumstances. Or on an individual basis, I have used shot maps and shot placements to analyse forwards to see where they are successful.

“With all data it is utilised alongside video but this platform allows you to portray information in a different, effective way.”

A big thank you to Gerard for sharing his time and his thoughts with us on what it’s like to be a professional football analyst.

Our mission with the Analytics Toolbox is to give the power back to analysts so they can focus on the things that matter to them; analysing opponents, scouting potential new recruits and assessing internal performance.

If you’d like to make the most of the Event Lab and the Analytics Toolbox at your club, don’t hesitate to request a demo here.