Top 10 stories of 2021
Written by Training Ground Guru — December 26, 2021
FIND out TGG's 10 best-read articles of 2021, in ascending order...
10. Solskjaer's first 100 days at Manchester United
Author and headmaster Phil Denton spent three hours with Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, during which time the Norwegian recounted his first 100 days in charge of the Old Trafford club.
Ultimately, Solskjaer's tenure ended with him getting the sack, but not before he had helped the club to rediscover its culture and values.
9. Geir Jordet: Why scanning is about more than frequency
Professor Geir Jordet is the world's foremost authority on scanning - the head and body movements a player makes before executing an action with the ball.
During TGG's Big Data Webinar, Jordet outlined a two-year research project he had conducted on scanning - and emphasised that scan timing is just as important as frequency.
8. Lee Johnson: Snus a 'big big problem' in football
In October, Sunderland manager Lee Johnson warned of the dangers of snus, the smokeless tobacco product which has become popular with pro footballers.
Johnson described snus as a “big big problem in football,” adding that it was “sad to see and in my opinion very detrimental to development and performance.”
7. Why Southampton changed the Head Coach and assistant model
In June, TGG held the Individual Development Webinar, and one of the speakers was Southampton Director of Football Matt Crocker.
During an excellent one-hour presentation he explained why the Saints Academy had scrapped the traditional Head Coach/ assistant model, instead replacing them with Game Coaches and Individual Development Coaches.
6. New appointments mark change of direction for Palace
Individual development was one of our big themes of the year, and it came to the fore again in this article, about the restructuring of the first-team staff at Crystal Palace following the appointment of Patrick Vieira as manager.
Now the focus was on young players and development, with Said Aigoun (pictured) appointed Development Coach and Kristian Wilson, the former Technical Development Coach at Manchester City, as first-team coach.
5. Barry stays at Chelsea after Tuchel appointment
Anthony Barry, 35, has emerged as one of the brightest coaching prospects in English football over the course of the last few seasons. He joined Chelsea as first-team coach under Frank Lampard in August 2020, having previously spent three years as assistant at Wigan.
In January, TGG exclusively revealed that Barry was staying on at Chelsea under new boss Thomas Tuchel after turning down the manager's job at Fleetwood Town.
4. How Analytics FC helped De Bruyne negotiate new Man City deal
Another major topic for us in 2021 was data science. In April, we revealed that Kevin De Bruyne had employed the services of Analytics FC as part of his negotiations with Manchester City over a new four-year contract.
The data analytics firm produced a report about the midfielder's past, present and projected future performances and his importance to the team, as well as benchmarking his salary. This showed he was significantly underpaid in comparison with the world's leading attacking midfielders.
3. Carlos Cuesta: Coaching prodigy who focuses on Arsenal individuals
Spaniard Carlos Cuesta may only be 25, but he holds the Uefa Pro Licence, speaks six languages and has Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Arsenal on his glittering CV.
He is currently assistant to Mikel Arteta at Arsenal and works specifically on individual development. This piece outlined exactly what he does - and why he is so important at The Emirates.
2. Academy Productivity Rankings 2020/21
This year we brought back our Academy Productivity Rankings after a three-year hiatus. The research was conducted by Josh Schneider-Weiler ranked clubs according to the number of England-eligible players making at least one league appearance in 2020/21 that they had produced.
Once again, Manchester United were top of the charts - with some surprising results elsewhere.
1. Man City land big signing in quest to be the best in data
And here it is, our best-read story of 2021. In January, we revealed that Manchester City had made another major appointment to their data science department as they continued their arms race with Liverpool.
Laurie Shaw joined as the club's Lead Artificial Intelligence Scientist and his CV was unlike any we'd seen in football: a PhD in computational astrophysics, developing trading systems for a £30bn hedge fund and policy advisor for the British government.