How I assess ‘player mentality’ through video and data analysis

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In the present footballing landscape, data sits at our fingertips. The access to player and team data is better than ever before, and we are better able to predict player potential through those numbers than ever before.

But many facets of the beautiful game simply cannot be quantified in many statistical data models. Off-the-ball movement patterns can be acquired through tracking data, but we’re still missing decision making, speed of play, IQ, and a greater context into why a player achieved success.

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RELATED: Evaluating players based on role continuity

That is why it is always best to pair data and video analysis together, perhaps even starting with video and then looking into the data to either confirm or refute what the eye test revealed. Even then, it can remain difficult to assess facets of the game that we don’t see as seamlessly through on-the-field events, such as a player’s psychological and social characteristics.

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For any recruitment scenario, you need to be sure that the player not only has the technical, physical and tactical quality to excel in a new environment, but the right psychological frame and social aptitude. It is therefore imperative that clubs sit down to identify what player traits, mentalities, and personality types they want to have in their dressing rooms, and then actively use that as a model for hand-picking players when scouting.

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But without actually talking to a player and allowing them to see your environment, it can be difficult to truly assess whether or not a player will fit that mold.

That’s particularly unfortunate, given that we often don’t have the ability to speak to the players we’re recommending to clubs. It’s therefore critical that we’re coming up with other mechanisms for identifying mentality within the data and video analysis. Here is how I do exactly that when scanning for players.


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While it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, players that have stronger mentalities and stronger psychological frames win more 1v1 duels. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate Wyscout as a scouting platform for my work, as they nicely outline percentages around duelling in many different facets of the game. They also create a combined duelling percentage that considers defensive, attacking, aerial, and loose-ball duels, painting an even better picture toward how successful a player is when it comes to winning their 1v1 battles across all phases of the game.

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In some cases, it’s true that I might not care about a player’s duelling in a certain phase of the game. I don’t tend to have the privilege of recommending Kylian Mbappé or Lionel Messi to clubs, but these are players who don’t hold much of a defensive importance within their role. For players like this, other statistics and event data will reveal more about their mentality.

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So it’s not as though it’s a perfect formula, but it is something I care about for every single player I analyze, and something that speaks to a player’s predictability to excel over time both physically and mentally.

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But it’s not only important to assess the success of a player’s 1v1 duels, but their responses after the duel is over. When I then turn to the video footage, I’m asking questions like:

-> How do they react to winning or losing the battle? How quickly do they react?

Many players will mentally quit after losing the 1v1 battle. But players with a strong psychological frame continue to strut their stuff and focus on what they can control.

What does Jude Bellingham do whenever he finds himself taken down by an opponent? Does he yell at the opposition for taking him down? Does he complain to the referee? NO! He jumps back onto his feet, pumps up the crowd, high fives his teammates, and moves on. He remains completely unaffected, and just gets on with the game. This is a strong mentality, and it’s one that has taken Jude Bellingham to the captain’s armband of Borussia Dortmund at the age of 19.

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The same idea goes for how quickly a player reacts when something doesn’t go their way, such as giving the ball away, or a player not passing to them in a vital moment. Do they sit their whining and complaining, or do they move onto the next important moment? I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather take the player that quickly moves onto the next thing.

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-> What is their speed of play when engaging in 1v1 battles? How about their aggression or assertiveness in commanding situations?

While I want players to shy away from being overly-aggressive, there’s no question that players who have the confidence to win their duels will typically exude more force and command when going into those battles.

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There’s a difference between being brash, and not backing down from a fight. Often times the players with the strongest mentalities are able to provide that balance between asserting their influence, and safely winning the situation.


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Players with strong mentalities also cope with pressure tremendously well. When the moment comes to step up and score that vital penalty or make that all-important save, their veins turn to ice, and they make it happen with swagger and bravado. But handling pressure goes beyond rising above the big occasions, to always remaining switched on in a sporting event.

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Wyscout has a video event feature called ‘under pressure’, which is often one I’ll dissect when watching a player. I want to see how coolly they handle the moments when they’re under the pressure of the opposition. But I also want to see the types of decisions that players make when faced with that pressure. Do they panic and kick the ball away in fear? Do they make the safe play and pass the ball backward? Or are they willing to be daredevils? Are they willing to be brave enough to back their ability, and escape the situation unscathed.

I always appreciate a player who makes calm decisions under pressure, but I often want to see more than a player who consistently plays it safe. I want to see the mavericks – the ones that remain so unaffected by pressure that they can perceive the exact right space to exploit at the exact right moment.

When watching attack-minded players, I might then extend my analysis of ‘under pressure’ events to also include attacking duels, dribbles and fouls, which all capture how a player copes with the pressure of an opposition player. If I can then see through both the data and video that a player consistently handles these moments with poise, I’m far more likely to recommend them to a club.


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When assessing for a player’s mentality on the basis of having no communication with the player, I want to take a deep dive into two main facets of their game:

-> 1v1 duelling: Players with higher 1v1 duelling success tend to have high mentalities!
-> How they handle pressure: Do they look shaky and fearful at the first sign of pressure, or do they remain unaffected, ready to take on the world?

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This is not a foolproof method nor does it paint a guaranteed picture to how a player will cope or even repeat those same actions in a new environment. However, both of these facets of the game can be great predictors of a player’s mentality, particularly if backed up by watching how quickly they react after these moments are over.

If you want to develop your mentality as a player, or you’re a club searching for those players that stand out with the data & video analysis, feel free to reach out! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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