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BT Sport goes behind the scenes with Bayer Leverkusen's game-changing technology

Earlier this summer, BT Sport was granted exclusive access to Bayer Leverkusen’s training ground to find out how technology is revolutionising pre-season preparation, title races and relegation battles.

FOOTBALL 18/08/17 09:17
Bayer Leverkusen

“Soccer is a game of transition,” says Bayer Leverkusen’s assistant coach Lars Kornetka. “There is a relationship between the time a team has the ball and goal rate – the longer they have it, the less chance they have of scoring.”

As Kornetka, who is also the club’s chief video analyst, shares a series of clips to demonstrate his point, he reveals that 60 to 70 per cent of all goals are scored in the transition phase.

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In other words, in the period after a team has won back possession, the defence is out of position and vulnerable to a counter attack. In this situation, it will take on average just 11.6 seconds to find the back of the net.

And Kornetka should know. He’s been doing this for 10 years during spells at four Bundesliga clubs including Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04, Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich.

Back in 2007, he was working in TV on a magazine show called Sportchau when he received an offer to join Hoffenheim. He later became one of the first coaches in German football to work exclusively in video analysis.

His match day routine with Bayer sees him watch the game from the stands before having approximately three minutes at half-time to affect the course of the game.

“If we are winning or losing the coach is showing a lot of emotion. It is like a thunderstorm,” he explained.

“You have to give it two or three minutes to let the moment pass and then you have the opportunity to highlight something that is happening. That’s why it’s really important to only take two or three points out of the half to change the situation.

He added: “From my experience, it is important to be consistent. The coach, of course, may see things in a different way. But the thing is not to give in. It’s important to say ‘no’ and be self-confident.”

Last season was a surprising disappointment after several years of being at the top end of the Bundesliga, and, as Kornetka says, “We showed them a lot more clips than the previous year!”

When the club travelled to Ingolstadt in May, a defeat would have sucked Bayer into a relegation battle. With his team trailing 1-0 at half-time, Kornetka highlighted how their defenders were being dragged into wide areas.

Caretaker coach Tayfun Korkut, made a tactical switch and the match finished 1-1, with Leverkusen squandering several chances to take all three points.

In the post-match analysis, Kornetka and his assistant edit and upload clips with comments for individual players to be sent to their smart phones.

Even if that results in a player only getting round to watching the clip while he’s at home in the bathroom, the end justifies the means.

Kornetka says some footballers think they know better. If they’re players with special ability, that’s fine. But for those playing at a lower level it can be a problem.

The influence of technology and data analysis goes beyond tactics and has become an integral part of fitness and conditioning.

Bayer is just one of hundreds of elite sports teams around the world, including Real Madrid, Saracens, Denver Broncos and Golden State Warriors, that use wearable technology produced by Catapult Sports.

Training vests are fitted with a Catapult monitoring device that allows the fitness coach to produce instant reports after a session. It also means there’s no hiding place if you fail to put a shift in.

Kevin Volland is a German international winger who joined Bayer last year from Hoffenheim. In the build-up to the new season, he revealed, “We have tests over one or two days and they include balance, stamina and strength tests and you can see where you’ve got deficiencies.

“That information will go through to the medical team. So, for example, they can see if my balance is good on a moving surface. That means I know I have to work on certain areas in preventative training.

“Hoffenheim have some start-of-the-art equipment such as the Helix device which tests your peripheral vision,” Volland continued.

“But we’ve got everything we need here at Leverkusen and that includes the rehab centre and the cryogenic chamber.

“I think the national team get the benefits from Bayer ahead of tournament, especially with the youth players. There is good cooperation with the clubs and they keep an eye on training.”

After a turbulent season, Bayer appointed a new coach over the summer. Heiko Herrlich. The German manager was a Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund and also spent three seasons at Leverkusen from 1989 to1993.

Herrlich, Kornetka and co. couldn’t have asked for a more challenging start to their 2017/18 campaign, with Leverkusen kicking off the new season away to Bayern Munich, live this Friday on BT Sport 2.

But if they come up short against the champions it shouldn’t be for lack of preparation.

Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen, Friday, August 18 from 7.15pm on BT Sport 2

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