How important is a manager? That is a question that will keep getting even if there are some – like the authors of the book ‘Soccernomics’, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski – who have tried to give a definitive answer (not very important, according to their research). Clubs keep changing the man in charge in the hope that this will lead to better results but, in truth, it turns out to be a bad decision as often as it is a good one.
The truth is that it is impossible to tell if a club does well by going with one manager instead of another one. ‘What if’ questions might be intriguing but ultimately they cannot be answered.
There are instances, however, where the value of a manager is impossible to ignore. Everton is a case in point. With largely the same team as last season, Roberto Martinez has them playing the kind of attacking football that is both pleasing on the eye and effective. Martinez has managed to impose his style of play quickly, winning over a group of players that will probably have been a bit sceptical after the departure of a manager who had done so well for them.
It isn’t the playing style that Martinez has changed but also their mentality. Without wanting to seem overly critical of David Moyes – who did a very good job at Everton in his time there – there used to be a feeling that the Everton players didn’t think that they could beat bigger clubs. Not anymore, however, as this season they’ve shown no fear irrespective of their opponent. Nor is he one to hide behind the club’s lack of spending power, opting instead to look within to see whether there are players who could be promoted to the first team squad.
Martinez isn’t alone. Indeed there seems to be a breed of new manager who are capable of doing this. Brendan Rodgers has done a similar job at Liverpool as did Jurgen Klopp before them. Whatever the outcome of the season, Diego Simeone has done a tremendous job in giving Atletico Madrid the belief that they can overcome Barcelona and Real Madrid.
These managers have been successful not because of the tactics that they’ve adopted but because of the philosophy that they have been able to instil within their clubs. To be successful, managers cannot be one dimensional – they never could – but need to have the energy and vision to determine where they want to go and how to get there.
It is why any aspiring coach who simply looks at the tactics or training routines adopted by the top managers is only seeing a slice of their work. Those are important but, if they too want to succeed, they need to look at much more than that and their education needs to reflect that.
Six coaches talk about their ideas and beliefs around football. Buy the Kindle version here for as little as £0.99 (international version here). More details on Blueprint According To...Volume 1 here.