FT Coach Tribute: The job where there's more than meets the eye
The futures of some great coaches still remains to be uncertain with the likes of Arsene Wenger and Zinedine Zidane still jobless after having undoubted success at their former clubs. Watching Monday Night Football and following all the press conferences familiarizes the fans with the nitty gritties of the game. Because of that, the fans tend to ask questions about certain decisions made by managers in their preferred Starting XIs against different teams. Almost everyone feels like they can do a manager’s job and set a winning team on paper but it’s not that simple. There is more to coaching than setting the formation and picking the best players that suit that system. Let’s dive into the other duties of a modern soccer manager in the MLS or EPL.
Getting the best out of the players in the league matches requires a special attention to each individual. This can be applied on the training ground where the managers identify the weaknesses and strengths of each individual and finds ways to make everyone play as a team. All this go through the minds of a coach and sometimes bring them sleepless nights whilst us fans are impatient to see our players in action in the next match. The manager, with the help of his assistant coaches, has that responsibility to set the right training drills and make sure that the player turns up the way he wants to in the League. Take Alex Iwobi for instance. He looks a different player this season under Unai Emery at Arsenal. The Nigerian player seems to have found a position on the pitch which suits him which is wide out the left and playing as a direct winger. Under Arsene Wenger, he was in and out of the team because he was deployed in countless positions which did not suit neither his style of play nor the team. Emery has me convinced that with the right coach and willingness to learn, any player can go places.
Soccer players are human and they also need to feel motivated to get the job done. A manager has the responsibility to make sure that the player feels wanted at the club and also motivated to play in the next game and do bits. Wayne Rooney left Manchester United for Everton in 2017 in search for that self-belonging. Still, both Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva failed to bring the best out the player until this year when he moved to the MLS. Wayne Rooney arrived at DC United when the club was in the relegation zone and transformed his team to be real contenders for the MLS trophy with a comfortable place on the MLS playoffs. He scored 12 goals and provided 6 assists in 17 starts. The player felt wanted at the club and he has since been trying to pay back the faith the club had in bringing him across oceans to the MLS.
Another role that often skips the mind of an average fan is the role the manager has in the recruitment of the players that suit their style of play. Take Liverpool and their intense pressing game, one ought to find that unique talent that not only offers the goals and assists but also the work rate to keep pressing forward when out of possession and recover the ball in less than 20 seconds. The club successfully recruited two Africans, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah who are expects in that role. On the contrary, questions were raised as to why these signings were made because they didn’t fit the profile of ‘a Liverpool type of winger’ which usually characterizes a British lad with a swerve in his locker and chips in with an odd goal once in a while. It is because of such decisions that I think management is not as easy as I thought it was.
Finally, a club’s image is a significant part of the business. Because of that, the club board identifies managers with a personality, coaches who do not crumble under pressure and fail to respond to questions asked by the journalists in the press conferences. It requires a woman or man of character who can speak their truth and leave both the media and fans satisfied with their plans for the club. This is a rare quality that comes with management.
Do you think you have what it takes to manage these big clubs? Tell us why.