I have long held the opinion that in football, there are two types of football manager, and depending on how your club is positioned depends on what type you get in:
- People Manager
- Head Coach
Gone are the days where the manager basically ran the club – except for at Arsenal.
These days, top clubs invest millions into coaching staff, nutritionists, scouting systems and more. A manager no longer needs to be involved in every aspect of the club.
At clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, the infrastructure is in place.
There are already top coaches doing their job, but ultimately these clubs have the finances that they do not need to really improve players.
If one player is not good enough, rather than work on him and improve him, just go and spend £50m on another player.
We see this at Manchester City. Over the years they have spent £200m+ to find a partner for Vincent Kompany. Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones. None of them quiet worked out, and rather than work hard to improve one, they simply bought another.
In January they spent big again on Aymeric Laporte. If he does not work out, they will just spend big again elsewhere.
You look at Jose Mourinho’s career since leaving Chelsea the first time. He has never really improved a player.
If someone was underperforming, he simply went out and bought a replacement.
At Manchester United, he has the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford at his disposal. Instead of improving them, he approved a deal for Alexis Sanchez.
At clubs like these, you do not need a coach who’s job it is to improve the players, as the players in the squad are already amongst the best in the world.
You do not even need to be a great tactician, as the players are all senior pro’s who, having played hundred’s of games, will already know their job.
What you need to be is a good people manager.
With so many big money signings, so many egos, so many players who were multi-millionaires before their 20th birthday, you need someone who can just get the best out of them.
A glorified babysitter as such. Ensure everyone is happy, content, getting on with each other.
You are not going to get long at the club. One year of failure and you might be out. Two years and you almost certainly will be. The sides will win or lose regardless of you. Look at Barcelona. Luis Enrique was not a good coach, he has shown that before and after, yet he won countless trophies as manager. You just need someone who can control the ego’s.
Being a club manager at these super clubs is almost like being an international manager.
You get a group of talented players, all with experience, amongst the best in the world, and your job is just to get the best out of them, not improve them.
It is unlikely you will be with them long, so, like an international manager, you need to work out how to get the best out of them in a short space of time.
Whilst a director of football runs the direction of the club, your role is just to get the best out of the world class players you have.
The second sort of manager that there is out there is the Head Coach. The training ground manager. The man whose job it is to improve the players.
These sort of managers often end up at the second tier clubs. The clubs that make stars rather than buy stars.
Think Sevilla, Dortmund, Monaco and Napoli.
At one time, in his prime, Arsene Wenger was certainly more of a Head Coach. He improved countless players.
These managers can go into a club and make average players great, and great players world class.
Look at the work of Jurgen Klopp did at Dortmund, or Leonardo Jardim at Monaco.
Both these managers had plenty of gifted youngster, and improved them. Sadly, as these clubs do not have the finances to keep those players, they were then sold.
Sold to the top tier clubs, who have managers who will not improve them as players, but can manage their ego’s.
Think at Arsenal, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie. And before them Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry. All of whom Wenger moulded into world superstars before they left.
None of them improved after leaving Arsenal because they no longer needed too. And once they were no longer performing, their were shipped on and replaced.
Head coaches tend to work at the lower levels than the people manager, as their skill is in improving younger players. The likes of Everton and Southampton need managers who improve their talented kids to then sell on. The clubs do not have the finances to simply “buy a better replacement” so need to make their current players better.
Whilst I hate to admit it, there is no doubting that Mauricio Pochettino has improved the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Erickson, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli. But if as expected he go’s to Madrid or PSG in the summer, does he have the people managing skills to handle Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar?
If he does, he will join the bracket of special managers who are both a great people manager, and great head coach.
There are managers who fall into both categories. And at the highest level, these are the real special managers. Jose Mourinho certainly performed both roles at Porto and Chelsea. Pep Guardiola is doing so at Manchester City now.
But managers at the top end who can both improve players and people manage are few and fair between, there are not many around.
So what type of manager do Arsenal need?