Myths about the manager

Discussion in 'Football Forum' started by andersj, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. Oct 11, 2018
    #1

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    When assessing the quality of a manager both journalists and supporters tend to base their assessment on whether he has won trophies. A manager might be disregarded completely due to lack of trophies and critics will argue that it proves that he is not a winner. As if a trophy on the resume of a manager serves as a Litmus test. Considering all the elements that influence the chance of winning a trophy, this might be a very biased and lazy approach to evaluate the quality and ability of a manager.

    "Ludic fallacy"
    In The Black Swan Nicholas Taleb writes about the "ludic fallacy"; how we underestimate the importance of luck in life. He explains how two people with the exact same attributes can end up with very different outcomes. I found a good summary where this part of the book is covered thoroughly at GetAbstract:

    Think of a typical business magazine profile of a successful businessman. The story begins in the present, after he has become rich beyond his wildest dreams. The story then cuts back to his humble beginnings. He started with nothing and wanted to get rich. He faced obstacle after obstacle. But he made shrewd decisions and flouted the wisdom of the Cassandras who counseled caution. As success built on success, he amassed a fortune. He retired early, married a model and now has brilliant children who play Chopin blindfolded and will all attend Ivy League colleges. His virtues will be extolled in a B-School case study. Wide-eyed M.B.A. students will sit rapt at his feet when he visits their schools on a lecture tour promoting his latest book. He is a superman, an inspiration.

    Now consider an alternative hypothesis: He got lucky. His putative “virtues” had nothing to do with his success. He is, essentially, a lottery winner. The public looks at his life and concocts a story about how brilliant he was, when, in fact, he was merely at the right place at the right time. This is the “ludic fallacy” (ludus means game in Latin): People underestimate luck in life – though they ironically overestimate it in certain games of “chance.”


    In football we tend to be outcome biased and rarely look past results. A manager who wins a trophy is a successful one. A manager who don't is not.

    The case of the "best manager in history"
    Take Pep Guardiola as an example. He is obviously a very good coach. Many view him as the best ever. This summer there were articles arguing that there is causality between Guardiola coaching Barcelona and Bayern and Spain and Germany winning the World Cup in '10 and '14. Is it not more likely that it is the other way around? That the brilliance of that Spain-generation made Guardiola?

    Guardiola became coach of Barcelona in the summer of 08. In 08 Spain won the Euros while playing brilliant football. Several of the players in that Spain team played for Barcelona. In other words, several of the Barcelona-players was looking seriously good even before Pep had any influence on them. Furthermore, he had players like Messi, Eto'o and Henry at his disposal. Although he did a great job with Barcelona, is it not fair to say that he was very lucky with the team he took charge of (merely at the right place at the right time)?

    Pep Guardiola and Barcelona was probably a match made in heaven in terms of football philosophy and culture. But how would Ferguson, Klopp or even Pochettino perform with a side like that? Probably very, very good!

    And how would Guardiola have succeeded if he was in charge of Espanyol, Mainz or a broken Man Utd team in 86 instead? Heck, how would he look at Bournmouth in 10? The success he had with Barcelona ensured that we will probably never find out. Guardiola cherry picked what was, at the time, the best football team in the world as his next destination. From there he moved on to a team with superior resources to basically any team in the world. Mind you, this is not criticism of Guardiola who himself has underlined the importance of having high quality players.

    Exceeding expectation
    Jose Mourinhos once said that a manager of Stoke or West Brom win a trophy every year they avoided relegation. His point was that a manager should be evaluated against a reasonable expectation. It is unfair to expect a manager to greatly outperform competitors with greater resources. It is possible, but not likely over time.

    Mauricio Pochettino has finished 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 3rd since arriving at Spurs despite the fact that 5 teams have greater financial resources than Spurs and that most of them where better than Spurs when Pochettino arrived. In the years before Pochettino arrived they finished 4th, 5th, 4th, 5th and 6th. This imply that Pochettino has;

    A) Performed better than his predecessors,
    B) Performed better than the other managers of top clubs in PL,

    In other words, Pochettino has exceeded a reasonable expectation consistently since he arrived. You could argue that you would have to be a winner to do that year after year at the highest level. But lack of trophies appears to be held against him for now.

    The myth (and paradox) about needing to prove yourself at a top club before getting a job at a tob club
    The same case could be made for Eddie Howe. He took charge of Bournemouth when they were a League Two club (something they had been for years). It took him less than two years to gain promotion to League One. And when returning to Bournemouth in 12, after a short spell at Burnley, it took him less than a year to gain promotion to Championship. They gained promotion to the Premier League in their second season in the Championship.

    They managed to stay up in 16 despite being very unlucky with injuries and Bournemouth now appears to be established as a midtable Premier League club. Several of the players playing regularly today have been with them since they played in League One. A few of them was bought from League One clubs. Players who looked destined for to play in the Championship or lower are now established Premier League-footballers.

    When Jurgen Klopp was the exact same age as Eddie Howe he was hired at Dortmund. He had resigned at Mainz the same year after failing to gain promotion to Bundesligaen. The year before Mainz and Klopp was relegated from Bundesligaen. Could you imagine one of the biggest clubs in England hiring Eddie Howe in 20 if Bournemouth is relegated in 19 and fails make promotion in 20? Can you even imagine one of the biggest clubs in England hiring him today?

    To say that Eddie Howe has exceeded expectation would be a major understatement, and his achievements should speak volume of both his character and his quality as a manager. But whenever a manager is being discussed for a top job in England and Howes name is mentioned there seem to be a general consensus that “he is not ready and/or that he needs to prove himself at a bigger club first”. It appears that he is in a Catch 22 where he needs to prove himself at a top club before getting a job at a top club. Or would it make much of a difference if he had made the step up to, say, West Ham or Everton? It does not seem evident. Even Pochettino face skepticism and is by some considered unproven.

    Making it at Man Utd or Liverpool is a bigger challenge and very different to making it at Bournemouth or Everton. You are measured against and compared to the best managers in the world. It is obviously difficult to find a candidate that has the ability to succeed at the highest level unless he has done it in the past. But even with managers that has already succeeded at this level it is possible to go wrong. Both because football develop and because the challenge of one job may differ from another. A manager who is perfect for maximizing a squads potential and handle big egos might not be perfect for re-building a "broken" squad.


    How do you evaluate a manager?
    Some of the best and most important manager/coach appointments of the last decade were young and inexperienced managers. Joseph Guardiola to Barcelona. Jurgen Klopp to Dortmund. Antonio Conte to Juventus. Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid.

    How did the management and board of the respective clubs identify these men as their next manager, despite no trophies and no experience running a “top club”? I would assume that it was a mix of the following:
    • They were a cultural fit for their clubs (both in terms of personality and football philosophy),
    • An assessment of their vision for the club (how they want to improve it and where they believe the potential of the club is),
    • An assessment of their “operational excellence” (their ability to execute a strategy),
    • And maybe even an assessment of their intelligence, knowledge and desire/hunger to learn and get better?
    We can't know whether Howe, Pochettino or any other young manager will tick all these boxes for a given club, but it should not be controversial to claim that a board making a manager appointment should look past "trophy-winners" and expand their search beyond "managers proven in top clubs". However, we can probably not expect that from one of the bigger clubs in England. And considering the general consensus of the media and the supporters in England it is hard to blame them.
  2. Oct 11, 2018
    #2

    altodevil86 Full Member

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    How would you explain Guardiola's Man City then?

    Good post overall.
  3. Oct 11, 2018
    #3

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    Not sure I get your question.
  4. Oct 11, 2018
    #4

    JPRouve can't stop thinking about balls - NOT deflategate

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    That's a pretty good demonstration that you made.
  5. Oct 11, 2018
    #5

    Physiocrat Full Member

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    Excellent post. The he hasn't won anything argument in many cases simply doesn't take into account the context. That said I understand wanting to hire someone who has won major trophies. After Moyes went I looked around at managers who had won major league titles and the only one remotely available was van Gaal and after Moyes someone who could steady the ship was probably needed.
  6. Oct 11, 2018
    #6

    altodevil86 Full Member

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    Well, you mentioned he had superior resources to any other team in the world, but even with that being true does he have the best squad in the world? There is no golden generation at City, like you said was the case in his Barcelona/Bayern teams. Both of those teams also had a very fair shout of having the best squads at their respective times. Can you say that about the current City team? Over PSG, Madrid, Barcelona? I'm not sure. I would argue that recruitment is also something a manager should be based on, and while it is true he can spend a very high amount, most of his choices have been successful.
  7. Oct 11, 2018
    #7

    hasanejaz88 Full Member

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    Excellent post. Would like to write a longer reply to continue your point but can't at work, so I'l just say my appreciation for the effort and thought. Will hopefully contribute soon.
  8. Oct 11, 2018
    #8

    GBBQ Full Member

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    Is there an issue of scale though, Moyes did great things at Everton but was out of his depth at United. You're not just managing a higher calibre of player or have higher expectations for a league finish, there's also intense media scrutiny and the shadow of previous managers hanging over you.
  9. Oct 11, 2018
    #9

    PaulScholes99 New Member

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    No, he hasn't. But he has by far the best squad of the premier league. And in europe he failed until now at city (vs Monaco and Liverpool, who have worse squads) - so what is your point?

    He outspends everybody in england by miles, only united is close to their spending, but our board is doing a bad job.
  10. Oct 11, 2018
    #10

    JPRouve can't stop thinking about balls - NOT deflategate

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    Has City beaten any of these teams in a competition or dominated for a number of years?
  11. Oct 11, 2018
    #11

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    Well, Guardiola has yet to beat PSG, Madrid or Barcelona to a title with Man City. But the squad and team is far better than any other PL team.
  12. Oct 11, 2018
    #12

    altodevil86 Full Member

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    I rest my case
  13. Oct 11, 2018
    #13

    Aloysius's Back 3 Full Member

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    I liked that post - overall in terms of luck; I'm willing as a supporter of United to take a couple steps back for us to take the next generational step forward. This is something I think the whole club should be getting used to within the next year or so.

    David moyes didn't have the luck here & you could feel the pressure here that he would not feel at Everton really got to him. Whilst our fans may target this & say that such small managers with history of managing small clubs should never be allowed in to big teams - this is not something we should be putting as a hurdle against one of our own.

    I saw the same thing with LVG - fans at the stadium, redcafe & even YouTube were absolutely excited when he came after Moyes - saying things like LVG is a proven winner & how he will get us trophies et Al.. Absolutely blurred vision about a manager who hardly stayed at a club longer than 2 years, maybe scraped a trophies but did his best work in finding some young technical players at a club & get them playing in a system that suits them.

    Then we have Jose - a manager who the fans & the board I'm sure expected him to win his trophy by season 2. Any other season with similar performance & we would have won the title with the amount of points we got but City were the better team that year. He was the chosen one - the manager that will not fail here due to him hardly failing at any previous club - but again fans act shocked last-minute when he struggles rather than expecting him to struggle from the start.


    Why I want a manager like Eddie howe or a homegrown ex player manager like Carrick, butt or giggs is simply to blur out this fire that we should expect a trophy or good performance by whoever the manager of United should be. We do not have that control of The English premier league anymore & the quicker fans accept that & allow a manager to come & build a project with the intention of getting there within a couple of years - then that is better than putting all young enthusiastic managers under a bus for not yet winning a trophy.
  14. Oct 11, 2018
    #14

    Masterman Full Member

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    Guardiola's first actions when he took over Barcelona was to get rid of Ronaldinho and Deco. Those were extremely ballsy moves that few managers would have dared to make, but they were moves that paid off well. Anyone who doubts his ability as manager after that is a fool.
  15. Oct 11, 2018
    #15

    gajender Full Member

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    I highly doubt Guardiola was the one to decide future of those two decision must have been made at board level ,maybe after proving himself as great coach he was given greater say on team transfers but even that could be argued against.
  16. Oct 11, 2018
    #16

    atticus finch New Member

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    Excellent post, many thanks for taking the time to write it.
  17. Oct 11, 2018
    #17

    shaky Full Member

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    An excellent post. I fully agree with your take on Howe. We're currently envious of clubs for having the likes of Pochettino, Klopp, Tuchel etc at the helm, yet when the opportunity presents itself to go for someone who could well turn out to be their English equivalent, most of the Utd fans turn up their noses and randomly guess that it would be too much for him, based on next to no evidence. Ooh, but it's a gamble! Well, so is literally every other manager too. Claims that the players would lack respect for him are also pure guesswork, grounded only in fear.
  18. Oct 11, 2018
    #18

    Cloud7 Full Member

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    I think this is where a lot of people differ when they talk about managers from lesser clubs, and then the example of Moyes.

    Moyes was in the league for a decade, and the sum total of his achievements was one top 4 finish, no wins ever away from home against one of the top 4, and boring football.

    To me, Moyes was the wrong choice, not because he didn’t have experience, but because what he accomplished before coming to United wasn’t actually that impressive. That was the biggest reason why I was worried about him, not because he was only just making the step up, but I really didn’t rate what he did at a lower level.

    Moyes was very much a known quantity, and the known quantity was crap football and being scared when going up against other top clubs. He was in the league for a decade, anyone expecting him to come to United and suddenly transform himself into a manager who coached swashbuckling attacking football and actually going at teams was deluding themselves from the start.

    Howe for example, actually attempts to make his team play football. Not necessarily saying that he will be able to make the step up, but a manager who is positive at a lower club has far more of a chance to succeed at a top club than a manager who’s already negative down there.

    I feel like we do all the managers at smaller clubs an injustice by comparing all of them to Moyes.
  19. Oct 11, 2018
    #19

    Revaulx Full Member

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    This one isn’t a “maybe even”; it’s absolutely fundamental. It’s why Moyes was so obviously going to fail; he was happy with his Everton achievements and thought that carrying on in the same way, even to the extent of having the same backroom staff and players, would be enough.

    The real difficulty is being able to judge whether the potential manager isn’t just full of hot air regarding wanting to improve (see Lukaku) but can actually do it.
  20. Oct 11, 2018
    #20

    TheCorkman Correctly predicted Portugal to win Euro 2016

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    All obvious but commonly overlooked points. It's why statistics and hypothesises are so important in understanding events, including football. Just because something occured (winning a match...scoring a goal) doesn't mean it was the best method. For illustration, Ireland beating Germany with the Shane Long goal. Like 95% of the time, we lose the game comfortably. The variability that occured , resulting in Ireland winning, does not make Martin O'Neill a master tactician!

    Well done on a well thought out and well written thread. The effects of variance, tails and fallacies are largely ignored by most people!
  21. Oct 11, 2018
    #21

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    If so, that would be limited to a few unprofessional player and we need to get rid of these.
  22. Oct 11, 2018
    #22

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    I agree. Talking to a candidate might be a good start. And maybe we should use professional head hunters who hire CEOs and CFOs for the biggest companies in the world?

    And yes, being able to challenge your own methods and opinions is very important. Look at how often Ferguson adopted and adjusted.
  23. Oct 11, 2018
    #23

    Cassidy No longer at risk of being mistaken for a Scouser

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    Its true but tbh far too early to judge Peps City at that level. That only just conquered the PL last season. It took the great Fergie usually 3 years to build a side that could win the UCL
  24. Oct 11, 2018
    #24

    Gio 6 times Redcafe Draft Winner

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    Aye. There's the next level to the analysis beyond over-achievement with limited resources. It's their suitability to resolve the problems that title-chasing teams face which are predominantly about unlocking packed defences and expectations of a certain style of play, and you can make an argument for handling wider pressures and getting the buy-in of a more sceptical support.
    Well aye. It wasn't a question of desire to improve with Moyes, more his capability to adapt to a new, different and more demanding challenge.
  25. Oct 11, 2018
    #25

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    I do not think anyone judge Peps City at that level. Man City already have one of the three best squads in Europe. Within few years they will have the best. In my opinion, they should be in a great position to win this year and they will soon be favorites.
  26. Oct 11, 2018
    #26

    Cassidy No longer at risk of being mistaken for a Scouser

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    The post I quotes did a little. City have never even been to a final. Hardly any other players have in that squad let alone won it.
  27. Oct 11, 2018
    #27

    Dolf Full Member

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    Great post, although you could apply to luck factor to everything. Who's the say Eddie Howe wasn't at the right place at the right time either? Same with Pochettino.
  28. Oct 11, 2018
    #28

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    That is true. You need to know the club, their situation and external circumstances quite well to form an opinion on the matter. I do not know Bournemouth very well, but I am under the impression he has been defying gravity for a few years.

    Anyone remember this:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/f...facing-crisis-point-on-debt-and-injuries.html
  29. Oct 11, 2018
    #29

    Cloud7 Full Member

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    Yeah this is the issue when people look at only metrics like league position and wage bill when assessing a manager, particularly when looking at how they might function in another club.

    There’s far more to it than just these numbers.
  30. Oct 11, 2018
    #30

    JPRouve can't stop thinking about balls - NOT deflategate

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    It was my point, there is nothing to explain yet.
  31. Oct 11, 2018
    #31

    Stocar Full Member

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    Your general point is valid, and people often do overlook the importance of luck factor in football. It is arguably more prominent than in almost any other sport. And when it comes to big name managers, I'd say they were all to various degrees privileged and lucky to get to where they are. These people are not actual geniuses, they're just ex footballers who are good at coaching.

    Your reasoning, however, is flawed and tendentious, in two important aspects. Firstly, you actually underestimate the importance of luck by not distinguishing between league and cup competitions. Surely, some managers seem to have a knack to grind out a two legged tie, but these types of competitions are largely down to luck. Hence many so called cup experts get exposed as average or mediocre coaches at some point in their careers. Some lucky streaks last longer, but no one can ride their luck forever.

    In addition to that, and more importantly, you also seem to neglect the pure footballing aspect of things, which is quite discernible and actually more important than luck (at least in the long run). People are able to recognize when a manager has footballing vision, and an ability to implement it on the pitch. Some managers really are able to impose their style and get results, because they have a combination of knowledge, passion, charisma and dedication that elevates them over competition.

    This shows in consistently good team performances over an extended period of time, and most games are played in the league competitions. That is why Pochettino and Sarri are top coaches regardless of trophies, and why Ferguson and Guardiola have decent claims for the best coach ever and the best one currently, respectively.
  32. Oct 11, 2018
    #32

    Chipper Full Member

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    I suppose you could apply two or more of the concepts at the same time.

    Pochettino has exceeded expectations at Spurs if you compare their financial might with results, and has done better than his predecessors. I think that's a decent measure. It's been shown that wage budget and finishing position usually correlates quite strongly so exceeding it is good.

    Perhaps he's just been lucky though? If managers can be lucky then so could he have been. I don't really believe in luck as a concept but will still use it from time to time as shorthand for something else. That would take too long too explain though and the word will do a fair amount of the time.

    To run a parallel from the Guardiola paragraph inheriting Kane certainly helped too. The emergence of a player who scored that many so consistently would have helped plenty of managers do well. Like with Guardiola though, you could give credit for utilising him well although we won't know if another manager may have utilised Kane even better. It would have been hard on the face of it, but you never know.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  33. Oct 11, 2018
    #33

    JPRouve can't stop thinking about balls - NOT deflategate

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    I agree with your first sentence but doesn't the third one contradict it?:p

    Luck definitely plays a part, injuries for example create opportunities for young players who can shine when given the opportunity sooner than anticipated, you could see timing as a form of luck joining a club when a particularly great player breaks through or your main opponents are rebuilding which allows you more room and time to develop. These sorts of things should be taken into account when evaluating a manager positively or negatively, because they mitigate greatly the outcomes.
  34. Oct 11, 2018
    #34

    Chipper Full Member

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    Just been padding out that post/editing it when you replied. Changed it up quite a fair bit. I don't think it would change the meaning of what I said though. Not sure what you mean with the contradiction but maybe I wasn't being clear.

    What I was trying to say was that if we accept that a manager can simply be lucky, and that a lack of trophies doesn't necessarily indicate whether he is great or not then maybe someone like Pochettino has been lucky to get as close to trophies as he actually has done? He might actually be worse than his results show if we accept that luck can be a factor. So he might have no trophies and not be that good but the once in a generation emergence of Kane is just making him look good?

    I don't really buy that, or the concept of luck to a large degree.
  35. Oct 11, 2018
    #35

    Sky1981 Fending off the urge

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    People often mentioned eddie howe for example as doing a good job at bournemouth and hence would be a decent fit for united, better than mourinho.

    But if the reverse is applied mourinho would do better with Bournemouth as well.
  36. Oct 11, 2018
    #36

    giorno Full Member

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    small clubs will generally be made up of 15 or so average players. Big clubs will generally be made up of 10-15 above average players, and 5-10 world class players. You can easily replace an average player with another. You can't do the same with world class players

    Adapting at a small/mid-sized club is significantly easier and requires less sacrifice, compared to a big club.

    Then there is pressure and expectation


    Great thread anyways
  37. Oct 11, 2018
    #37

    JPRouve can't stop thinking about balls - NOT deflategate

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    I agree with that, the contradiction was with the focus on luck instead of combining several concepts. You are right about the fact that luck(if it's a thing) will work at all level and on both directions, a manager can find himself in a bad situation without it being his fault, that's why I mentioned injuries or unexpected player development. An average manager can have better results due to circumstances too.
  38. Oct 11, 2018
    #38

    giorno Full Member

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    @Chipper It is a job that is dependant largely on the work of other people. There is no such thing as a manager who will be equally good no matter the situation, because the manager's job depends heavily on context

    Pochettino is great at Spurs. There is no guarantee he would be great at real madrid because he's great at Spurs. The same goes for everyone else. The best managers are the ones who better adapt to their context
  39. Oct 11, 2018
    #39

    The Purley King Full Member

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    Before I say any of this, I think Eddie Howe has done incredibly well and has dragged Bournemouth from obscurity (their most famous day until recently was probably knocking us out of the FA Cup in 1984) to become an established PL side.
    No doubt there are pressures and challenges he faces, but are they the same challenges and pressures he'd get at Utd? Arguably not.
    I'd love for someone to come and and get us playing in the same style, but that doesn't mean he'd necessarily be the right person for the job.
    Given the way he's built things there, no big signings (think Ibe @ £15m is their biggest ever signing?) and still having players who have come up with him from league1 would mean there is a family type atmosphere and probably no Charlie Big Potato players.
    He's never had to handle a stroppy Sanchez or Pogba, never had to sign off on a £90m player, never had to deal with the pressure of non-stop media attention and his Bournemouth side don't face the same packed defences when playing at home as Utd do (although concede that is less of an issue in recent years as teams have worked out they can beat us by going for it). There could also be the problem that Utd players wouldn't respect him in the same way they would a Mourinho or an LVG (at least initially) and a few dodgy results at the start could prove catastrophic where that is concerned.
    I think that is what people mean when they say "doesn't have experience of a big club". Thats not to say he wouldn't be brilliant here as well if he came, just that its not as straightforward as saying on day1 "right we are going to play like this now" and its all beer and skittles from then on.
  40. Oct 11, 2018
    #40

    andersj Nick Powell Expert

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    You make a few good points. At the same time, this is why we should do a thorough analysis of the personality and quality of a manager.

    Regarding lack of respect among the players and in the group, we should avoid players that behave unprofessional. These will be the death of even the most successful managers.

    On Saturday Mourinho said that the players should play for their club, and I think he made a valid point. Ferguson would not waste time on big egoes. That should an important lesson to us in the future.