SV Column: Cult of personality and overreaction
The European football season has finally started, my fellow football aficionados. Well, technically it started when some fairly unknown teams competed in the first qualifying round of the Champions League – which was back in late June. But let’s be honest, the big leagues set the rhythm. And the Premier League – from now on without the prefix “English” – is certainly at the forefront.
Hold on before you start to dispute over the quality of English football these days. Professional sports is entertainment. And who is a better entity within the entertainment business than England’s primary football competition? Emotion, passion, chaos, craziness – all the stuff that generates headlines and makes TV producers ecstatic.
The Premier League is built around memorable moments and the stars who can be seen fighting, screaming, winning or losing in those moments. In order to push business even more, you need recognizable faces. What a coincidence, Premier League teams invest millions and millions in every transfer window period to sign new faces. And it is not like a club solely benefits from the qualities a player has on the pitch. Marketing values are almost as important.
That said, it appears the lads in the suits take centre stage more and more often. There is nothing wrong with debating about who is the better centre-forward, Lukaku or Diego Costa. But talking about Pep Guardiola’s philosophy or Jürgen Klopp’s mind-set is the real s**t. And we who love to decode strategies and analyse the smallest details aren’t free of guilt that coaches become the focus of attention even more strongly than in recent decades.
It is understandable, though. The duel between two humans can be so highly intriguing. We love these shootouts somewhere in the Wild West or the nerve-racking thrill between brilliant chess players. Give me Pep versus José every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Sadly, this excitement about coaches and their decision can lead to unhealthy exaggeration – and can make us forget that there are real still players on the pitch who make decisions on their own despite being guided.
While Guardiola had his first league match with Manchester City on Saturday, social media was buzzing. Every step the Catalan made was analysed to the last detail. Some called him a fraud; some worshipped him like he is a football god incarnate.
First of all, the football community as a whole should dial it down a notch. We can still have fun debating about the game without looking too ridiculous at the same time. And especially when it comes to coaches like Guardiola, both sides – the admirers and the detractors – should reduce a certain degree of defensiveness.
In a recent interview Alan Curbishley moaned about the low amount of English coaches in the top two leagues in England. And it certainly is strange that in 2016 so many guys who are at the touchlines come from outside the system – although in professional sports only performance should count, not one’s passport.
Unfortunately, Curbishley’s exact argument is basically that “the English manager is being squeezed out in the top two leagues as a consequence of foreign ownership.” That sounds rather ignorant. Maybe there is a trend these days that foreign coaches have a greater appeal thanks to the success of guys like Pochettino, Koeman or Mourinho – and certainly the appeal of world-class coaches like Guardiola is a given. Yet, that doesn’t mean there is some kind of conspiracy going on.
The English community shouldn’t feel the need to defend their identity – which can lead to belittling foreign coaches without any valid argument. And on the other side, those who usually discredit the typical style of football that has been played there for a long time shouldn’t belittle everything that is associated with English football. Similar to unnecessary exaggeration in regards to single figures in the business, a forced Kulturkampf doesn’t help the game. We need some sort of middle ground.
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Alex Gramm August 17, 2016 um 8:30 pm
For Britons it is traditional speatch about identity. But New Time it is mix, it is open mind. It is dificult but is nessesary. In football and sport too.
Matt August 17, 2016 um 9:59 am
Just as noteworthy as the lack of English coaches in the top two English leagues is the lack of English coaches in other European leagues (and the high-profile failures of people like Moyes and Neville). Why is it that Spaniards manage in France, Italians in Germany and Argentinians in Spain? Not because of some conspiracy, as you’ve pointed out, but because of a general dearth of coaching education in Britain.
blub August 16, 2016 um 12:26 pm
To calm down is a good first reaction in almost any circumstance.
Curbishley in some way resembles the xenophobic choir of the post-brexit UK.
The fact that most top coaches are foreigners is easys to explain: The money in the PL not only attrackts many of the best players but also appeals to the best coaches in the world.
Most worldclass players not playing for Barca, Bayern or Real play in the PL.
Most of the best coaches of the world are now in the PL. And very few of the best coaches are British. As are French or Italian. But most of the best coaches are NOT-British.
Of the 6 best teams the coaches are 1 Portugese, 1 German, 1 French, 1 Argentinien, 1 Spanish, 1 Italien. That’s hyper diverse group. If Sir Alex would be active today there would be a British coach at a top team.
So there is really nothing to see here. The PL was the first league to step up and become really international and so it’s the first league to employ many international coaches.
Of course are the foreigners better on average, the bad coaches never make it to the PL. (Jens Keller I look at you)
Everson August 16, 2016 um 5:29 pm
Really, really great point on the foreign coaches situation.
tobit August 17, 2016 um 9:48 am
Another point: there are few young British coaches.
The Bundesliga-coaches are 4,7 years younger on average and most of the younger ones are actually Germans whilst there are only 6 British coaches employed in the PL with only two of them younger than 50.
Many of the younger German coaches are former youth-coaches of their Clubs, e.g. Schubert (45) at Gladbach, Dardai (40) at Hertha, Skripnik (46) at Werder, Nagelsmann (turned 29 this summer) at Hoffenheim, Streich (51) at Freiburg and also Tuchel at Mainz (then 36).
blub August 17, 2016 um 11:27 am
Thats a rather new development and I think a temporary one. After the DFB rebooted their Philosophy and demanded academies for every professional club there were a lot of demand for new high-level coaches. So these are many high-level coaches that are now proven ate took the final step.
The players that grew up in the academies are now demanding the new coaching style that is very different fromt he traditional “former toplevel player now coach” style.
–>Academies not only produce player, but also coaches.
I think they average age will get alittle bit older in the years to come. They replaced their predecessor at a fairly young are but they will stick around for a while.
After Germany was bad in 2004 many very young players with few League games came in the national team (e.g. Arne Friedrich with just 3(!) BuLi games) nowadays it takes a while. e.g. Julian Brandt had >75 games for the club until his first nationalteam appearance and he is obviously a worldclass prospect.
I don’t know how the situation is in Britain, but these changes take at least 10 years to be visibly affect the top-level. But you can never expect a Nagelsmann.
tobit August 17, 2016 um 8:56 pm
We wouldn’t see coaches like Skripnik or Dardai in PL – even if there were qualified ones in the academies – because every team can buy a “better”, more experienced one. So (young) British coaches have no chance to compete on the same level as Tuchel or Dardai did in their first BL-seasons and due to that can’t learn and develop from games against strong opponents.
One of the (if not the) biggest problems of British football is the tradition of “One-Man-Shows”, meaning the coach is also the manager. He does all the transfers, contract extensions, sometimes even Sponsor-talks. He has so much to do that there is no time to do the training with the team. This gets delegated to – a lot less proficient – assistant-coaches. If Guardiola or Mourinho only buy the players they need but don’t work with them – why employ them and not transfer-experts like Max Eberl or Michael Reschke?
This got better over the last few years at some clubs but is e.g. one of the main reasons for van Gaals failure at United.
Another Problem is squad-management after the managerial change. Many former top-achievers aren’t needed anymore (e.g. Schweinsteiger), but still earn hilariously high wages limiting the options of the new manager.