Wednesday 18 September 2019

John Giles: Only one top manager is enjoying the right conditions to work in - and he is reaping the benefits

Pep Guardiola (left), Mauricio Pochettino (centre) and Jurgen Klopp (right).
Pep Guardiola (left), Mauricio Pochettino (centre) and Jurgen Klopp (right).

John Giles

IT has never been more important for a club to give the manager control of his football team, and yet all around me I see owners and chairmen doing what they’ve always done – getting in the way of success.

There is nothing new about what we are seeing in the Premier League other than the acceleration in the process of scapegoating managers.

In my day, a chairman or a director gave the manager the bad news about the £100,000 striker he wanted to buy because there was no money and a few days later, kept a straight face when he sat beside a £200,000 signing the owner fancied to be in his team.

These days they hire a Director of Football to do the dirty work and the Premier League has now fully absorbed the committee model we saw first in continental Europe.

Look at the chaos this model has brought in. Clubs sack managers at the drop of a hat. Success doesn’t matter anymore unless it translates into cash, and that means Premier League survival.

At Real Madrid, where interference and meddling from above is endemic, they compensate by buying the best players in the world and hand them to whoever happens to be the coach at the time.

Zinedine Zidane has zero control over the players he gets to work with but he has Ronaldo.

If you don’t have £500m to spend on a couple of players these days, you try to do what Daniel Levy has done at Spurs, which is squeeze every drop out of an excellent young manager like Mauricio Pochettino without giving him the proper backing.

After doing a brilliant job, he is still fighting for the right to run Spurs and is working with players earning significantly less than their peers at the Etihad or Old Trafford. I would bet that they have put up with this because they believe in their manager.

Pochettino laid it on the line for Levy in no uncertain terms last weekend. There was such force behind his comments that I have to assume he has had a big offer from a club which will give him the resources he needs.

Up in Newcastle, Rafa Benitez did very well to stay clear of the relegation zone and should be busy scouting new summer targets who will improve his squads.

Instead, he has to sit down with owners and directors to talk about the future, and nobody believes he will get the answers they want.

Benitez wants to buy players. Ashley probably wants to sell Newcastle’s top performers.

As I said at the start, this is as old as football but it doesn’t make any of it right. The ridiculous pace of it all now makes things much worse.

For the managers involved, there is always the consolation that they will be well compensated and that, at least, is an improvement on the past. But it must be soul-destroying for a real football fanatic.

If a manager is lucky and good, he might just hit a sweet spot where the club owner is desperate and will offer any terms requested, but there is an inevitable built-in punishment for any boss who does his job well.

Expectation rises and when you put that together with a generally poor knowledge of the game among owners and directors, you get something like the current ‘hang him high’ atmosphere which is around the game.

It will only get worse. Despite all the evidence which tells us that the most successful managers of all time have been the ones who had full control, the businessmen who own football clubs seek to impose management structures which will have the opposite impact.

At the moment, Pep Guardiola is the only top manager enjoying the right conditions and Manchester City have just finished the season with 100 points as Premier League champions.

Jurgen Klopp admitted he had no say when the final decision was made on Philippe Coutinho but he’s having a great season and will gain some control for that.

Jose Mourinho didn’t sign Paul Pogba and he’s been dealing with the consequences of that all season.

Arsene Wenger is gone now, leaving Guardiola to fly the flag for those of us who know that there is only one way to treat a manager. Let him do his job.

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