Managers v Philosophers

by   |   11/12/2017  27 Comments  [Jump to last]

We have heard a lot in recent years about managers who have a 'philosophy'. This is usually an overseas coach who shuns the typical British work ethic in favour of pretty, passing football. Sometimes, they are successful such as Pep Guardiola. Sometimes they are a complete shambles like Roberto Martinez. But what determines this is easily observed.

The successful managers work with the players they have, or can acquire. They play to the strengths of their players and either coach them to be better or they buy better players. Those like Martinez, try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. They fail to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of their players and as a result have them trying to play a game that is alien to them.

We hear about His Philosophy but, if it doesn't work, the media so often put it down to player error letting him down. But it would surely be better if the manager saw what his players could do and adapted that, rather than try to fit round pegs into square holes.

This brings me to Sam Allardyce. I, like so many Blues, was underwhelmed by his appointment. Man – was I wrong! After years of watching Martinez flail about and speak jibberish, followed by Koeman not knowing a footballer when one stares him in the face, we get straight forward clear thinking. Play to our strengths, not the manager's dreams. Organise what we have and use the resources available.Yet this does not mean long-ball pub football.

The goals against Huddersfield and that penalty at Anfield came as a result of accurate passing. Perhaps Big Sam just hasn't had that quality to play with before. It took me one game to realise that Martinez was an idiot (ask anyone who knows me); it took me longer to grow disillusioned with Koeman. It has taken a couple of games and I am convinced about Allardyce: No philosophy... just good management.

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Stan Schofield
1 Posted 11/12/2017 at 18:06:55
Martin, spot on. The job of any manager, anywhere, is to use to best advantage what he has at his disposal. Allardyce seems, so far, to be working in that direction. It will be very interesting to see what he can do with this squad, the quality of which he hasn't had previously.
Geoffrey Caveney
2 Posted 11/12/2017 at 18:11:00
I agree. Also, when I first saw the title, I thought this was going to be about the Monty Python sketch.
Danny Broderick
3 Posted 11/12/2017 at 19:20:30
Call it management or philosophy or whatever you want, I find that managers are paid a fortune and I am baffled by some of their decisions. If we take Sunday's game, Klopp and Allardyce are paid probably about £4 million per year each (at a guess). On their side, he rests his best players in one of their biggest games of the season. On our side, we get a team with Rooney playing right wing.

Allardyce has done well for us so far. He does have qualities – he's an arrogant bastard who gets everyone pulling in the same direction. He can organise a team and exploit weaknesses in other teams. He's probably just what we need at this point in time. But I was honestly baffled by the decision to play 4-4-2 with Rooney on the right wing. With Sigurdsson on the other side, it meant we had no width. I'm hoping to see a better team selection than that in the coming weeks, that's for sure.

Steve Barr
4 Posted 11/12/2017 at 19:40:59
I agree with Danny #3 and will go further and opine that far too much focus and attention is given to the modern day coach/manager.

I think their skills and contributions to the game are vastly overrated and it's really nauseating reading and listening to sycophantic journalists and so-called football experts raving on about how great they are, to the extent that the Man-U v Man City result is reported in various rags as Mourinho 1-2 Guardiola (one would think the game has nothing whatsoever to do with the 22 players on the pitch anymore)!

This obsession with overpaid coaches is becoming very much like it is in the USA where the coach is king. You should read the resumes (CVs) of the college coaches of any sport in America and you'll see what I mean.

It seems to me these so-called great managers spend millions on the worlds best players and surprise surprise, they end up with the best team. Not too much to do with coaching ability as evidenced by any of their reactions to a bad spell: "I need to buy more world class players"!

Of course they have a place and an influence on proceedings but unfortunately the media today attributes far too much to their "genius".

Keep it simple!

Peter Gorman
5 Posted 11/12/2017 at 21:32:06
I don't know; there are times the manager/coach really earn their corn by choosing tactics to suit a particular game (left-wing Lukaku against Arsenal by Martinez for example) or by being able to train players to a noticeable improvement (Moyes with anyone except strikers).

I don't see why you cannot have both a manager and a philosopher; the former will provide the leadership and the latter the aesthetics.

As happy as I was that Liverpool got only a point from the derby, there is a philosophy behind the kind of football we played and it is KITAP1. It is not a very pretty philosophy and will win fewer fans than points.

Michael Penley
6 Posted 11/12/2017 at 22:16:33
Haven't we had enough false dawns in recent years to have learned to avoid this kind of fawning over our new managers? By all means enjoy our success, but remember – people were drooling over Martinez and Koeman at first too.
Peter Laing
7 Posted 11/12/2017 at 22:43:25
I like Allardyce's forthright approach and honesty – breath of fresh air from the two previous incumbents. In addition to Allardyce we are also benefitting from the coach in the stand in the shape of Shakespeare who is clearly relaying messages to the touchline as the game pans out.

We also have the infectious coaching and man-management from Sammy Lee who would appear to be a very popular figure in footballing circles.

The one area that we definitely need a marked improvement in is the transfer market. Question marks still hang over Steve Walsh – although it is possible that the Manager and his team will have a more hands-on approach than the dour Agent Orange and his band of Dutch cloggers.

Don Alexander
12 Posted 11/12/2017 at 23:57:33
Due respect but this article could be very slightly bastardised to encompass what football owners seem to think of fans; "Balloons or Pricks"?

If Moshiri gets to pose that question of our boardroom I'll be happy though.

Si Cooper
13 Posted 12/12/2017 at 00:38:56
Not sure why having a ‘philosophy' is being denigrated as it simply means “a theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour“ which pretty much sums up every coach I have encountered.

Obviously the trick is to have a philosophy that actually works, ie, the players available are already capable of playing in the required way or can be trained to do so. That is the failing of so many managers – not being able to identify the correct players or not adapting their system to use the players that they have in the best way. That doesn't just apply in football.

Ridiculous to say that successful managers don't have a guiding philosophy of some sort.

Robin Cannon
14 Posted 12/12/2017 at 02:15:00
The focus on "philosophies" is just a result of the greater media focus and analysis.

Brian Clough had a clear philosophy.
Bill Shankly had a clear philosophy.
Valeriy Lobanovskyi had a clear philosophy.
Our own "School of Science" reputation comes from clear philosophy.
Catenaccio is a philosophy. "Total Football" is a philosophy.

The greatest managers do have an underlying philosophy. But they develop toward it over time, they tweak it to integrate with the personnel they have at their disposal. They're flexible.

Check out "Inverting The Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics" for a really in-depth history of tactical development, and the managers who were responsible for those developments.

Paul Newton
15 Posted 12/12/2017 at 13:19:31
I suspect Sam is more willing to adjust his 'philosophy' according to what he has at his disposal than many other managers. For me he spoke more good sound common sense in his first press conference than we heard in 3½ years or so from the previous two. I couldn't see Martinez or Koeman getting us that point at Anfield in the current circumstances.

I often wonder what it is that separates the so-called 'great' managers nowadays from the rest. As has previously been said, if you have great reserves of money available, it obviously gives you an enormous advantage.

Jon Withey
18 Posted 12/12/2017 at 13:45:32
Time will tell whether Sam can both keep the team competitive (which he always seems to do well) and integrate a bit more quality to get some nice football (eventually achieved at Bolton).

I think he is just the sort of pragmatic manager we need right now with a very unbalanced squad who need more coaching. It's up to him to see if he can keep on improving us longer term with some decent buys.

Jon Withey
19 Posted 12/12/2017 at 13:48:32
Koeman will soon be forgotten though and the posters will be back demanding top 4 finishes given net spend etc.

I'll be impressed if he gets us in the Europa League again but manages to fight on the extra front – few seem to manage that.

Tony Hill
20 Posted 12/12/2017 at 14:12:18
Eugene, looks like we've borrowed £13.75m from Santander which the bank has secured against the balance of monies due in the same amount from the Stones transfer, payable by Man City at the beginning of August 2018. The security or Charge is made by way of assignment by Everton to the bank of its right to the transfer monies. So it's a short-term loan, subject to any variation of the terms later.
Paul Mackie
21 Posted 12/12/2017 at 14:48:39
Looks like we've come full circle back to the start of the Moyes days with people absolutely delighted by crap quality football as long as we get some kind of result and the manager refers to Everton as 'we' and 'us'.

Martinez was a crap manager and a charlatan, but I'll never forget the games where his line-ups actually paid off, like the 3-0 against Arsenal with Coleman doing keepy-uppies down the touchline. I'm extremely sceptical that we'll ever see that kind of attacking play under Allardyce.

Andy Dempsey
22 Posted 12/12/2017 at 15:19:38
Bang on, Paul Mackie,

We could easily have lost that game, and his tactics would have come across as sheer negativity.

It's not pragmatic to play this way – giving the opposition all the ball, confidence and attempts on goal, and relying on us scoring off 1 or 2 chances – it's cowardly and in fact, it's bloody risky, not pragmatic at all.

It's hoping the opponent doesn't create too much and praying we convert our solitary chance, like Mourinho football. Very risky actually, ultra-defensiveness has the same risk-factor as ultra-attack.

I'm not saying we go all out ultra attack, but I would at least like to see us engage teams in a contest, put them under a bit of pressure. Whoever said the other day it was like a non-League side going to Old Trafford in the Cup or something like that, was spot on.

We will be calling for this guy's head come the end of the season, all of us, because it's just morale-sapping, mind-numbing stuff.

Stan Schofield
23 Posted 12/12/2017 at 21:40:15
Paul & Andy, yes, we played some great stuff under Martinez. But Allardyce has only been here 5 minutes, and I don't think he's ever had a squad as talented as ours at his disposal.

Given that he has a reputation for using what he has available, there is surely some reasonable expectation that we'll play some attractive football, with Sunday's defensive display a rarity because of the circumstances.

It's a case of settling things down at the moment, after which there should be more fluidity in the play. Last week's game against Limassol showed that the management team is quite capable of orchestrating attractive attacking football.

Greg Anderson
24 Posted 13/12/2017 at 23:58:55
This sounds right to me. Playing according to a pre-conceived philosophy is something only the richest clubs can afford, because only they have the means to hand-pick the best players to put that philosophy into practice.

Both Martinez and Koeman were flexible and pragmatic in their first years, because they had to use players who didn't fit their philosophies, and as a result both did pretty well.

After a few new purchases, both then tried doggedly to impose their respective philosophies in their second years, even though they still did not actually have players good or suitable enough to put them into practice, and came unstuck as a result.

Steve Cotton
25 Posted 14/12/2017 at 22:20:20
I see Mourinho has been asked by the FA to explain his comments about Man City players falling at a gust of wind... yet Herr Klopp has got away with saying the Ref gave Everton the penalty as they were bossing the game to level it up….

Let's see some even handedness..

William Cartwright
26 Posted 15/12/2017 at 17:13:26
Early days I know, but the triumvirate of Allardyce, Shakespeare and Sammy Lee seem to be doing the business, which is great.

I recall the Allardyce Shakespeare duo was being pushed by a certain Mr. Walsh a short while back but he was ridiculed? Contrary to popular opinions, it might just be that Mr Walsh does know what he's doing, and is good at it.

Whilst the issue is no-one seems to be able to pin a label on exactly what it is that Mr Walsh actually does...

Brian Porter
27 Posted 16/12/2017 at 07:22:40
Historically speaking, the majority of famous philosophers, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, even Karl Marx, tended to sit and cogitate, viewing the world around them and then espousing their own views on the state of the world, its peoples, and their own ideas and views, (i.e their 'philosophy) for improving upon the current status quo. What they didn't do was to actively take part in a hands-on fashion, in efforts to impose that philosophy upon the wider masses and here we see the difference between those great men (exclude Marx from the word 'great'), and the modern day football manager who devises his own version of a philosophy, and then personally attempts to impose it on a small group of people (his players), without first finding out if they will accept or even be willing to go along with it. A surefire recipe for disaster because at no point do they allow for the fact that their own philosophy may be totally at odds with the thoughts and aspirations of those upon whom they attempt to impose it.

At such a point, the philosopher undergoes a subtle but marked metamorphosis. Instead of being the thinker whose ideas will revolutionise the team (sticking to football now), our philosopher must now find a method of imposing his will on the unwilling recipients of his self-perceived wisdom. As we found with Koeman, the only way they can effectively impose that will on the team is by dropping the guise of 'philosopher' and assuming the mantle of a dictator. The dictator then forces his philosophy (a la Hitler, Mussolini, Franco etc), onto his by now unwilling and disgruntled followers. As history has also proved, while some dictatorships start off pretty well, few, if any, benefit from the longevity their leaders demand or expect.

In other words, with very few exceptions, the philosopher-cum-dictator can expect a short and possibly turbulent shelf-life, as in Koeman's case, because, quite simply, their philosophy has no built-in clause that will allow for change or adaptation. Result? Disaster.

Far better a good old-fashioned team manager, with a good knowledge of the game and the ability and willingness to make changes to playing style and personnel in a fluid and exploitative manner to get the best out of the players at his disposal without trying to enforce a rigid system or method of playing the game. Only by possessing the ability to think on his feet and make positive changes during the game, or changing the team to make positive moves to combat a specific opponent, can a good manager impose his will on those he leads.

It's quite simply called good management, a learned skill, as opposed to a philosophy that is based on an idea, and which may or may not translate into success in the real world. History again proves that the practical will usually outlast the ethereal thinker.

Peter Larkin
28 Posted 16/12/2017 at 08:17:52
What a load of bollox. It amazes me that people still slate Roberto Martinez. Here is a guy that got us playing the most attacking fluid style of football while "winning" that I have seen in 20-plus years of watching the blues. The guy got us a record haul of points which I can't see being beaten anytime soon!

What went wrong with Martinez was the same thing that happened with Koeman – the players simply downed tools! While Sam has got us points, it's fucking awful to watch and we have been very very lucky in most games. For me, Sam should get the boot in the summer – he is not good enough for a club that wants to be at the top.

In saying that, Moshiri and Co have no intention of bringing back the glory days. I can see Big Sam getting a contract extension in the summer; then, after a few months of watching dross, we will be calling for his head! So stop bashing a guy that achieved more then any other manager we have had in the Premier League era.

Derek Thomas
29 Posted 16/12/2017 at 09:53:45
You apply a formation that suits the players you have, one that maximizes their strengths, not their weaknesses.

That's all the philosophy you need Part 1.

Part 2 is you get better players... then apply Part 1 again. Rinse and repeat.

Steve Ferns
30 Posted 16/12/2017 at 14:40:09
I suppose when you consider the great philosophical football managers or coaches of the last 30 years, you will start to tot up their trophies and use them to decide who is best. I think that when people look back in 2050, to a period 50 years before and consider who is the most influential manager of the period from 1997 to 2017, they will look at Guardiola, Mourinho, Zidane, Ancelotti, Ferguson and point to the fact that each won the Champions League twice.

The most influential manager / coach of this period was none of them. It was a guy whose legend is building and there is now some awareness of his name on these boards, but when I suggested him for Everton manager in 2013, most said, "Who?".

A manager whose greatest managerial achievement is winning the Olympics, won the league in his home country just three time (not considered a great feat), the last time was 20 years ago by the end of this season, and he's not won the league in any country since.

Continentally, he reached the final of the big one once (but in his home territory and not Europe), reached the final of the lesser European one once, and this was his last achievement of note, and occurred over 5 years ago.

Who is this coach and why is he so influential? Well Ask Guardiola who is the best. Read about Guardiola flying over to see him to ask advice on whether or not he should take the Barcelona job, and read at the pure tactical and philosophical discussions that took place over a number of hours in what was meant to be a short chat.

Read about how this man shaped everything about Pochettino, read about how Klopp adopted his ideas. This is the manager who may not have dominated world football for the last 20 years, but his philosophy, through others, has.

The one, the only, the greatest, Marcelo Bielsa

Bill Watson
31 Posted 17/12/2017 at 00:10:18
Steve (#30),

It didn't seem to work too well in practice!

He was shown the 'do one' door the other day after just 3 wins in 13 matches.

Brian Porter
32 Posted 17/12/2017 at 06:30:17
Peter Larkin #28, I'm sorry but I have to strongly disagree with you. You say you have followed the blues for 20 plus years,. I have now followed them for 60 years which I think allows me a little greater overall perspective.

You're are correct in saying that under Martinez and Koeman the players appeared to. 'down tools' but then go on to say that Martinez was our greatest manager of the Premier League era. Where your point founders is that you fail to address the reasons Why the players 'downed tools.

If Martinez was such a great manager, surely the players would have played out of their skins for him every week. But, they didn't. You forget that in that first, record breaking season, he began with a solid defence, the legacy of his much maligned predecessor, David Moyes. As the season wore on and we entered the last three months, the rot had already begun to set in, as we allowed a Champions League place to slip through our fingers as his 'philosophy' of what you describe as 'attacking, fluid football' brought about needless defeats and draws snatched from the Jaws of victory at the last minute.

His cavalier approach to defending, his refusal to appreciate the value of set-pieces and his dogged adherence to his 'attacking fluid football' saw a disastrous end of the season where we handed the fourth Champions League place to Arsenal on a plate.

Talking of Arsenal, even their great title winning team that went all season unbeaten, was built on a solid defensive back four that operated as a single unit, stepping up as a man to catch opposition forwards offside, like a well oiled machine. And that team, as fluid and great to watch as you could ask for, also knew that to win titles, you often had to 'win ugly' and could grind out a boring 1-0 win when needed, something they were the masters of.

Martinez was unable to appreciate the need for a solid defence to protect his attacking players, therefore his philosophy of attacking, fluid football quite simply was built on feet of clay with no solid foundations, and the players soon became disillusioned with his failure to change or adapt his tactics which eventually left us dangerously exposed at the back. Hence, no matter how good we were going forward, we were always liable to concede at the back and that ended up costing us a place in the Champions League.

Yes, we achieved our best ever points total of the Champions League era (in a very poor league as it happened), but with a little attention to the details, ie, a solid defence, it could have been so much better. A 'great' manager would have seen the flaws in his system and corrected them. Martinez did not do so and therefore he was exposed even then as anything but 'great' and it was then downhill all the way.

I am happy to see us grinding out a few boring wins that put points on the board as Allardyce builds the solid defence upon which any future success depends and as he has said himself, he will be looking to improve things going forward once he's sorted the first problem to his satisfaction. These are the building blocks of success, not the cavalier, nice-to-watch, fluid football that Martinez brought to us and which heralded a false dawn, which many people, yourself included it seems, fell for, hook, line and sinker, only to discover the truth in that God awful second season.

Peter Larkin
33 Posted 17/12/2017 at 09:23:18
Brian, these players are bottle jobs, the whole lot of them! I tell you why we didn't get Champions League that year, is because the players bottled it. As soon as we had must-win games, we lost them, as soon as we play the shite we bottle it. These players don't do pressure, so no disrespect for your 60 years of service, its the players mate.

Look back on that season, must-win game against Sunderland who got relegated that year: I think bottled it, and many games after. Then, as soon as the pressure was off, we started to win again, with the same manager and same tactics, so what changed, Brian?

These pampered millions will use any excuse not to be blamed, they will use the manager, tactics, false injury, you name it they use it. Players don't blame themselves – it's always someone else's fault. Until we get real men, real pros in, mid table it will be – no matter what manager is in charge, and that's a fact, Brian.

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