The Dispensability of Coaches

By | September 12, 2013

The Mexican National soccer team has recently fired its head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, following its world cup qualifying loss to the U.S., hiring Victor Manuel Vucetich to replace him.  This is the third coaching change that the Mexican National team has made this past week.  The decision to fire coaches as the immediate response to poor results has become all too common throughout sports, especially soccer.  Coaches aren’t given the time to set their foundation, develop their players, and build team chemistry around their game plan.  They are expected to win, and to win as soon as they step into the office.  But is this constant shuffling of coaches good for teams who want success and to see their investments pan out? A report published by the League Managers Association showed that of the 92 professional teams in all levels of the Premier League, 63 of them made managerial changes: with 43 firings and 20 resignations in 2012-2013.  The average tenure for a manager is only 2.81 years, which includes the outlier of Arsene Wenger who’s been at Arsenal for 17 years.  Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner, has a reputation with committing knee jerk reactions when it comes to managers.  Under his ownership, he has had as many managers as Chelsea had the previous 70 years. 

I believe that this tradition of firing coaches as soon as any sign of failure becomes present is ruining the game of soccer.  A strong relationship between players and coaches is an essential aspect in building stability and chemistry within the team.  The manager needs time to build a rapport with his players in order to figure out each individual’s preferences and playing style so that he can fit each piece into his game plan.  Even players realize the importance of playing on a team with stability, which comes from an established coach that has a long, strong bond with his team.  Neymar was one of the biggest and sought after names this past summer with his eventual decision being to move to Barcelona.  One of the main reasons why he chose the La Liga team over another Premier League team was that he wanted stability.   The Premier League has gained a reputation of seeing coaches as easily replaceable, and being a quick fix to any problems.  If this trend continues, with players like Neymar opting for other leagues, the Premier League teams will have to seriously think about how they view their managers.

Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably one of the greatest soccer managers of all time, needed four years to win his first trophy with 12 Premier League titles and two Champions League titles soon following.  Manchester United stuck with their manager even though results weren’t panning out because they realized the need of stability and the time it takes for a truly great manager to build a foundation for his team.  Most of the successful teams not only in soccer but in all sports generally have had long tenured managers that started out with limited success.  Another explicit example of this case comes from a Coach very important to me as a Duke student.  Coach Krzyzewski of the Duke Basketball team had two losing seasons in his first three years before establishing himself as one of the best coaches of all time.  Although most teams want to see immediate results and hope that new coaches are a quick fix, a true, long lasting investment takes time to establish.  For the sake of soccer, and the many teams aiming for success, I hope that these teams start to put stability as their number one priority and realize the importance of a commitment with a manager.

One thought on “The Dispensability of Coaches

  1. Sanket Prabhu

    I’m not in too much agreement on this post. First of all it is not a good comparison to compare between international and club coaches. International teams are on a pretty strict timetable with a clear goal: they have to qualify for the world cup. Failure to do so is heartbreaking for an entire country, not just a town for a club. I forgot where I read it (think it was a quote from a famous coach), but he said that the job of the coach is to motivate the players and massage their egos (of course there are exceptions i.e. Balotelli). Mexico obviously wasn’t clicking and the players looked lost at points. Chicharito looked like a shadow of himself, as he stood waiting for the ball, instead of making the precise runs we see when he has a Man U jersey on. Sure the Mexican coach could’ve used some time to ‘grow on’ the players, but they didn’t have time. They need a spark, and since it wasn’t coming from on the field, it needed to come from the sidelines, in this case a change in coaching.

    Also, your example of Chelsea rotating through coaches, you fail to leave out a very critical, renown coach: Murinho. In the 4 years between him leaving and coming back, sure Abromavic did make some quick firings and hirings of coaches, but who could blame the guy. Under Murinho’s management the Chelsea players were extremely disciplined and genuinely wanted to shine for their club. Murinho, in my opinion is among the best coaches around right now, and it’s not just because of his tactics. He is a master as managing his players as well, massaging their egos as I mentioned before. In his post game interviews he never really mentions his own tactical decisions, but rather how his team reacted appropriately to their opposition, or how they could improve for the next game. I’m sure he is a master tactician himself, but moreover he knows how to get the best out of his players. In addition, he wasn’t fired by Abromavic (he said it was a mutual agreement, and also mentioned interests in other leagues). Now that he has returned, Chelsea are in good form, and I don’t forsee them ousting Murinho anytime soon.

    So back to the general thoughts about firing coaches. Does it happen often, possible more often than other sports; I don’t have a statistic for that but just from following the PL I would say yes. But also, it is so hard to find a man who can bring out the best in 18 players week in and week out. Being a Liverpool fan myself, I can say after 3 quick managers, we’ve found our fit in Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool’s decision to keep going through managers, until they found the right one worked out, and we’re playing the best we’ve played in a while. Clubs and their owners understand the need to find the right match, and in a league where enormous amounts of money is at stake, it is understandable that owners are willing to sacrifice a couple managers along the way to find the lasting fit at the end.


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