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Who’d Be A Manager?

How much control of the match does a manager actually have? At what point does the constant pressure leveled at premier league bosses shift to the players themselves? The coach isn’t the one out there on the pitch, once that whistle blows, it’s 11 v 11. The managers can influence things but they can’t do the actual running, do the actual pressing, can’t tap home the winning goal as much as some try. In the premier league, all of the pressure and onus is on the man at the helm when it comes time to be held accountable. The worst that happens to the player for bad performances is being benched. That paycheck is still coming on Friday even if you make one League Cup appearance all season and sit the bench the rest of the time. Players don’t get fired, don’t get sacked.

Doesn’t seem too fair, does it?

            Unfortunately, this isn’t the participation league and fairness isn’t the way of the world; not how it works in the toughest league on the planet. The questions are always leveled at the coaching position which has become the easiest role to turn over at any club. However, I would argue that there are times when the level of performance has to come under scrutiny. In spite of the differences any player’s particular style may have with any particular coach, you still have to go out with pride and play 4 The Badge. Even, as we have seen on a few occasions, if the players have no respect for the manager whatsoever, the players are still under contract, still getting paid obscene money to play a game.

If a new manager took over at the burger shack, the employees would be expected to adjust to the new regime and perform as instructed. Why is this not the same at the highest level of soccer? These guys signed contracts to play for the club, so when they aren’t fulfilling these contracts with horrible performances on the field, it feels really dirty for the manager to face the firing squad in their stead.

            A team needs unity, needs to be more than a one man show, more than a bunch of disparate narcissists running in the same direction but not anywhere near to being together. That includes the manager who should be the one leading the way. Some examples of managers not being respected by players could be cited but I would then have to ask about those same players’ professionalism. They have a responsibility to the club, to the contract, and most of all, to the fans who support the club week in and week out. Long losing streaks and back-to-back poor performances have many reasons (or excuses depending on your angle) for occurring but not all of it should be down to the manager. If the team doesn’t enjoy the formation or the tactics it can be an uncomfortable situation but responsibility and pride as a professional and a footballer should come to the forefront. There are still games to played, games to be won and at least some of that responsibility has to fall on the players themselves.

            That being said, managers today should know exactly what they are getting into. The nature of this game is not hidden in shadow. High profile appointments at high profile clubs come with massive amounts of pressure. It comes with having to manage the monster egos we know come with being a top professional player. Its inevitable, the way these men are worshipped, for them to have inflated opinions of themselves, the rest of us do. Just look at Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldo, etc. The manager has to be able to balance a lot of these top names and somehow keep everyone happy with only 11 slots a game, not to mention actually being successful out on the pitch.

So, when a manager signs a contract, they invite this pressure, invite the stakes and have to know what they are getting into. The leader of any group, team, or organization will always be the one scrutinized when results are poor. The manager has to be the glue that holds the team together, has to be the tactician that gives the team the opportunity to win, has to be the man that demands respect and motivates the troops.

It starts at the top.

            The top, as we all know, doesn’t always mean the manager. Even the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger had to have a working relationship with owners and members of the controlling hierarchy at the club. The role is multi-faceted with a million ways to screw up and only one way to please the masses. Even when a coach, by all appearances, is simply a figurehead, there remains a measure of culpability or credit (depending on success) especially in the eyes of the fans. The BBC recently released an article wherein Graham Potter, current Chelsea manager, was quoted saying “I’ve no idea in terms of how its happened,” speaking about the hijacking of Mykhailo Mudryk by Todd Boehly and co. These statements followed a much needed 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge for the Blues over Crystal Palace. Its clear for anyone who looks more than once at the situation to see that Potter is not the tip top of the Chelsea iceberg, as he should be.

            That begs the question that I assume all Chelsea fans yearn for an answer to: How does Potter morph this wild, tumultuous saga of eye raising event after surprise inducing headline after directionless cash splashing into a winning team? How do all of these pieces fit into some semblance of the quality the fans deserve from such a high-profile club? They won the Champions League two seasons ago for God’s sake! With everything going on off the pitch, it has become all too clear that there is only one way out, only one way for everything to be ok, for all the noise and drama to fade into the background. Even the fiercest fans and staunchest detractors of Potter (or any manager for that matter) cannot argue with results.

The win vs Palace is massive. Yes, the fact that he has no idea what the powers that be at the club are up to is a glaring issue citing a dangerous disconnect that could prove all too costly (as it has done so far, seemingly) but each win relieves that little bit more pressure. The post-match presser was telling, his relief was palpable as was that of the Chelsea faithful. The one thing he does seem to have going for him is the backing of the owner and this salvation shines a light on just how difficult it is to be a manager at the top level. A myriad of factors swirl around the main man’s head perpetually hovering above the chopping block and this one thread has been his only bastion of security but a win is a win is a win and that’s all he has to do to turn the entire situation back to an even keel and a positive direction. Ha, just win? That’s all, huh?

So, does the manager really have control? Does any one person truly have to shoulder the entire blame for poor performance? Likewise, does all the credit go down to one man for a run of positive results?

I think not but it leaves us with the very real query of: who’d be a manager?

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