The mark of a great manager, or showing a mistake in the first place?

One thing that I have always been in awe of when it comes to certain managers is the ability they have to make match changing substitutions and effectively turn the game on its head – of course this can go drastically wrong and taking a player off or making a bizarre substitution can also lose the game for a team – Chelsea went from the sublime to the ridiculous with this when they replaced Claudio ‘tinkerman’ Ranieri with Jose ‘the special one’ Mourinho who is renowned for his game changing, match wining substitutions unlike his predecessor who will always be remembered for his odd substitutions in the Champions League semi-final against Monaco, and illustrated just how a substitution can win or lose a game.

Mourinho of late has been back to his vintage best with his subs, changing games totally around in the second half and basically winning the match with the changes – yet does this signify brilliance or just how badly wrong he got it in the first place?

This is something I have always wondered when it comes to dramatic subs, and I always wonder what could have happened had the player been on from the start and the manager made what could have been the right choice.

The issue with saying this however is that things can easily change if a team goes a goal up or indeed a goal down, and this is when a manger needs to think fast and make the change that will benefit the team the most – something that is a rare skill. More often than not after going a goal down, managers can wait until it is far too late to put on another attacking player, and due to this cause their team to lose the game. Top, top managers have the knack of seeing things almost straight away, and a Fergie or Mourinho knows that they have to make those changes fast.

Likewise going a goal up – the temptation is to put on a more defensive player and try to hold onto the lead – yet this can end up inviting more pressure onto the team and provide the opposition with the chance to attack and get a goal back. One of the most common mistakes that ‘lesser teams’ and their managers make is allowing top sides to get at them and attack for the 90 minutes, and eventually they will score.

In all of these instances the players may need to be tinkered with, and changes made and the mark of a top manager is being able to do this. Should the mistake have been made from the minute the team sheet was written however, it then takes a rare and brave manager to admit that he has made a mistake and take a player off, and an even braver manager to sub a player who is a crowd favourite and replace them with a more defensive minded player – take Mancini replacing Aguero with Barry – not a popular choice, but if City need to defend or someone on the pitch who will work hard and do the running, this is what Mancini has to do.

There are of course the managers who do make a mistake with their team selection and refuse to change it up or acknowledge this, even though it is evident to all and sundry that a change needs to be made, and this is the most damaging of all to a team – for a manager to point blank refuse to make the change which could well solve the mistake he made with the initial team selection shows just how poor they actually are at their job.

Everyone will at some point make a mistake with their team selection – it is inevitable, and the truly class managers are able to admit this and make the change – sometimes a mass substitution may not work – yet no one will blame a manager for trying to win a side the game. Where the problem arises is when a manager refuses to make a change to the players or formation, and this ends up costing the team and all because of a mistake they made in the first place.

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