The manager at any club is often seen as the most pivotal role at a football club yet Chelsea’s recent Champions League success has brought questions over a coach’s influence. Indeed both times the Blues have reached the major European final they have been guided by a relatively unproven manager, but that does not mean that the manager is insignificant in the success achieved by a club.
Roberto Di Matteo had minimal experience at the top level before being handed the job as interim-manager at Chelsea but managed to restore harmony to a squad in a state of discord. He returned the senior players to their key positions in the first team, something that Andre Villas-Boas had originally been brought in to change. He outstripped all expectations, securing the west London outfit their first ever Champions League title. It was not too dissimilar from the outlook that Avram Grant was introduced into. Chelsea arguably performed at their best when the pressure was not on them.
It is believed that the restoration of the power wielded by John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba within the team was the key to Chelsea’s win in Munich. While it is true that these players who had become disruptive at being forced into the background, allowing them to assert themselves on the squad once again was not the only reason that the Blues ended as winners.
Di Matteo may have taken a backwards step as he reinstated the old guard but it was wholly necessary given his remit to return the team to winning ways. He ensured morale became positive by seemingly handing power back to the senior players. It was exemplary man management. In order to get the best out of the club’s key players he needed to make them pivotal in taking the club forward. The players showed their appreciation with some fantastic performances, turning a potentially awful campaign into a double-winning season.
Jose Mourinho’s fantastic managerial career is the perfect example of the influence that a head coach can have at a club. He recently became the first manager to win domestic league titles in four different countries, but perhaps most impressively each came within just two years of taking the position. He took a suffering Porto to the top in his first full season and then brought Chelsea their first League championship in 50 years with his debut campaign. That was followed by two Scudettos in two years with Inter, his second and final season being a treble winning campaign. Most recently, at the end of his second year at Real Madrid, he overthrew Pep Guardiola’s magnificent Barcelona side to win La Liga. His impact wherever he goes shows that there is more to the game then just putting players on a pitch and at just 49-years-old you would not bet against him achieving even further success.
The manager gets a complete overview of the whole game from the touchline and can analyse the occurrences and develop ways to defeat the opponents. This is one of the key reasons that player-managers have become so rare. It is difficult to judge your team’s performance and formulate solid tactical ideas whilst under the additional pressure of playing. Mourinho again is the perfect example of live tactical alterations and tweaks as he scribbles down notes furiously which he then sends on to the field of play. Sam Allardyce also frequently watches the first half of a game from the stands so he can get a top-down view of the action and infer what changes are needed for the second half. It is such meticulous attention to detail that determines the success of a manager.
Ultimately he is the man that determines the direction of the club. He is first to receive the blame when times are bad, but equally the centre of the praise in contrasting situations. They determine the style of play and sometimes even the philosophy of the club. Arsene Wenger has instilled a belief in Arsenal’s youth system that is admirable and though he has not won a trophy in over 7 years, the club and its fans remain committed to the ideal. Sir Alex Ferguson has also built countless teams at Manchester United that has seen him lift 27 trophies whilst spending an unbelievable 25 years at Old Trafford. Such a bounty would never have been achieved without Ferguson.
The quick-to-sack nature of past Premier League seasons is gone as clubs realise the necessity of having a strong figurehead to guide the team. While Chelsea’s Champions League triumph may have been largely down to the players, it was Di Matteo’s man management that restored faith in the team and led their late charge to glory. Get the right man for the job, and any team can go anywhere.