Is the “Premier League manager” becoming a thing of the past?

Well, some might feel a bit surprised at the title, others might feel intrigued at the idea of the Premier League managers turning into remnants of the past. However, for the ardent football fans this title – rather, this trend – might ring a bell and remind them of some instances in past which justify putting forth the bold question. This would be all the more true for gamblers and punters who follow Premier League betting odds, and keeping a track of how the manager’s role is being side-lined. In this article, we have made an attempt to see why and how exactly that change is being brought about.

A Shift in the Trend

As recently as May, Unai Emery was given the baton at Arsenal, but in the capacity of head coach rather than in the capacity of a manager. He replaced Arsene Wenger, who was labelled as the manager of the club for the last 22 years. Another example can be taken by Maurizio Sarri stepping into the shoes of Antonio Conte as the leader of Chelsea. Though he leads the team, he has retained the tag of head coach.

Out of the top rung of English football clubs, Emery and Sarri are among the six head coaches, and 14 other clubs have retained the position of “manager”, for now. Though the number are a minority, it does represents a shift and a trend that the official boss of the team is now moving away from an overarching role of overseeing every activity of the club.

Is there any actual difference?

Mauricio Pochettino changed his title from head coach to manager in 2016 when his contract with Tottenham was extended. He commented that since the time he had been associated with the club, he was more of a manager than just a coach. Well, the difference in the role of coach and a manager might arise in terms of dealing with affairs such as recruitment and transfers. A manager is responsible for various issues of the like nature, as opposed to simply coaching. One rumour behind why Antonio Conte stepped down from his position of manager is because of him not being given the autonomy that a manager wields.

This can also be seen in how Arsenal have created two divisions – head coach (Emery) and head of football relations (Raul Sanllehi), with the two dealing with the different aspects of the game. This rift in managing power and coaching players is also seen at teams like Everton and West Ham, where major decision such as transfers are not taken by the manager or any single person.

Is the Premier League actually witnessing a change?

In light of the above incidents it can be said without a doubt that Premier League football is definitely witnessing a change. Garry Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender, has spent a considerable time studying the different models being employed by football clubs, and he too believes in this changing dynamic of football. He opines that coaches minds are preoccupied with pressing matters such as choosing their teams, training sessions, etc. Hence it becomes taxing for them to take care of matters such as future signings and contract negotiations on top of this.

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Getting Stuck In: Why is MLS foreign to foreign coaches?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into how foreign coaches have struggled in Major League Soccer and why that might be the case.

As I sat freezing my butt off in the Nordecke section of Crew Stadium (I still refuse to call it MAPFRE Stadium) for the Eastern Conference final game against the Red Bulls, I wondered why over the years so many foreign coaches have bombed in MLS. And the first person I thought of was Ruud Gullit, the Dutch great who scored goals for the likes of PSV, AC Milan and Chelsea. If you remember, Gullit signed to manage the Galaxy in 2007 and proceeded to lay an egg. Gullit was paid a ridiculous ransom (the highest paid coach in MLS at the time) for kidnapping the Galaxy’s winning ways. He only coached for parts of two seasons and LA missed the playoffs both years, which is hard to do in the playoff-friendly MLS format. Not only did he ruin the beginning of Beckham’s MLS career, but he looked clueless when it came to tactics (didn’t practice set pieces much in training) and even dumber when it came to signing players and understanding the salary cap and draft rules.

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But the highest profile foreign coach bust has to be Carlos Alberto Parreira. The MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) hired the Brazilian World Cup winning coach to guide them in 1997… to the dumpster. His 13-19 playoff-less record didn’t get him fired (he left on his own terms) but he must’ve felt out of his depth when it came to MLS. He didn’t understand that you really need to make smart personnel decisions in MLS, not just throw any players together and call them a ‘team’.

So when I looked down the sidelines during the Eastern Conference final through my frosted over glasses, I saw two American coaches who looked right at home in MLS in Gregg Berhalter and Jesse Marsch.

Berhalter, the Crew SC head coach and technical director was the first American coach to manage in Europe when he took over at Hammarby in Sweden. (There’s a separate column for another time as to why U.S. coaches aren’t getting much of a shot in Europe; I mean c’mon, you don’t think Bob Bradley could’ve done a good job at Villa?).

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Berhalter, having played in the league, understands his limitations, and with Columbus being such a small market team and having limited off-the-field revenue streams he has to be smart (the Galaxy are in the midst of a ten-year, $44 million sponsorship deal with Herbalife, while the Crew have a much smaller five-year deal with shaving cream company Barbasol).

A foreign coach might just go for DPs left and right (see Galaxy under Gullit), but Berhalter has to be shrewd and know the American soccer landscape. His formula is to sign underappreciated foreign talent (Federico Higuain, Harrison Afful, Cedrick Mabwati and Gaston Sauro for example), blend in some established MLS players (Kei Kamara, Michael Parkhurst), sign players through the draft (Ethan Finlay) and grow players through their academy (Will Trapp). It’s a roster filled with good signings alongside good draft picks and a smart use of the Designated Player rule, using only one of their three available slots (Higuain is a modest DP and somehow Kamara isn’t one).

Currently there are only five foreign coaches in MLS with two more on the way as Patrick Vieira (NYCFC) and Veljko Paunovic (Chicago Fire) are set to enter the league in 2016. That could mean trouble, especially for NYCFC. They canned Jason Kreis, an MLS-winning American coach that knows the league like no other having scored over 100 goals in over 300 appearances with FC Dallas and RSL. His success at RSL, like Berhalter’s, was based on extreme knowledge of the league. The only reason Kreis got fired was because foreign owners didn’t understand the MLS concept fully. You need a balance of players, not three DPs, a high priced US International and a bunch of low-level talents. Kreis had no chance. So they go with Vierra, an unproven big name (only coaching experience is with the Manchester City reserves). Good luck Patrick. History is not on your side.

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One case that could go against the grain is that of Oscar Pareja’s. Pareja has done an outstanding job with FC Dallas but he played in MLS for eight years, coached the U.S. U17 team and had a stint with Colorado as their main man. Yes, he was born in Colombia, but he was very much raised in American soccer.

So could a Jose Mourinho come over here and have the same success he’s had in Europe (forget about this year’s current slump)? Well, most would think yes. But I have my doubts based on what I have discussed. I know he wouldn’t do much in his first year that’s for sure. Could you imagine him having to deal with a salary cap? The unheard of amount of travel (Seattle to Orlando is pretty far)? Or knowing how to draft college players? And what would he do when confronted with allocation rankings or the targeted allocation money rule on top of other crazy MLS nuances? He might just pack his bags and head back to London with a headache.

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Look, I think Owen Coyle at Houston will figure it out and so will Adrian Heath at Orlando because they are humble, good guys, willing to learn and embrace MLS. But neither made it to the playoffs this year. Only four foreign coaches have won the MLS Cup: Gary Smith, Thomas Rongen, Frank Yallop and Piotr Nowak. I don’t count Sigi Schmid since he moved to the U.S. from Germany when he was four years old, while Nowak and Rongen feel American since they are well-versed in American soccer with Novak having served as Bob Bradley’s assistant on the U.S. National team and Rongen spending over 35 years in the U.S. as a player and coach, most notably as the U20 U.S. coach.

So after thawing out and digesting the Crew’s 2-0 first-leg win over New York and Portland’s 3-1 win against Dallas on the same night, it looks likely that two U.S. coaches will make it to the 2015 MLS Cup Final (Berhalter vs. Porter). And if that happens, it sure won’t be very foreign to anyone, will it?

Patrick Vieira and Fabio Capello early frontrunners to replace Jason Kreis at NYCFC

New York City FC have made their first major decision following the end of their inaugural season in Major League Soccer by “parting ways” with head coach Jason Kreis.

A statement released on the club’s official website last night said: “New York City Football Club can confirm that they have parted company with Head Coach Jason Kreis.

“The announcement comes following a review conducted at the end of a disappointing campaign.

“Prior to the start of the season, it was agreed with the coaching team that the securing of a playoff place was an appropriate target for this year.

“A win rate of less than one in three games and a points tally which was the second lowest in the league is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed.”

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The decision means NYCFC will need to look for a new man to lead the club in what will be their second season following an expansion campaign that failed to meet expectations.

Manchester City’s position as one of world football’s leading sides means that City Football Group could use the MLS team’s parent club to hire a new coach.

Patrick Vieira is has been strongly linked with the job after coaching Manchester City’s youth, reserve and development squads over the past four years.

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The Frenchman was interviewed for the Newcastle job in the summer but ultimately walked away from any offer. He is believed to be keen on coaching in the Premier League but could be swayed by the challenge of getting NYCFC’s group of stars to click.

Another big name being linked with the Eastern Conference side is former England manager Fabio Capello. The Italian tactician has been out of work since leaving his post as Russia manager in July and hasn’t managed at club level since leaving Real Madrid in 2007.

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NYCFC are believed to have already opened talks with Capello and the Italian is certainly not afraid of managing big-name stars – something NYCFC bosses could see as the primary trait any new coach must possess.

The club are unlikely to rush into a decision, though yesterday’s statement said that any new coach needs to be in place by the time preseason rolls around in January.

“The Club is committed to ensuring that a suitable candidate is in place in good time to prepare for the 2016 season and an announcement will be made when a candidate is confirmed.”

Do you think Jason Kreis deserved to be sacked? Who should NYCFC look to replace him with?

LA Galaxy ‘weren’t very good’ says head coach Bruce Arena

LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena hasn’t defended his team’s performance in the 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo at the StubHub Center on Saturday night and says they still aren’t “sharp enough” or “fit enough” yet.

“I didn’t like a whole lot on the night, we weren’t very good to be honest with you, we lost too many battles,” said Bruce Arena in his post match press conference.

He was very frank in his description of how his team performed and admitted that Houston “played harder” than the Galaxy and that “made the difference” in the game.

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The LA boss was also extremely disappointed with the defending for the Dynamo goal, especially considering the equaliser came just minutes after the Galaxy had taken the lead.

“We had a mental breakdown on a corner-kick, Robbie Rogers loses his man and it’s a goal.

“In a game like this where your opponent is sitting back and defending with numbers looking to get at you on the break, we’ve got to be better than that. To concede a goal shortly after we scored, that’s not good on our part.”

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LA Galaxy’s lacklustre passing was another concern to Bruce Arena, but he did credit the Houston Dynamo’s efforts in defence.

“Our passing on the night wasn’t good. Our backline didn’t pass the ball very well and I think that impacted the ability for the midfielders to have a better impact on the game.

“Overall I think on the night they [Houston Dynamo] defended pretty well.”

LA Galaxy are still undefeated after three games of the new MLS season having won one and drawn two.

They’re currently third in the Western Conference and their next game is a tough trip to DC United on Saturday, March 28.

Was Bruce Arena right to publicly criticise his LA Galaxy team?

Greg Vanney praises “very good” Toronto FC midfielder Benoit Cheyrou

Toronto FC are set to begin their 2015 MLS season with a trip to Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday and head coach Greg Vanney has been full of praise for his squad, and in particular, Benoit Cheyrou.

The French midfielder joined on a free transfer in January after a seven-year spell at Marseille where he was a first-team regular and consistently played in Europe’s elite competition because of Marseille’s participation in the Champions League.

“We knew he was a very good player and the idea was to create some balance with Michael (Bradley) in midfield,” said Toronto head coach Greg Vanney, who is happy with the way the two compliment each other.

“We have a left footed player, right-footed player, experience from both of them and they’re very savvy players who can read and understand the game.”

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Cheyrou is predominantly known as a defensive midfield player, but Vanney is confident that playing alongside Michael Bradley will also allow him to have a positive impact on the team going forward this year.

“They cover a fair amount of ground and both of them in their own right can make plays and make things happen. The idea is to open up space for Sebastian (Giovinco) to do his thing.”

With a team including the likes of Benoit Cheyrou, Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC could well be one team to keep an eye on this year.

Greg Vanney is happy with the development of the squad over the course of the preseason and feels they’re in good shape with the first game just around the corner.

“I think we’re in a good place, we have a good foundation.”

Will Toronto FC be one of the strongest teams in MLS this season?

Seattle Sounders head coach Schmid hails “sublime” Martins and Dempsey

Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid has talked up the ability of strike partners Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey following their 6-0 preseason win over FC Tucson on Wednesday.

Dempsey bagged himself two goals in an emphatic performance, and although fellow forward Martins wasn’t on the scoresheet, he did play a hand in the first two goals, which has pleased Schmid.

“Some of the combinations, the goal where they combined on the 2nd goal, as a coach you just sit there and what do you say?” Schmid said while talking to the Seattle Sounders YouTube channel.

“I can’t teach that, we can’t diagram that and show them that. That’s just their instincts. And their ability to play off of each other is just so sublime.”

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The lethal partnership contributed an astonishing 55 goals between them via goals scored and goals assisted in the 2014 regular season and it looks as though they mean business again in 2015.

“I was happy for Clint, happy for the goals that he got because as a goalscorer you always want to get your confidence there. Oba (Martins) will be back on the board as well sometime soon,” Schmid added.

Lamar Neagle and Kevin Parsemain also both helped themselves to two goals each on the night.

How important will Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins be for Seattle Sounders in 2015?