The upcoming Premier League season is a tantalising prospect, largely because of the gaffers. The first part of your guide to 2013-14’s touchline archetypes - featuring José Mourinho - is here, while the second part, featuring five more managerial archetypes, is below.
Manuel Pellegrini: The Professor
See also: Arsene Wenger, Andre Villas-Boas
When economics graduate Arsene Wenger entered English football in 1996, he might as well have done so in a spaceship. His talk of ‘nutrition’, ‘conditioning’ and ‘fiscal planning’ sounded like, well, French to a sporting culture whose equivalents were ‘beer’, ‘golf’ and ‘betting odds’.
But, several trophies later, the doors opened to the scientifically-led footballing intellectual, other examples being Andre Villas-Boas and the man with world football’s biggest wallet: Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
Like Le Professeur, the 59-year-old Chilean also has an academic nickname, The Engineer, thanks to his degree and post-playing career in civil engineering. It could also refer to how he manages. Pellegrini has shown he won’t just park the bus, but dismantle and reassemble it. This flexibility has brought him success in Chile, at River Plate in Argentina and at Villarreal, Real Madrid and Málaga.
Andy West, the BBC’s Spanish football correspondent says, “The second leg of Málaga’s Champions League quarter-final against Dortmund was a brilliant example of his flexibility. Pellegrini came up with the gameplan of sitting deep and denying Dortmund space down the flanks. As the game went on, Málaga were increasingly ambitious on the break and exploited spaces Dortmund had left behind. The game will be remembered for Dortmund’s two late goals, but Málaga deserved to win.”
Such an adaptable approach has made him loved by fans, “A large part of his popularity is his amiable nature,” adds West. “He’s a dignified and gracious man.”
As for coping with players at the world’s richest club, this is the guy who managed Ronaldo, Benzema, Kaka et al at Madrid; he has form. Says West, “Pellegrini’s maturity makes him perfect for managing big-name players – he trusts them to behave as grown-ups. People respond to it.”
If Pellegrini can succeed in England, maybe we’ll see another donnish manager join him, Wenger and AVB. Then they’d have enough for a University Challenge team.
Roberto Martinez: The Young Buck
See also: Michael Laudrup, Malky Mackay, Steve Clarke, Mauricio Pochettino
“You can’t win anything with kids.” Alan Hansen’s infamous appraisal of Fergie’s first stable of bum-fluffed future icons is almost a modern monument to wrongheadedness. But up until relatively recently, you could safely apply it to the notion of “kids” in the dug-out.
Youthful managers used to almost always be up-jumped former star players. Haunted figures in outsize sports jackets who toiled haplessly before being quietly let go. Successful football sides, we were told, demanded experience behind the scenes. A wily elder statesman at the wheel. Not any more. Post-Mourinho, chairmen have been more inclined to opt for the verve, innovation and sharp touchline tailoring of a young (well, in football terms) manager. And, more and more, it seems to be working.
Roberto Martinez, Michael Laudrup, Malky Mackay and more; everywhere you look, these buccaneering coaches are making a mark. Often working with minimal funds and, as Swansea and Wigan showed last year, silverware in the most unfashionable of places.
“Years ago these top jobs would have gone to an assistant who was about the same age,” suggests Sky Sports’ Phil Thompson. “But every club likes to try something different and the old [managerial] names that used to do the rounds have been replaced by the young ones. Look at Karl Robinson at MK Dons. There’s a new breed trying to do things the right way.”
Paolo di Canio: The Eccentric
See also: Ian Holloway, Martin Jol
A flash of diamante in a sea of grey, the eccentric managers are a shot of adrenaline to the Premier League. With their heart on their sleeve and foot in their mouth, they are the antidote to languid, cliché-spouting gaffers and a sport writer’s dream. Love them or hate them, they can galvanise a team from relegation scrappers to perennial overachievers, and it’s the comic turns of the Di Canios, Holloways and even Jols of this world that add a much needed punchline to English football – even if you fear their grip on reality is tentative, at best.
“Di Canio is not your normal kind of human being,” says The Times’ Rory Smith of Sunderland’s boss. “He speaks his mind, he’s very open, he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. He’s hard to dislike, and fans warm to him as they see his passion and that he is good entertainment.”
But don’t be fooled by their touchline histrionics, post-match moans or press conferences akin to stand-up routines, as beneath the comedy exterior of an eccentric often lies an innovative football brain.
“Someone such as Di Canio can give the impression that he’s mad, but underneath there’s a willingness to do things differently,” says Smith. “With him, the emphasis is always on fitness – he’s fitness-obsessed. As a player, he didn’t understand why people wouldn’t stay behind after training and practise or weren’t in perfect physical shape. So as a manager, he’s very demanding of his players. He’ll want them to run faster, run farther and work harder than everybody else.”
Steve Bruce: The Old-Schooler
See also: Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes
As unfashionable as they are unappreciated, this managerial breed coaches the game the same way he played: tackling is tough, positioning dogmatic and set pieces often the difference between three points and none. While skill is superfluous, it’s this very reluctance to the tippy-tappy style of play that makes them so dangerous.
“The Premier League is one of the few major leagues where you get freak results fairly regularly, and that’s testament to their tactically astute methods,” imparts David Hall, editor of FourFourTwo. “They play the percentages, they love statistics and they can contain big teams.”
Another characteristic is a fondness for a hardman skipper. Take Hull boss Steve Bruce for instance, who espoused Captain Cruncher Lee Cattermole while in charge of Sunderland: “Bruce was a great captain,” says Hall, “and these men want a personal enforcer.”
The great irony is that these traditionalists often find themselves sacrificed by the very monopolist forces they contradict, as Hall surmises: “Chairmen see them as expendable when things are going right, but the Premier League wouldn’t be the same without them.”
David Moyes: The Human Tracksuit
See also: Alan Pardew, Paul Lambert, Chris Hughton
Over the past decade, English football fans have become extremely familiar with the sight of David Moyes stalking the touchline of a Saturday afternoon, eyes like police torches, face tiger-striped with the kind of worry lines that make Tommy Lee Jones look well-moisturised. That intensity isn’t just about a misplaced pass or an unflattering scoreline; it’s an indication of how much he wants to be out there, too.
“He’s very hands-on,” Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness tells ShortList. “I was managing Blackburn when [Moyes] was at Preston, and you’d actually see him out on the pitch with the players during the pre-match warm up. He even did it for a while at Everton – I think he’d still like to be doing it now.”
This approach might be more ‘competitive dad’ than the moody, aloof cool that Mourinho exudes, but, as Moyes – and, to a lesser extent, Messrs Pardew, Hughton and Lambert – have proved, it can be very effective. As he takes charge at Manchester United, that ability to ‘muck in’ and forge a bond will be more intrinsic than ever to Moyes’ success.
While his predecessor could just rely on his heaving trophy cabinet to command respect (not to mention rumours about him booting boots at certain global superstars), Moyes’ approachability could be what truly establishes him as the Reds’ new glorious leader.
“The most important relationship at a club used to be between manager and chairman,” says Souness. “Now, it’s between manager and players. Man management has never been more difficult, because you’re dealing with young men who are paid a lot of money, and have enormous egos. You must be approachable, you must have a relationship with your players and keep them on side at all times. Moyes appears to be very good at that.”
Moyes’ appointment of United legends Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville as coaches is also, says Souness, “a shrewd move” in terms of keeping the dressing room sweet. But while his entourage has seen a high-profile revamp, his tactical style should remain intact.
“Three years ago, Moyes’ teams played direct football,” says Souness. “That changed when he got better players – he began using the wide areas more, and Manchester United have always played with great flair in wide areas. His challenge now is to get the best out of the team, and I’ve no doubt he’ll rise to it.”
That’s if he can stop himself from running on to the pitch with them, of course…
Brendan Rodgers: The Blue-Sky Thinker
“I believe football is an art, not a science.” It sounds like the sort of thing loftily reprinted above the entrance to pitch three at a national five-a-side chain. But it wasn’t uttered by Shankly, Clough or Cruyff. It’s the personal philosophy of Brendan Rodgers, vanguard of Liverpool’s quiet revolution, managerial trailblazer, king of the slightly-too-tight jacket.
Raised near Ballymena and weaned on his dad’s Brazilian football videos, Rodgers is a sophisticated aesthete in a brooding henchman’s body. His career as a skilful winger was cut short by the clogging physical demands of the Nineties game, and since then he’s preached the pass-spraying gospel at a selection of smaller clubs and now at Anfield.
As former Liverpool player and manager Phil Thompson notes, there were raised eyebrows when Rodgers arrived with his 180-page “footballing dossier” and faintly Brentian maxims (Rodgers’ teams don’t keep the ball, they “rest with” the ball). Especially when he equalled the club’s worst start in more than a century.
“There was a lot of criticism when he said he wanted to play football,” chuckles Thompson. “As if that wasn’t already the Anfield way.” There was also twitchiness about this buzzword-spouting younger man replacing a twinkly, old-fashioned cult hero.
“It was going to be difficult, taking over from a legend such as Dalglish,” adds Thompson. “But [Brendan’s] a good talker and a student of the game, and his philosophy got the fans on side. When we beat Norwich away and Suarez scored a hat-trick his fingerprints were all over it.”
His fingerprints were also all over the most bizarre team-building session since Phil Brown bawled out his Hull players in the middle of the pitch in 2008. On the eve of the 2012/13 season, Rodgers slipped beyond David Brent and into Derren Brown territory, as he addressed his charges with three sealed white envelopes in his hand. “There are three people [who] will let us down this year,” he said. “I’ve wrote them down already. My point to you as players and staff: make sure you’re not the one in the envelope.”
For all his blue-sky thinking and (literal) envelope-pushing, however, the 40-year-old is really just an effective manager with a staunch belief in his own strategies. “I like to control games,” he said in 2012. “I like to be responsible for our own destiny. If you are better than your opponent with the ball, you have a 79 per cent chance of winning… It is quite logical.”
So, chuckle at his motivational rhetoric (“I’ve always said that you can live without water for many days, but you can’t live for a second without hope”) and the self-portrait hanging on his office wall. But don’t underestimate him for a second.
Phil Thompson is supporting Sky Sports’ campaign to find the best decision in sport. To see the top 50 and vote for your favourite go to skysports.com/decisions
Read the first part of your guide to 2013-14’s touchline archetypes, featuring José Mourinho, here
Sky Sports will show Mourinho, Pellegrini and Moyes at their new clubs in the Premier League’s first week as part this season’s 116 exclusive live matches; skysports.com/livefootball