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In Modern football is too much blame being placed on the manager?

The past seven days in the premier league has witnessed two managers relieved of their duties.

Both Unai Emery at Arsenal and Quique Sanchez Flores, at Watford that was his second spell at the club and marked the hornet’s second managerial change of the season. 

Arsenal director Josh Kroenke revealed that the decision to remove Emery from his position had been ‘weeks’ in the making as they felt that the head coach had lost the backing of the fans. The former Sevilla and PSG boss was on a run of seven games without a win.

Former Arsenal player, Freddie Ljungburg, replaced the 48 year old and the Swede opened his managerial account with a 2-2 draw away to Norwich this past weekend.

Ljungburg is the latest appointment by a club chairman and the board of a former player at one of the big six clubs following the trend of Frank Lampard at Chelsea at the start of the season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and has prompted Kroenke to say that, “ Ljungburg has Arsenal DNA and understands the club.”

These latest managerial sackings however prompt the question… Is too much blame being placed on the manager?

Head Coach versus Manager role

For a start some teams nowadays have Head Coaches while others have Managers.

The former Tottenham Manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking in 2015, highlights the subtle differences between the roles:

“If you are the manager, you decide many things about the club.  But if you are a head coach, your responsibility is to play better, try to improve the players and to get positive results.”

Pochettino continued:

“At Southampton, I was manager my responsibility was not only to coach the team. With Tottenham, I am a head coach.  A head coach is head of your department. My department is to train the team.”

The attributes needed to be successful are reportedly the same for both roles, being adaptable in terms of training and good judgement on team selection for instance.

The head coach however can protest regarding lack of signings, but there is a lack of authority on the role compared with being a Manager.

It seems that the days are long gone when an Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson figure end up having complete control in terms of how things are run at football clubs.

Ultimately however is enough time given to managers or head coaches these days to implement the changes they require?

Former Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, speaking to Harvard Business Review said:

“I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed.  So we tried to visualise the team maybe three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly.”

Ferguson continued: “Because I was at United for such a long time, I could afford to plan ahead – no one expected me to go anywhere. I was very fortunate in that respect.”

Is football after all a team game?

Football is supposed to be a team game, so shouldn’t the players, coaching staff and those who run the club be held equally accountable?

There is a squad of 25 players and even though the manager is there to inspire, implement tactics and produce impactful substitutions, he is not out there on the field playing the matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson was often praised for bringing on substitutes that would lead to last minute Manchester United winners. More recent examples include Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers, who have been praised for the way they set up their teams at Liverpool and Leicester City respectively.

Managers therefore are quickly praised but equally critics are ready to pounce if things are not quite going to plan. This leads to increased scrutiny on the man in charge and he is more often than not, provided with enough time to turn things around.

Flores for instance was only given 87 days so the window provided is getting shorter for managers to make the desired impact that the clubs fans and owners are looking for.

When asked about the recent pressure that Everton manger, Marco Silva was under, England and Everton’s number one goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford said:

“ A few bad performances should not put the manager under pressure”

Pickford continued:

“ We have to look at ourselves as individuals and as a squad.  You are a team and you win together and you loose together.”

Sacking managers is not always the answer

Pickford has currently had 11 managers throughout his Premier League career to date, since his introduction seven in three seasons at Sunderland, who are now currently in League One and four in the past three seasons at Everton.

Although Silva and his team enjoyed an impressive conclusion to the previous campaign, there is little suggest that Everton will challenge currently for the top six positions that they are looking to break into.

Owners expecting quick results

The influx of money, particularly in the Premier League and the spending power of clubs has changed, particularly in the past few years.

It has become harder for the top clubs to get the players that they want as other teams are under less pressure to sell and want to get the maximum amount for the player in question.

When the high transfer fees are spent, Emery for instance had over 100 million to spend on transfers over the summer, including 70 million on Nicholas Pepe from Lille, both the fans and the owners expect the side to hit the ground running.

If the desired results are not being delivered the boardroom will look for someone to blame. The easiest answer will ultimately always be the person in charge, the manager.

Challenging football schedules

Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp eluded to this matter at the start of November as the German said,

“ Crazy football schedule for international players, there is no time for the manager to work with the players on the training field.”

Sadio Mane, one of Liverpool’s key attackers for instance has only had two weeks break all year round. The league leaders are currently at a start of a run that will see them play 13 matches over a six-week period.

It is therefore a struggle for a new manager or one that is under pressure to implement a new style of play or change tactics for an upcoming game if he does not have enough time to coach the players.

There is also the addition of international tournaments such as this year’s Nations League competition that increases the amount of time that players are away from their club sides.

The demanding schedules lead to the increased chances of injuries to significant players for key games as well as player fatigue that leads to a greater chance of players making mistakes out on the field of play.

Pressures of qualifying for Europe’s elite competitions

All the elite clubs strive to be apart of the Champions League with the prize money seemingly increasing year on year, for this season clubs would have secured roughly 15 million just for reaching the group stage.

This would drive club owners to make knee jerk decisions, especially if their team was not performing on the field.

Media scrutiny on Managers

Finally the media scrutiny on managers in this day and age is enormous.  Particularly for sides such as Manchester United and Liverpool, who have former players as pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.

They are quick to point out what the manager should and should not do using video technology in their Sky Sports Studio.

The influence of the Video Assistant Referee is also proving to be a game changer this season.

The manager also has to watch what he says in the pre and post match interview. He is ultimately put under the microscope more than any one individual player as he is exposed to the media every week.

If a player has a bad game he can choose to avoid the media and public eye following the match and can always redeem himself the following week.

When it is going well, the manager is quick to be praised by everyone and can supposedly do no wrong.  When things however start to go wrong, fortunes can change very quickly, owners want to see a return on their increased investment and it is on the whole easier for them sack one person rather than wait till the transfer market to sell and sign numerous players. 

 Feel free to give 24/7 your opinion, is too much blame and pressure being put on the manager or head coach?

 

 

WSL weekly round-up and predictions for week eight

The top five sides in the Women’s Super League all won in this week’s round of matches, while 10-player Reading pulled off a remarkable 3-2 comeback against West Ham United.   

Convincing wins for the WSL top two

League leaders Chelsea thrashed Birmingham City 6-0 thanks to a brilliant free kick from Ji-So- Yun, a striker’s finish from centre back Millie Bright doubled the Blues advantage. Two goals a piece from England striker Beth England and Drew Spence followed this.

Title challengers Manchester City put five past West Midlands side Bristol City to claim their sixth win of the season from seven games.  Belgium’s Tessa Wullaert scored the only goal of an otherwise uneventful first half.

The second half saw Nick Cushing’s side run away with it however, England’s star striker Ellen White doubled the visitors lead before German striker Pauline Bremer scored two late goals either side of Caroline Weir’s long range finish.

Defending Champions grind out win

The Gunners meanwhile stay in third place following a 1-0 win over bottom side Liverpool.  Last season’s top scorer, Vivianne Miedema scored the only goal of the game mid-way through the first half.

Joe Montemurro’s side however were wasteful in front of goal with Beth Mead and Danielle van de Donk wasting good chances, while Leah Williamson struck the cross bar from long range.

Liverpool meanwhile has still to score from open play this season with their only goal coming in the 1-1 draw with Bristol City from the penalty spot.

Toffees prove too good for Spurs

Everton secure their third league win in a row as they produced an impressive display against Tottenham.  The Toffees captain, Lucy Graham scored one and had a huge influence in forcing the own goal.

This win moves the Merseyside club up to fourth in the table just three points behind Arsenal in third.

United record their biggest WSL win so far

Leah Galton starred in an impressive 4-0 win for Casey’s Stoney’s Manchester United side against Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion.  The United striker scored two and set up the opening goal for winger Lauren James. Katie Zalem then secured all three points for the home side from the spot late on.

This win means that the Red Devils have won four of their past five matches in the WSL and currently sit fifth in the table.

Royals pull off stunning comeback

The most entertaining match of the weekend involved last season’s FA Cup Finalists, West Ham.  The Hammers went 2-0 up through goals from Katharina Baunach and Irish striker Leanne Kieran, in between the goals; Reading’s Welsh midfielder, Rachel Rowe was shown a straight red card.

The Royals however, went on to score three goals in seven second half minutes to complete a remarkable 3-2 win. They could have even added to their tally as England midfielder Fara Williams and Sophie Howard both hit the woodwork.

Preview and Predictions for Week 8

Friday November 29th

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Reading Kick-off (19:45)

The Royals won both meetings between the sides last season and have been impressive away from home this campaign so far having won three of their four away matches.

Hope Powell’s team meanwhile have only won one match at home all season, however that win came in their last home match against Birmingham City.

Prediction: Reading 3-1

The Royals are coming off an impressive victory against West Ham last week and have the momentum, I can see them claiming all three points in this one.

Sunday December 1st

Everton vs Chelsea (12:30)

In the four meetings that have taken place between these two sides so far Everton are yet to record a victory.  The Toffees however did draw this corresponding fixture last season 0-0 back in September 2018.

Both sides are also in terrific form at the moment as Everton have won three WSL games in a row against Brighton, Liverpool and Tottenham.  While the Blues have yet to loose a match all season and have so far only dropped points against Brighton, where they drew 1-1 in matchday two.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1

This is a tough game for league leaders, Everton are playing well at the moment however I can see Emma Hayes’ side just sneaking the win.

Arsenal vs Bristol City (12:30) – Live on BBC Red Button and online

This is the second meeting in the space of two weeks between these two sides.  Arsenal won their league cup meeting with Bristol City 7-0 so the West Midlands club will certainly go into this match with trepidation.

Bristol City are still yet to win a match in the Super League this season and have never beaten Arsenal in their previous six meetings with the Gunners.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0

The Gunners were wasteful in front of goal against Liverpool and should have scored more last weekend, Bristol City however are struggling and can’t see them proving too much trouble for Joe Montemurro’s side.

Manchester City vs Liverpool (14:00)

Liverpool have only beaten Manchester City once in their seven encounters between the two sides, that victory came back in May 2018, a 1-0 win curtsy of a goal from Beth England, who now plays for Chelsea.

This season the citizens are currently unbeaten at home and have won every Super League home match so far.

Prediction: Manchester City 4-0

I am predicting another comfortable afternoon for Nick Cushing’s side. 

West Ham United vs Manchester United (15:00)

This is the first Super League match between these two sides; the Hammers however have been struggling at home so far this season having only won once.  That was on match day two against Birmingham City 1-0.

Casey Stoney’s team meanwhile have been in good form in the last few matches and were unlucky to loose their last away match at Chelsea 1-0.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1

Expect the red devils to keep their impressive start to WSL life going.

Wednesday 4thDecember

Birmingham City vs Tottenham Hotspur (19:30)

This game has been moved from it’s orginal date due to Solihull’s FA Cup Second round match with Rotherham at Birmingham’s SportNation.Bet Stadium on the 2ndDecember.   

This is the first ever-domestic meeting between these two sides as Tottenham are newly promoted to the Super League this season.

Both sides are coming into this game out of form having lost their last three matches in all competitions.

The midlands side struggles show how they have missed the influence of former striker Ellen White who scored 21 super league goals in 26 appearances for the club before departing for Manchester City in the summer.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0

Birmingham City are a team that are struggling to replicate their form of the last campaign and lost comprehensively against Chelsea last time out. I think that Tottenham will be the team that gets back on track in this one. 

Women Super League – 24/7 Football weekly round-up and predictions

Women’s Football Weekend: 16-17thNovember

WSL attendance figures soared as the first ever Women’s football weekend proved a huge success and as the Tottenham co-head coach, Karen Hill expressed,

 “ It shouldn’t be a moment – it should be something that hopefully becomes the norm.”

More than 70,000 attended the six matches on show last weekend that included a Super League record 38,262 fans at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium watching Arsenal’s 2-0 win against North London rivals Tottenham.   This surpassed the previous record that was set on the opening day of the campaign at the Manchester Derby by a further 5,265.

In terms of the League itself after six games played only a point separates the top three of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.

The league leaders, Chelsea secured a 1-0 win against newly promoted Manchester United in front of a sell out 4,790 crowd at the Cherry Record Stadium, thanks to a penalty from Norway defender, Maren Majelde in the 68thminute.

Casey Stoney’s United side were unfortunate not to get anything from the match as their striker, Ella Toone was denied by the woodwork eight minutes from the end.

England’s Georgia Stanway featured heavily in Manchester City’s 5-0 win over West Ham United, the midfielder scored twice but was then sent off in the second half on what was her 100thappearance for the club.

Vicky Jepson’s Liverpool are still searching for their first win of the campaign after slipping to a 1-0 defeat to Merseyside rivals Everton, in the first ever Super League match to be held at Anfield.

A mistake from Liverpool keeper Anke Preuss, who fumbled Lucy Graham’s strike into the goal before half time ultimately proved the difference between the two teams.

Brighton & Hove Albion however were able to secure their first win of the season at the Amex Stadium as they beat Birmingham City 3-0 thanks to two goals from striker, Kayleigh Green.  Bristol City meanwhile twice came back from two goals against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium to draw 3-3.

Preview and Predictions for Week Seven – Sunday November 24th

Manchester United vs Brighton & Hove Albion (12:30pm)

Following Brighton’s first win of the campaign last weekend; the seagulls travel to face Casey Stoney’s Manchester United at the Leigh Sports Village.  Hope Powell’s team have now won their last two games in all competitions, having also won 5-0 against the London Bees in the Continental Tyres Cup on Wednesday and look to have turned a corner after a difficult start to the season.  United however will be determined to bounce back from last weekend’s set back against Chelsea.

Prediction: 2-0 Manchester United

Despite Brighton’s recent upturn in form I think Manchester United played well last week and were unlucky to not get anything. I can see them returning to winning ways in the league.

Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur (12:30pm)

Spurs come into this game having lost back-to-back games against their London rivals, Arsenal and Chelsea in all competitions. Everton meanwhile won a closely fought Merseyside Derby and are one of this season’s surprise packages having won four of their six games in the league so far and are currently sitting fourth.

Prediction: 2-1 Everton

I reckon that the Toffees will maintain their impressive start to the season, Tottenham are currently going through a tricky period and I believe that will continue at Everton’s Haig Avenue.

Bristol City vs Manchester City (12:30pm) – Live on the BBC Red Button and Online

Bristol City is one of two sides in the Super League who have yet to record a victory this season.  Their were however signs that things are started to turn around for them as they showed plenty of character to claim a point at Reading last time out.  Nick Cushing’s City side have been very impressive so far this campaign, despite being knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid last month they have only lost once in the league so far this season.

Prediction: 3-0 Manchester City

Despite an improved display by the West Midlands side in their last match I cannot see them getting anything against one of the leading sides.

Arsenal vs Liverpool (2pm)

The Gunners head into this game in fine form having won five out of their last six matches in all competitions.  Their opponents, Liverpool however are in desperate need of a win having lost three matches and are still to win in the league this season. Vicky Jepson’s side however did play well against their Merseyside rivals last time out that demonstrates a first win might not be too far away.

Prediction: 4-0 Arsenal

Joe Montemurro’s team are on an impressive run and think that will continue against the league’s bottom side.

Birmingham City vs Chelsea (2:45pm) – Live on BT Sport 1

The Midlands side have proved to be a tough nut for the league leaders to crack in recent times. Emma Hayes’ team lost their last league meeting 3-2 back in January of this year at the Cherry Red Record Stadium and they could only draw the corresponding fixture 0-0 last season. Birmingham has however struggled to replicate their form of the last campaign having only managed one win in the league this season against the bottom side, Liverpool.

Prediction: 3-1 Chelsea

I don’t think that Birmingham are playing well enough at the moment to cause the West London side the same problems that they did last season.

West Ham United vs Reading (3pm)

Both of these sides have enjoyed mixed starts to the season so far, the Royals are currently one point and one place ahead of this Sunday’s opponents in seventh.  The Hammers however have won two of the three league meetings between the teams, but the corresponding fixture last season finished 0-0.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw

Both sides are currently struggling for consistency and both managers will think this is a game that they cannot afford to lose.

Women’s Football Weekend

Following a record-breaking attendance of 77,768 for the England international match against Germany last weekend, The FA is set to launch the first ever Women’s Football Weekend this Sunday 17thNovember.

All 12 teams will be in action in the Women’s Super League with three of the six ties being played at Premier League grounds and another at a well- known and highly respected Championship stadium.

The weekend begins at 12:30pm with a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final as Manchester City will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season against a strong Arsenal team last time out. They host West Ham at their Academy Stadium.

Brighton’s Amex Stadium will see the Seagulls welcome fellow strugglers Birmingham City, while Reading entertain Bristol City at the Madejski, both at 2pm.

The other 2pm kick-off sees league leaders Chelsea against newly promoted Manchester United at the Blues Cherry Red Record Stadium, in what promises to be an entertaining match between two of the divisions in-form sides.

The final two matches feature two of the most enthralling Derbies in English football. The Merseyside Derby will take place in front of the Kop at Anfield between Liverpool and Everton. The North London Derby meanwhile is set to take place at The Tottenham Hotspur stadium as Tottenham Hotspur host Arsenal.

Tickets at Anfield are set to cost just £5 for adults while tickets to Tottenham vs Arsenal priced slightly more at £6.50, both matches start from 3pm.

FA Cup Final Rematch

Both Manchester City and West Ham United will be looking to get back to winning ways. West Ham suffered a 3-1 defeat against table topping Chelsea, while Manchester City lost for the first time in the Super League away at defending champions Arsenal, 1-0.

Nick Cushing’s Manchester City side completed the domestic cup double against Matt Beard’s West Ham team the last time these two sides met back in May of this year, winning 3-0.

City also completed the league double over the Hammers last season that included a  7-1 victory at the Academy Stadium.

The Hammers will need to watch out for striker Pauline Bremer.  The German international so far has eight goals in nine games this season for City.

Match Prediction: Manchester City 4-1 West Ham United

Cannot see anything other than a comfortable Manchester City home win in this one.

Amex and Madejski Stadiums host Women Super League football

Hope Powell’s Brighton side host Birmingham City.  The Seagulls are still waiting for their first win in the Super League this season having lost 2-0 away at Everton last time out. Birmingham however gained their first win of the season, a 2-0 home win against Liverpool.

The South Coast club will very much be looking a repeat of last season’s 2-1 score line.

Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Birmingham City

The matches last season between the sides were close and I can see both teams cancelling each other out this time around.

Reading has had somewhat of a mixed start to this season so far.

The Royals have managed six points from their opening five matches; they are coming off a 2-0 loss against newly promoted Manchester United.  Bristol City meanwhile is one of three sides still without a win in the Super League, they were only narrowly beaten 2-1 against Tottenham in their last game.

Reading won both league matches against the West Midlands club last season; this included a comprehensive 3-0 home win.

Prediction: Reading 2-0 Bristol City

Predict that it will be relatively comfortable win for The Royals.

Battle of two in-form teams

The League leaders Chelsea host Casey Stoney’s Manchester United at the Cherry Red Record Stadium. Both of these sides have won their last four matches in all competitions.

Emma Hayes’ Chelsea team remain the only unbeaten Super League side, while the only two defeats that Manchester United have received were against last season’s top two sides, Arsenal and local rivals Manchester City.

This Sunday’s match will mark the first ever meeting between the two teams.

 The Red Devils will need to keep talented England international Beth England quiet. The Blues striker has two goals and one assist so far this campaign and she recently scored in England’s 3-2 win against the Czech Republic.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United

Predicting that the league leaders will maintain their unbeaten record.

Merseyside Derby in front of The Kop

Liverpool will be hoping that hosting the first ever Women Super League fixture at Anfield will inspire the team to their first win of the season against fierce rivals Everton.

The Reds won this fixture 3-1 in the last campaign and will be looking for more of the same this time around.

In complete contrast to their Merseyside rivals, Everton have enjoyed a strong start and are currently fifth in the table with three wins from their five matches so far.

Liverpool will have to stop England striker Chloe Kelly.  She is currently the division’s leading scorer with four goals.

Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Everton

I predict that Chloe Kelly will prove the difference between the two teams in this one.

First ever WSL North London Derby at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Newly promoted Tottenham Hotspur will take on Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal in their first ever Women Super League match.

Both sides won their last matches and will be looking to build on those results. Arsenal in particular will be looking to keep pace with title rivals Chelsea.

Tottenham will have to look out for prolific Dutch striker Danielle van de Donk. She is currently the Gunners top goal scorer in the Super League with three goals.

Prediction: Tottenham 1-3 Arsenal

Can see Arsenal coming out on top in this one. The Gunners attackers are in good form with the likes of Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema as well as the previously mentioned van de Donk.

Fixture list: Sunday 17th November

Manchester City vs West Ham United (Kick-off 12:30pm)

 Reading vs Bristol City (2pm)

 Chelsea vs Manchester United (2pm)

 Brighton & Hove Albion vs Birmingham City (2pm)

 Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal (3pm) –  Live on BT Sport

 Liverpool vs Everton (3pm)

Chelsea Women’s land international superstar Sam Kerr

Manager Emma Hayes and the Chelsea Women’s side, who are currently the leaders of the WSL at 4-1-0, improved their squad drastically by signing Australian sensation Sam Kerr on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

The Blues competed against several of European’s top clubs, including FC Barcelona, PSG, and Champions League winners Lyon, but were able to sway the prolific scorer into playing in England. She will officially join the squad in January 2020.

Kerr, 26, was rotating her playing time between the Perth Glory of Australia’s W-League (whose season runs from October to April) and the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL (whose season ran from April to October), which was taking a toll on the striker. 

The Australian international had a strong campaign in her home country’s league last season as she won the Golden Boot Award for the second consecutive year in the league with 13 goals. Kerr also had an MVP season in the U.S. as she accumulated a league-record 18 goals along with five assists – leading the Red Stars to the championship game before ultimately losing to the North Carolina Courage. She is currently the all-time leading scorer in both leagues (64 in W-League, 65 in NWSL).

However, Kerr is most known for being the face of soccer Down Under, where she has been striving for the Matildas since her international debut at a mere 15 years of age. The captain of the squad has scored 38 goals in 83 appearances, leading Australia to the Round of 16 in the most recent edition of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup before falling to Norway in penalties.

 This signing for Chelsea was a huge step towards league and European dominance as they look to compete with these powerhouses by signing one of the best goal scorers in women’s soccer history.