Who matters the most, the coach or the soccer players?

One of the most controversial questions is: Does a coach or the soccer players make the main difference to a team winning or losing competitions?. Many believe that when a team is losing that the manager must get the sack. Some people think that the players must take the blame as well. Still, the manager will generally take responsibility for the poor results because inevitably, it’s easier to get rid of one person instead of a whole team. So how do we know or determine what the honest answer is? 

Buying the best soccer players at any cost or developing the existing ones? These are two different approaches that any Club must consider.  

For example, a new manager has a budget of 500 million pounds to invest in his squad and finishes 4th on the ladder, and the year before the team finished 8th, then where was the improvement made?. Was it because they got a new manager, was it the new players that arrived or were it both?. It’s not easy to determine, but in a cut-throat industry with so much at stake, you would want to know why!.

In other sectors, they would be able to measure and monitor precisely why a company goes bankrupt. In this case, we can’t determine the real reasons why a team hasn’t performed as expected. We are only guessing, and because there can be only one winner at the end of the season, the rest of the teams are trying to find the answers. Some Clubs spend more the following season, but as we have seen, PSG has probably spent more money than any other team and still can’t win the Champions League but win the French League most times. Why?.

Theoretically, if a coach has a particular System that works, it should give him/her the same result with any squad, shouldn’t it?. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it looks. Systems have changed over the years, but what has changed in the player’s skills?. The players must excel in their individual skills to determine the game’s outcome in their team’s favour, and this has never changed, no matter what system the team implemented over the years. 

Let’s imagine that Newcastle United signs José Mourinho as their new manager for two seasons. They finished 16th in the EPL season that just passed. They have 30 players on their roster. The manager is not allowed to buy any players for those two years. He must work with what he has and can even bring his staff with him. It will leave us with one variable, and it is solely José’s job to improve the team. Depending on where the team finishes, those two years will determine how good a coach and manager he is. If he moves into the top ten out of twenty clubs, you know he’s improved that team, and if he gets into the top four or wins the competition, then you have your man!

Indeed, José did do that at Porto FC many years ago, and this is what propelled him to the top of the biggest Clubs in the world. That’s why he is one of the most successful managers ever in our game. 

On the other hand, does the coach teach or develop the player even further, or does she/he manage the day-to-day jobs to make sure the soccer players are ready to play their next match more from a tactical perspective?

It’s a fact that most elite footballers can perform many technical skills at the top level but may lack a small percentage of some specific area. It could be physical, mechanical, technical, tactical or a mental weakness that requires addressing. That is to say, most managers agreed that they don’t have time to develop the players. Likewise, José Mourinho stated,” I’m not going to teach Christiano Ronaldo how to score a freekick”. So, what is the solution? 

Well, it seems that at this point, it’s up to the player to improve his/her capabilities. For instance, Christiano Ronaldo continues to work harder than most players, arriving at training earlier and staying back after most players have finished their team training. The best NBA players have been practising shooting techniques on their own for hours. All of them know that the smallest margins of improvement make the most significant difference for the top performers. 

In conclusion, I believe that coaches must have technical knowledge, excellent systems, and great players on their team. However, like any other organisation, if they want to stay on the top of the ladder, they shouldn’t forget to develop their soccer players continually. Certainly, signing players who may be better than those you already have doesn’t make you a better coach. It’s a delicate balance and something that we are all still trying to work out…Above all, and now more than ever, as Covid has negatively affected the Club’s budget, it’s essential that they use their resources with extreme care and efficiency. Without a doubt, the ones that are capable of increasing their players’ value by developing them will be the ones who will succeed in the years to come. 

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