Are Top Clubs Rethinking Their Ideal Managerial Profile?

Football is an ever-changing sport that constantly evolves. Clubs always seek to find the best strategies that can aid their fight to climb up the rankings or assist in maintaining their position. It translates to all aspects and departments of a club, and a recent trend has emerged to suggest that the head coach market is potentially experiencing such a transformation.

The two clubs seemingly at the forefront of this evolution are Chelsea and Bayern Munich. The Blues unexpectedly parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino, and the Bavarians agreed with Thomas Tuchel to conclude their contract after the season-end – causing both clubs to enter the managerial market in search of a suitable successor.

The candidates reportedly shortlisted by the two teams have sparked the discourse on whether elite clubs have shifted the requirements they pursue in managers.

Is Experience Not a Consideration Anymore?

The potential contenders for the Chelsea role include Kieran McKenna (Ipswich Town), Enzo Maresca (Leicester City), and Sebastian Hoeneß (Stuttgart). All three managers have less than five years of first-team coaching experience but have earned appreciation from the Chelsea hierarchy.

Bayern, on the other hand, is considered to be close to appointing Vincent Kompany, who managed Burnley in the Premier League 2023/24 season. Yet, the Clarets were unfortunately relegated back to the Championship. Moreover, Kompany has less than five years of experience in first-team coaching with only a previous stint at Anderlecht.

It has come as a surprise for many fans that clubs of such calibre have decided to move in this direction of hiring young managers rather than pouncing on experienced and successful coaches available in the market, including José Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Hansi Flick, Zinedine Zidane, and Tuchel.

However, the reasoning behind not preferring any of these options is understandable to a certain extent.

Mourinho and Conte’s defensive-minded approach to a team’s tactics is unattractive to the elite European clubs that prefer a possession-oriented offensive brand of football. Flick and Zidane are waiting for other positions to open, either at a club or country level, leaving Tuchel – an alliance that both teams will have no desire to renew.

That leaves very few options for the elite teams anyway. Therefore, it might be more of the case that the top-tier managers do not simply fit the club’s profile due to their tactics or cannot be signed due to circumstances, leaving clubs to look at other options.

Importance of Tactical Philosophy

Instead of assessing a manager’s pedigree in winning trophies, which used to be the case, clubs now emphasize the manager’s success in implementing their tactical philosophy. Specifically, managers that deploy a possession-centric, high-pressing, and attacking play style.

The assumption is that managers capable of instilling those principles at any team in a respected league should be capable of implementing the same at a new club. Furthermore, with better players, a manager is also likely to deliver results at a bigger stage.

Although fans are understandably skeptical of this idea, it seems exciting. Plenty of coaches around the world with interesting tactical philosophies do not get an opportunity at a high level due to a lack of trophy-measured success or simply because they do not want to take a risk on an ‘unproven’ coach.

However, like anything, there are undoubtedly downsides to this riskier approach. Fast-tracking coaches to the very top of the game can potentially be detrimental to the individual and the club. They might wither from the unfamiliar high pressure surrounding such clubs, distracting them from the part of the job they are actually good at. Moreover, a poor spell could dissuade clubs from betting on the manager and instead punt on another option.

Clubs can also suffer from the same, as they might endure volatile results and performances during the adaptation period that will be difficult to navigate since the judgment call of when to move on from a manager might be more challenging to predict and decide.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this develops – whether more European clubs continue this potential trend that Chelsea and Bayern have seemingly created. Only time will tell whether it will become a widespread phenomenon in football.

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