It ain’t easy being a football manager.
It’s undoubtedly a stressful job, all-consuming in many ways, despite the rich rewards it also offers (financial, obviously, but also so much more). The pressures are relentless, certainly at the top end, and especially in terms of the mental strain, which is probably beyond what most of us can truly comprehend, relate to, or consider. And though football may be just the most important of the less important things in life, and a privilege at the end of the day for those actually in the job, those actually in the job are only human, too.
So perhaps a bit of patience and understanding is in order, especially as that, as Graham Potter has referenced repeatedly this weekend, could help us turn him into our own Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola ... or at least Mikel Arteta?
“A lot has happened. I’ve had a lot to deal with. I am sure if you look at the Arsenal story and where they are now from one year ago that there’s a difference. I am sure at times Mikel got pelters and that’s how it is — that’s the job and life and we have to deal with that.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
Oh sure, poor old GP, out here dealing with “a lot”, including, presumably, a fully supportive owner who brought him in specifically for a long-term project, a fully revamped backroom, and a more talented squad than he’s ever had before (even with the injuries).
Potter’s predecessors can surely relate, having had to deal with things like transfer bans, sanctions, pandemics, fan revolts, meddling owners, media fights, off-pitch controversies and subsequent legal actions — just to mention a few recent things at Chaos And Trophies FC. But yeah, Potter sure has had a lot on his plate over the past couple months, no? Like injuries and fixture congestion and lack of training time. Oh my!
But you know what, fine. Let’s spare a thought. Or three. It’s easy to be snarky — and Potter’s making it extra easy with some of the things he’s saying — it’s not easy to be empathetic.
It would however be a lot easier if we could see an actual plan. (Or, to be more clear, we could see evidence of an actual plan.)
The biggest issue with Potter currently isn’t the results (though they’ve not been great), it’s the apparent confusion in tactics and personnel choices, and the murky intentions and emphases placed on our various (former) ambitions. He’s making decisions as if he’s on the verge of a sacking, not at the start of a long-term project to which he has the keys already. He might say formations don’t maketh the team, but the constant changing hasn’t unearthed a coherent style of play yet. Injuries haven’t helped obviously, but they shouldn’t affect our supposed focus in trusting his process, whatever that may be, and looking for long-term improvement.
“It’s not one simple solution unfortunately [but] you have to say that Arsenal are ahead of us in terms of how they have been working together. They have more points, they have got a good confidence and structure. [We] had an idea of what we wanted to do but we couldn’t execute it and the opponent was good.”
“[We] need to do better in terms of how we create chances [and] how we build our attacks generally; we’re not as fluid and in as good a place as I would like us to be. There are lots of reasons for that but clearly that is where we have to improve as well. [...] As you can see today, there is work to do.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
And having a plan doesn’t mean having overnight success, especially if we’re no longer measuring success in weeks or months, but rather years.
Antonio Conte had a clear plan, tore it up after two months, and made another. Thomas Tuchel had a plan within hours, and stuck to it with minor variations practically to the end. Maurizio Sarri was adamant that we had to learn his Plan A (and not even talk about any other non-Sarriball plans), until he gave in halfway through his season and just instituted Plan Eden Hazard. Frank Lampard had a set of very clear ideals. Roberto Di Matteo won two trophies with an ultra-defensive setup, then tried to make an ultra-attacking one happen. José Mourinho tried to be happy, then said winning 1-0 is the easiest thing in football and won another title. And so on. They didn’t all work, some were better than others, but they all had a plan.
Plan. Execute. Evaluate.
So, what’s the plan, Graham?