The current generation of players are some of the best we’ve ever seen, but behind every great footballer, there’s also a great coach there to get the best out of them. So, what makes a great coach, and what does it take to get to the very top of international football?
“Every type of manager is different,” explained Pedro Mendonca, “but I think the main characteristic is to be able to get the players related to their idea and get players who will be able to do what the coach wants and to believe in the coach.”
“Man management is most important because if the players don’t want to play and don’t believe in you, it is impossible. You can train very well, you can be the best tactical coach in the world. But if the players don’t want to play, it is difficult.”
Over the last eight years, two men have revolutionised the world’s most popular league; the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have built their Liverpool and Manchester City sides to play a standard of football never before seen in the country. Pep’s team achieved a record 100 points in the 2017/18 season, and the sides have battled it out on several occasions in tense title races during their rivalry.
In a rivalry like this, where the standards are so high, you need to squeeze the most out of every potential gain on the pitch. Klopp did just this in 2018, when he hired Danish throw-in coach, Thomas Gronnemark.
Gronnemark had already worked with several clubs around Europe and specialised in helping teams get the most out of those situations. The decision to bring him in paid dividends for Klopp in the season that followed.
“Liverpool’s throw-ins were really bad in the 17/18 season,” explained Gronnemark, “he could have been trying to solve everything himself, you know, because he is an experienced manager working for many years, and he played football himself.”
But Klopp had the courage to call me and ask for help. I think that’s a really, really important thing. It’s actually quite hard to ask for help, especially if you are really good at something and you reach out to someone who’s not, at least not in the world, really known at that time. It worked quite well. In the 17/18 season, Liverpool were number 18 out of 20 in the Premier League for the pre-season of 45.4%. So third-last. And in my first season, in 18/19, we improved to 68.4% possession and went from number 18 to number one, and then also to number two in the whole Europe.”
Just like in men’s football, there are plenty of top coaches in the women’s game too. The likes of Serena Wiegman and Emma Hayes have brought attractive styles of play alongside winning those all important trophies with the likes of Chelsea and the Lionesses. In France, Sonia Bonpastor managed to win the Champions League in her first season with Lyon.
So, what is changing within the women’s game to improve the standard of coaching in the modern era?
“The likes of Emma Hayes and Sonia Bompastor are doing amazing things in the world of women’s football and I think that’s been mainly down to more investment,” Women’s Football Expert, Rebecca Coles, told us.
“I think there’s certainly been more investment since the Euros from that, from clubs, from football associations as well. And that’s led to more opportunities, more full time positions, which means that female coaches and managers don’t have to have a part time job on the side anymore. They can focus entirely on the football. And I think that’s really been really beneficial and really important for women’s football.”
It’s not just in Europe where coaching is reaching new heights, too. At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, we see the first coach ever from the Arab region to lead a team to the semi-finals of the tournament, as Walid Regregui made history with Morocco. With facilities like Aspire Academy in Doha helping the next generation of players and managers from the region hone their craft, Morocco’s performance in Qatar may only be the start for Arab nations at future tournaments.
So coaching is advancing at an exciting rate in all areas of the game. From the Premier League to the Women’s Super League, the game is always changing and it’s fascinating to see how modern day coaching are adapting and evolving to keep up with that.