Recently a Liverpool fan was interviewed outside Anfield stadium and was asked about Kenny Dalglish losing his job. This was his reply: “Problem with Kenny is you should never go back” When asked he would prefer now his response was “Rafa”. There in lies the problem with Liverpool FC. Rafa Benitez appears to be the fans choice for the vacant manager role but what the fans want is not always what is best for the club. Liverpool’s owners the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) will most likely not be swayed again by the fans opinion like they were when they appointed Kenny Dalglish.
What they will be looking for is a man who is relatively young and someone who can stay at the club with a view to change the philosophy and structure of the side. With the aim to build a championship winning team. But also someone who will be able to identify potential bargain buys that complies with the ‘moneyball’ philosophy that the owners seem to hold so dear. They will be aware that success in the league will not be attainable next season especially with the money that clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea are spending. What they will want is to see the club progress season upon season with a minimal goal of attaining Champions League football. Already we’ve seen Brendan Rodgers, Frank DeBoer of Swansea and Ajax rule themselves out of the running. So here is a look at two of the remaining serious candidates for the role.
- Roberto Martinez
The current Wigan managers name has been a constantly linked to the Liverpool role since Dalglish lost his job. Many fans see his potential appointment as a step backwards, mainly because he is not a ‘big’ name and that his Wigan side have often found themselves in the relegation zone through most of Martinez reign. Also he has never won a major title or even managed a club the size of Liverpool. But that would be a naive view to take when judging Martinez. He is a manager that is destined for a bigger role, something that even Wigan’s chairmen Dave Whelan has acknowledged. Even Pep Guardiola never won a trophy before taking over Barcelona.
Martinez’s tactical knowledge and innovation is one of the major reasons that he is held in such high esteem. His Wigan side have being playing a 3-4-3 system that may be common in Leagues in Italy or Spain but is relatively untried in England. His side play an attractive, attacking style of football which is even more impressive considering they continued to play that way even when they were in the relegation zone. Martinez is man who sicks to his football principles and would fully commit to the Liverpool’s fans demand that their side play attacking football. His ability to repeatedly pull his players together to get out of the relegation zone is another favourable attribute and demonstrates a man who has the skill to unify a dressing room.
The 3-4-3 may be his current favourite formation but it is not something that he blindly installs. Martinez knows that any system that he picks has to suit the players at his disposal. His move to 3-4-3 with Wigan was down to the fact he felt it was the best way to fully utilize the ability of his players. “We are organised defensively and we are creating opportunities. It’s not a case of the players adapting to a system. It’s adapting to a system that suits our players”– Roberto Martinez
Roberto has also been able to work with a limited transfer budget and still find players that add a different dimension to his squad. The fact that Liverpool are linked with a move for Wigan’s Mohamed Diame is testament to his intelligence in the transfer market. That would appeal greatly to FSG after the recent overspending in the previous transfer windows. Martinez has also spoken of his belief in developing youth, to allow young players to grow and to be patient with them. Again with a side like Liverpool this is good news considering they have many young players in their squad from their academy. Players such as: Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shevley, Martin Kelly and Jon Flanagan.
Finally Martinez like to install a sense of pride with in his players. To try and make them appreciate the club and make them realize they are idols to the fans. When speaking on his players at Wigan: “It’s important they realise what they are doing for this club. Last week was the first time we had beaten Manchester United. It was the first time we had even taken a point off them. We have international players and I want them to take pride in playing for Wigan Athletic. I want them to understand what they mean to the supporters. I don’t want people coming here just to use Wigan as a vehicle into the Premier League”
What fans identify with more then anything else in England is passion. You could be the most mediocre player in the world. But as long as you’re committed to the team and give everything you can on the field the fans will love you. If Martinez can install that in Liverpool, if he takes over, then claims that he’s not a big enough name for the job will disappear fast.
- Andres Villas-Boas
The 34 year old Portuguese tactician has seen his reputation tainted after his recent spell with Chelsea but that shouldn’t distract from the fact that he is a talented manager. Winning a treble of the league, cup and Europa League titles with FC Porto is not down to luck. AVB is a manager who commits many hours to the studying of the game and spends just as many hours on the pitch going through his tactical plans with his players. If anything he may be too obsessed with the tactical side of the game and forgetting that players are humans who need their ego’s massaged.
When he took over Chelsea he was charged with trying to change the style of play of the club as well as overseeing an overhaul of the clubs roster. Perhaps knowing the impatient nature of club owner Roman Abramovich he tried to change too much to quickly. AVB prefers a 4-3-3 formation playing a high defensive line. He likes his defenders to offer support to the midfield to help outnumber the opposition in the middle of the park. This system didn’t seem to suit players like Terry, Luiz and Ivanovic but may very well suit Liverpool’s Agger and Skrtel who are better ball playing defenders then their Chelsea counterparts. This is a Liverpool side that is also in a stage of transition, the only difference is AVB may not be under so much pressure to change the club as instantaniously as Abramovich may have wanted.
When Chelsea traveled to Old Trafford in the early part of the season they travelled there with the intention of playing their own way, attempting to impose their own style upon United. While they went on to lose 3-1 they actually didn’t play that poorly. They may have lost but the intention to play his way is something that should be lauded not condemned. AVB is a mananger who wants his sides to play attacking football and wants to win in style. “It’s not just about winning, but winning with a certain amount of flair. Everyone likes attacking football.” – AVB. Liverpool is a club that prides itself on it’s attacking traditions. The style of play that Liverpool displayed under former manager Roy Hodgson was one of the reasons he lost the faith of the Anfield faithful.
One area that AVB is somewhat inexperienced in is the transfer market. An area that FSG will be keen to control considering the up coming Financial Fair Play rules set out by UEFA. At Chelsea the transfers seemed to be made by Technical Director Michael Emenalo without much input from Villas-Boas. The same situation that happened to former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti. However as Liverpool are now without a Director of Football after the removal of Damien Comolli, it would pave the way for AVB to bring the players he wants to improve the squad. A criticism that was also aimed at AVB treatment of the senior members of the squad. This is an area open to debate as it may appear that AVB was trying to impose his authority but went about it in the wrong manner or was it a case of senior players failing to adapt to the AVB’s vision and throwing their toys out of the pram. Players like Gerrard and Carragher are icons at Liverpool and a repeat of the Chelsea situation would be ill advised on Andres behalf. However Carragher has already gone on record stating he is fully committed to who ever the new manager will be.
The basis of many fans objections to AVB’s appointment will be that he failed at Chelsea. But such a fact seems to be a fairly English mentality. In Italy if a manager fails at one club that doesn’t deter fellow clubs from appointing him. In fact it is seen as a natural process in the development of a manager. As discussed in ‘The Italian Job’ Fabio Capello talks about the English’s attitude to fired managers- “I think the English are wrong with their attitude. You screw up once and that’s it, you’re gone. What about the experience you gain? Isn’t that worth something? In Italy we have a lot of flaws, but at least I think we judge managers on their merit not simply on their most recent record.” – AVB will surly have learn from his mistakes and will be keen to prove himself and further his ambition to make a name for himself in his own right and not be known as the next Jose Mourinho.
Other Managers In With A Shout
- Didier Deschamps-The current Marseille manager has also previously worked at Monaco and Juventus. He was also been linked to the Liverpool job before Roy Hodgson’s appointment. A World Cup and European Cup winner with France he would fit the bill as a big name and has also reached the Champions League final with Monaco in 2004. As well as helping return Juventus to the top flight after their relegation to Serie B his most recent achievement is winning the French league title with Marseille in the 2009/10 season.
- Michael Laudrup- The former Brondby, Getafe and CSKA Moscow manager has been out of work since leaving Real Mallorca in September last year but is still regarded as one of the most talented young coach’s around. He left Mallorca after continued interference from the clubs Director of Football. He is coach that promotes attacking football and has won the Danish league title with Brondby and reached the Copa del Ray final with Getafe. As a player he was one of the most talented attackers in the world playing for clubs such as Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid