How important are coaches to a team’s success?

Manas Sood, Sports Editor

At the end of the 2014-2015 English Premier League Season, global powerhouse Chelsea was crowned the champions of England. Their outspoken manager, José Mourinho, was touted by fans and media as a brilliant coach who had managed to lead his team to a title purely based on his intuition and strategy. Unfortunately for Mourinho, the start of the 2015-2016 campaign probably came sooner than he had expected, considering that Chelsea has had a disastrous start that has left them teetering on the edge of the relegation zone. The general agreement on who is at fault for mistakes like these almost always comes down on the coach’s shoulders, as is seen in this case. Crucial points about Mourinho’s leadership were systematically brought up after the first few games, including his overused game strategy as well as a motivation factor that is expected as a head coach. Ultimately, it helped set the tone for a debate on exactly how important coaches are to the success of their team, which is something that is not as easily analyzed as most fans would think.

In the football world, whether a team performs brilliantly or has a game to forget, fans always look towards the manager to either praise or blame. There are usually a few underlying factors that managers can be criticized for, as they hold among the most power on the team. The fast paced, counterattack-based system that Chelsea relies on to score goals went haywire this year, with many attributing the decline of this strategy to Mourinho who decided to give his players a “proper holiday” after their league victory last year. By giving his players extra time off, he should have fully understood the consequences that would have come with it, including a sharp decline in the fitness level of his players.

A football manager must also understand that his most important job is that of keeping an upbeat relationship with the players, as well as motivating them to play with dedication and commitment. As Dominic Fifield of The Guardian reported, “Concern is growing within the Chelsea dressing room at the perceived scapegoating of certain players by José Mourinho after the champions’ desperately poor start to the season,” describing the growing lack of respect for the manager. Obviously the sheer number of losses that Chelsea has suffered can be seen as something that has influenced this shift in respect and ego in the locker room, but it ultimately comes down to Mourinho’s stale game strategies. Mourinho typically uses the same fourteen players for each game. This strategy proved successful during last season’s title run, and many expected it to be the case this season as well. Again, it raised the question of how much of the blame is due to the manager.

In an argumentative report by Deadspin’s Billy Haisley, a solution is proposed, as it is explained, “when the wins don’t come, Mourinho is left with little else with which to shield himself. He doesn’t have Guardiola’s aestheticism, Klopp’s lovably rambunctious spirit, or Wenger’s eye for finding and cultivating budding talents,” (referring to successful managers who are not criticized as heavily as Mourinho for their mistakes). “Maybe the real difference between Mourinho and his contemporaries is that they are better at, or more interested in, proving themselves to be something more than just a coach, especially in a sport whose roots reach so deeply in ideas of culture and community. There’s a reason their brushes with underperformance didn’t devolve into Shakespearean tragedies like the one Mourinho currently finds himself in,” said Haisley.

Chelsea’s struggles are in direct correlation with the ideals and attitude of outspoken manager Jose Mourinho, which demonstrates the immense reliance of football clubs on their manager. It furthermore shows how important managers are to any team’s success, as their values and strategies play a pivotal role in the team’s triumphs and failures.