Managing a club with big expectations either from the fans, historically or the media takes a certain kind of manager. A progressive and passing style is often required at the upper echelons of world football. Forward thinking ideas, tactically sound and a coaching ability to teach even the very best players something new are just some of the skills required.
Gregorio Manzano arrived in Seville on the 26th September 2010 replacing Antonio Álvarez who had been promoted in a boot room like way as had his predecessors Manolo Jiménez and Juande Ramos. He had no pre-season to get to know his squad or no transfer window to bring back Christian Poulsen or consider a move for his very own Paul Konchesky. He had however inherited good players but an unbalanced squad I think its fair to say. Last seasons 4th place finish just ahead of Manzano’s own Real Mallorca on the last day of the season was testament to that. On his arrival Sevilla had already been knocked out in the qualifying for the Champions League and were sitting 7th after just 5 games. The sacking of Álvarez was seen by many as a scapegoat for off field problems with 9 wins in 19 games it was hardly the worst of records but only 2 wins in the opening 8 games in all competitions had seen him pay the ultimate price. Gregorio however arrived on the back of a very successful season with Real Mallorca, 5th was some achievement for a club that had the 5th smallest budget in the league and is in the bottom 5 for attendance figures. Constant changes in personnel and owners mean the stability of the club is poor but still they defy the odds. If a manager can achieve this kind of success with a lesser team and players, imagine what can be achieved with a bigger budget and better players ! Unfortunately football rarely works like this, it takes a very different skill set to manage a smaller club as it does to manage a larger club despite what Sam Allardyce will have you believe.
To compare Liverpool with Sevilla is a little unfair, as until 2005 Sevilla had won just 1 League title and 3 Copa del Rey’s. There success is very recent so the two clubs are very different but due to the last 5 years expectations have certainly risen in Andalusia. In this time they have won 2 UEFA cups, 2 Copa del Rey’s, UEFA Super cup and a Spanish Super cup. So the two jobs of the managers aren’t to dissimilar. Both managers could argue that their job has changed in the short time they have been at their respected clubs but only Manzano can say that the situation has got worse. Both are required to work alongside a Sporting Director although Monchi has been there all along and Comolli has only arrived recently. The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán holds 40,000+ which is in a similar region to that of Anfield but Sevilla have not had to contend with trying to rid their club of Statler and Waldorf. The real similarities lie in the appointments of the two men trying to get the results on the pitch.
Experienced – At 63 (Hodgson) and 54 (Manzano) the two managers have plenty of experience, you can’t beat a bit of experience in times of trouble ? Well if all that experience is sod all like the one you are about to face then does that not make it a new experience no matter how old you are. In fairness both had managed at clubs with similar expectations Roy at Internazionale and Gregorio at Atletico Madrid but a win percentage of 44.19% (all comp) for Roy and 39.47% (league only) for Gregorio respectively means they hardly stood out from the other potential candidates for their new jobs. It seems that it is not just fans that think in the short-term, both have been given their roles on the strength of the progress they have made in the last 2 years but both were under entirely different circumstances. In Gregorio’s 17 years of management he has had 16 different clubs across Spain, in Roy’s 24 years he has had 17 (including national teams but not non-league) across Europe. Surely a closer look at these times might have been better served.
Success – Hodgson has a rich array of trophies (8 league titles) unfortunately none of these have been achieved since 2001 and none have been achieved in a top 5 ranked league in Europe. Manzano however has just the Spanish Cup to his name which he won in 2003 but as this was achieved in his first spell at Real Mallorca does it carry a little more weight than Hodgsons ? In 2008 Manzano was awarded the Don Balón Award (coach of the year), last season Roy was voted LMA Manager of the year.
Tactics – To say Manzano’s tactics are similar to Hodgson’s would be doing a massive injustice to the Spaniard. He certainly isn’t as rigid with his starting formation, he’s more likely to make reactive changes and doesn’t have a tendency to put players in there un-favoured positions. The one player that he has done this with Freddie Kanoute has often excelled either in central midfield or in the hole. Showing a good range of passing and work rate off the ball and winning headers to flick the ball on to the striker. Which leads me to the point – directness ! I don’t think it’s too unfair to call Hodgson’s tactics long ball in the main, obviously managers game plans change from game to game but overall it is certainly a long ball from either centre back or goalkeeper for the striker to contend with. Manzano’s is similar with a lack of creativity in the centre of midfield when the wingers have been given little space there has been a tendency for the longer pass but with Kanoute’s different position and either Fabiano or Negredo up front it definitely suits Sevilla more than it does Liverpool. Whether Manzano continues in this vein will probably depend more on the players brought into the club rather than just general stubbornness.
Squad – International players ? check ! World Cup winning squad members ? check ! Striker with supposedly poor body language ? check ! Both squads contain some fantastic individuals when on top form but both sides also contain a number of individuals who aren’t good enough for varying reasons. In defence of Manzano injuries to key players for a large part of his time at the club have affected his 3 months in charge. Jesus Navas is a very important player and he was out for a good while whilst Luis Fabiano has said a number of times in the last 18 months of a desire to play elsewhere. Had Hodgson lost Steven Gerrard for a more extended time period than he did and had Fernando Torres actually openly say he wanted to leave rather than the daily rags constant speculation then things could have been even worse (heaven forbid).
Away Form – Perhaps the most striking comparison between
the two is the fact that since Manzano rolled up Sevilla have won
just once away, sounds familiar for Liverpool fans. 1 win in 5
games is still better than 1 win in 9 games which is what Roy currently boasts with the reds. More tellingly though is the fact that last season at Real Mallorca and Fulham, Gregorio managed only 3 away wins in 19 games and Roy just 1 win in 19. Their home form being the reason they have got their chance at a bigger club has also deserted them at times this season with losses to Almeria and the previously poor away side Real Mallorca. Newly promoted Blackpool and a Wolves side that hadn’t won away all season.
There are as many differences as there are similarities between the two men, as is the case with all managers. I’m yet to see Manzano really put his foot in it with the fans nevermind on a regular basis. The situation the 2 clubs now find themselves in is what ultimately separates the two of them. Liverpool under new ownership are looking for a manager with a long-term vision, to embrace new ideas and restore them back to former glories in the short but mainly over a greater period of time. Hodgson is a dead man walking every game seems like an extended stay with the end of the season as long as he can possibly hope for. Sevilla have realised that they can’t continue to pay out high wages or high transfer fees, they want to return to the not to recent past of bringing players through their youth system while looking to move them on for a considerable profit, as in the case of Sergio Ramos, Dani Alves and Jose Antonio Reyes. Top six positions are probably the best they can hope for in the longer term. The jury is still out as to whether Manzano is the right man for that despite being a good manager.
For more on Sevilla try Sid Lowe’s recent article : http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/dec/13/sevilla-a-crisis-runs-through-it
For more on Hodgson, Liverpool and having the right manager for the right job read the excellent Paul Tomkins : http://tomkinstimes.com/2010/11/depression-and-dreading-life-as-a-red/