by Neil M Goswami.
The FA Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal was an encounter which saw Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta vying for the first silverware of their managerial journey, where ultimately Guardiola’s former assistant Arteta emerged victorious and picked up a trophy which saw him outwit his former boss Guardoila on the way.
This article looks into the journey of players who have made the shift from the center of the pitch to the touchline.
Lampard and Arteta greet each other before an Arsenal vs. Chelsea match (Metro.Co.Uk)
Legendary players making the transition from the field to the touchline is not a rare sight in football. Players find a way to be a part of the beatiful game by making the shift from the pitch to the touchline. It is worthwhile to note that there have been players who have failed to reach the heights in the dugout as they did on the pitch, most notably the likes of Diego Maradona and there have been others who have gone on to achieve great things on the touchline without having illustrious playing careers. However in recent years, former midfielders are creating waves in the world of football through their managerial skills and methods.
Lampard and Arteta are the newest additions to a list of former midfielders who have hung up their boots and gone on to donne the coaches tracksuit/suit after the likes of Guardiola, Zidane. Hans Dieter Flick who has led Bayern to a mid season revival is another individual who was a no nonsense player in the middle of the park for the Bavarian’s and his understanding of the club’s philosophy has been crucial to Bayern’s revival under him. Neil Lenon a former midfielder who amassed over 500 Scottish Premiership appearances is now leading Celtic to domestic glory while Steven Gerrard’s Rangers provide competition.
A host of former players are leading from the touchline in Europe’s top leagues. The Premier League itself has a range of former players who are doing tremendous work on the touchlines which include the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Manchester United and Nuno Espirito Sancho at Wolves. However this approach has not always ensured results, and this is particularly applicable to Italian heavy weights AC Milan, Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Cristian Brocchi, Vincenzo Montella and then Gattuso – Milan have developed a habit of hiring extremely successful footballers as managers, but this tactic has so far failed to pay off for them.
Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane have achieved era defining success for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. ( DailyMail.co. uk)
Johan Cryuff created a style of play which ties Ajax and Barcelona together as they both continue to explore his philosophy. Guardiola himself was a keen learner and observer of the game. Although not an explosive and fast midfielder, everything Guardiola did was based on intelligence, movement and anticipation. Everything was considered and thought-out. In the latter stages of his career, Guardiola began to map his route into management as he moved to Italy and then to Mexico because he wanted to play under Juanma Lillo who is a big coaching influence for Pep and has linked up with him at Manchester City to take up the role of Pep’s assistant from Arteta.
Arteta was a integral part of Pep’s backroom set up at Manchester City before making the switch to North London (The Transfer Tavern)
However, it’s not necessary that only the most skilled midfielders make good coaches. Gattuso, Conte and Simeone spent their time raging for their respective teams and now they have built teams which have an identity that is attached to how their coaches were on the pitch. Gattuso has emerged as a shrewd operator and his gutsy approach picked up from his playing days has seen him improve AC Milan (although the club moved on from him quickly) and take Napoli to a domestic cup title whilst Simeone has managed to make Atletico Madrid a force to reckon with bringing them within touching distance of UEFA Champions League glory and winning the Europa League and La Liga in the process. Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t the most-skilled midfielder of his day, yet he seemed to fit in wherever his manager needed him. He’s achieved so much as a manager by adapting to the needs of his various squads rather than demanding they adapt to his. This has seen him win three Champions League Titles and he is part of an exclusive club of managers with Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane.
On the pitch, they were at the centre of the action. They controlled matches, winning balls, transitioning from defence to attack, directing traffic. Watch a match and you’ll see number sixes and number eights telling their mates where to go much like a goalkeeper marshals the defence. Central midfielders orchestrate every aspect of the game. If they have the ability to communicate their expectations as players, it bodes well for their careers as managers. They are the hub of their teams and often dictate the tempo and the way their teams play. Midfielders need to read the game minutely, since they are instrumental in both building and breaking plays, they can understand the movements and the tactics of the opposition. Staying ahead of the game in turn gives them a chance to prepare counter-movements of their own.
Getting the ball in the middle of the pitch, looking at the whole pitch, players running around them gave these players a chance to be a the core of how their teams played and to develop tactical flexibility which is a must in the modern game. Midfielders are an important fixture for any team and they form the backbone for their coaches during their playing days, shuttling up and down the pitch, whilst breaking up play and initiating moves that allows their colleagues upfront to score them. They are expected to perform multiple roles, depending on the phase of transition their team is in and this allows them to understand the flow of the game better.
“Dominating the midfield is the most important thing in modern football. To succeed, you have to be good at everything.” Toni Kroos
Midfielder always have players around him – one has to have very good awareness and possess the ability to make decisions quickly, which is necessary to ensure correct decision making in high stakes situations even on the touchline. Another very important aspect of becoming a great coach is to understand and read the players to bring out their potential. Because the midfielders are the ones who control the tempo of the game, it is very important for them to understand the ability of the players around them. They are used to passing the balls according to the pace, strong foot and keeping other parameters of all the players. This alone makes them capable of reading the players which becomes a big addition to their skillset as they venture into management.
Xavi is another former midfielder who is on the cusp of big things as his appointment in the Camp Nou hotseat seems imminent. Andrea Pirlo’s appointment as the Juventus U23 manager is also an inkling of what the future holds for the Italian maestro who could boss the midfield on his own in his prime. Elsewhere, the likes of Xabi Alonso (who has already achieved success as the coach of Real Madrid’s youth teams) Patrick Viera and Micheal Carrick are working their way into the world of management with Carrick having worked with both Jose Mourinho and Ole and being a key figure on the training ground during both regimes at United.
Michael Carrick has been a permanent fixture at Carrington, assisting both Ole and Jose Mourinho. (Manchester Evening News)
Clubs are beginning to adopt an approach where former fan favourites are coming back to the dugout as they imbibe the club’s philosophy into their methods. There are a host of midfielders coming through in clubs all over Europe who are in different stages in their coaching career and therefore the journey from the centre of the pitch to the touchline is becoming a reality for a lot of people.
Xavi and Pirlo are expected to make it big in management (TalkSport.com).