The upcoming Premier League season will see 5 teams play their first matches with new managers. Not only are their a host of new managers at clubs, but managers who spent little time with their squads last season will also look to implement their style with their squads.
West Ham legend Paolo Di Canio looks to install some much needed discipline at Sunderland, whereas Mauricio Pochettino will look to build on a successful start at Southampton. The recent “Managerial Merry-go-round” means that West Ham manager Sam Allardyce becomes the thurdlongest serving manager in the Premier League, behind Alan Pardew in second and Arsene Wenger. Not only has there been a change in backroom staff but era defining managers and iconic leaders have moved on. Sir Alex retires as the most successful club manager in history, with Everton legend David Moyes, who served the club for 11 years, taking charge at United.
A manager who often goes under the radar when talking about long serving club icons is former Stoke manager Tony Pulis. Famed for his Stoke City baseball cap and direct style, we often forget the success he brought to the club due to his brutish style. He managed to keep the club in the first division following his first season as manager of the club in the 2002-03 season and went on to finish 11th the following season, beating the Hammers along the way. In the 2004-05 season, the first under the newly branded “Football League Championship”, Stoke finished 12th and came under scrutiny due to “binary results”. Their inability to score goals meant they suffered during the middle of the season and slipped down the table. In 2005, Pulis was sacked and the club brought in Dutch manager Johan Boskamp. Although the club played attractive football, poor results at home and defensive frailties meant that when the club was sold to Peter Coates, Pulis was reinstated as manager.
The following season saw Stoke push towards the playoffs. They missed out by two points, but had a positive season nonetheless and brought in players like Ricardo Fuller, who went onto be their top scorer in the following season when Stoke finished second and gained promotion to the Premier League. From there, Pulis managed to gain a secured place in the Premier League, when many other teams would have gone through a series of “yoyo seasons”, before being sacked at the end of last season.
Stoke have recently brought in former Manchester City and QPR manager Mark Hughes. The main impetus of the article was his most recent signing of former Barcelona starlet Marc Muniesa. Brought up in the tika-taka environment of the flamboyant European superpowers Muniesa makes a rather confusing move to Stoke, almost at the opposite end of the footballing spectrum. Stoke’s physical style and defensive solidity may be compromised under Mark Hughes for more expressive and stylish attacking football.
Following the sacking of Pulis, many pundits and football fans alike took to the social media sites to discuss whether they wanted substance over style.
There are quite a number of examples of clubs who have climbed the football ladder playing a brand of physical, direct and defense minded football. It may not be the prettiest, but some teams have found it to be very effective. Stoke being the prime example. Pulis may have his critics in terms of his style of play, but few could argue the success that he had at the club. The Brittania became a fortress where even the best clubs in the country would struggle to get a result. The narrow pitch and intimidating atmosphere made away fixtures at Stoke very difficult.
Sam Allardyce is another manager who comes under scrutiny because of his style of play. As with Pulis however, few could argue that his style has not been successful in the Premier League. The decline of Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers since he left the two clubs has been evident. Whether his departure is the cause of the clubs’ demise is up for debate, but it is certainly a contributing factor.
Back to Hughes’ appointment and the signing of Muniesa; a signing that would not have been made under Pulis, surely shows the intent of Hughes to play a more attractive style of football. When at Manchester City and QPR, despite little success, Hughes always looked to play fairly attractive and attacking football.
It creates an interesting point; is style directly linked to success? There are undoubtedly many ways to win; from Barca’s Tika Taka to Stoke’s long-ball. Lets not forget the success that Swansea have enjoyed over the past few years. Firstly under Brendan Rodgers, the Northern Irish tika taka master, now under former Barcelona player Michael Laudrup. It seems then that style and substance can come in the same package.
With the move to the Olympic Stadium coming up, will Allardyce be the man leading the team on the sidelines? There is no doubt that he was brought to the club in 2011 to bring immediate success through promotion then a secure position in the Premier League. In my own opinion, I don’t believe he was given the praise he deserved for the last two years. Immediate promotion is not something which happens often, just look at Birmingham, Blackpool and not to mention Wolves. Moreover, securing a mid table finish in the Premier League is a great position taking into consideration the quality of the league and how the team can now build on this success.
Nevertheless, Allardyce may not be the man who is in charge of the team come the move to the OS. As we have seen with Stoke, they believe that they can now build on the success that Pulis brought to the club and play more attacking football. Allardyce’s style is definitely more expansive than that of Pulis, however they are similar in the way they look to nullify teams and play with physicality.
The owners have a plan to be striving for European football come the arrival at the OS. The aim being to expand West Ham as a brand globally and allow the club to increase revenue through ticket sales at the much larger ground. This will not be achieved if the club were struggling to stay in the Premier League, hence the appointment of Allardyce. Whether he will be at the club when the team moves to the OS is debatable, as a direct style may not be as appealing to Premier League followers from other countries.
There have been moments where the Hammers have looked to play attractive football. Although the style may be ‘direct’, the number of ‘route-one’ balls from the back to Carroll weren’t as many as expected. James Collins often looks to bring Carroll into the game, but the team like to attack wide, putting cross in for Carroll. When attacking down the middle, Carroll is fairly mobile and can bring others into play. The team lined up more defensively when playing against the big clubs; however the counter attacking style looked promising, most noticeably against United at home.
So this season will see many new managers at Premier League clubs striving to implement their style of play. The Spanish invasion on Manchester shores at City and the Italian revolution at Sunderland will be exciting to watch. Stoke will be an intriguing package this season; can they change their style and still enjoy the same success?
All managers have different approaches to their teams. Whether it be at Barcelona, where even though Tito Vilanova was the assistant to Pep Guardiola, when he took over the club underwent changes in the formation and speed in which they look to play. Whether managers can implement different styles and formations is a anther question. Allardyce may enjoy a few successful years with the Hammers, but if he is found wanting over his style, he may never make it to the OS.
Is Allardyce a “one trick pony”? Does he deserve the chance to prove himself at the OS? Tweet me @Tolly Coburn