There’s something impressive in Alberto Moreno’s upturn in form this term. The Spaniard hasn’t appeared for Liverpool for a while now, but this time it’s been mostly due to injury more than anything else, as after three underperforming seasons with the club, he finally picked up the pace this year.
His development might well owe (in some way, at least) to manager Jurgen Klopp, who made the commendable decision to improve him rather than replace him (Andy Robertson was signed in the summer, true, but Moreno hasn’t been overlooked or sold), the latter of which looks like the trend these days.
Manchester City have been the best team in the Premier League this term, Pep Guardiola has undoubtedly overseen improvements in John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, and Raheem Sterling at least, but the Spaniard has spent a considerable sum in the transfer market, the tons spent on full-backs among others, albeit the previous ones were dwindling with increased age.
It has been the case of many teams nowadays, once a new manager comes into a club in midseason, the immediate response to a not-so immediate upturn in form is ‘he probably needs the transfer window to bring in his own players’, telling us the concept of coaching these days is no longer getting players to adapt to your system, but buying players tailor-made for it, is that coaching or simply watching?
And here’s where the likes of Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe and Mauricio Pochettino in particular, having received credit, are probably still worthy of more. You could almost pick an entire first XI of players from Bournemouth who were with the club in the second-tier, yet there’s little clamour from Howe on the need to buy more and reshape. Make no mistake about it, upgrades are necessary in some parts, something Newcastle have failed to do, to keep progressing, but it says more of your coaching and managing abilities that you have improved players, not signing new ones, year on year.
Watch Atalanta under Gianpiero Gasperini, Lyon with Bruno Genesio, any side managed by Tony Pulis, they’ve shown that actual coaching, instead of spending, reaps rewards.
Then again, neither of these managers have really managed the top clubs (Gasperini did have a brief stint at Inter), showing that the modern game focuses on the now, not the long play, little progress is no longer acceptable, as the big clubs have been gripped by the fear of being left behind. No one wants to wait for the infant tree to grow, but rather take from the blooming ripe ones.
Antonio Conte once described managers as tailors, implying that they are to work with they have to make the most suitable end products, but even is finding it hard to hide his displeasure at not getting the players he wanted at Chelsea, proving that these days managers are more like race car drivers; the desirable parts are all there. Just kick-start the engine, and vamos.