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Carrying on from the recent piece on managerial dynasties,

We look at whether club’s transfer policies now have far more impact on the success of a team than the input of the manager.

Is a club's transfer policy now all (too) powerful?Managers are seemingly far more short term appointments nowadays with clubs taking far more control of their transfer policy. Is it who wins and loses in the biannual transfer windows now the paramount factor?

Clubs will argue that allowing the manager too much say leads to expensive squad changes if he is then disposed with and that a consistent club policy is more prudent. Should clubs plunge forwards with the coaches being marginalised in the process or are they playing a potentially expensive game of roulette with the supporters’ and TV viewers’ money?

Not all clubs are run the same it must be noted but there is little doubt that there is a shift among many of the big clubs to a system where clubs buy the players and the manager or first team coach simply coaches them. It is a system that Real Madrid have had in place for nearly twenty years and despite the apparent dysfunction of their behaviour, many other clubs seem to be traveling along that same trajectory.

Of course many clubs now have rich foreign owners typically from a strong business background. It would seem naive to expect that powerful and hitherto successful businessmen would wish to buy clubs and then have no say in the most expensive part of how they are run. Experiences at Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City can show the folly of this.

Arsenal however could possibly do with a bit more input than from just Arsene Wenger. Arsenal were the only top flight team in Europe to not add an outfield player in the summer with the Gunners’ continued failings becoming apparent again this season as we approach the sharp end.

Chelsea are probably the most obvious example in the Premier League where expensive flops such as Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres have been mooted as marque signings by the owner Roman Abramovich.

Roman Abramovich was said to be the sole driver behind Shevchenko’s transfer to Stamford Bridge. A player Jose Mourinho reportedly did not want. The idea that transfer policy now overrides coaching can also be illustrated (in a very simplistic way granted) with Chelsea’s contrasting fortunes in the past two seasons.

Chelsea bought well in 2014 with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa coming in to supplement the January arrival of Nemanja Matic. Chelsea duly won the Premier League.

Last summer, Radamel Falcao, Pedro Rodriguez and Asmir Begovic were the only incoming transfers of note whilst club legend Petr Cech left the club. The major target John Stones was missed and the rest as they say is history. Now clearly there has been a huge amount of behind the scenes issues at Chelsea but given that it’s been much the same squad with the same manager, the most glaring difference is the relative success of their transfer business.

Swansea City have been lauded as an example of exactly how a club should be run but this season have flirted with disaster. Again, Swansea have done poorly in the transfer market, losing Wilfried Bony and not adequately replacing him with several poor acquisitions made over the Summer. Rumours have been circulating that Huw Jenkins has been exerting more authority over signings in this period. Garry Monk of course took the fall.

Much has been made of Brendan Rodgers’ failings at Liverpool and whilst he is clearly not without blame, the main culprit at Anfield has been an incomprehensible transfer policy. It is of course debatable how much input Rodgers had but he is very clear that he did not have the final say. His throw away remark that he asked for Alexis Sanchez (as part of the Luis Suarez transfer) and got Mario Balotelli is a juxtaposition of utter flippancy and biting insight.

Who could say how Liverpool’s previous season and this would have panned out had they had the mercurial Chilean on-board instead? Jurgen Klopp is having a tough time also at Anfield and the reality is there is only so much you can do if you have poor players to work with in the first place.

One can only wonder how fortunes would have changed for Brendan Rodgers had he got the player on the right and not the one on the left. Louis van Gaal is obviously enduring a bumpy ride at Manchester United also but again, with the arrival of Ed Woodward (replacing David Gill), United’s transfer policy has been shambolic.

There is simply no coherent plan in place and the Red Devils are suffering with a team of very expensive jigsaw pieces scattered in random outside their (and the opposition’s) box. Van Gaal is bearing the brunt of the blame but like at Liverpool, the club’s transfer policy is in many ways the most important reason for their malaise.

Real Madrid are of course the masters of the art with the first team coach merely passing through. Florentino Perez has made little secret of the fact that he alone dictates Madrid’s transfer policy. In his first term, he collected the Galacticos with a ravenous zeal, collecting the world’s biggest names like pieces of renaissance art. It was exciting and great to watch but at the same time he showed his lack of knowledge by selling Claude Makelele and unbalancing the team hugely.

Chelsea snapped up the player and prospered hugely even with the player aging in years. Perez repeated the mistake during this term in allowing Xabi Alonso to leave for Bayern, again leaving Real’s current team hugely exciting but lacking any balance in midfield with an yet another El Clasico humiliation the result.

Had both Vicente del Bosque (during Perez’s first term) and Carlo Ancelotti been allowed to firstly stay and then have more say in transfer policy, is it so fanciful to think that Real could have won far more than they already have? Perez has collected superstars like fine art but has shown little or no appreciation for how to build a balanced squad.

Barcelona of course have had huge success over the past decade, much of course due to the magic of Messi but the club has typically bought well during that period with only the acquisition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic being an expensive mistake during that period. David Villa, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves have all been great successes during their time at Barcelona and more recently, the purchases of Neymar Jr, Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic have been wonderful additions to the first eleven propelling the Catalans to a seemingly further period of renewed dominance.

Pep Guardiola was lauded as the defining factor bonding the elements together yet Luis Enrique – whose managerial career to that point had been fairly average – has shown it can be duplicated readily given the players at his disposal. Florentino Perez would do well to note the presences of Sergio Busquets who as the world’s best holding midfield player might just actually be the difference between the two teams given Real’s glittering and comparable attacking riches.

The likes of Mauricio Pochettino offer hope for the cause of the manager. It was argued (correctly) that Spurs bought terribly after the sale of Gareth Bale with the likes of Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela (now showing signs of life) expensive flops. Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood were jettisoned but Pochettino is showing that effective coaching and working with the players that he has can bear fruit – especially when coupled with a shrewd youth policy.

Claudio Ranieri is receiving praise in spades for Leicester’s performances but a huge part of the success must be attributed to the wonderfully shrewd (or lucky?) purchases of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez by the club. Ranieri has of course given them the license to play but one must not forget that they played wonderfully well under Nigel Pearson in the second half of last season. Are the managers simply interchangeable if the players are the right ones?

Much has been made of the lesser impact that English clubs are making in Europe now but again, this can simply be put down to the players that the clubs now have. Whilst Manchester City and Spurs have improved their squads markedly the same cannot be said for the others who have typically competed in the Champions League. A look at the relative squads of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool from the period in Europe from around 2004-09 and the squads are levels below where they were once were. Arsenal likewise are a million miles from Les Invincibles. Vieira, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp, Cole and Gilberto Silva. Big players with big character. How many of the current Gunners squad would get into that team?

It may of course be that club CEO’s and management are far more businessmen these days than football men. That serves well in the corporate and commercial side of things – where English clubs have flourished almost without exception – but not so well in the football side of things where they have fallen behind the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich massively. Likewise Florentino Perez is an engineer by trade and we have referenced their transfer policy earlier in the piece.

David Dein was a wonderful bridge between boardroom and changing room at Arsenal and it should be noted that they have achieved little or no success since he left. Likewise, trying to replace Ferguson has been seen as the biggest factor at United yet David Gill’s skills as a footballing CEO have not been remotely replace either.

Manchester United are calculated to once again be crowned as the world’s richest club next year and that is a huge measure of success for the Glazers but it has come at a time when the club is in the middle of the biggest trough on the pitch in the last 25 years. Can the two be mutually exclusive indefinitely? Chelsea also look to be playing with fire in terms of their continued standing at the top of the game – even domestically.

With clubs now in the main having wrested control away from the managers – something which has hurt Jose Mourinho both at Real and Chelsea – who are now typically obliged to accept a reduced role, it is unlikely that clubs will be tempted to cede control back to that same one person.

The likes of Ronald Koeman simply has to shrug his shoulders and make do with what he is given. Remi Garde was offered nothing in the January transfer window. The Newcastle hierarchy would point to the performance against Everton this week as to what happens when the manager is given more say in that policy – premature granted.

Managers will continue to be the fall guys when things go wrong but it might be that fans should really look to a club’s transfer policy (in the absence of a proper youth policy) and who is in control of that before deciding whether their manager should stay or go.

Originally published at oneshotfootball.com

Post written by Steven McBain
for One Shot Football, Blog: One Shot Football, Twitter: @O_S_Football

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