The career of a professional footballer is a brief one, and within the pressured confines of a top flight league, change is a familiar constant. Some players adapt to change seamlessly, while some find transition much harder; the same can be said in the world of management.
For a manager to change is something far more complicated, considering the inherent philosophies that they individually swear by. But personal change is often necessary, as deposed Sunderland boss, Paolo Di Canio abruptly discovered on Sunday.
Ousted in a manner quite befitting of one Julius Caesar, Di Canio was reportedly ‘stabbed in the back’ by some of the senior players after another hostile training ground inquisition from the fiery Italian.
Di Canio’s public demeanour is certainly unique, as is his questionable management style; and his inability to change and adapt to his surroundings has arguably led to his demise. His almost primal management style, typified by bizarre public declarations of ‘natural selection’ and blunt criticism of his team has spectacularly failed to pay off.
“I may never get the popularity of my footballers, but I’m sure I’ll get the best out of them.” Di Canio fatefully said at the end of August,
“There are environments when not being popular helps get the best out of players and the results we want. Anyway, I’m never going to change.
“One day, I will be one of the top managers.”
Di Canio is not alone in his aversion to change, as the likes of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have proven over their respective careers; but it is with natural foundations of faith that ensures the line between success and failure in this regard remains a fine one.
Chelsea boss, Mourinho gave run outs to a host of ‘fringe’ players in Tuesday night’s League Cup victory over Swindon Town, in order to analyse their prospective worth in the team. The likes of Juan Mata, Willian, Fernando Torres, and David Luiz were included in that category for the night; an arguably humiliating ‘dry-run’ for some of Chelsea’s most lavish acquisitions and proven superstars.
Mata’s current predicament has attracted the most discussion, and Mourinho’s handling of what has been Chelsea’s most unique talent for the past two years has left most baffled.
Like Di Canio, Mourinho is unwilling to change – with regard to his stance on Mata, and his style of management that has served him so well in the past.
Chelsea coach Steve Holland has called for faith in Mourinho’s thinking; from both Mata’s perspective and from the fans’. Although odd, and with shades of Di Canio’s treatment of his former Sunderland players, Mourinho’s situation with Mata is surely not without a degree of faith in the Spaniard’s ability. If it were personal, then the 25-year-old would have surely departed the Bridge in the summer; Jose is no fool, and there will be reason behind the madness.
With the Portuguese looking to usher in a new era for the Blues, he has taken it upon himself to change the way the side plays, having been openly critical of it since his return. Mata has been intrinsically linked to almost every aspect of Chelsea’s play in the last couple of seasons; and perhaps he has found it tough to change something that worked so well for him.
Defence is a key component to Mourinho’s way of thinking, and it seems as if this will have to be the case for Mata if he is to remain a Blue. While a man may be able to steer the ship, a closer look at the engine room would surely only benefit him?
But with the World Cup looming large, Chelsea fans will be worried that a change of clubs may be higher on his agenda come January than succumbing to the will of the ‘Special one’.
Arsene Wenger meanwhile, has seen change become a large part of his plans this year. The blockbuster signing of Mesut Ozil shattered the seemingly impregnable barrier between him and the ‘change’ that so many Arsenal fans craved.
Surpassing the club’s previous transfer record by over £25m, the Frenchman’s move for the midfielder has covered the club in a cloud of euphoric anticipation, as Ozil represents so much in the way of how the club can potentially do business, and has awakened Wenger’s own dormant potential to attract the big names.
Wenger’s tenure at the club has seen him reject change almost on a seasonal basis; with his reliance on his young talent and scouting ability causing yearly tension between him and fans. But Wenger saw the need for change, and acted quite unexpectedly. Ozil has been excellent in his opening handful of games for his new club, and a degree of faith has been restored in Wenger and the club’s general trophy ambitions. After the win against Stoke on the weekend, Arsenal are top of the Premier League, and are on a seven-game winning run.
It seems that faith and change go hand in hand, and it is something Paolo Di Canio will have to glean from his short experience on Wearside. Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had wholly successful careers to date, but their own brand of strict personal adherence to their philosophies have seen them court controversy over recent years. But ‘change’ is an inevitability; to dismiss it, or fail to recognise its significance is a dangerous game.
Wenger has seemingly begun to change, Mourinho demands it of Juan Mata, and Di Canio, for his sake, needs to.