As an avid fan of soccer who has played and coached at various levels, I am a keen student of what is reported by the always trustworthy British sports dailies. In particular, I read with a discerning eye about managers. I ask myself: how do they manage so well?
And how can I imitate them?
Last year, Claudio Ranieri coached Leicester to a title and his team often enjoyed pizza parties. Thus, I concluded, pizza parties were a key aspect of any serious, title-contending soccer regime.
Flash forward a year. Ranieri has been fired and Leicester look poised for a relegation fight. Pizza to blame? Most likely. After all, Pep Guardiola banned pizza from Manchester City, along with cell phones at the training ground, and his team is playing pretty well at the moment. Even Yaya Toure, sans pizza and smartphone, is moving around the pitch with commitment.
Still, the pizza question bugs me because Manchester City is not first place. Chelsea is. And, thus far, Antonio Conte has remained tight-lipped about the pizza question. It’s a trade secret. Information of the proprietary variety. I toss and turn in bed at night: do Blues players eat pizza? Are there parties of pizza after cleansheets? Deep dish? Chicago style? Thin and crunchy ala Domino’s? Cooked in an oven with a really big rock in there, you know, for good measure?
Thus, we aspiring coaches must look elsewhere for tips to be an elite manager. The solutions to the Chelsea pizza conundrum will remain behind close doors. And Tottenham has done pretty well, so I stumbled across this nugget of truth from Mauricio Pochettino.
That’s right. The wife. He depends upon her for soccer advice. Of course. Mauricio’s success is because Spurs depend upon an unpaid consultant who lacks even a minor UEFA coaching license. Aka, his wife. The wife! It’s like a game of Clue and you realize you’ve been staring at the smoking gun the whole time. I had never suspected the wife before.
Yes, my wife played soccer quite well and often came to my games, but she never really talked about 4-3-3s or counterattacks. She just said “corre, flojo!” Or, embarrassingly, she’d make some homophobic remark about my style of play (I, like Arjen Robben, bend my wrist when dribbling – it helps my balance and brings good luck).
Apparently, Mauricio Pochettino talks to his wife after most if not all Spurs games. This is not surprising. Most married couples talk. However, this not some banal “take the kids to school” banter. They wax about the actual games. She says stuff. He listens. His mouth is closed. His ears are open. He makes eye contact. He nods in agreement at times, likely. AND Spurs play gooder.
The formula is so simple it’s brilliant.
But what can we extrapolate? Not all marriages can be like Mauricio’s, and not all spouses or significant others know as much about football. Sadly, some spouses and gfs and bfs can’t even watch an entire soccer match. Can you believe the nerve?
Thus, we can only recommend relying on unpaid amateur consultants. That is what we need more of in America.