Sven, Passion, and England: One More Time

I’ve mentioned before that Sven is more Italian in many ways than he is Swedish, when it comes to football. Here’s backup for my view from the most interesting football book of the year, Gianluca Vialli’s The Italian Job:

..In Italy, public opinion routinely analyses a manager’s work with a fine-tooth comb. How is the tactical system working? What are the fitness levels like? What kind of physical preparation is being done? Which players are improving under his guidance?

What you rarely hear there is what you almost always hear in England: talk of passion, inspiration and enthusiasm, and whether or not the manager is transmitting them to his players. In England, more so than in Italy, everything is personalized: a manager’s character is on the line every time his team takes to the pitch. He is judged on how much (or how little) he has inspired his players. I don’t think it’s a coincidence either that when Erickson is criticized it is usually for his laid-back, calm demeanour, which is seen as ‘lack of passion’. The notion that a coach could be more muted, relaxed, maybe even less passionate, and still be a good leader of men seems unfathomable in England. ‘I suppose it’s normal that in England they don’t judge a coach or even a match based on tactics because they all play the same way,’ says Lippi. ‘There is no innovation. And so the only way to differentiate English managers is in their character, their passion, their approach and how well they relate to their players. It’s never a question of tactics because they are all the same.’

2 Replies to “Sven, Passion, and England: One More Time”

  1. Hmm (Lippi). The English record in Europe at club level is pretty good. In fact it is roughly equal with the Italian. (I could check that precisely but it hardly seems worth the flea-sized bother).
    And sometimes one just wants to watch a good thunderous English game. Would you believe it, people actually like that stuff. Even abroad! And, incidentally, it may be worth comparing attendances at average top division games across Europe. I suspect we are too harsh on what we see. And it really is partly the passion that makes it so engaging. I understand it is different at international level – though not so very different, after all Spain hasn’t won world cups or European cups either – but the players you work with come out of a certain matrix of which sheer passion is a vital part.
    But he’s right on Erickson. It was a tactical error that let him down in the end, not the Churchillian whatsits we have talked about before.

  2. You must admit that Lippi\’s comment has its funny side.

    That stat you mention but don\’t pursue is an interesting one to say the least: in terms of European Cups, the score is:
    Spain 11
    Italy 10
    UK 11 (Counting Celtic \’67)
    Germany 6
    Portugal 4

    Spookily close, in other words. And both Leeds and Derby were robbed – arguably – by corrupt refereeing en route. How many people are now immediately aware that Derby County playied in a European Cup semi-final?

    But I think too much weight can be put on this; none of the UK winners played the standard 4-4-2 Lippi is criticising, and elsewhere in the same tome continental coaches are to be found praising the influence of the likes of Liverpool on the continent\’s game.

    But look at the UEFA Cup! Spookier still:

    Spain 10

    Italy 10

    England 10 (including Fairs Cup victories in all cases)

    Germany 6…

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