Head of tactics
There are three main ways in which a head coach/manager can improve a team:
- Improve the squad through transfers
- Improve individual players through coaching
- Get better performance from the same set of players through tactics
Traditionally, managers have accumulated all three of these functions. However, there is no particular reason a single person should be in charge of all three. Indeed, it is easy to imagine these three distinct responsibilities becoming three distinct roles within a club.
In recent years, many football clubs have adopted a Sporting Director/Director of Football model, where the transfer strategy is the remit of a specialised Director of Football. The rationale for this is easy to understand: managerial tenures can be very short in modern-day football, and change often brings with it a new philosophy and playing style. If a manager is only likely to be around for a few months, he shouldn’t change the long-term strategy of the club by bringing in players that only fit his specific needs and playing style.
So might there be value in separating coaching and tactics into different roles? The Head of Coaching would be responsible for technical training, with a special emphasis on player development. The physical and technical development of players is a long-term objective that is independent of the team’s results on the pitch and the opposition at a particular point in time.
The tactical disposition of the team, including team selection, formation, playing style, and set piece routines, among others, would then be the responsibility of the Head of Tactics. Most current first team coaches would be a natural fit for this role. What differentiates Guardiola, Klopp, and Mourinho form other managers is not their acumen in the transfer market, nor their ability to coach players into passing better, but their capability of improving teams simply by moving around the pieces they have available to them. A few clubs are already taking steps in this direction, having specialists for set plays and throw-ins.
One benefit of separating these roles is that the club would be less vulnerable to possible managerial changes. If the club is in crisis and things are clearly not going well, the head of tactics could be substituted with no impact on transfer strategy or player development.
The other benefit of having different people in charge of different aspects of a football club is that it brings clarity to recruitment. Instead of deciding whether you want a coach who is good at developing young talent or a coach who can quickly turn results around, why not have both? Clubs can and should have the best of both worlds: the best possible development coach in charge of all the technical training sessions, and the best possible tactician on the bench for winning on the weekend.