The 2017/18 season is not one that will live long in the memory or if it does, it will not be for the right reasons.
That is behind us, however, and finally, we can move on from the Moyes era looking forward, not back. We have in Silva a dynamic and fresh thinking manager; one who can take the club forward, and in the process, put that long forgotten smile onto the fans’ faces. In doing so, however, should the former sportsman look outside the traditional places to find a winning mindset and strategy?
Despite his obvious shortcomings, Allardyce was at the forefront of bringing progressive techniques into the English game. Not just in the form of his use of technology, data and statistics but also when it came down to player recovery and rehydration techniques. Alongside Wenger, he introduced concepts into our dressing rooms and the players’ lifestyles that though common practice today, were alien than as certain aspects of the culture of the 70s and 80s are today.
So, should today’s crop of new coaches look outside what is considered the norm to give them the edge? The answer is yes, and indeed, many are already doing so. Judging by the score in Silva’s first game in charge, it looks like he may be a cricket fan, but where else should he be looking for inspiration?
Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” one of the most read books of all time, has been used in many walks of life since it was written in the 5th century BC. Scores of successful businessmen have credited their achievements to the book’s 13 chapters, and sportsmen are following suit. Football is particularly suitable for applying his methods, especially when it comes to formulating tactics based on your relative strengths and weaknesses, being able to change strategy and formation during the game and teamwork.
Poker players have also credited Sun Tzu’s work to their success at the card table, applying the methods discussed in the book to the game. The principle behind all successful poker strategy is when to attack and when to sit back — which is the same as it is in football. Chess is another game where parallels with football management are often drawn, with Rafael Benítez one of several successful coaches who has gone on record saying how the board game has helped his mindset when it comes to his management career.
It is not only the managers who can benefit from other sports. Many trainers recommend players of all levels and abilities to concentrate on more than one sport, especially in training, to give them a more rounded set of skills and conditioning. Squash is something that in almost every aspect is a hundred miles away from football. It is just you against your opponent, and you play every other shot. For the length of the entire match, you remain 100 percent focussed, no matter how tired your body and mind become. That is a technique and a habit that should be vital in the high-energy game that is the EPL.
Football is a whole lot more receptive to new ideas and techniques than even a decade ago. The English game has changed irrevocably with the influx of foreign players and coaches. And in a league where one mistake, one moment of genius can be the difference between one point, one position and hundreds of millions of pounds, every single avenue should be explored.