I always find it interesting how some of the top managers choose to deal with a defeat, and particularly if it is against a team they are expected to beat.
In the Premier League days at Charlton, we beat some of the top clubs on a fairly regular basis and the media reaction was generally focused on their failings rather than the quality of our performance. Excuses galore were certainly the order of the day for Tottenham and Liverpool in respect of their defeats by Aston Villa and Brentford this weekend.
I do understand the reluctance by managers to publicly criticise their own players, as they have to work with those same players day in day out and being named and shamed in the media can affect future relationships.
Despite receiving significant financial support from the Spurs owners last summer, Antonio Conte chose to use his after-match press conference to demand far greater investment in the team or face not winning anything anytime soon or qualifying for Champions League football. His comments about the need for better quality players is unlikely to go down well in the Spurs dressing room. The comments are also unlikely to be welcomed in the Spurs boardroom and will only serve to increase fan protests against Daniel Levy. History shows that when the fans turn on Levy, the manager doesn’t survive too long. Scott Parker at Bournemouth and Ben Garner at Charlton lost their jobs as a direct result of airing public criticism of their owners.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have been disappointing this season and have obvious defensive issues, but he pinned the blame for the defeat at Brentford on underhand tactics by Brentford’s players at set pieces and poor refereeing, particularly in relation to a push on his player Konate for the third goal. He added criticism of VAR in his mix of excuses for the defeat. Well, I watched the game on TV, and I thought the VAR decisions were all correct and did what it exists to do. The goals that did stand were all called correctly by Stuart Attwell as was the challenge on Konate and I am a neutral, but I doubt you will find many Liverpool fans who agree with me!
To be fair not all managers behave in this way and Eddie Howe is a good example of a manager who is generally fair minded in his observation of matches and performances.
It would be refreshing if in 2023 some of our top managers recognised that from time to time, they will lose matches and it doesn’t necessarily mean someone outside of them and their playing squad has to be to blame. Don’t bank on it though!!