As I write this, the news of David Wagner’s pending appointment has begun to seep out. Hopefully, the intervening hours won’t age this article too quickly…
During the World Cup break, I wrote an article about where City as a whole came unstuck. Now, with Dean Smith behind us, we can look at where he went wrong.
No matter how bullish his words were when he was appointed, Smith inherited a desperate situation with no ability to trade players to improve the situation. He was left with the same players, trying to play the same formation that they were unsuited to under Daniel Farke – 4-3-3.
The only brief respite came when he switched to 4-4-2 with Teemu Pukki and Adam Idah up top, but this was rapidly ended with Idah’s injury.
Given his later comments about Josh Sargent, it seems strange looking back that, having found something that worked, he didn’t keep the system and move the American from the wing to where he belongs.
The inevitable followed, and far from getting better, City stagnated and, in fact, got worse.
So along came the close season, and Smith’s chance to form a squad to suit the style of play that he wanted.
Those intent on directing all of their ire at Stuart Webber should probably consider that it is highly unlikely any of the players signed, released, or loaned in or out would have been done so solely at the whim of the Sporting Director. I would imagine Smith had a personal say in all of the decisions, albeit not the final call.
On the football side, Webber said that he thought that Smith was doing a good job. Is he mad? What could he mean?
I suspect Smith was doing a good job… in a way. He seemed to be one of those managers who analyse the opposition and adapts the system and tactics accordingly for each game. Perhaps he was doing this well – Webber, as a qualified coach, may have been seeing this and hence his words (pure speculation on my part).
A key factor for Smith may have been the dramatically shortened summer break. This is usually the time for the players to rest and recuperate, for the coach to form his plans and then get the key message across to his players.
Seemingly, the pre-season preparation did not go to plan.
As we all know, for the first half of the season, City looked pretty clueless. Even when winning there was no discernible pattern to the play. It looked as if the coach’s messages had not reached the players.
A work colleague of mine is friends with Sean Dyche – their kids go to the same school. Dyche said the worst thing to happen to Burnley was when they qualified for Europe. It meant that they had a mid-week game every week, without the squad depth to cope.
Crucially, this also meant that there was no time to coach anything new. Every session was either a recovery session after a match or a light pre-game preparation session.
The Burnley dilemma is exactly replicated by the Championship in the pre-World Cup part of the season. Having seemingly failed over the summer and pre-season, Smith would have had no chance to correct this. Until the World Cup break.
And this, I believe, is the source of one of the two remarks that ultimately sealed his fate amongst City fans. The ‘different animal’ statement.
Smith clearly believed that finally, he had the chance to do some actual coaching with his players and instill in them the systems and style he wanted to play.
But therein lies the problem. Systems. Plural.
By chopping and changing tactics and personnel seemingly every game, Smith had to impart a lot of information to his players before every game. We now know (or have heard whispers) that the players didn’t understand their roles when they went into each game.
Under Farke, we had the same system played across all teams. It didn’t matter that the man himself said he wasn’t wedded to a particular ‘formation’, the players on the pitch understood what they had to do game in, game out, as did anyone that came in.
Perhaps Webber has seen this, hence his comments on the criteria for the new coach to be playing a consistent way.
Of course, Smith really lost his job with his other infamous remark – lumping the blame on the crowd. Webber knew that it was over at this point, as we all did. Presumably, around this time, he was dialling up David Wagner.
So, how does Wagner turn it around while operating under the same constraints as Smith?
The answer is simply consistency. Consistency of message, consistency of selections, consistency of approach.
Webber knows Wagner and knows his methods. When Farke was appointed, the doubters were labelling him the poor man’s David Wagner.
Well, we are now about to find out if Wagner is the poor man’s Daniel Farke.
It’ll not be the manager but what is above him that’s the problem.
Hope he doesn’t want to strengthen the team as we are £50 million in the red due to those above him.
Webber as I was informed by a friend lost the plot by going against all the things that went right for him.
Recruited Wagner possibly on the recommendation of Klopp a good friend from Dortmund and who he wanted at Liverpool.
On leaving Huddersfield rumours were rife that he tried to get Wagner but the owner wouldn’t let him go.
It was suggested that Dortmund had a good reserve team manager that was looking for a new challenge, Webber used the old pals network Klopp and Wagner to get their opinions so he took a gamble on Farke.
So has he gone back to the drawing board and jumped on a previous success hoping to turn his poor recruitment around only time will tell.
The sword on damuoles is hanging over his head held by a G String
Matt H says
I doubt Webber consulted Klopp about Farke before recruiting him, as I’m pretty sure Klopp and Farke had never met each other until Norwich played Liverpool in the Premier League.
You might be right but it’s still the old boy network and Klopp will have know of his growing reputation in Germany from his friends at Dortmund
Dave Huckfield says
Based on what they did at Huddersfield and Norwich – Wagner and Farke have little to separate them and if Dean Smith struggled to find the time to re-coach the squad, here is hoping that a few of the older players have the muscle memory from the way Farke drilled them and they easily slot into Wagners ways of working.
I don’t doubt Wagner is aware of all the issues with the club – if they are old friends, I would expect Webber to have ben open and honest during the discussions and that Wagner knows what he is walking into and will have discussed any transfer kitty or the lack of one .. so if he does sign on the dotted line it will be with eyes wide open.
The question is how quickly he can gel the team together to push for a play off slot or if the 2nd half of the season is spent developing the players in his ways of working and then using the summer to off load those he deems not to be suitable and bringing in new low cost keen talent or promoting the younger players from the academy so we are ready for a full bloodied tilt at winning the league.
Both managers were allowed to sign a dozen bespoke players. In Huddersfields’ case, they had 3 Premier League loans too, Aaron Moey who was superb for them from Man City, Kasey Palmer was at Chelsea and Van Para from Wolves.
As long as it’s exciting, I don’t care how it goes, within reason.
But they need to be very careful about not annoying Sargent, Idah, Gibbs, and Andy O.
Average win rate David Wagner 34.9%
Daniel Farke 43.8%
I like the appointment, lets all get behind David Wagner, he has a style of play and there’s plenty to play for.
I do so hope you’re right…..but it all smacks of old pals. I liked us more when we did different to all the rest.
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Wagner a record setting 18 straight defeats I seriously hope and pray that doesn’t happen. I’ll support as there ain’t nowt we can do. But cannot help thinking this has a smack of availability and a tad lazy
Farke lost 16 Premier League games in a row. Not a lot to choose between them. Given lots of fans seem to want Farke back, this is pretty close. I’d have preferred an up and coming coach but at least we have one with something to prove. Plus, if this doesn’t work, Webber is history career wise.
Derek P says
I am fully on board with this appointment and, for me, this article hits the nail firmly on the head with just one word: consistency.
Footballers are, generally, simple souls. They like being told what to do and if it is the same thing consistently, they tend to get better at it.
So, DW needs a clear plan and formation. If a players plays well, he stays in (fitness permitting) until he drops off a bit and then his replacement comes in. Football is inherently a simple game, coaches like Smith make it much harder than it should be.
3 points off the playoffs, half a season still left – we can do this!! OTBC.
We have gone downhill the second we sold Buendia. Anyone manager would struggle if we dont find someone who can feed pukki in January. Unless we can get Cantwell firing again. Buendia was pukki’s main supply line and Cantwell his no2. without them or someone else to replace them we will struggle.
Keith B says
Having appointed Wagner at Huddersfield and Farke for us, Webber has a record of 2 right out of 3. That’s considerably better than many. Whether returning for Wagner will make it 3 out of 4, who knows?
What I am sure of is that assuming we are not suddenly going to be a club with £100m+ to spend on the squad there seems to me little chance that we are going to break the vicious circle we seem to be stuck in.
If Wagner doesn’t get us promoted by 2024, he will leave.
If he does, he will be the new hero, and take is into the PL – where, unless we have a lot more luck than before, and there are 2 or 3 basket cases around, he will have no chance, and fans will demand his removal. Exactly as happened with Farke in other words. And then we start again.
So the best we can hope for – especially those of us who make a 400+ mile round trip to see a game – is that he sets out to entertain.
Taking the Cup seriously for once would be a good start – not that he’s got much time to prepare – because there would be nothing better for morale in a season like this than going to the 5th or 6th round, or even further. It would do our coffers no harm too. Though knowing our luck we’ll probably sneak past Blackburn reserves and then get drawn at the Emirates or the Etihad in round 4.
Keith Sir; I salute you.
A 400+ mile round trip to watch the next instalment of what was the Smudger car crash has to be worth a medal.
I gave up on it at this time last year, and mine was only 25!!
Let’s face it, almost anything and anyone has to be an improvement!
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Wagner will just be a Webber yes man!!