There are plenty of reasons why Frank De Boer would join Spurs. Plus, can West Ham spring another upset at Old Trafford on Saturday? And thoughts on Liverpool's challenge...
Usually the uncompetitive nature of La Liga is a bad thing, but Tim Stannard points out that with Barcelona and Atletico looking for goals, this weekend it could be good fun...
If you've ever stepped onto a stage with a guitar in your hand, you'll know you're faced with a choice - to gurn or not to gurn. Some reject elaborate facial gymnastics while soloing in favour of a more quiet and studious approach, while others would have you believe they are ascending into heaven on the wings of a host of golden angels, so ecstatic an expression fixes on their face.
Responses to such thrashings and muggings are mixed. Some think looking like you're in pain shows you really bloody mean it, others that its little but a clichéd rock n roll pose. And it's the exactly same when it comes to managers of football clubs.
The greatest living human being with a small neat beard, Rafa Benitez, bestrides the football world like a rotund big striding thing. His Napoli side have won five, drawn one, lost none and dished out a spanking to Dortmund in the Champions League. That's how you start a new job, Davey.
He is a brilliant beardy Buddha but when it comes to pitchside reaction, he never celebrates a goal. Indeed, he barely even acknowledges the fact that a goal has even been scored. While all around lose their collective mind, he might make a couple of notes on a piece of paper. He doesn't deign to celebrate this fleeting moment because he sees it in context. This is a mere detail in the unfolding story or a small battle in a never-ending war. He keeps his distance and his emotions in check.
He's not over-concerned with the hipness of The Now. It is as though he is bigger than that moment - aloof from it - his mind on higher matters. I would find this enormously inspiring as a player. You don't have to think about anything because Rafa is doing all your thinking for you. However, I am besotted with the man and fully admit that if he chose to wear a bowler hat and doff it to the crowd extravagantly every time they scored, I'd find this equally brilliant.
Benitez contrasts markedly to David Moyes, the currently failing Manchester United manager who is regularly seen with his head in his hands. A lot of managers do this seemingly unaware that it makes them look weak and reveals desperation all too clearly. The players must see this and think, Christ he's falling apart, he can't handle this. He's not strong. He doesn't know what to do. He's being crushed by the pressure. Our leader isn't a leader at all. He's a loser.
You wouldn't catch Rafa doing that. Even if he's losing, he maintains his dignity and in doing so acknowledges that there is a tomorrow and that maybe better days lie ahead. There is strength in an emotional remove that clawing at your eyes in frustrated grief just doesn't possess.
However, the way a manager behaves on the touchline does vary enormously. This weekend we saw Jurgen Klopp fisting the air and doing his freak-out dance. We saw Andre Villas-Boas celebrate a goal as though he had scored it himself. The wildly celebrating manager is not uncommon but the danger is it makes you look like one of the lads when you are not one of the lads, you are the boss of them. Klopp seems to use his madness as a glue for his teams, but he's a special case and even he admitted after his splendid raging against the fourth official in the Napoli game that his emotions had got the better of him and clouded his judgement. That's the danger of wearing your heart on your sleeve too prominently. You can go over the top.
Mourinho made his name with elaborate goal celebrations and general moody posing. The fans loved it. Grand gestures are all very well but there is only so many times you can do them and create some sort of inspirational effect. Because of his history, its now almost expected of Mourinho; the cameras are forever poised to capture the latest outrageous expression or prancing. His response has been to be more sullen and less demonstrative, possibly in order to regain some of the respect and dignity that a manager needs.
In contrast, Carlo Ancelotti sends out his left eyebrow to do most of his work. It is the most expressive eyebrow in world sport and raising an eyebrow in response to a goal is surely infinitely preferable to the emotional incontinence of some.
Others prefer a violent gesture such as the Alan Pardew air punch, which almost seems delivered with someone in mind. Mark Hughes stands there, legs astride, his whole body rigid in judgement. Sam Allardyce appears to be on the verge of a rage so sulphurous that you'd think something terrible had happened - more terrible than West Ham playing football, anyway. When things go badly at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger often rocks back and forth on the bench, as though at stool, his arms wrapped around his midriff, his face in constipated pain. It can't be inspiring to see that.
However, football is full of stupid people and being calm and rational can work against you. When Sven-Goran Eriksson managed England he was first praised for his cool remove. This soon changed to being seen as emblematic of not caring enough about the job. In this idiot narrative, ripping your tripe out and throwing it on the side of the pitch showed your commitment, whereas just clapping and smiling didn't. A feral press and their slack-jawed readers had decided that a manager shouting until his eyes bled was all England actually needed to win, as though there was a correlation between a sore throat and silverware. So Sven was hounded out for the crime of being too quiet, despite actually being rather good.
That's how divisive a manager's touchline behaviour can be. Maybe some need to undergo a course of body language therapy. Someone certainly needs to tell the Manchester United manager that looking terrified and desperate might not be helping his team.
If Rafa Benitez was in a band, he'd a studious jazz muso with stellar chops, listening intently, getting his groove on quietly but brilliantly, whereas Klopp would be playing screaming lead guitar for The Scorpions. As for Moyes, well Moyes would be still trying to tune up.
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This was, and someone already said, a highly enjoyable read. Gotta give a shout out to Bielsa's touchline demeanour. That squat and stare routine is akin to a scientist who has just devised some new theory, and who is there to see how it translates into real life. Like Benitez, it is as if the "real" action happens in the privacy of his thoughts.- declanjk