May 17, 2012, 3:10 PM EDT
Well, that was quick, and for some Liverpool fans, it’s also going to be disappointing. Roberto Martínez is on Liverpool’s radar, with Wigan Athletic already having been asked for permission to speak to the Latics’ boss. Apparently owner Dave Whelan got the call while with Martínez? Moneyball is all about efficiency.
The most prideful of the Liverpool faithful are going to feel a bit emasculated to think Wigan’s manager is one of Fenway Sports Group’s first candidates to replace Kenny Dalglish. Surely Pep Guardiola will rethink his post-Barça plans in light of Anfield’s vacancy? Aston Villa fans should hope so.
The other end of the spectrum (the only other one that’s being expressed, thus far): Martínez is young, charismatic, and to the extent that he’s been able to show it at Wigan, adept. He’s also become some kind of de facto “The Up-and-Coming Manager in England”, for whatever that’s worth. For some, Martínez is an obvious choice, particularly when LFC’s merely rounding up candidates.
Up-and-coming-ness aside, there’s little to separate Martínez from a number of other candidates. While his record at Wigan is commendable, the Latics’ limits mean all Martínez has shown is an ability to keep a limited club from being relegated. Has he done so in an attractive, progressive and (particularly this season) adaptive way? Definitely.
Nobody would ever confuse his methods with Sam Allardyce’s, possibly the reason why many seem so enthralled with Martínez’s success. Well, relative success. It had always ben assumed that the best way to avoid the drop was be Allardycian. Or Pulisian, Or Megsonian. But practical, pragmatic, blunt – whatever you want to call it. Just acknowledge your limits, but helpful (and roll over for the big boys).
Liverpool does not have Wigan’s limits, and relegation’s not a legitimate concern. If the ability to qualify for Champions League was the major qualm with Kenny Dalglish’s stewardship, it’s unclear how Martínez addresses the issue. Only faith in Martínez’s talent provides a reason to think the Spaniard would do better, and given how easy it is to make the case that Dalglish is actually the better manager (he has, after all, won things), Martínez at Anfield might be an unduly risky leap of faith.
For a club like Liverpool, it might be better to hire somebody who’s actually walked this road before; or, at least, walked a road like this one. Hodgson had, be it through his brief time at Inter or his time at Fuham, where he pushed the Cottagers into Europe. It wasn’t a huge leap to think that, with more talent and resources, he could bring proportional results to Anfield. When Chelsea hired Andre-Villas Boas last summer, they went for young and charismatic and found a man who’d won big things. Tottenham’s last two hires have been Juande Ramos (wildly successful with Sevilla) and Harry Redknapp (coming off an FA Cup with Portsmouth). Martínez won League One with Swansea, but that’s it.
Perhaps Fenway Sports Group doesn’t put much stock in on-the-job experience, but it sure seems like Martínez needs that Aston Villa-esque step. Villa is a club of sufficient size, prestige, history, and (despite moaning from Villans) resources to compete for Europe. Martin O’Neill showed this, and Villa’s certainly more capable of drawing talent than Hodgson’s Fulham was. Unless they do something stupid like hire their rival’s relegation-inducing manager, Villa’s not a serious relegation candidate. The whole package gives Martínez a chance to show he can do more than avoid worst case scenarios.
It’s an entirely different mindset, and it’s not too much to assume that the managerial skillsets are distinct. To avoid relegation, you need to scrape together results around one big push. That’s what Martínez has done in each of the last three years. While the Latics looked terrible at times, Martínez always crafted a decent team by season’s end, pushing them out of the drop. The opposite approach is needed to scrape into Europe. You need to avoid huge dips while scraping point everywhere and anywhere you can.
Of course, this is all a bit premature. Martínez is closer to the Liverpool job than he was yesterday, but only minimally so. The BBC is reporting Liverpool will interview a number of candidates. The Telegraph reports Jürgen Klopp, Bert van Marwijk and Joachim Löw are in their sights. Brendan Rodgers may also get interviewed. Martínez may merely be the first confirmed candidate. Based on the pure numbers of it all, it’s likely he’s the favorite.
Were I at Anfield, I’d ask to interview Martínez. I’d ask to interview as many people as possible. How often do you get a chance to get other’s input on your club (and, potentially, learn a little about theirs).
But there’d be almost nothing Martínez could say that would make me hire him. Though I’d want him to get the Villa job.
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