The Next Generation of Managers - Top 4

 

With the season all but over, our attention will inevitably turn towards silly season, the summer transfer window. The rumours are starting to swirl and in today’s world, Fabrizio Romano has probably already reported on deals months ago. However, the focus of this article is on managers. There’s a perception that besides Xabi Alonso, there’s a dearth of elite managers on the market, certainly not any shiny new ones, just the old Tuchel’s, Conte’s and Mourinho’s knocking about. Just ask Bayern Munich how their managerial search has gone. Let’s take a look at my four to look out for.

 

 Andoni Iraola - Bournemouth

For long term readers of the Lowe-Down, you might remember my segment on Iraola and his arrival at Bournemouth in my season predictions back in August. That positive endorsement I gave on Iraola is looking pretty good now! Iraola, however, had a slow start to life at the Cherries, but was backed by the board and Bournemouth soon picked up form and Iraola led them to their highest ever points tally in the Premier League, with 48 points.

On top of the record points total achieved in his first season in the Premier League, Iraola has managed to implement his “chaos ball” philosophy, influenced by Marcelo Bielsa. As I highlighted in August, Iraola’s philosophy is unique in that it is based on not what his team’s do with the ball, but what they do without it. Under Iraola, Bournemouth have gone from being one of the most passive teams off the ball to one of the most aggressive. According to Opta, only Liverpool have launched more counter-attacks this season. This high-octane football doesn’t come without its risks, however the rewards have been very worthwhile for the Cherries.

Having been headhunted by now Liverpool technical director, Richard Hughes, Iraola has recently signed a new contract at Bournemouth committing to 2026. Whether Bournemouth can keep hold of him until then remains to be seen.

Next stop? Perhaps Newcastle or Atletico Madrid if Simeone ever leaves.

 

Michel – Girona

Another Spaniard on this list is Michel who manages Girona in La Liga. Leading La Liga for much of the first-half of the season, the impression was that Girona would fade away. How wrong that was. Whilst Real Madrid have stormed to win La Liga, Girona have qualified for the Champions League, finishing in a remarkable 3rd place, ahead of Atletico Madrid and have done the double over Barcelona.

The comparisons with Andoni Iraola stop at their nationalities. With the playing budget and personnel Girona have, you would forgive them for adopting a more direct, risk averse style of play. However, Michel’s Girona play a possession-based game with only Barcelona and Real Madrid completing more passes in their own half. Furthermore, Michel’s side have the lowest direct speed of attacks in La Liga. They’re patient, confident and unwavering in their pursuit for perfection. Their style of play and results has seen them, and Michel receive plaudits in Spain and across Europe.

With Girona being part of the City Group, which owns Manchester City, being able to prize Michel away from Girona may prove to be difficult for clubs. One thing is for certain, another successful season and he’ll certainly be top of many lists.

Next Stop? If Guardiola leaves Manchester City at the end of next season, that could make sense. Watch this space.

 

Sebastian Hoeness – Stuttgart

A young manager has taken the Bundesliga by storm this season and for the first time in 12 years, has managed to topple the great Bayern Munich. Oh, you think I’m talking about Xabi Alonso? Wrong. I’m talking about Sebastien Hoeness and his incredible Stuttgart team. As you’ll know, Bayer Leverkusen have won the Bundesliga, but you’d be forgiven for thinking Bayern Munich finished 2nd. However, Hoeness’ Stuttgart pipped Bayern to 2nd place in what is the least talked about achievement in Europe this season.

Having taken over Stuttgart from the bottom of the table in April 2023, Hoeness has transformed Stuttgart and lead a young team to the Champions League. Leading that team has been former Brighton mishap, Dennis Undav, who has scored 18 goals and assisted 9. In keeping with the modern game, Hoeness’ Stuttgart prioritises a possession-based game with Stuttgart enjoying 60% on average during their games this season. Stuttgart have also shown a balance between attack and defence with the 3rd best attack in the league and the 2nd best defence.

Naturally, Hoeness had been mentioned as someone to replace the outgoing Thomas Tuchel at Bayern, but interest has cooled with Hoeness recently signing a new deal at Stuttgart. Such links are also inevitable given Sebastien is the nephew of Bayern’s honorary president Uli Hoeness.

Next stop? Leverkusen next summer if Xabi Alonso were to leave. Any other top club in Germany would be likely.

 

Thiago Motta – Bologna

Having played at the top level of European football as a calm and composed holding midfielder, and having worked with some of Europe’s finest coaches, Thiago Motta was as “cut out” for management as one could be. As a coach of PSG under 19s a few years ago, Motta was in the spotlight as he discussed his philosophy and specifically his 2-7-2 formation  which was widely mocked for appearing to class the goalkeeper as an outfield player. Motta was actually referring to the formation from left to right and not back to front and yes, he included the goalkeeper in that.

Fast forward to this season and Motta’s Bologna are no joke. His young and hungry side have finished 4th in Serie A, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. Finishing above Napoli, Roma, Lazio and Atalanta is no mean feat and is a testament to the job Motta has done. Despite the disparity in playing budgets and personnel, Motta ensured his Bologna played his way. Bologna built up from the back, and created numerical advantages as they progressed through the thirds. Off the ball, Bologna were aggressive with a high press, going man-to-man with their opponent. Implementing such an ambitious style of play and achieving results requires meticulous coaching and Motta has been praised by his players for his and his staff’s attention to detail.

Such a season has not gone unnoticed, and Motta has plenty of admirers including at PSG and Barcelona. It is, however, Juventus who seem most likely to land Motta with the Italian leaving Bologna earlier today having had talks with the “Old Lady”. Given Juventus’ Scudetto drought of four years, they ought to give Motta time to implement his attacking philosophy, certainly after suffering Allegri-ball for too long.

Next stop? Juventus. PSG afterwards.

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