Manager vs Coach In Football – What’s The Difference?

As a football fan, you must have seen/heard the terms “manager” and “coach” used interchangeably.

However, are these two positions the same, or have people been using them wrongly?

Here’s what you need to know about how both roles differ from each other by explaining each of the roles clearly.

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The difference between a manager and a coach in football

The roles of a manager and a coach are linked but still differ significantly from each other. While a manager has a much more wholesome role to play in running the club or national team, the coach functions to ensure that the players perform in the best possible manner. 

Sometimes, managers take charge of coaches’ duties, and coaches can also perform the duties of managers, with these depending on the job description given to them. 

In some cases, the roles of the manager and coach overlap, ensuring that they each take on the duties of the other. Here are some of the differences that exist between a manager and a coach:

Training

The roles performed by the coach and manager differ when it comes to training the players between matches or in preparation for a new season.

The coach takes up the job of preparing the players to perform at their best level. The coach takes charge of training sessions and drills his system and style of play into the players’ minds. 

This situation was explained perfectly by PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino when he was in charge of Tottenham Hotspur. In an interview, he stated that his role at the club was just that of a Head Coach who trained the players to function at their best. 

In another example of how the Head Coach takes charge of training, Nigeria’s Super Eagles had their head coach Emmanuel Amuneke take control of training.

At the same time, Technical Adviser Augustine Eguavoen oversaw other aspects of the team.

Tactics

The coach is usually in charge of delivering tactical information to the players before and during matches. After working with the players on the training field, the coach also oversees the implementation of the tactical input gained during actual match day situations. 

In modern football, managers often combine the function of directing their players on what to do in matches alongside their off-the-field roles.

It is not uncommon nowadays to see managers like Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, and many others deliver tactical information to their players before and during matches. 

For example, in a video that circulated on social media, Guardiola was seen directing his Manchester City players on how to manipulate spaces on the pitch in a dressing room session after the first half of a match was concluded.

Matchday Decisions

In making decisions pertaining to team selection, player roles, and substitutions, the manager and coach are expected to work hand-in-hand. While the coach takes care of the tactical approach to these matchday decisions, the manager takes a more holistic approach in making these decisions

The manager has to consider several factors, including the overall fitness of the players, any possible off-the-field issues, and other such issues that may prevent them from performing at their best level.

In addition, the manager has to work with the medical staff, analysts, and even performance trainers to gain an insight into various elements of football operations involving the players on a day-to-day basis.

Transfers and Contracts

In handling transfers and player contracts, the manager has a lot more to do than the coach. The manager has first-hand access and has the power to dictate to the club the players that he needs in the team. While the coach only works with players provided for him by the club, the manager actively chooses the players he needs at the club and helps the club pursue such players. 

Pochettino, for example, complained of his time at Tottenham Hotspur when he was only a coach. The Argentine manager stated that he had no say in player transfers and contracts and only worked with the players the club signed for him.

He compared his situation with the time he spent as manager of Southampton, where he played a major role in identifying transfer targets and actively pursuing them.

At the time of his sacking in 2013, former Sunderland coach Paolo Di Canio complained about the failure of the club to sign players he recommended. This was primarily due to his role as the side’s coach. 

Also, Mikel Arteta saw his role at Arsenal upgraded from first-team coach to manager in September 2020 after the club found him worthy of the upgrade due to his conduct at the club and his dedication to all aspects of the club.

In the club’s statement, it was clarified that Arteta would work with the club’s technical director Edu Gaspar on deciding on and pursuing transfer targets and also working on player contract renewals and extensions.

There have been several reports of managers playing an essential role in convincing players to join their team. In 2020, Frank Lampard was said to have spoken directly with Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva, and a number of other transfer targets when he intended to add them to his Chelsea squad

Similarly, a call from Sir Alex Ferguson in 2001 convinced veteran goalkeeper Andy Goram to join Manchester United on loan as they faced a goalkeeping crisis.

These are two examples of how managers directly impact transfers and the power they wield when it comes to swaying transfer targets.

On the part of the coach, he only has permission to inform the club’s hierarchy about the positions he would like to fill in the team and can give them specific targets.

The club’s hierarchy can decide to go against the wishes of the coach by bringing in a different player, which may lead to a breakdown in relations between the coach and the club.

This example was seen in 2017 between Chelsea coach Antonio Conte and the club’s director Marina Granovskaia. Conte requested a number of players, but Granovskaia refused to grant his request. Instead, the club director signed cheaper players of lesser quality.

The Italian coach was at loggerheads with the club due to this, and he was sacked one season after.

Verdict

In running a football club or national team, the roles of both the manager and coach are very important.

This is due to the different functions they each carry out in helping the team achieve its goals. Several differences exist between the roles each plays, but they sometimes work together when their functions overlap.

The role of a manager is much more desirable to most than that of a coach because the manager wields a lot of power and has more to do with the decision-making and day-to-day running of the club.

Here is a summary of the differences and similarities between these 2 roles:

ManagerCoach
TransfersActively targets players and works with
the club’s directors to complete transfer deals.
Can advise the club on the players he requires, but the club is not
obligated to go with his ideas.
Training Takes a back seat in training matters to
observe and watch with the side’s analysts and performance observers.
Actively leads training sessions,
puts the players through drills, and works on their patterns of play.
Tactics Can deliver tactical
information to players.
Works with the manager to
decide on the best tactical approach to games.
Matchday DecisionsWorks with information obtained from the medical team, performance monitoring team, analysts,
and coaches to decide on several choices that need to be made before and during games.
Works with information obtained
based on the performance levels shown
on the training pitch by the players.

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