India’s next manager | Under the Scanner – Sam Allardyce

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India’s next manager | Under the Scanner – Sam Allardyce

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Subhayan Dutta

04/28/2019

With AIFF racing against time at the moment to get the right man for the job of the national men’s team coach, who would work in tandem with the recently appointed technical director Doru Isac, we look at the pros and cons of yet another potential candidate in the form of England’s Sam Allardyce.

Claim to Fame

Sam Allardyce is an interesting candidate. Unlike the previous two, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Albert Roca, who have either won titles in Europe or in India, “Big Sam” isn’t known for leading sides to victory, but rather saving them from the fall. Among his more prominent projects, the 64-year-old has managed clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, and Everton.

While all the above names range from below par to above average sides, it hasn’t yet been demystified how the English manager could do with a good side. His claim that he was befitting of a job at clubs like Real Madrid or Inter Milan had almost fructified when Allardyce was appointed the manager of the England manager in July 2016, but the world couldn’t witness the dream fulfill as he had to step down in the aftermath of an undercover newspaper investigation.

Preferred Tactics

Known to be a proper English traditionalist, Allardyce’s best managing stint was with Bolton Wanderers where he took a bunch of nobodies from the First Division to English Premier League and even the UEFA Cup. A predominantly defensive-minded manager, Allardyce’s best experiments were done with the Trotters, with whom he spent seven years, which ranged from a customary 4-4-2, to a midfield-heavy 4-5-2, to a safe 4-3-3, to even a congested 5-4-1 diamond shape.

How will it fit in Indian setup

While it is difficult to assume what formation Big Sam would implement with the given Indian players at his disposal, what is easy is to tap into is his managing traits to discern how India could behave under his blueprint. Managing as many as nine clubs and one country over a span of 17 years and still keeping his reputation of being “Ethan Hunt” has forced many to dig deeper into the nuances of his tactics.

More than his formations and setups, Allardyce is the mentality he brings to any side he manages. However, make no mistake, his tough, loud-mouthed demeanour which reflects that of a hard one-dimensional taskmaster. Allardyce has been one of the first few managers to rely on Prozone statistics and was seen constantly communicating with his staff over the headset. Hence, India wouldn’t be going back to the stone-age in terms of preparations under Big Sam but would be seen furnishing their basics more and more.

In a well-fragmented blueprint of Allardyce’s way of football, Sky Sports had pointed out the priorities and rules the manager often demands from his players. And if stratified over the Indian system, it could bear fruits in the short term. The pointers are – trying to keep clean sheets at all cost, not losing possession in their own half under any circumstance, play the first pass forward in any situation, try and win most 50-50s, get stronger from set-pieces, and bring more quality in the attacking third.

After Anas Edathodika’s retirement from international football, Sandesh Jhingan would need a new partner at the central defence and Allardyce’s defensive setup could profit the Blue Tigers in establishing a way more organized backline with the veteran Kerala Blasters defender calling the shots. A huge advocate of the four-man defence, India is unlikely to utilize their full-backs in the attack under Allardyce, although it would mean a better conversion rate by the forwards. 

In the AFC Asian Cup, Constantine was seen using Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to feed long balls up front from goal kicks, which did make India lethal in the attacking third at times. Allardyce’s urgency to play the first ball forward could see midfielders like Pronay Halder and Rowlin Borges aid Sandhu on the go. India’s physical would also be bound to improve under a manager, whose primary focus has always been to intimidate opponents by virtue of strength.

Verdict

All in all, Allardyce would be a mixed bag of experience for the national team, if he is appointed. While his tactical know-how and demand for an unparalleled work rate could see India compete at the highest ranked Asian teams, Allardyce is often criticized for his short span of patience on a particular project. While the short-term specialist has earned a living by churning out quick results regardless of the side, AIFF would be looking for a candidate more committed for the long haul.

Allardyce, however, could introduce a much-needed system, which the side has been lacking for years now. And even if he leaves the country in a year or two, the next generation would be knowing their roles in the side very well and could keep the stability intact. And that might be the bigger deal for India if all they want currently is their footprint on world football.

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