“WHAT WOULD PEP GUARDIOLA DO?”

In New World soccer, we tend to ask ourselves a derivative of this question whenever doubts are raised about the coaching standards on the domestic front. We have long suffered beneath the stigma of a severe and sustained inferiority complex in terms of the perceived standard of New World coaches when compared to their Old World compatriots. For all the help it’s been.

It’s all well and good to seek out sage advice when confronted by complicated challenges. It’s another matter all together to accept their counsel as doctrine. Some lucky bastard manages to navigate his team’s way to an Old World trophy or two and the subsequent public adulation showered upon him for his undeniable tactical nous sparks the next global emulation soccer machine into life. Before the ref has exhaled the fourth blast of the whistle at game’s end, the search for soccer’s finest coaching counterfeiters capable of an affordable forgery of the latest Old World masterpiece has already begun with gusto.

Pick your Maestro. From Señor Guardiola back, soccer’s history has been defined by a lineage of tactical genius. All undeniably brilliant in their own right, however before they stormed the ramparts where soccer’s most cherished artifacts are housed, and led their band of merry men off to happily ever after with the spoils of war clasped firm in their clutches, there’s a couple of chapters most tend to skim over.

The tactical acumen a supercoach applies to his squad is only one piece of a rather complex formula. Great coaches command great teams. Exceptional skill sets demand exceptional environments to operate within. There is no making a silk purse from a sow’s ear, no matter how skilled the seamstress. In order to realize their visions, the likes of Guardiola, Ancelloti and their contemporaries need the backing of organizations which have Champions League winning infrastructures like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and so forth (clubs that generate more revenue than entire New World leagues). Without the requisite parts, the desired outcome cannot be reproduced. Alter the ingredients of the recipe and you alter the dish.

Great teams are seldom if ever a fantastic accident. More often, they are the reflection of a fanatic’s vision. Handcrafted or commissioned and paid for, great teams are a phenomenal challenge to assemble and a work of miracle to maintain. Vast sums of currency, resources and expertise are devoted to the labor-intensive exercise.

This is why our New World soccer story continues to come with an alternate ending. It’s the installments leading up to the final chapter that mold the outcome of our circumstances. When New World coaches are handed the responsibility of replicating Europe’s finest tactical examples that’s where the buck tends to stop. Coaches take the heat for a broken model. How is it the coaches are left to shoulder the burden of responsibilities for the missing elements of the equation? They’re held accountable for the compromises forced upon them. Market realities and fiscal accountability aren’t relevant in most coaches formulas yet they’re expected to not only make allowances for but circumvent both in pursuit of completely unrealistic expectations.

This is why soccer clubs have front offices. One of the primary functions of the off-field management is to make clear the parameters the coaching staff has to operate within and then to ask them to plan and prepare their team accordingly. Further, New World franchises need to be savvy enough to recognize the bluster in a prospective coaching hire whose tactical implementations require the likes of a Messi plus a complementary financial security blanket in order to succeed.

The New World needs coaches who provide an alternative that we can be confident will succeed within our particular circumstances. New World soccer clubs would be better served with a technical staff prepared to deviate from the norm and experiment with concepts developed on their practice pitches. Then when New World soccer leagues are held up in comparison to the Old World leagues, the New World version might appear in the eyes of the folk that matter–New World soccer consumers­­–as a legitimate alternative rather than a diluted version of an already familiar staple.

Coaches the world over are assessed on their ability to replicate the examples of an elite few. Anyone under the impression it’s possible to replicate those accomplishments with a fraction of the resources is in no condition to operate a motor vehicle or any other form of heavy machinery for that matter. They’re high. It’s a mindset made popular by gross misinformation that absolves the corporate departments of soccer franchises of much of the accountability of their team’s on-field performance and reduces coaches to expensive scapegoats. It’s a toxic environment to attempt to foster sustainable improvements within and explains a great deal of why New World emerging soccer markets struggle to make inroads into Old World soccer’s global dominance.

Before supercoaches were branded as such, they were men of vision. They conjured the means to disrupt popular opinion and altered the world’s perception of how soccer could be played. Where are the New World’s soccer visionaries? Who are the envelope pushers among our coaches and when will they be deemed worthy to tinker with an MLS or A League team?  Until New World soccer is ready to place a comparable level of confidence in coaches prepared to meddle with convention, as was granted to Old World game changers such as Pep Guardiola, even the faintest semblance of change in our soccer circumstances is the last thing we can expect to see.