Derby Boss Clement Learning There's More To Management Than Coaching

Mike Holden by Mike Holden / 11 August 2015, 15:35

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) disects Paul Clement's less than impressive start in the Rams hotseat....

THE SEASON might only be a few days old but already the doubts are beginning to creep in about the managerial credentials of Paul Clement. If his early interviews are anything to go by, he seems hesitant and lacking in conviction about any one idea or philosophy. Whatever the message is, it's not emphatic.

Paul Clement

Indeed, the only thing unequivocal about Clement at this stage is that he spent the last three years as assistant manager at Real Madrid, a point he isn't afraid to play on - and who can blame him? You don't get to be assistant manager at the biggest club in the world if you're a complete mug, nor would you be trusted twice by a shrewd delegator like Carlo Ancelotti.

And it's not only Ancelotti who can vouch for Clement the coach. As Cristiano Ronaldo's recent string of expletives over a Rafa Benitez training drill demonstrated, you should expect dissent if your sessions don't meet the high standards of elite performers. To survive three years at the Bernabeu without being held accountable for any shortcomings is testament itself.

But as we all know, coaching and management are different beasts - and that applies more so the further down the football pyramid you go. During the week, a good manager can have sub-standard coaches, or put on sub-standard coaching sessions himself, and still get results on a Saturday. By contrast, a good coach can put on the best sessions in the world but if he doesn't know the secrets of good management, it will all be to no avail.

And surely the biggest secret of good management is to be decisive. When it comes to philosophy, there are no absolutes. But when it comes to leadership, in an individualist society like Britain, management is all about making clear decisions and being accountable for them, and sometimes that means faking it and looking decisive even when, privately, you're clueless about your next move.

All of which made Clement look like a fish out of water when he admitted just two days before the start of the season that he didn't know what system he was going to play in Derby's opening game against Bolton. In pre-season, he experimented with three different formations - a diamond, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 - but six weeks down the line, he seemed no clearer about which one suited his troops best.

In some respects, there's nothing unusual about a team having no default system. Tactical flexibility can be an asset, particularly for a team looking to punch above its weight. But Derby don't need to overachieve, they merely need to achieve, so surely a fixed way of playing would suit them better? As pre-season title favourites, they supposedly pack the biggest punch in the division, so why is Clement trying so hard to box clever?

It's worth remembering that Derby have played the same 4-3-3 system almost continuously for the past two years under Steve McClaren. Accustomed to playing on auto-pilot, week in, week out, for that length of time, those same players are now being asked, in the space of five weeks, to absorb the information needed to execute three different systems and switch between them at the drop of a hat. In this regard, it's already very reminiscent of Uwe Rosler's demise at Wigan last season.

As it transpired, Clement went with a diamond at the Macron Stadium and Derby's first outing ended in disappointment, with them failing to win a game they started as odds-on favourites. Moreover, it was a Bolton side low on resources and beset with injury problems who looked like the more likely winners. For them, the game plan from Neil Lennon was crystal clear and they subjected the Rams to an aerial bombardment from wide areas, hitting the crossbar three times in the second half.

So Clement's start to life in management might only be one game old but it could already be classed a shaky one. He needs to stop with the ambiguity and settle on a system - quick - before he goes the way of many other great coaches who failed to make the transition into management. For Derby, there's no time for transition. They need to be laying down their authority and calling the shots right away.

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