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Lack of experience should not be a managerial dealbreaker

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There are plenty of examples of successful rookies, and as many of unsuccessful veterans.

Arsenal v Everton - Premier League
He had experience. He’s a terrible manager.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Experience is the great catch-22 of real world jobs, as any recent college graduate can probably tell you. If you don’t have it, you struggle to get jobs that would give it to you, and the longer that struggle continues, the less likely you are to get the experience you need in order to get the job that you want in order to further your career.

Sports works a little differently. A lot of coach/front-office hiring in sports is reputation-based, not performance-based; if a player was a good player and had a reputation of being good in the locker room/clubhouse/practice field/wherever, and if that player expresses a desire to get into coaching after their playing career ends, teams will generally find a way to make that happen, even if said player has no coaching experience whatsoever.

In a lot of cases, this means minor league/youth team coaching - players are given the chance to learn their trade at a lower, less intense level before “graduating” to the major league level and building a career from there. But there are a lot of exceptions to that rule - the one that leaps instantly to mind is Steve Kerr, who spent several post-playing years as a broadcaster before becoming the GM of the Phoenix Suns, a job for which being a broadcaster was, shall we say, not a prerequisite. After being the GM for a while, he took a few years off and then became the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, where he’s done OK.

The point is, there’s no absolute requirement that a person, ex-player or layperson, has to be a coach for X number of years in order to be considered a serious candidate. Thing is, there’s no way to forecast or project whether any hire - experienced, rookie, or anywhere in between - will be a success at any given team in any given situation.

I hate to keep going back to this well, but it’s a bit instructive here. When David Moyes was named manager of Manchester United in 2013, he was two things: first, he was really successful at Everton, regularly keeping them in the hunt for European football despite being on a shoestring budget, and second, he was hand-picked to lead United by one of the two greatest managers in Premier League history, who one would think would know a thing or two about how management works, and would know what kind of person and manager would succeed at Manchester United.

I, and a lot of others, was a bit...terrified is the wrong word, but concerned, that a manager who did so well at Everton, with such limited resources, would step into the second or third richest club in the world at the time and absolutely steamroll everyone. That, to be charitable, didn’t happen; out of the FA Cup in the third round, out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals, and Moyes was out of a job in March after less than a season.

Nothing about Moyes’ resume up to that point would have suggested he’d struggle at United, and yet his struggles there were legendary (and, may I add, hilarious). He’s bounced around a bit since then, never really setting the managerial world alight, and his reputation as low-budget genius is pretty much gone forever.

Or, look at Tony Adams. You know, the guy with the statue outside the Emirates. A club legend, probably one of the five best players Arsenal have ever had. And guess what? By all accounts, he’s an awful manager. He doesn’t communicate with his players, isn’t clear on what he wants, and his refusal to adapt and evolve his managerial style has arguably cost him what could have been a long career at one club as a manager.

On the other hand, you have a coach like Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone. He stepped pretty much straight from playing for Racing, in Buenos Aires, to managing them in 2006. He jumped from there to Estudiantes, where he won the league in his first year, and has had success after success since then, despite having had no experience at all when he first started, and next week he’ll be playing to win his second Europa League championship.

I understand that the pressures are different in the Argentinian league, and that 2006 was a different era, but if the theory is that managers need experience to succeed at big clubs, then Simeone should have struggled for a few years at Estudiantes before getting good at his job, and struggle he did not.

There are any number of similar examples on both sides, but those are the two that leapt immediately to mind when I was thinking about this. I have seen a lot of objections to the potential appointment of Mikel Arteta as Arsenal manager, most of which are based on some variation of the “he’s never managed before” theme. While that is true, I also believe that it doesn’t matter - he has always, by most accounts, wanted to be a manager, and the minute he was done as a player he started down the “I want to be a manager” road at Manchester City, where he has been a “joint assistant coach” since July of 2016, learning his trade from Pep Guardiola and with the resources of the City Football Group network at his disposal. I’m not sure there’s a better place to learn, to be honest.

Also, let’s face it - Arsenal had literally the most experienced active coach in the entire world last season and still didn’t win an away game after January. Experience is fine, but it should in no way be a prerequisite, if the candidate can articulate his plans and vision clearly to the board and execute said plans and vision successfully on the training pitch.

There’s a lot of pressure on whoever Arsenal’s managerial choice will be - the squad needs a lot of work, the fans are still restless, and this is the most pivotal summer they’ve had in years. But here’s the thing - anyone with an interest in taking the Arsenal job will know all of that.

It’s not like Arsenal are some sleepy club in a lower division that nobody pays attention to - Arsenal (and its problems) are arguably the most scrutinized club in the Premier League in the last few seasons. So anyone who takes the job will be as ready as they can be to deal with that in their own way, and I’m not sure experience is a huge differentiating factor in the uncharted waters in which Arsenal find themselves right now.

I want Arsenal to hire the best candidate for the job, and I don’t want them to artificially constrain their search based on criteria that may not really be a help or a hindrance.