Martin Samuel recently expressed his views in his Daily Mail column in relation to the general perception of Paul Clement, Swansea City manager, against Marco Silva, Hull City manager (at least for now).
It seemed to me to be a rather bitter attack on the general stigma that attaches itself to British managers – “why is Silva raved about when Clement is the one who succeeded in steering his team away from the drop?”.
Well, Martin, I would like to think I can shed a little light on this…
Granted, Clement deserves a lot of respect for the job he has done. In fact, I would go as far as saying he can barely be considered a British manager at all, at least in terms of experience and style.
Clement has worked as a coach and an assistant manager at various English clubs, including most notably as Carlo Ancelotti’s number two at Chelsea, from where he followed Ancelotti to Real Madrid, PSG and Bayern Munich. Clement is perhaps one of the few British managers I would describe as ‘a student of the game’, as opposed to ‘a British manager’ (which is probably the most insulting thing you can call any football manager!).
Clement has worked with Ancelotti, who is in my opinion one of the best and most successful managers of the modern era, and clearly made an effort to develop himself. No doubt working under a name like Ancelotti he would have been able to delve into a wealth of knowledge and opinion, as well as learning from the different cultures of the respective leagues in which the two operated.
Despite this, Samuel, if I interpret his article correctly, scoffs at the general admiration shown to Silva and, in his view, the perceived lack of it on show to Clement. I would like to add my two pennies worth to this discussion.
Both Silva and Clement came into their respective clubs, Hull City and Swansea City, at times this season when they were bottom of the Premier League table. For Silva, on 5 January he was appointed manager of a team who had won just one in ten, were three points adrift of safety and from whom Steve Bruce had resigned seemingly because he felt the lack of investment in players presented the club with no reasonable chance of remaining in England’s top flight.
I could list Hull’s key, experienced players but the list is so short that it boasts little value (taking account of the fact that Silva immediately lost his two form players, Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore, to the January transfer window). Many would have put their houses on Hull to go down.
After seven defeats in eleven games, Swansea City’s then manager, Bob Bradley, was dismissed and Paul Clement was appointed in early January, at a time when Swansea City were also bottom of the Premier League table.
The key differences between the two clubs at this stage was not their position or how far adrift of safety they were. The key differences were the squads of players the respective managers had. For Hull City, the squad was, as Bruce is understood to have believed to be the case doomed to go down.
For Swansea, their squad boasted a mixture of Premier League experience and quality, speaking in terms of the bottom end of the table – I am by no means claiming their squad was a particularly talented one by the general standards of the league.
The squad featured Lucas Fabianski, Jordan Ayew, Sung-Yeung Ki, Leroy Fer, Fernando Llorente, Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge, Martin Olson (a Clement signing), Angel Rangel, Gylfi Sigurdson, Jack Cork, Kyle Naughton and Tom Carroll.
Of those, let’s say that the only two good players were Llorente and Sigurdson (this isn’t the case) – I think we have the difference here between Swansea staying up and going down (in place of Hull).
This is by no means an attack on Clement – quite the opposite – he has undoubtedly impressed. I would prefer to look at it as an explanation of why Silva’s achievements this season just so slightly edge those of Clement.
Silva’s astute, and cost-free, signings in the January transfer window allowed him to instil and implement a brand of football which achieved results. Clement changed things so well, but just not as drastically and as impressively as the momentous feat required at Hull.
The two managers’ respective points per game averages are almost identical with Silva achieving 1.29 and Clement achieving 1.28 to date. Again, the difference is that the job done by Silva was, in my view, so much more challenging.
In terms of previous managerial records, both have great experiences, albeit Clement’s experience as a 1st team manager is fairly short in length. Silva has experience of winning (promotion pushes and titles) in more than one country whilst Clement has a wealth of coaching experience and experience, as mentioned earlier, as Ancelotti’s number two.
But this season, Silva edges it for me and would be a worthy Manager of the Year award, with Clement a close second. Sorry, Paul.