Updated: May 10
I’ll reserve my ‘final word on the season’s final words’ post until, um, the end of the season – the official end rather than the end that everyone except Luka Modric and William Gallas seem to think it is – but as this Spurs campaign has drifted into the kind of statistical sequence that’s destined not to be quoted at umpteen managerial press conferences something has struck me. And that is how incredibly difficult it is to be a football manager.
As I understand it, from what I have heard over the last few weeks from people who know much more about football than me, this is the collection of conundrums that faces today’s managers.
The point of the game is to qualify for the Champions League.
If you finish too high in the table, it is difficult to do well because of the pressure of too many games.
If you finish too low in the table it is difficult to do well because you aren’t playing enough games.
You need to finish in the top 4 because that qualifies you for the Champions League.
Qualifying for the Champions League can make it difficult to qualify for the Champions League again, so it is best to qualify for the Champions League but then try to get knocked out as quickly as possible.
If you don’t get knocked out of the Champions League as quickly as possible it can be a real problem because you have to play so many games it makes it difficult to qualify for the Champions League.
So the best way to ensure you conserve the energy to qualify for the Champions League is to ensure you don’t qualify for the Champions League.
However, to qualify for the Champions League you need top players. And top players won’t come if you are not in the Champions League.
If you are in the Champions League it is hard to get top players because they want top money because you are in the Champions League.
Top players also want to know that you have ambitions to be in the Champions League in future. And as we have seen, this ambition can be difficult to achieve if you stay in the Champions League too long.
So the way to get top players is to aim to qualify for the Champions League every season but get knocked out early.
It is important to know when to give up. Getting knocked out very early is better than getting knocked out a bit later but not very late. This is because getting knocked out early means you avoid the Europa League.
Qualifying for the Europa League is very bad, because it means you will almost certainly not be able to qualify for the Champions League. And Champions League qualification is very important, even though it almost certainly means you won’t qualify again because there are so many games and will have to pay more money for the players who wouldn’t come anyway if you weren’t in it.
I hope you’re still following me here.
For similar reasons it is also necessary not to try to do too well in the Premiership because unless you can guarantee doing very well there is a danger you might do quite well but not well enough, and this is worse than doing not very well because doing quite well but not very well means you will get in the Europa League which increases your chances of not doing very well at all.
Not doing very well at all is really bad.
Because it means you don’t qualify for the Champions League.