What Does It Take to be a Winning Football Team?

What does it take to be a winning football team? You probably say the star or the amount of talent on the team. Well, I used to think like that too. When I think a great football team, I think Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus. I also pictured all the flourish tricks and showboating skills that Ronaldo and Messi displayed. I call that kinda thing the front stage. The one you see on the pitch when a match is going on.

I have been a football enthusiast for quite some time. From what I see, the front stage is not the most important things in football. While it’s not the most important things, it’s commercially engaging. Things such as the attractive play style, the transfer rumors, and all the drama stuff always bring out extra spotlights. So if we always think that the front stage is the most important aspect, is very normal. Because that’s what you see every so often.

In my opinion, the most important one is the backstage. The backstage is the intangibles stuff that you can’t see when a match is happening. It’s all the component of the coaching staff, the non-coaching staff, even something very basic like the admin work.

Primarily, you can have 11 players that have amazing and mesmerizing tricks, nutmegs, and showboating skills. But that doesn’t mean that that team will work and will win trophies. Because the most crucial component in football is teamwork.

I used to think that the correlation between performance and the level of talent in a team is linear, just like this:

So the more stacked the team with talent, the more chance the team will win. Multiple studies proved that the correlation between performance and talent is almost shaped like an inverted-u instead of linear.

Which mean at some point, having more talent could damaging the performance of the team. The premise is that a star tends to be more individual, independent, and not prioritized team performance. This is because they usually aim for an award or a record that makes them a little egotistical. Such as taking a very long shot and hoping that it will results in a screamer rather than pass the ball to the teammate.

When there is more star in the squad, the squad is less interdependent. Interdependence is the mutual dependence that is beneficial to everybody. In the book “the 7 habits of highly effective people”, interdependence is the pinnacle.

When it comes to interdependence in the world of football, there are 2 main parties that are highly influential. The players (front stage) that we already talked previously about, and the less glamorous component which is the coaching staff (backstage). The coaching staff is usually led by a head coach and an assistant manager. If the coaching staff cant manages the egos and the independency of the stars, then the squad harmony could be catastrophic.

The perfect example for this will be Unai Emery. His coaching career started at 2006 when he managed a 2nd Spanish division team. The highlight of his career was the 3 back to back win of EUROPA league with Sevilla and awarded the European coach of the season in 2013. So tactical and hard skill wise, he is undoubtedly good at his job.

For 2016-2017 season, he made an astounding career jump to Paris Saint-Germain. PSG is a mega club with 765 million market value. Which means that the club consists of many star players. What makes this a problem is that Unai Emery didn’t use to manage many star players at a time. His last 3 teams he managed have roughly about 100 – 300 million market value. So that makes more than a 200% increase of market value.

He was so disappointing. He managed to give away 4 years consecutive title win that the previous coach has brought to AS Monaco (PSG rival). Only after spending about £214,20 MILLION, he able to win again the league title. This inability to manage the ego also resulting in team spat and other unnecessary and unprofessional attitude. The most popular one is between Cavani and Neymar. They fought for the penalty kick spot because there was simply no defined rule about it made by Unai Emery. But there has been countless rumors and news about other spat.

To lay my previous argument, I would like to point out that having a team with a plethora of talent doesn’t mean anything if there is a lack of coordination by its leader.


7amkickoff. (2018, June 12). Retrieved from https://news.arseblog.com/2018/05/unai-emery-by-the-numbers/

Coaching staff. (2018, July 17). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaching_staff

European Coach of the Season (association football). (2018, July 21). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Coach_of_the_Season_(association_football)

Interdependence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/interdependence

J. (2012, December 09). Covey 7 Habits – Interdependence Quotes. Retrieved from http://challengingcoaching.co.uk/stephen-covey-interdependence-the-deeper-facts/

Ligue 1 – Champions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.worldfootball.net/winner/fra-ligue-1/

Paris Saint-Germain – All transfers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/fc-paris-saint-germain/alletransfers/verein/583

Stead, M. (2018, May 22). Unai Emery: Statistics to worry and encourage Arsenal. Retrieved from https://www.football365.com/news/unai-emery-statistics-to-worry-and-encourage-arsenal

Swaab, R. I., Schaerer, M., Anicich, E. M., Ronay, R., & Galinsky, A. D. (2014, 06). The Too-Much-Talent Effect: Team Interdependence Determines When More Talent Is Too Much or Not Enough. Psychological Science, 25(8), 1581-1591. doi:10.1177/0956797614537280

Unai Emery – History. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/unai-emery/stationen/trainer/5075

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s