Five key trends in coaching and management 2023

HERE are five of the key trends we've seen in coaching and management in 2023, gleaned from conversations with top practitioners in the UK and beyond on our podcast, articles and events.


There is a poignant clip at the end of the excellent documentary, 'Bobby Robson, More Than a Manager,' in which the legendary former England, Barcelona and Newcastle United boss expresses his biggest regret.

“Are there any times when I don’t like Bobby Robson?” he asks. “I spent maybe too much time at the club when I should have been home a bit earlier. I feel I have been removed from my family and I didn’t give my family the time that most husbands do.”

Southampton's Russell Martin, who we will hear more from in this piece, has taken this lesson into his managerial career.

"Sunday is our one real full day off, so I’ve started leaving my phone in a drawer," Martin told the TGG Podcast. "The most important thing we’ll look back on are connections & relationships. to sacrifice that would be pretty sad.”

This is probably more important than ever in a modern game dominated by data, video and tech, in which people are constantly connected and monitored.

Former Republic of Ireland international Steven Reid, the first-team coach at Nottingham Forest, told TGG: "It's full-on now and we do need to be careful, because when you’re monitored constantly it can suck some of the enjoyment out of it, a bit of the fun of actually going to play football.

"Sometimes it’s about the feel, it’s not about the numbers. We need to go back to a bit more feel than just ticking boxes all the time, because it’s about having fun as well."

Reid actually stepped down from Forest's staff last season (he has now returned) to become a dedicated wellbeing and confidence coach.

He told us: "The main focus will be helping players to develop and achieve and hopefully manage their own thought processes and patterns, but my experiences over the last seven years show me this is an issue in the coaching world too.

"Staff in general are often the ones that are at the forefront of time spent at the training ground and dealing with the pressures elite football can pose. Often it’s the staff and coaches who are struggling.

"They’ve taken on so much responsibility, often the pay isn’t great, often you’re worried about losing your job, the security, your family situation. Often it’s the staff that get overlooked."

Reid and Martin represent a growing awareness of the need for greater balance and a focus on wellbeing among coaches and managers. Often it can be easier said than done.

In the twilight of his career the great Sir Alex Ferguson started to develop passions outside of football, which he said helped him to become a better manager.

“Football management is such a pressurised thing - horse racing is a release," he said. "I’m learning to play the piano as well."


This brings us onto the next of our five key themes - truth tellers. This was the phrase used by Damien Comolli, the Chairman of Toulouse and former Director of Football at Tottenham, on Episode #40 of the TGG Podcast. His own truth teller is Selinay Gurgenc.

“It’s a role I’ve been wanting to create for many many years in the clubs I was working at. What convinced me to do it was an article I read in the Harvard Business Review," the Frenchman explained.

"They were saying that top CEOs nowadays need to be advised by someone who talks into their ear all the time and challenges them and at the same time makes sure that when decisions are made they are being implemented."

Others might describe this person as a mentor.

Manel Estiarte is Head of Player Support and Protocol at Manchester City but is effectively Pep Guardiola's mentor. He has worked with his fellow Catalan throughout his managerial career, at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City.

Estiarte had no previous experience in football, having been a former water polo player and Olympic gold medallist in 1996. Now he’s Guardiola's critical friend; someone who can read his moods and step in with the right words at the right times.

Guardiola has said: "Managers are very, very alone. It is good for me to have him here."

You can have a mentor (or truth teller) at any time in life. Brian Ashton, the former England rugby coach, now 76, still has a mentor in Kevin Roberts, the former World CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi.

Speaking on the TGG Pod, Ashton said: "My mentor is Kevin Roberts and he has a great phrase - fail fast, learn fast, fix fast."


This is a fancy way of saying club playing style - and one that's articulated with data.

Ideally, this playing style will remain in place no matter who the manager or Head Coach is and will run from Academy through to first team.

Mathieu Lacome, the Chief Analytics and Performance officer at Parma in Italy, told us: “It is very important to have a vision for where you want to go as a club, how you want to play. You don’t need to go into very deep tactical concepts, but you need to have a vision for how you want to play.

“Then, when you look at bringing in players and coaches, you need to make sure they are aligned with the system. We have a strong vision of how we want to play and are still working on iterating this."

This is how the most forward-thinking clubs in Europe are operating.

Speaking last July, Comolli told us: "When we hired our current Head Coach (Philippe Montanier) last summer I said, ‘The reason we are appointing you is because the data is telling us that the playing style you have been using over the years matches what we want to achieve.

"'This is what we want to implement as a playing style, so we are going to bring players in who perfectly fit the style we expect you to implement.'"


  1. Hybrid roles
  2. Development
  3. Longer-term thinking
  4. Data and tech
  5. Relationships

When he was Technical Director of AS Monaco, Laurence Stewart (now Co-Sporting Director at Chelsea) outlined how he had gone about recruiting Niko Kovac as Head Coach for the French club.

"When we did profiling of the attributes that his teams showed on the pitch, they fitted very well with how we want the team to play here," Stewart told the TGG Podcast. "He was a natural fit and is doing very well this season.

"If we look at the principles we have referenced in terms of how we want our team to play - to be high tempo, pressing high up the pitch, showing an attitude to counter pressing and being dynamic in how we move the ball - they’re all factors we can build into our coach surveillance as well as our player recruitment."

So clubs are quantifying their game model and recruiting players and Head Coaches who can deliver that.

This might go some way to explaining why Sean Dyche was overlooked for managerial jobs before joining Everton in January. Speaking on the TGG Podcast last Autumn, Dyche admitted that concerns about his style of play could have counted against him.

He said: "You get put in a box. It’s very easy to create and then stick with and roll it out. Burnley: back-to-front football, don’t like foreign players. Do you fight to change it? No, you’re just wasting energy.

"I’m very much more open-minded about what comes next, about playing styles. People forget I came through at Nottingham Forest, who were playing modern football like you’ve never known.

"They presuppose I’ve changed everything for my own way. I haven’t. I’ve looked at the players we’ve got; I’ve looked at the best chance that we can be successful and the best chance that they can be successful."

This was entirely plausible - and we've previously outlined the phenomenal work Dyche did both on and off the pitch at Burnley. However, the problem was clubs did not have evidence that Dyche could play an alternative to this 'back to front' football.

He said he could, but there wasn't data to show he had.

Increasingly, clubs are looking for managers who can deliver a high-possession, high-intensity style of play and Guardiola has undoubtedly played a huge part in changing football tastes in this country. This desire only tends to change when, as in the case of Everton with Dyche, clubs are in a relegation fight.

An opposite example would be Martin. Compared to Dyche, he is a managerial novice, with four full seasons under his belt and finishes of 19th and 13th in League One (with MK Dons in 2019/20 and 2020/21), and 15th and 10th in the Championship (with Swansea City in 2021/22 and 2022/2023).

However, his career has seemed to be on a continual upward trajectory. Much of this is down to the fact he is very clear about his game model, which is one that appeals to many clubs. There is also evidence in data to prove that he can deliver this style.

In July 2021, while still at MK Dons, he told the TGG Podcast: "We have a Plan A because we really believe in it. Plan B suggests doing it completely differently.

"If you watch our team, we tweak it all the time - we change the formation, we change the way we do things in certain games depending on the opposition - but we are passing the ball a lot, we are trying to dominate possession.

"We had the most touches in the opposition box in the league last season, but we didn’t always turn that into good chances and conceded too many early goals, so we worked on that and it stopped happening towards the end of the season.

"It’s a process, but at no point did we say, 'Lads, we’re not good enough to do this.’ Because where do you go from there? We have a real identity and I’m really proud of it. We’ll improve next season again and we’ll do that with Plan A, tweaking it and adapting it and trying to do it really well."

At the end of 2020/21, only Manchester City and Barcelona had higher average possession than MK Dons. The stat that matter most of all will always be points, but style matters too, and probably more than ever.


Former England Rugby Head Coach Eddie Jones (now in charge of Australia) told TGG's The Future Game Webinar: "You've got to own your career. I've always tried to treat myself like a business. If I'm a business, I want to continually add resources."

A key part of any business is marketing. So, as a manager or Head Coach, how are you marketing yourself? How are you getting your message across to fans, staff and potential future employers? How are you letting people know what you're about, in terms of game model, leadership style and beliefs?

Again, Martin has been good at this. When he appeared on the TGG Pod, he spoke about topics ranging from veganism and Buddhism to the importance of making sure players are present when they play.

"I was too intense as a player, which was part of the reason why I got where I did," he said. "But it's also why, in my mid twenties, that I was like, ‘I’m not enjoying this anywhere near enough.’"

An overall theme, which came across loud and clear throughout, was authenticity. "You just try and be yourself," he said. "I’ve got a real strong belief in how I want the game to be played, how I see it, what I enjoy."

Many coaches worry about communicating publicly, fearing how they will be perceived. Some of this is fear of losing control, because your story is being told by a journalist, who will decide which quotes to use and what spin to put on them.

Podcasts and first-person pieces are a good alternative because, by and large, they allow people to tell their our own story in their own words.

Social media should, in theory, give the greatest degree of control of all, because you can be both creator and publisher. Even seasoned managers like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte have taken to Instagram, although their content never really rises above the superficial.

A small minority of top-level managers have Twitter accounts. Michael Beale ran an insightful account for many years, posting coaching tips and messages, but deleted his account in November because of abuse received after leaving QPR.

This is a big downside of social media, as is the feeling of being constantly connected, which is why Martin leaves his phone in a drawer on Sundays.

Reid told us: "There's the pressure of social media. At the beginning of my career you would play the game and that would be it. Now the top players can pick up their phones and it can be a 24-hour cycle of messages and communication.

"You need to be a certain way to be able to deal with that, to deal with some of the abuse and comments they’re getting on a regular basis. You need to be able to switch off from the game, you need something else in your life."


This is one of the biggest trends in the game in recent years - and one coaches and managers need to be cognisant of.

Premier League clubs Arsenal, Brentford, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and West Ham are all part of multi-club groups.

The most famous of all is City Football Group, which has coaching graduates including Ange Postecoglou (Yokohama), Liam Manning (Lommel) and Patrick Vieira (New York City). Being part of CFG, even at a club in an unfashionable league, gives access to elite resources, infrastructure and networks.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the Chairman of Manchester City, has said: “There is no way that a team like Lommel would have a fraction of the access that it has right now to a global network of data, from Melbourne to Montevideo to Italy.”

Mladen Sormaz is Head of Analytics at 777 Partners, having previously held the same position at Leicester City. The group comprises Seville, Genoa, Standard Liege, Red Star FC, Vasco de Game and Melbourne Victory.

Speaking at TGG's Big Data Webinar (below), Sormaz explained that staff within the multi-club model need to think not only about club vision and identity, but group vision and identity too.

"You need consistency across the whole group, so everybody is speaking the same language," Sormaz explained. "You are part of a social and cultural endeavour."

Within this, however, there can still be diverse "situations, game models and recruitment challenges," which necessitates (and develops) flexibility and adaptability.

This can, in turn, lead to accelerated learning and opportunities, as the experiences of a manager like Postecoglou would show.

  • To see 2022's key trends, click HERE. This content was first presented to the Football Association's Pro Licence cohort in Manchester during their graduation week in Manchester in June 2023.

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