For a considerable amount of time now, I have been mulling over a potentially controversial issue and as of yet, I have no concrete answer. It's the "Ronaldo or Messi?" kind of debate in the sense that I anticipate a lot of differing opinions with credible justifications.
The question, then, is this: Do managers actually influence results?
In my opinion, no, they don't. Or at least not very much.
I believe that a manager can impose his way of play onto a side, and the given side will try to adopt the method and play differently as a result of managerial influence (Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool now building from the goalkeeper, for example). I also realise that transfers made by management are hugely influential and also affect results (X, Y and Z to Manchester City, for example).
However, on the pitch, I do not think managers change much at all.
Once playing, players are charged by adrenalin and the "heat of the moment." They do not make most of their runs thinking "my manager said make the run here." Football is unpredictable, and players have to adapt to a different situation with every play in the game.
The players are those who are on the pitch, and therefore, the majority of the important decisions made on the pitch are theirs and theirs alone. The manager, whoever it may be, simply can't influence every player at once.
Some fans seem to think that every performance is down to the manager and the manager alone, and that their opinion on the manager changes whenever their respective side wins, loses or draws. As a Liverpool fan, this is increasingly prevalent as our results seem to have developed a bipolar-esque nature. I struggle to see their logic, which is why this example is directed primarily at the aforementioned kind of people.
Take this example (I will take Liverpool as I am most familiar with them):
Situation A: Liverpool trail to QPR 1-0 at halftime. Gerrard has been playing well, but lacks the dynamic play Brendan Rodgers thinks is required to win the game. He takes Gerrard off and replaces him with Joe Cole. The game changes, Cole scores twice and Liverpool win 2-1.
Situation B: Exactly the same scenario, Cole comes on to try and turn the game around. Cole hits the same two shots that he scores with in Scenario A, but both hit row Z and Liverpool lose 1-0.
I think it's fair to say that if Scenario A happened, the majority of people would praise Brendan Rodgers immensely and some would even go as far as to call him a genius, or something along those lines. However, if Scenario B was to occur, Rodgers is losing the plot.
The difference? Joe Cole's technique.
In the given case, Joe Cole's shooting ability holds the trigger of the gun aimed at Rodgers' head. Not Rodgers.
The example is purely fictional in this case, but there are numerous examples of the same kind of situation. Chelsea's Champions League final victory, for example.
Didier Drogba's late, late header put Chelsea into extra-time and eventually penalties, where they won the game. If Drogba's header hit the bar or was saved, Chelsea lose the Champions League final, and all of a sudden, Di Matteo doesn't look so wonderful to the Chelsea fans.
Again, Di Matteo's reputation is determined by the split-second technique of Didier Drogba.
Footballers are only human and that is why performance levels can vary, week-in, week-out. The manager can't determine who's going to have a good game and who's going to be a liability, it's just impossible.
Yet it's the managers who claim the majority of the credit when the players deliver, and the majority of the stick when the players are poor.
Some claim Barcelona's ex-manager Guardiola to be an absolutely fantastic manager. Though I think he was effective, I doubt it was that challenging to win games with a side containing Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas and players like Alexis Sanchez on the bench.
He didn't have to do much as his players were gifted enough to know what to do without his input, yet he is still proclaimed as one of the world's top managers. I don't understand this claim.
I personally believe that managers can influence a given club behind the scenes, but on the pitch, his contributions are limited as football games are decided by split-second reflexes and an awful lot of circumstance.
Feel free to disagree, and thanks for reading.