5 European clubs that are being revived by their new managers
A good manager can often be the difference between a successful team and a not so successful one. Of late, there have some great teams that have stagnated due to poor management and/or instability caused by a change in management. It has cast a great shadow over some of the more fanciful teams from the past. Among those teams, there have been few, a lucky few, that have seen a renaissance. A change that has helped them come out of their rut. These teams have been lucky enough to get managers of great capability at the helm. Here are 5 teams that have succeeded in pulling themselves out of the dark with the help of their new managers:
#1 Nuno Esprito Santo - Valencia
When Nuno was hired, he was seen as the pawn of new owner, Peter Lim. The fans didn't like him and he wasn't helped by the fact that he was replacing a fan favorite in Juan Antonio Pizzi. A few months from then, and he seems to have successfully overcome the obstacles posed by the fans. He's their new favorite. Valencia's son, Nuno.
Nuno has brought renewed optimism to a team that was struggling to recover its identity just last season. Under his stewardship, the team has risen from mid-table obscurity, and planted itself firmly in the company of the Champions League contenders.
The upturn in fortunes cannot be attested to a form blimp, such has been his impact. There is a marked change in the team. The football is no longer a passage of motions, it has an identity. It is attacking and relentless, a welcome change from the tiki-taka everyone else in La Liga is trying to replicate. It is exhilarating to watch, even as a neutral. The Mestalla has reclaimed its voice and volume. It has, again, become a daunting place to visit. Their only loss, so far, this season has come away from home to Deportivo.
Under Nuno, this team doesn't look like a team that finished 8th last season. Their approach to the game does nothing to suggest it. They currently sit third in the table, one point above champions - Atletico, and one point below Barcelona. Their revival under Nuno, has been great to watch so far, but it is nothing close to complete if the manager's words are to be believed. On the evidence of their displays so far, I believe him.
#2 Marcelo Bielsa - Marseille
Perhaps the most eccentric coach around, Marcelo Bielsa, or El Loco as he is known to some, has produced quite a stern kick to the backside of French football since he's been there.
Marseille, before Bielsa's appointment, were in a hapless state. PSG were walking the league and there was not much Marseille could do about it. Competitive club football had fallen into a deep slumber after watching Qatar pour money into PSG and Monaco just happened to get a Russian owner. The other teams just didn't know how to respond.
It has been the French league's culture that teams are expected to be technically proficient. Teams build from the back and prefer taking a safe approach. Risk is not rewarded, or so they believed. And then came Bielsa.
Since his takeover as the manager, Marseille have amassed 28 points from 13 games. The difference from last season? They are proactively attacking. Marseille, under Bielsa, have learned to press high up the field and attack with pace. Players who struggled to perform in the past, are suddenly making themselves known, such has been his effect on the team.
Marseille currently sit first in the table. They have scored the highest number of goals in the league and are on course to win the league, and if not win, should provide a very tough fight. That is the sort of impact Bielsa has made.
#3 Andre Villas Boas - Zenit St. Petersburg
Andre Villas Boas has done well since enduring a torrid time in England. His career seemed to have gone horribly awry after his departure from Tottenham Hotspur, but he seems to have landed on his feet.
Taking over a team that was dysfunctional and volatile, he has shown that he's learned from his past mistakes. He's got all his players on the same page, something he failed to do during his time in England. He has united a team that had lost its way under previous manager Luciano Spalletti.
The playing style has also been upgraded. Zenit are more attacking than before. It can be seen from the surfeit of goals that have scored this season. In 13 games, so far, they've managed to score an impressive 35 goals. They currently sit 7 points clear in the table and barring any unforeseen circumstances, they should be winning the league at a canter.
They've shown to be competitive on the Champions League front too and may yet qualify from a tough group containing the likes of Leverkusen, Benfica and Monaco.
#4 Max Allegri - Juventus
Some may not consider this a renaissance, but it was an overwhelming feeling in Italy that Juventus would collapse without Conte. The stage was set for this collapse to take place, with Conte leaving the Old Lady on the eve of the new season. At that point, Juventus had a mighty task at hand in choosing his successor.
Allegri, when he was hired by Juventus, didn't have the same profile as he first did when he joined Milan. Hiring him was considered to be a reckless decision. 11 games into the season, and he's making people eat their words.
Juventus have progressed from last season as if nothing happened during the summer break. In this lies Allegri's genius. It is very hard to carry a team through massive change and he's done well to do it. The Old Lady, as with past seasons, sit atop the serie A table, and are on course for another title winning campaign. Allegri has successfully navigated them through the most turbulent of times.
#5 Ronald Koeman - Southampton
There is not a single team in Europe that has enjoyed the kind of success Ronald Koeman has brought to Southampton in such a short time this season. There aren't enough positive epithets to ascribe to Koeman and his amazing accomplishment with the Saints this season.
When Koeman took over, half the team's players had been sold to Liverpool and the other half were fighting for a move away. The new recruits didn't have any Premier League experience to speak of, not one of them. Most pundits had predicted a relegation battle for them.
It is impressive how Koeman managed to convince his old players to stay and fight for the cause, while also integrating and helping the new players adapt, who have now become integral to the team. He's done this, all while propagating an expansive style of football the Duttch way, which has so far managed to dazzle the Premier League.
It has been truly amazing and there is nothing negative that can be said about his influence over Southampton so far. The attack is good, the defense is good and the players are happy. It is as good as things can get.
Southampton are currently second in the Premier League, with 25 points from eleven games, as they are just 4 points behind leaders Chelsea.