Sven v Mark Hughes – Who’s the best?
With Mark Hughes having pipped Sven Goran Eriksson for the post of Fulham manager, most people appear to believe the Cottagers are doing the right thing. Is this the case?
Having watched both try (and fail) to match the expectations at City, the case for Hughes over Sven is more debatable. They’re completely contrasting figures with the elderly urbane european perspective of Sven opposed by the more abrasive Brit manager.
Although both had their failures in the transfer market, Hughes is renowned for the research and planning that goes into making a purchase. This was seen primarily at Blackburn, but was lost at City in the Abu Dhabi whirlwind. Vincent Kompany can be highlighted as the kind of Hughes purchase Fulham will be hoping for.
Initially Sven seemed to wave a magic wand when, arriving shortly before the 2007/08 new season, he embarked on a continental trolley dash to produce a team which got off to a flying start. When the wheels came off, these same purchases became ammunition for the Swede’s critics.
The point most people overlook is the lateness with which Sven arrived that Summer and the overhaul required of the Pearce/Wardle squad. We might have gleaned more insight into Sven’s squad building qualities had he been given more than a single season.
Off the pitch Hughes is credited with overseeing improvements in Carrington and a more rigorous training and fitness regime. Sven was notoriously relaxed in this area, leaving such things to his coaches and the team slumped markedly after Kenny Jackett left to become Millwall manager.
In assessing Hughes’ time at City, Daniel Taylor today focusses on his relationships with players. To summarize, getting the best out of Craig Bellamy is to Hughes’ credit while a failure to connect with the Brazilians counted against him.
The likes of Elano and Martin Petrov were inconsistent under Sven, but Hughes was able to get even less out of them. The player protests following Hughes departure were less than anticipated with everyone falling into Mancini’s well drilled lines.
Where Sven can be said to come out on top is in tactics and organisation. From the very first game, away to West Ham, there was a clear plan in absorbing what the opposition had to offer before hitting them on the counter. Straight out of Serie A, and it worked.
By the end, at Middlesbrough, this was in tatters, as everyone knew he was on the way out. It’s scandalous that no-one on the pitch that day seemed to care, but that’s modern footballers for you.
Hughes’ side were also dangerous on the counter, but in a more full-blooded British way, with players bombing forward. At the back it was another story with the manager never able to get the defence organised. Good players went backwards, notably Dunne and Richards. New signings in Bridge, Toure and Lescott failed to replicate their previous good form.
If Fulham lose the discipline with which Hodgson has imbued them, then they could plunge down the table. The high tempo Brit style football which Hughes demanded also left us with an Everton style injury list. While our large squad could just about cope, Fulham may not have the same resources.
One statistic that’s often overlooked is that after three transfer windows spending fortunes, Hughes’ side had less points when he was sacked in the 2009/10 season than Sven’s did at the same point in 2007/08.
Sven has an excellent reputation on the continent, but it’s his failure to inspire England beyond quarter finals while being handsomely rewarded that rankles with the media in this country. Hughes, who carries press goodwill from his days as a player, offers traditional British virtues.
Whether he’s a better bet for Fulham than the astute Sven with a good coach under him remains to be seen. Forget all the pressure from Abu Dhabi, his achilles heel at City was the defending and he’ll need a return to the solidity of his Blackburn side to succeed at Craven Cottage.
One final question. Just because Fulham have had a good couple of years under Hodgson, are they really a bigger club than West Ham, who Hughes passed on the chance to manage earlier in the Summer? Both have controversial owners, but maybe Al Fayad offers a little more loyalty to his manager and Hughes feels in need of that.
- Who do you rate highest – Sven or Hughes?