It’s something that’s not on any stat sheet but something many managers point to when they talk about success. Squad harmony is vital; it can inject a side with the belief that they can beat anyone in the world or kill their confidence to the point where punches and insults are thrown.
The perfect example of it working is at Liverpool, currently in control of their own destiny in the Premier League and just four wins from the title. After their victory against Manchester City you could see just how much it meant to Steven Gerrard but what was more spectacular was how many of his teammates said they were doing it for him.
They had a big huddle after the game, their captain keeping them focused but them all celebrating the fact that they now had the best chance they have had in years to lift the Premier League trophy. They all did it for Gerrard, they aren’t just motivated by winning it for themselves but for someone they all feel deserves it and that togetherness shows in their play. They know that on their day with that confidence, they can beat anyone.
On the other side of the coin, not having that squad harmony can cripple that belief and limits how much you give to the cause. Case and point is obvious at a place like West Brom, where after a 3-3 draw in the final seconds certain members of the squad turned on youngster Saido Berahino, who’d lost the ball in the lead-up to Cardiff’s equaliser.
There was plenty of time between then and the goal, so why didn’t anyone else stop what was happening? Isn’t it a little unprofessional to pinpoint the entire blame on a 20-year-old in his first Premier League season? It was and it showed the fractures in the club that has led them to be fighting for their survival this season.
But this kind of team ethic should be an example set by the manager to get the players on each other’s sides and into the fans hearts. Take a look at Wolverhampton Wanderers, a team hit by successive relegations and an over bloated wage structure that was restructured by incoming boss Kenny Jackett.
Not only has he done a great job on the field, he’s changed the club’s culture off of it by shifting the squad to have the right ethos, the need to play for each other but also giving what those loyal fans deserved. It’s something that a manager has to get right, not just a dressing room itself, so that he can sift out any cancers within that team.
However, sometimes the person rubbing everyone up the wrong way can be the manager which was shown during Paolo Di Canio’s reign at Sunderland. The way he dictated the players meant they weren’t enjoying the environment they were in and that’s toxic to a dressing room even if the players have a good relationship.
It’s really disappointing that some cases of a bad feeling within the dressing room leads to something like the incident at Port Vale, which was a real blight on a club that was actually doing well, but it also highlights the very fragile nature of team chemistry. It’s not always easy for everyone to be pulling in the right direction but with the right manager and right characters in place you can improve even a poor team.
When you can’t get that respect from your players as a manager, whether through your conduct or your speeches, it will only be time before you are removed. It’s in part cost David Moyes his job at Manchester United and it’ll cost plenty more managers until the end of time. There are pretty much three key elements to football, defending well, attacking efficiently and a squad that believes in their abilities, many are beginning to see that the third element is the most important of all.