The EPL, Football in General, Must Take a Leaf from the NFL’s Book


Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has responded to reports Arsenal are considering bringing in defensive specialist coaches by producing his ideas towards a change in the way professional football is coached.

Wenger denied the club is looking to make a change within their staff but Redknapp believes it would be a good idea.

"“Arsene is entitled to his own opinion but I think it won’t be long before we go down the American football route and have specialized coaches for every position in the team.“I played out in America and got hooked on the NFL while there. They are years ahead of us in terms of coaching. They have quarterback coaches, wide receiver coaches, a coach for almost every conceivable aspect of the game.I see nothing wrong with it. It will only improve the players and, as a result, improve the end product which is designed to entertain the fans.Sometimes you have a group of about 20 players and you end up trying to do something that caters for them all and you come away afterwards and wonder what you have actually achieved,” he noted. “What we must do is reassess what we mean by ‘coaching’.I’m all for drilling the lads for what they will be required to do every Saturday. If my chairman rings me today and says ‘Harry, we want to bring in some more specialized coaches for you’ I’d be delighted. After all, we have expert dieticians, expert medics and expert fitness guys. Why not expert trainers to get the best out of your players?”"

I am a big NFL fan so I think I am more qualified to discuss his ideas than most football writers and commentators, and I think Redknapp is bang on the money.

He has even understated the levels of coaching that are present in the NFL. The Americans employ specific head coaches for each individual position, often having assistant coaches for each of these positions (there are around 20 positions on any one NFL team) and many other different coordinators, video staff, fitness and health specialists, and much more. There are 53 players in one NFL roster, and its probably fair to say there are nearly the same amount of staff.

Given the codes are hugely different and not at all relatable, especially considering the NFL is such a broken down game that requires a much more intricate technical approach. But it is obvious the coaching philosophies of the Americans can definitely improve the coaching of football, especially within England.

The NFL has three main coaches that control the several positional and technical coaches that makeup the broader staff of each team. These three main coaches are the Offensive Coordinator (offensive mastermind who controls the majority of the play calling for the offense), the Defensive Coordinator (defensive mastermind who controls the majority of the play calling for the defense) and the Head Coach (the boss and the man that makes the final decisions, influences everyone below him and determines the real identity of the team). This coaching system I believe is hugely influential and much more effective than having one man in charge of the entirety of a team’s processing.

In the NFL, offensive and defensive coordinators are amongst the most respected members of the entirety of the game as they provide the character, the personality and the intensity of their respective operations. It takes a lot of pressure off the head coach, allows specialists to control their areas of the game and gives their players are more definitive role within the team.

Football is majorly run by the manager who is the architect of the entire team, on both sides of the ball. Whilst there are certainly other assisting coaches, they do not have the influence that the aiding NFL coaches have, and it is disadvantaging the final product of football.

There is no real need for the change in football coaching philosophy. The game has survived for hundreds of years under the ideals it is built around now and the greatest teams and managers have done just fine with one controlling figure. However as the game changes, the need grows. Arsenal is the greatest example of this.

The makeup of the squad largely defines the spine of the team, as it did Arsenal in the late 90s, early 00s. Players like Keown, Adams and Vieira were the backbone of the defense of Arsenal that saw them become the most feared team in England whilst players like Wright, Henry and Bergkamp gave them their offensive identity. Obviously these players have moved on and the team is much different to what it once was and they are struggling to find a strong identity. Wenger has never needed a strong defensive philosophy because of the talent he had within the squad. The defense took care of itself. He does not have that luxury anymore and is desperately in need of a change in his defensive ideology.

A defensive coach could come in, identify how the defense should be set up (high line, deep line, cover, etc), the pressure they play down the pitch, aggression towards ball player, the movement of each defender, their respective zones, man marking and even players the club could pursue in the transfer window to more suit his style of defending. This would ensure the defenders are certain of their defensive roles within the team and vastly improve the confidence they have within their and their teammates abilities to protect their goal.

There is no doubt the coaching styles of the NFL could be effectively applied to that of football, particularly English football, and could really help improve the quality of the game. As I said before there is no desperate need for this change to occur rapidly or intricately, given the game has been fine with it’s current approach throughout the duration of it’s life, but there are certain cases in certain teams that certainly warrant consideration of a coaching revolution that draws parallels to America’s NFL.