Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager to have ever managed, had one all-encompassing rule that he followed no matter the circumstance: “Stay the course.” No matter who is questioning, no matter who disagrees, no matter who has a ‘better idea’, stay the course. How can you expect players to be consistent when you, as a manager, can’t set a base of consistency for them to work with?
If there is one thing Patrick Vieira has not been doing this year, it is staying the course. Thus far into the year, Vieira has never sent out the same starting XI in back to back weeks. He has used three separate formations (rather nontraditional ones at that) in New York City FC’s five games. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the only formation that he has won with is a traditional 4-3-3.
To a certain extent, you have to cut him a break, because he is a new manager that wants to figure out what works, and that is perfectly fine. But at the same time, what are the players thinking? Every matchday they come out with a new formation and new ideologies. It’s like a new start each week.
There were enough moving parts in New York City already. Last year was plagued by moving parts. The late arrival of Andrea Pirlo, the peekaboo appearances of Frank Lampard. The star power that comes with such enigmacity creates a whirlwind of question marks.
I’m sure the last thing that NYCFC wanted this year was more question marks and more instability, but so far into the season, that is what they have been dealing with. The season began with a shoot-out win, which looked to be the go-to strategy, with Vieira running out three defenders 60% of the time. But since then, the goals haven’t been falling.
Players are being shifted all over the pitch. Just look at Mix Diskerud. If one guy needed positional consistency, it was Mix. But he has played in three different positions in five games. Hard to get your bearings right when you’re looking at a new angle every other game.
Then there is the matter of Vieira’s unwavering strictness. Kwadwo Poku’s continued exclusion has already been covered (see here) so I won’t delve into it again, but this past week, Vieira suspended Khiry Shelton and Mikey Lopez for a video posted on social media where the two dismissed their opponent as little more than hogwash.
Vieira felt very strongly that such disrespect should not be tolerated and that is perfectly fine, it’s his team. But Khiry Shelton was a major figure in the shootout win in Chicago and it was clear that New York City could have used a more incisive attacker in the middle of the attack than Patrick Mullins (David Villa was questionably shifted wide left).
Again, this is Vieira’s maiden voyage as a manager, so he deserves a grace period. But he really needs to be careful. In the modern era, there is no grace period for managers. Granted, his friendly relations with everything Manchester City will help him. He still needs to get back to basics a bit and ‘stay the course’. This team has an immense amount of talent. He doesn’t have to tweak it to excess in the hopes of putting his own stamp on an already capable team.
Just let them go out there and do their thing.