Clement Defends His Negative Tactics After Swansea Sacking
Swansea City former manager Paul Clement has given his first proper interview following his sacking from the club.
He hit back at his critics, and defended his record this season as he had to deal with a number of factors that made life difficult in his second season at the Liberty Stadium.
An imbalanced squad, losing his two best players in the Summer, and the big loan signing of Renato Sanches proving to be a big flop being some of those that he said led to the constant run of defeats that eventually cost him his job.
Clement was constantly criticised this season for his negative tactics, and rightly so in my opinion. In response, he said:
"I have a really clear idea of how I`d like to play, and then you hear criticism that 'the tactics are negative`. Well, OK, I was dealing with the players I have. They talk about 'the Swansea way`, possession-based football. OK, then you open up and — whoosh — you get cut through by the big teams."
Carlos Carvalhal has come in and shown how to get the balance right. He's only had to make some minor adjustments but it's worked wonders so far. The dynamic is different, and while we are defending for long periods in games with a 3-5-2 system, we're also more effective on the counter-attack, meaning we can score more goals and pick up more points.
Talking about the loaning signing of Renato Sanches, Clement explained how the signing came about, but how he got into a 'vicious cycle' by making the wrong decisions during games. It also had an effect on the rest of the team, with other players questioning why they weren't in the team, while an severely under-performing Renato Sanches was.
"I thought that was a massive coup for us, to attract a player of that level after what he`d done a summer earlier in the Euros [with Portugal],"
"I knew it would take some time. I was with him the first six months at Bayern [as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti], and he hadn`t played regularly. His physical condition was down. His confidence was down. When I called Bayern, [the chief executive Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge initially said to me, 'There are ten other clubs in,` and I left it.
"It was only a couple of weeks later when I spoke to Carlo and asked, 'Have you got any players for me?` Tongue in cheek really, and he went, 'Renato Sanches.` Bayern really supported it. They thought he was going to a club who played football, and to a coach who would care and give him the attention he needs.
"He wasn`t so keen initially. He thought he was going to go to Man United, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain. Bayern were saying, 'You`re not going there, it would be the same situation, you`re not going to play.` When he came, he was far more damaged than I thought. It was really sad. He was a boy who had almost got the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"In training, when that pressure is not there, he was the best player. He could do things no one else could do. He`s got power, can go past people, got a shot on him. But then in games, I looked at the choices he was making, shooting from 45 yards on the angle, and he kept making those mistakes.
"He had a desire to please and a desire to prove everybody wrong. He got in a vicious cycle of poor choices. The other players were saying, 'He`s playing like that and you`re not picking me,` so it became difficult to pick him."
Talking about the Summer transfer window, Clement spoke about the squad's imbalance, and failure to replace Sigurdsson and Llorente, who were sold for a collective £57m.
"I felt the fans` nervousness. At the time the results weren`t going well, they were more angry with the ownership, the chairman, the recruitment and the Gylfi Sigurdsson/Fernando Llorente situation. We lost two players who created and scored goals, and we replaced them with someone [Wilfried Bony] who had not played football for the last two years and who was going to be a big gamble. There were mistakes made, for sure."
"It was a big frustration,"
"It went on too long. I understand from the owners` point of view they want to maximise revenue because he`s an asset, but at the same time you are eating away at time and potential targets are slipping through your fingers. From my point of view, that was a mistake.
"I`d be lying if I said I had a player forced upon me at any point. But at the same time there was one player that I really wanted [Nacer Chadli of West Bromwich Albion], and we didn`t get it over the line, and if we`d got him it would have made everything so much better.
"We ended up with the squad that was not balanced. Take the left back position. We sold [Stephen] Kingsley to Hull to get [Sam] Clucas, and ended up with one left back [Martin Olsson] and then he gets injured. For me that`s not a sensible way of planning your job strategically."
Swansea signed three central midfield players— Clucas, Roque Mesa and Renato Sanches — in the summer when they were well-stocked there. "So you have eight midfielders, three spots and a management headache."
However, back in September 2017, Clement was quoted saying that he preferred this season's squad, compared to last season's.
"I`m very happy with the way that the squad has shaped up,"
"Clearly you are disappointed when you lose some key players, and in Sigurdsson, Llorente and (Jack) Cork three very good players left the club.
"I can`t lie and say we haven`t lost some good players. We have.
"But the ins that we got are very good and I am pleased with the size of the squad.
"We brought the numbers down and it`s far more manageable. I would go for this squad now - 100 per cent."
Clement compared Carvalhal's start at Swans to his own, as he saw an immediate improvement of results when he first arrived, but he was quick to ensure us that the problem wasn't himself - that he wasn't the reason for a long, poor run of results.
Personally, I'd say it was a big, contributing factor. The negativity that he set in had to be a key factor. He was very negative, both with his tactics and in his press conferences. It was becoming clear that he had no way of getting the team out of it, and it was frustrating that the Swans were late to sack him. It should have happened in November, but we let the situation drag on before finally replacing with Carvalhal in the New Year.
"I was under no illusions; the reason I got the sack was because the results weren`t good enough. One win in ten, bottom of the table. But the atmosphere around the training ground was good, my relationship with the players was good.
"It`s interesting what`s happening now with [Carlos] Carvalhal [Clement`s successor] because it`s almost a carbon copy of what happened when I went in one year ago. I got that new manager bounce. I went four wins out of six, and he`s three out of five, almost identical. He`ll probably get manager of the month. I got manager of the month for January."
"Because they beat Arsenal and Liverpool [under Carvalhal], the perception is straightaway, 'Oh maybe it wasn`t a problem with the players, the problem was me.` Perception is unbelievable, how it can be shaped in people`s minds without knowing really the details behind everything." Like recruitment.
"The chairman [Huw Jenkins] is very passionate about the club,"
"His idea of selling the club [controlling interest to the Americans Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien] was to get other people to take it on with further investment. Maybe that`s not happened at the level everyone thought.
"The Swansea model is interesting. They got a lot of success and admirers for the football they played, and the way they did their business. But people catch you up. Other clubs are investing in a really high level now. Swansea`s investment is clear over the past five or six years — it is the lowest [in the league]. They have even got a [positive] net spend [this season], which is incredible for the Premier League, compared to other clubs. Other people are investing. Other people are doing really good stuff behind the scenes. You can`t stand still.
Some interesting comments from Paul Clement, but much like his approach in football, it's very defensive. Covering his own back and telling how difficult is it to be manager, particularly in the Premier League.
He says he'd like to work again in the Premier League, but surely he needs to change his approach to be a success in this division? It seemed that his mentality this season was that due to the limits of the team, he had to simply set them up to defend, with the blind hope of possibly getting a goal. But in reality, the negative setup would result in us going a goal down, without the platform available to get back into games.
It worked for Clement last season. We had a simple tactic of using Sigurdsson's set pieces and using Llorente's aerial ability to win games. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to rely too much on a plan b, as we didn't have one during a spell when Llorente was sidelined.
What did you make of Clement's comments and his managerial spell at Swansea City? Can he make it again at Premier League level?