How PL managers are adapting with technology in light of Covid-19

For once technology doesn’t mean VAR! From Zoom calls to making sure players are doing their homework… how Premier League managers are adapting to the enforced coronavirus break by keeping tabs on their squads

  • The Premier League is currently on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Managers are having to adapt with the use of technology to communicate
  • The likes of Zoom, WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams are methods used by bosses
  • Doing so enables them to make sure players are doing their tailored programmes
  • Aside from football, the likes of Eddie Howe have been raising money for charity 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

From Sean Dyche taking a crash course in Microsoft Teams from his teenage son to Mikel Arteta checking online his Arsenal players have done their homework, Premier League managers have had to adapt quickly to the new normal.

Usually creatures of habit where their job is largely done in groups at the training ground and on matchdays, working from home aided by the latest technology has been a radical culture shift but one they seem to be embracing.

Assessing scouting reports, maintaining fitness levels, offering psychological support, all of it has to be continued in these most unusual times, particularly as every eventuality has to be catered for. Nobody quite knows if and when the 2019-20 season will resume, and when 2020-21 begins.

Premier League managers are having to adapt at present amid the coronavirus pandemic

Of course, some managers have been more directly impacted by coronavirus than others. Tragically, Pep Guardiola’s mother died in Spain during the current outbreak.

The ages of Premier League managers range from 38 to 72. The chances are most of them would have had to learn the latest technological innovations on the go and even the oldest, Crystal Palace’s Roy Hodgson, wouldn’t have experienced anything like this before.

The youngest of the 20 top-flight bosses, Arteta, has been a major part of the football Covid-19 story. It was the news on March 13 that he’d tested positive for the infection that truly made sport take the virus seriously and no Premier League matches have been played since.

Thankfully fully recovered, Arteta is busy utilising the spare time that is rare to managers at the top level.

In an interview this week with the club’s official website, he revealed he’d been setting individual assignments for every player in his squad – a kind of home schooling for players.

They are expected to analyse videos of their performance and discuss the findings with their boss.

The Premier League stopped once Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta (centre right) caught coronavirus

Now recovered, Arteta says he has been setting individual assignments for his Arsenal players

‘With the technology, we know when a player has downloaded the game, when he has done the homework,’ said Arteta. ‘They have to report everything to me! So they cannot escape. And to be fair, they’ve been really good.’

Arteta was only appointed this season so it’s a way of fast-tracking his philosophy onto the team, giving the players responsibility to find solutions for when football returns.

‘They have to tell what they did wrong or right and why this scenario happened and if they could have avoided that before it actually happened,’ he explains.

‘A lot of times it’s just about communication, but other times it’s about the positioning, it’s about the body shape, the technique of how they have to defend.’

Like a lot of families, Arteta is spending time with his children in the garden at breakfast and watching kids’ movies in the evenings. But in between, he is keeping regular work hours with regular video meetings with his backroom staff, players and executives.

The likes of Gunners defender David Luiz are also holding regular video meetings with Arteta

The affect on mental health will affect people in many industries but Premier League managers are aware that their players could be particularly fragile given the usual daily amount of physical activity they exert, now denied them.

Besides keeping fit best they can, Arteta tries to keep their minds busy with information and setting tasks. He also stresses: ‘We have our psychologist that is looking after the players and is always in constant communication with them.’

At Burnley, their manager Dyche has decamped 170miles south to the family home in Northamptonshire, where his ability to run first-team affairs has been enhanced by having his son Max, an academy player with Northampton Town, around.

‘One thing I’ve learned in a very short time are the ways of staying in touch with people beyond the obvious, like text messages, WhatsApp and emails.

‘I’ve learned a bit more about Zoom using it for example to talk to the staff. It allows you to speak to more than one person on a call so that you can interact. There’s another one called Microsoft Teams which I use.

Sean Dyche has revealed his son has helped get him up to speed with the latest technology

‘My lad mentioned all this to me because he uses it for his college course. So it ended up with Max helping me get everything linked up. Now with the staff we can talk together about ideas on recruitment, how our players are getting on.

‘I’ve had meetings with the sports science teams, seeing what’s going on behind the scenes, the tasks they have to fulfil because obviously they are on lockdown as well.

‘There is non-stop support lines for the players and the staff. There is dietary advice, psychology support if needed. We’re trying to keep as many bases covered as we can.

‘As far as the players are concerned we’re treating this as a training break but to be ready to go again when the moment arrives. Don’t forget in the summer they have this period when they shut down although it’s not a shut down like it was in past eras, the days when players used to go out drinking for a month and came back a stone overweight. That doesn’t happen any more so they are used to this kind of training break.

‘The only difference is that they are not away in the sunshine in some foreign land and neither are they socialising.’

Dyche is making sure all the Burnley players are not treating the lockdown like a holiday

Dyche isn’t trying to over-complicate things or ply the Burnley players with too much information. But individual training programmes are downloaded to a particular player’s WhatsApp group.

It’s also useful for the managers’ own state of mind to stay in touch with each other and the authorities discussing the next step. Through The FA, managers have had Zoom chats to share opinions on the best way forward, and they are also included in wider video call conversations about issues ranging from wage deferrals to prospective Premier League return dates.

Dyche has also seen an opportunity to engage with Burnley fans that the busy schedule sometimes denies him. He’s done a fans’ Q&A on Facetime and Zoom.

‘Other opinions help you remain stimulated and the realisation that we’re all in this together,’ he says.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who would ordinarily have been celebrating the Premier League title by now, has instead been put in charge of dishwashing duties at home.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp lifted the lid on how he’s filling his time during the lockdown

Klopp revealed he has made scrambled eggs for the first time and is ‘master’ of the dishwasher

Like his peers, Klopp is ‘virtually’ overseeing his players’ training and liaising with staff. Given his reputation as an outstanding man-manager, it’s perhaps no surprise he is also on a good-humoured WhatsApp group with his players.

‘I started with a video about the trophy celebration after the Champions League final with the little phrase ‘Still true’,’ he reveals.

‘I told the boys to send their favourite videos from the last year and there were a few nice ones. The boys sent a lot of their own videos from when they were on the truck (coach) riding through the city.’

For overseas managers, lockdown has helped them gain knowledge and appreciation of the area they are living. Everton’s Carlo Ancelotti, who has sampled some of Europe’s great cities, has enjoyed taking advantage of the seaside near his home north of Liverpool.

‘If I walk, I go to Crosby, to the beach and sometimes I go biking to Formby,’ he told the club’s official website.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has enjoyed getting to know the city of Liverpool in lockdown

‘It is a beautiful area, the beach is really fantastic. It is a long beach, you can keep your distance when you walk. I enjoy this a lot. The weather is good and, honestly, it is beautiful here.’

Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe – the longest-serving manager at a Premier League club – was among the first to accept a wage deferral to help his club, who have the smallest capacity ground in the division at 11,329.

His club halted group training on March 13 and Howe has used his time to improve personal fitness and help the community in the process. He completed a two-hour high intensity work-out challenge – dubbed the ‘Insanity’ session in which participants have to complete as many squats, push-ups and lunges as they can – to help raise £33,000 for local childrens’ hospice, Julia’s House.

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe (centre) completed a two-hour workout challenge for charity

Howe helped raise £33,000 for local childrens’ hospice, Julia’s House as a result of his act 

‘Keeping fit for me has been huge for my own mental well-being,’ said Howe, whose staff have also constructed home fitness sessions for players, involving exercise bikes and weights.

At Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has put strategies in place to ensure nobody returns to training overweight. ‘The players have got individual programmes and they’ve got their own diets of course. This period could be used to work on something special, something specific for them and their roles and tasks,’ he explained.

If you’d told your average Premier League manager at the start of 2019-20, they’d be Zooming their Chief Executive and downloading home training schedules for their players over April, they’d have considered you mad. But technology doesn’t mean VAR any more – at least we should be thankful for that!

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has put plans in to prevent Manchester United squad getting overweight

Paul Pogba is closing in on a return to fitness after playing just eight games so far this season

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