Why Bob Bradley At Villa Makes Sense

Bob Bradley has no Premiership or European managerial experience. He has never operated in the European transfer window. And his club coaching experience in MLS is hard to compare to the Premier League. Despite all of that, he makes a ton of sense for Villa.

There are a few atmospheric things working in his favor that have little to do with him.

First, he is easily gettable and comes cheap. He would jump at the job.

Second, the chairman would not have a manager that would pressure him into bankruptcy and would be able to control the finances by selling players they need to sell.

Third, he and US soccer is hot post World Cup. While Bradley has little experience in the European transfer market, there are very few people in soccer that have a better knowledge of the American talent pool. After the World Cup, this is now seen as a plus.

Fourth, the fan reaction has been more positive than I would have expected. Some say no way, the more delusional want Hiddink, but most sensible fans seem somewhat open to the idea. In Vital Villa poll on the next manager, Bradley is currently third with 12%, behind Hiddink 36% and Martin Jol 19%. That’s not a ringing endorsement, but since the other two aren’t really plausible that’s not too shabby.

Fifth, Villa are not in real danger of implosion. With O’Neill gone, Villa’s ambitions to challenge the top four are likely gone as well. Yet Villa also have the talent to avoid the drop should Bradley prove a disaster. This is what made Bradley a bit more of a risk at Fulham. The Cottagers are not as deep as Villa and a string of defeats and muddled performances under a new inexperienced manager and it is quite plausible that Fulham wouldn’t have the talent to lift itself out of the relegation battle. Yet Villa like Spurs a few years ago, have the talent to recover from a disasterous start. So in the event that Bob Bradley is a total failure – ie Villa get 2 points from their first 8 games as Spurs did under Juande Ramos – a change can be made to bring in a more veteran Premier League manager.

Yet, none of these make up for the fact that he still has no Premier League or European experience and that makes hiring him a real leap of faith. But a closer look at what Bradley’s attributes I think mitigates his lack of experience and makes him a safer bet than people realize and mitigates this a fair amount.

He is a motivator who controls the locker room. The come from behind spirit of the US, not just in the World Cup but throughout qualification, is a very good reflection on Bradley. When punched in the gut, Bradley’s teams responded. Additionally, there was little locker room drama or conflict throughout the entire World Cup cycle. A Premier League dressing room is a hell of a lot different than a more humble US locker room. At the very least he will get Villa motivated to play.

Brad Friedel can also help. At the very least, Bradley should have a huge ally in the locker room in the veteran American goal keeper.

He is a system guy. Robbie Findley made the US national team because Bradley had it in his mind that he needed a pacey striker alongside a target man in the 4-4-2. Nevermind that almost every game this failed and he had to abandon it for a different system and that Findley shouldn’t have been in South Africa. At the club level, teams can be shaped to fit the system and Villa are well suited to play the type of 4-4-2 that Bradley prefers. Also having a distinct system of play gives club teams a degree of continuity that can be important throughout the season.

He knows how to build a squad and bring along talent. In my eyes, Bradley’s greatest accomplishment was how well he brought along new talent and rebuilt a US squad that had lost its core after the 06 World Cup. By the time the World Cup came around, very young players Altidore, Bradley, Feilhaber, seemed like veterans. This is such an incredibly underrated aspect of Premier League management. The simple fact is that if you develop young players, you don’t have to buy them. Teams like Tottenham are incredibly lousy at this, while Arsenal are far and away the masters.

He is not a sentimentalist, well not much of one. In his squad selection for the World Cup, Bradley ruthlessly and rightly squashed Charlie Davies World Cup dreams and also dropped the lumbering Brian Ching who had anchored the frontline through much of the cycle. While his faith in Jonathan Bornstein raises some questions of his sanity, overall Bradley has made quiet a few tough decisive calls. He dropped Pablo Mastroeni after his horrendous game against Costa Rica in qualifying and cast Frankie Hejduk out to pasture. He also didn’t wait to pull Ricardo Clark in the first half against Ghana. In other words, he will make the tough calls.

He can rely on Villa staff, creating continuity. If Bradley were brought on, I would expect very little would change in Villa’s coaching staff. Frankly, Bradley likely doesn’t have the contacts to fill a new staff and he could lean on them through the first few weeks of the coaching staff. This should ease the transition and create continuity, as well as lend Bradley advice on the transfer market. Yet the anonymity of Bradley’s assistants for the national team, suggests that he will also firmly be the “decider.”

He can likely bring in some good American players (ie his son). Michael Bradley is made for the Premiership and I am frankly shocked at the lack of transfer activity surrounding him. He doesn’t have James Milner’s craft, but he has an engine and would be a solid replacement. Beyond that, I could see Bradley going for Benny Feilhaber as a versatile number 10 option in this transfer market, as well as perhaps a loan offer for Jozy. I doubt all of that would happen, but the basic fact is that there are a number of American players that are still undervalued in the Premier League market.

He is no drama. He is stoic to an extreme. He reveals little and his caution with the media makes him a bore to cover. After O’Neill’s volatility and the drama surrounding his exit, that is a real plus.


6 Responses

  1. I agree that Bob could get the job done in the Premiership. And I just want to see Skeletor glowering at gits in the gloaming, or something.

  2. […] to manage in Europe, which would be another first, something Bradley I suppose is getting used to. All considered, the move makes sense. But so does asking him to stay. No doubt, Bruce Arena proves a second cycle can end in failure. Yet […]

  3. […] Bob Bradley hate. I have defended him throughout the last World Cup cycle and think he would have done a good job at Aston Villa. Keeping Bob Bradley is no disaster and was likely the right decision for US soccer after US soccer […]

  4. […] Bob Bradley hate. I have defended him throughout the last World Cup cycle and think he would have done a good job at Aston Villa. Keeping Bob Bradley is no disaster and was likely the right decision for US soccer after US soccer […]

  5. […] Bob Bradley hate. I have defended him throughout the last World Cup cycle and think he would have done a good job at Aston Villa. Keeping Bob Bradley is no disaster and was likely the right decision for US soccer after US soccer […]

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