Sven v Mark Hughes – Who’s the best?

With Mark Hughes having pipped Sven Goran Eriksson for the post of Fulham manager, most people appear to believe the Cottagers are doing the right thing. Is this the case?

Having watched both try (and fail) to match the expectations at City, the case for Hughes over Sven is more debatable. They’re completely contrasting figures with the elderly urbane european perspective of Sven opposed by the more abrasive Brit manager.

Although both had their failures in the transfer market, Hughes is renowned for the research and planning that goes into making a purchase. This was seen primarily at Blackburn, but was lost at City in the Abu Dhabi whirlwind. Vincent Kompany can be highlighted as the kind of Hughes purchase Fulham will be hoping for.

Initially Sven seemed to wave a magic wand when, arriving shortly before the 2007/08 new season, he embarked on a continental trolley dash to produce a team which got off to a flying start. When the wheels came off, these same purchases became ammunition for the Swede’s critics.

The point most people overlook is the lateness with which Sven arrived that Summer and the overhaul required of the Pearce/Wardle squad. We might have gleaned more insight into Sven’s squad building qualities had he been given more than a single season.

Off the pitch Hughes is credited with overseeing improvements in Carrington and a more rigorous training and fitness regime. Sven was notoriously relaxed in this area, leaving such things to his coaches and the team slumped markedly after Kenny Jackett left to become Millwall manager.

In assessing Hughes’ time at City, Daniel Taylor today focusses on his relationships with players. To summarize, getting the best out of Craig Bellamy is to Hughes’ credit while a failure to connect with the Brazilians counted against him.

The likes of Elano and Martin Petrov were inconsistent under Sven, but Hughes was able to get even less out of them. The player protests following Hughes departure were less than anticipated with everyone falling into Mancini’s well drilled lines.

Where Sven can be said to come out on top is in tactics and organisation. From the very first game, away to West Ham, there was a clear plan in absorbing what the opposition had to offer before hitting them on the counter. Straight out of Serie A, and it worked.

By the end, at Middlesbrough, this was in tatters, as everyone knew he was on the way out. It’s scandalous that no-one on the pitch that day seemed to care, but that’s modern footballers for you.

Hughes’ side were also dangerous on the counter, but in a more full-blooded British way, with players bombing forward. At the back it was another story with the manager never able to get the defence organised. Good players went backwards, notably Dunne and Richards. New signings in Bridge, Toure and Lescott failed to replicate their previous good form.

If Fulham lose the discipline with which Hodgson has imbued them, then they could plunge down the table. The high tempo Brit style football which Hughes demanded also left us with an Everton style injury list. While our large squad could just about cope, Fulham may not have the same resources.

One statistic that’s often overlooked is that after three transfer windows spending fortunes, Hughes’ side had less points when he was sacked in the 2009/10 season than Sven’s did at the same point in 2007/08.

Sven has an excellent reputation on the continent, but it’s his failure to inspire England beyond quarter finals while being handsomely rewarded that rankles with the media in this country. Hughes, who carries press goodwill from his days as a player, offers traditional British virtues.

Whether he’s a better bet for Fulham than the astute Sven with a good coach under him remains to be seen. Forget all the pressure from Abu Dhabi, his achilles heel at City was the defending and he’ll need a return to the solidity of his Blackburn side to succeed at Craven Cottage.

One final question. Just because Fulham have had a good couple of years under Hodgson, are they really a bigger club than West Ham, who Hughes passed on the chance to manage earlier in the Summer? Both have controversial owners, but maybe Al Fayad offers a little more loyalty to his manager and Hughes feels in need of that.

  • Who do you rate highest – Sven or Hughes?
City transfer talk: 28 July – Jo and Santa Cruz linked with exits
City transfer talk: 30 July – Fairwell Garrido, hello Mino Raiola


  1. Sven all day long. Hughes is overated and waster of money, Rocky Santa for example.

  2. Hughes was a decent manager, but Sven is a Rolls Royce.

    Everything he did at city, he did with a certain class that made me feel, for the first time in years…what’s the opposite of ashamed? Oh yes, proud.

    After the mediocrity of the Pierce and late Keegan years, suddenly City had a watertight defence, and overnight began playing Arsenal-style, free-flowing football.

    Include the double we did over Utd that year, and the fact that Sven did it all whilst Thaksin’s money was being stolen by the thai military and he couldn’t pay the players wages, and you see why I think Sven is the better manager.

    Oh, and after not beating the Germans for 30 years, that german scoreboard that said “1-5” will make me forgive Sven anything, forever.

    I also like the string of affairs he had with Man Utd fans’ wives.

  3. I know not many would agree but I would have Sven back tomorrow. I believe the results from the first half of his reign would have continued into the second part of the season had it not been for Thaksin telling him in the winter transfer window that he wouldn’t be holding the reign’s the following season as it was common knowlage in the corridors of Eastlands it would be Thaksins first choice Hughes. Regardless of this I much prefer to watch the free flowing attacking football of a confident Sven side, to a bite your nails, watch through fingers Hughes one any day.

  4. Didn’t Sven fail to win a home game after the turn of the year with most of the games ending 0-0 or a 1-0 defeat. That was some of the worst dross ever witnessed at City.

  5. I dislike Hughes. An arrogant man, with little imagination. Tactically inept and far too introverted to be able to control and influence personalties in a positive manner. I think the culture he creates at his clubs, with the tafia is prob more suitable to a small club with small ego’s. Hughes simply froze out individuals and didnt make any attempts to ingratiate them into the squad. Which in the long term, led to his demise. A fractured dressing room, lacking motivation and team lacking creativity, as result of Hughes policy.

    Looking back at Hughes city career, it can’t be viewed any more than a failure, he spent more and did worse than sven.

    Sven, did well with england, I’m sure we would of done better this world cup with him rather crappello.
    A Gentleman, and much liked in the games, found it easy to get the team on his side. Tactically superior to Hughes and more astute in the transfer market. Sven indeed was rushed into to getting his 1st squad together, i would of loved to have seen what he could do with Adug money.

  6. n’t Sven fail to win a home game after the turn of the year with most of the games ending 0-0 or a 1-0 defeat. That was some of the worst dross ever witnessed at City.

    Wasn’t Sven already sacked and the media and team knew it.

    The worst dross was Sparky’s away record and defensive organisation.

  7. George Caveney
    29 July 2010 - 3:13 pm

    I agree. Sven excited me, and Hughes stressed me out. I think we all got the sense he felt a bit out of his depth and not in control of the squad or the ever-increasing involvement of back-room staff in his business. Mancini seems to have cut that crap out, but I still often think ‘what if Sven had stayed?’

    But he didn’t. And Hughes might be a better prospect than Sven considering (what we know about) the resources and infrastructure at Fulham.

  8. Let the chips fall where they may but I believe Sven is completely overrated as a Manager. While he indeed is an very affable and intelligent man, he nonetheless as a manager is simply clever but not deadly, as the latter half of his season proved. The 6-0 thrashing at Chelsea badly exposed Sven and once teams realized that to stop City they simply had to shut down Petrov and Elano, Sven never had a plan B, and from that thrashing til May 2008, City would have been in relegation trouble if not for our surprise start (i.e. teams not aware of Elano & Petrov). In a word Sven got found out.

    Now I’ve heard the argument that Sven was “dead man walking” under Thaskin and while this looks to be true it still looks to me an excuse rather than a reason. Regardless of his relationship with Thaskin he had a responsibilty to get results and the manner in which the squad was allowed to “mail it in” at times in the latter half of the season bordered on inexcusable. The 3-2 loss at home to Fulham, followed by the 8-1 disgrace at Middlesborough are a screaming inditement of the man. Smart but lazy looks to be epitaph and for anyone who needs further proof look no further that his poor reign at the helm of Mexico’s national team.

    As for Hughes, while he clearly wasn’t astute and likeable as the affable Swede, the one thing you couldn’t fault was the man’s commitment to the cause. The man literally worked his ass off for the club (particularly building the infrastructure off the pitch as Blue Days has astutely stated) and during the derbies against United last year (particularly the League cup tie) you could taste how badly he wanted to get one over on Fergie. I’m obviously in the minority on this one but despite his shortcomings as a manager tactically, I always felt he was emotionally invested in the cause to see City succeed, and for me that counts for something.

    While Iam in agreement that Hughes as a manager has his shortcomings tactically, I think too many people in accessing his qualites over-looked his days at Bayern Munich where the strict regime for physical and psychological training clearly rubbed off. I’d also argue that this is where Hughes became inamored with the “system” style of managent rather than the “tactical” style of management.

    If you look at the way Hughes was trying to build the squad set up at City there are some striking similiarities to the Germany system so succesfully instituted by Jurgi Klinsman (also from the Bayern school) and Jurgi Low. Like the Germany set up, Hughes looked to be trying to institute a system based on pace, high-tempo pressure, and constant movement in which the team attempts to dictate the tempo by grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and not allowing the opposition to catch its collective breath (the players may change but the system does not). While he never quite pulled it off he came close at times and the 2-1 win against Hamburg HSV, the 2-1 win to Chelsea. the 3-0 cup win aganst Arsenal are some (but not the only) examples of evidence to this. When it worked it worked brilliantly but too often it broke down either due to the players inability to understand the system or Hughes inabilty to convey that mindset to his players.

    if Sven was treated unfairly by the board under Thaskin, then Hughes was absoluted shafted by the board under ADUG. Now while I am in agreement with ESPN Man city columnist Wallace Poulter that at the end of day Hughes was ulitmately in over his head, the manner in which he was sacked was a complete and utter disgrace and no one, absolutely no one deserves to treated like that (something Poulter as also articulately stated). Even the most fervent anti-Hughes City supporters must have felt a modicum of sympathy for the man. Which brings me to my to my final point.

    In Mancini, I think City may have found the manager to take City to the next level, but for that to happen the board need to give absolute unwavering commitment to the man. In a word, that means both the board and the fans need to stop putting a clock on Man City achieving success (i.e. silverware). Patience should be the watchword. A commodity both Sven and Hughes where never truly afforded.

  9. Well, if we’re simply going off results, then I guess we finished higher under Sven than we did under Hughes, in his first season. Also, Sven is then clearly superior to both McLaren and Capello! 200 million pounds in we were seventh and sliding under Hughes in his second season. Also, there had been no real improvement in any of the problem areas of play, such as defending set pieces, leaking soft goals (especially late on with a lead, no less), etc. And now, with 20 million of al-Fayed’s to spend, he’s after the aging and creaky Bellers and Sicknote Santa. Yeah, Hughes is clearly the superior manager to Sven, but only in some bizarre parallel universe where Ricky Hatton is champ forever, the jukebox only plays Oasis hits and everyone is squinting through blue eyeglasses.

  10. Sven may indeed be a better than Hughes but that would be marginal at best.

    I guess the rub for me is the rose-colored too many City fans view Sven’s time as manager at City.

    What has Sven done as a manager in the last decade that is truly noteworthy? As England manager he did nothing other than the 5-1 thrashing of Germany which owed much more too a Germany side uncharacteristically losing its nerve than anything England did tactically. The England squads at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups massively underachieved under Sven, as did his Mexico squad in the 2010 qualifiers and his Ivory Coast side this past summer. The latter half of his season at City tells you everything you need to know about the man as the squad went alarming backward playing relegation football and the his mistreatment at the hands Thaskin still can’t hide his shortcomings as a manager under close examination, unfortunately too many City fans are too willing to look the other way.

    Don’t get me wrong Sven is a clever man and once upon a time was an excellent coach but the man lost his way ever since leaving Lazio. There is no task so formidable that he is not willing to walk away from (he just resigned from the Ivory Coast position, what a surprise). A clever but Lazy manager who again is completely overrated.

  11. Sven set at least two all time England records and one joint world record 2001 – 2006 while England lost only 3 full time competitive games plus two on penalty shoot out during Sven’s tenure leading him to be ranked as statistically England’s most successful coach but second “best” after Sir Alf due to Ramsey’s “flook”(?) world cup win in an otherwise fairly ordinary tenure.
    Sven equalled Man City’s all time record for League points won in one season and almost certainly would have set a new record had the team not decided to “work to rule” at the end of that season in protest at his impending sacking. Not forgetting the historic double against Man U for the first time since the 70’s?
    Considering Sven’s previous record of around 30 top club honours including many continental country’s league titles plus Euro Cups and Cup winners cups (mostly with previously low to mid ranking clubs prior to the application of “the Eriksson effect”!)…, maybe it could be said that Hughes is not only in the same management league as Sven, he’s not even on the same planet????
    Since he clearly didn’t really want Ivory Coast from his and his personal agent’s comments in the Swedish press, and Fulham have been stupid enough to engage a lesser manager even though Eriksson was available and interested, maybe it’s time to start another “bring back Sven” campaign at Eastlands and let him finish what he started for the Blues and get us the premier league championship and on into top European honours??????

  12. Sven Goran Eriksson – Well, where do you start when you talk about this man as a football coach. The International Federation of Football History and Statistics, judged between the years of 1996 – 2008, ranked Sven 5th best in the World. He left England with the best competitive record of all full time England football managers in the Nations entire history. Has won leagues in 3 separate European countries, a double with Lazio, 3,000 fans marching to keep him after being sacked at Manchester City. Do I need to go on? Mark Hughes, who I am sure may hit the big time during his career, however isn’t that the point here!!! We are saying that Hughes might hit the big time. When we talk Sven, we are talking about a man that has hit the big time. He has been in the pressure cooker in a way Mark Hughes has never felt before because no big club has hired him yet. Sven has won leagues, cups, European cups and been in European finals. Sven has watched England crash out and taken a barrage of abuse and still kept his cool and stayed focused on the job in hand. Fulham have chosen to stay an average club by hiring Hughes, Sven could have taken them to next height following Roy’s fantastic times in charge. Sven will be back, and as usual Sven will be talked about when the big time jobs come up. As for money, no offence, but when you have done what Sven has done, you CAN command a big wage. That is no different in all industries across the entire world. The best get paid the most and the best should expect to be paid the most. That will never change EVER. Last word, this nation is a disgrace and the future generations will hold Sven in high regard which is obvious.

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