One thing that fascinates me the most with sports is the factor that affects a team’s behaviour and performance, namely team dynamics. How it can either improve an average team to unexpected highs or how it can hinder a team from reaching their potential. There might be up to 30 players sitting in a dressing room, each with a very different personality and background. And each player with their own personal dreams. So how do you create an environment where the players sets aside their egos for the benefit of the team?
One crucial aspect is how you handle your big name players. Your stars. Your Neymars and Ronaldos.
Previous sunday I watched PSG against Lyon when the Neymar and Cavani incident occured. PSG was awarded a penalty in the second half so their, I assume, usual penalty taker Cavani was going up to place the ball on the 11 meter spot when Neymar showed up. While Cavani was trying to concentrate his teammate Neymar stood in front of the ball making it clear to everyone watching that he should be the one taking it. Cavani ended up missing the penalty.
There was another situation that I didn’t like which also involved Neymar and Cavani. And that was a free-kick that Cavani wanted to take but when Dani Alves got his hands on the ball first he made sure to give it to Neymar.
Both situations shows me that PSG has some things to work on before they can be considered a serious contender in the Champions League. But these things happen and I’ve experienced it myself. It’s not a big problem as long as it’s dealt with in the proper way. So what really annoyed me was not the incident itself but a comment from the PSG manager Unai Emery to the media proclaiming that they, Cavani and Neymar, need to sort it out. THEY have to sort it out?! That’s not how you take responsibility and stamp your authority as a coach. That’s how anarchy begins. I could be wrong but somehow I doubt that they can sort it out themselves.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving the stars of the team a bit more freedom. But it becomes a problem if they take advantage of that freedom because they think they’re bigger than the team. Weak leadership causes poor group dynamics. If you as a coach don’t deal with an incident like this quickly and efficently then it won’t be the last time we see these two players arguing. And if this is something that keeps on happening then that’ll definitely end up affecting the whole group and prevent the team from achieving their goals.
Sometimes a coach might say one thing to the media and another thing to the team behind closed doors. I really hope this is one of those times. Because with the players at their disposal the last thing they need is poor group dynamics caused by a manager who doesn’t dare to stand up to the big name stars.