Arsenal legend Tony Adams has been appointed head coach of Spanish top-flight side Granada until the end of the season.
On the face of it, giving Adams – whose previous managerial experience amounts to ill-fated spells in charge of Wycombe, Portsmouth and Azerbaijani side Gabala – the task of saving La Liga’s 19th-placed club from relegation seems a strange decision.
But, as Spanish football writer Andy West explains, the appointment is a more logical one than it might first appear.
Adams a La Liga manager – how has that happened?
|Adams’ managerial career|
|Club||Tenure||Reason for departure|
|Wycombe Wanderers||2003-04||Personal reasons|
Although Adams’ elevation to manager of La Liga strugglers Granada looks extremely bizarre, upon closer inspection it makes a reasonable amount of sense.
Granada are owned by Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang (often referred to as John Jiang), also the part-owner of NBA basketball team the Minnesota Timberwolves, who bought the Andalusian club last summer from Italian entrepreneur Gino Pozzo.
Adams is a vice-president of Jiang Lizhang’s DDMC Football Club Management Company, and last year he had a spell in China as sporting director for the Chinese Super League team which is owned by DDMC, Chongqing Dangdai Lifan.
After leaving China, Adams moved to Spain midway through the current season, working in a similar role for Granada with the aim of helping Jiang Lizhang construct his plans for the club’s long-term future.
So, Adams already had a strong personal involvement at Granada as the chief advisor on all footballing matters to the club’s owner.
And when the position of Granada manager Lucas Alcaraz became untenable after Sunday’s 3-1 home defeat by Valencia, in many ways Adams was the logical choice to deepen his role by becoming a part-time interim coach before, assumedly, the appointment of a long-term successor in the summer.
What kind of club is he taking over?
It’s obvious that Granada have been deeply mired in a painful ‘transitional period’ since last year’s takeover by Jiang Lizhang.
But in fact, the instability at the club goes back much further because former owner Pozzo – who is also in charge of Watford and Udinese – based his recruitment strategy upon an endless recycling of players between his three clubs.
Although that strategy helped earn Granada promotion into the top flight in 2011 and has kept them (just) in the top division ever since, it is hardly an ideal recipe for long-term success when most of your best players are either on loan from – or destined to join – one of the owner’s other clubs.
Regular changes on the bench also pre-date the Jiang Lizhang era, with Adams becoming not only the club’s third manager of the current season but also their seventh in just over three years.
Interestingly, Adams criticised the approach of the previous regime during a recent interview about his then-advisory Granada role on the club’s official website, explaining: “We inherited 106 players, of whom only 44 actually belong to Granada.
“Our aim is to return Granada [Football Club] to Granada so the people here can identify fully with their team and their players.
“I’m here to put the Spanish structure in place, with players who will belong to Granada CF and who will fight for Granada.”
Now he’ll be putting that structure in place from a lot more close-up than he probably initially envisaged.
Does he have any chance of keeping them up?
Realistically, Granada have very little chance of staying up.
Sunday’s defeat against Valencia left them eight points adrift of safety, with just seven games remaining and only one point gained from their last six outings.
Granada will probably need to win at least four of their remaining games to have any chance of survival and, as their upcoming opponents include Real Madrid, Sevilla and fierce local rivals Malaga, that’s a major ask.
However, they do have a kind run-in, with the final two games coming away to bottom-placed Osasuna, who will almost certainly already be relegated by then, and mid-table Espanyol, who will have nothing to play for.
If Adams can even extend Granada’s season that long it will be regarded as a big success, and an awful lot will depend on his first game in charge: at home to Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.
Celta are the perfect opponents for Adams’ La Liga debut. The Galician team’s league campaign has more or less ground to a halt while they focus their energies on the Europa League, and their trip to Granada is sandwiched between the first and second legs of their quarter-final meeting with Genk.
Adams, therefore, is highly likely to face a virtual reserve team when Celta come to Granada next weekend, giving him a wonderful opportunity to make a flying start. If he doesn’t, it will probably be curtains.
Could this turn into a permanent role?
It would make much more sense for Adams’ new role to be a temporary one, buying some time while the club makes longer-term plans for next season and beyond.
Certainly, Adams being named permanent manager would not fit very well with the ‘Spanish structure’ he spoke about in his interview last month.
And until today, everything Adams had said about his role at Granada suggested that he was happy to take a backroom director’s role rather than holding ambitions to become first-team manager, and that remains the most likely scenario beyond the current season.
But considering his strong relationship with the club’s owner, of course he could end up getting the job on a permanent basis.
If he has success in the next few weeks, Adams may acquire a taste for the dugout, and he may convince decision-maker Jiang Lizhang that he is the right man to lead the team’s bid to return to top-flight football.
This, after all, is that most illogical of businesses… football. So don’t rule anything out.