The Case For Keeping Phil Neville Through The 2023 Season

Phil Neville

Photo by Yaismil Rolo

Phil Neville and Inter Miami CF will face Houston Dynamo FC Saturday night at Shell Energy Stadium in a crucial match for the team. The Herons are on a five-game losing streak that has the squad sitting in the thirteenth spot in the Eastern Conference and has Neville on the hot seat with many in the fanbase.

I’ve heard much of the rumble and seen many comments on social media from fans asking for Neville to be sacked, but I’m going to provide some reasons why I think he should stay and finish the 2023 campaign, and have management decide at that point.

Foundation & Culture Building

It’s no secret the previous administration left a hot potato for Chris Henderson and Phil Neville to come in and fix. The two years of sanctions thankfully end after this current campaign, and Inter Miami can begin to play the game with a full deck of cards.

Henderson and Neville have a great working relationship, and together they laid the foundation for the organization in 2022. The Herons had nineteen new players suit up for the team last season in what could be considered a reconstruction year and managed to somehow make the playoffs as the sixth seed in the conference.

Neville navigated the ship through murky waters that contained losing streaks, a grumpy DP to start the season, a lack of cohesion from the squad, and the typical player injuries that plague pro teams. The Captain never abandoned the ship and by season’s end had managed to steer the ship to calmer waters.

Of course, the addition of Alejandro Pozuelo and the fantastic late-season form from Gonzalo Higuain were major components to the team’s turnaround, but Neville had his part in that too. Henderson and Neville work hand-in-hand in player acquisitions and once again they have collaborated on the latest moves Miami made.

This season Bryce Duke and Ariel Lassiter were moved out and Kamal Miller along with Dixon Arroyo were brought in. The impact of these moves could be as big as the Pozuelo signing last season. I’m not saying they are flashy moves, but of extreme importance to solidify Neville’s style of play by plugging up a leaky defense.

Arroyo is similar in style of play to the hard-nosed no-nonsense Gregore, while Miller provides another young and faster-paced center-back. If these moves click, Miami’s wingers can continue to attack and press high without the worry of leaving major spaces behind them unattended. Neville’s vision for the team’s style of play could finally come to fruition, but he needs time.

New Playing Style

Seven games into a thirty-four-game season is too soon to give up on an approach or style of play when it’s newly implemented. Despite this being Neville’s third season (second under sanctions) the squad is playing differently this campaign. FC Dallas coach Nico Estévez said as much in his press conference after their win against Inter Miami CF,

“I think we saw that this year they are playing with a higher line. There is more space in behind, they are more aggressive in the press..They have more energy than last year, they press more and work really hard as a team. I think in other games that I’ve seen they have been controlling really well the games. It’s about some details, I think they just need to score some of the chances they create to get the confidence up.”

Scoring has been an issue with Inter Miami CF, with Josef Martinez still finding his form and Leo Campana just returning to action after missing the previous six games with an injury. Very few could have envisioned a Miami team featuring Martinez and Campana would be shut out in four of their first seven games, yet here we are.

Neville has vowed to make changes to the lineup for the match against Houston, with young striker Shanyder Borgelin an option, most likely taking Josef Martinez’s spot with the starters. The coach has never been shy to tweak, and desperate times ask for desperate measures.

I’m confident the team will start scoring goals because Martinez, Campana, and Borgelin are too talented no too. Once this happens, the sky is the limit for Miami.

Nico Estévez also mentioned that he thinks that Inter Miami CF could be a very tough team to play against with some small improvements,

“I think they are trying to do something that is very interesting and the results are not coming to them but I think that if they continue improving a little bit those things, I think they will be a difficult team to play against.”

The details, like proper defensive shape, and clinical finishing are what’s keeping Miami at the bottom of the table, instead of the top. Coach Neville has to have a hand in the improvement of the team on both aspects, the talent is there, and now the proper execution is essential.

Team friendly Contract

Phil Neville got a one-year extension on his contract with a team option for another year, this means that he is in a make or break season. If Phil bombs this season he’s gone, and the sanctions along with him. A new coach will have the lure of a fantastic city, and a competitive roster that can only get better, not to mention, Lionel Messi could be part of the team by then.

If Phil succeeds, he gets a chance to enjoy a team without sanctions that will get only stronger with quality reinforcements.

Why rush to create another issue by firing Neville now so early in the season? He has twenty seven more games to go and he either stays because he led another amazing turnaround, or he’s gone for good. All it will take is a little patience, and both Neville and the sanctions could be gone.

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