Football management is a funny old game; if you’re Pep Guardiola – or to a lesser extent Jurgen Klopp – you can just about sleep easy in the knowledge that you’re, for the time being, respected as a coach of the highest level yet for every other manager in the Premier League you find yourself pigeon-holed into a wide-ranging category of ‘failure’.
By any other standard in life, making it to the top 20 in the country – especially in what is widely regarded as the best footballing country in the world – would be seen as a phenomenal achievement yet in the Premier League every manager, with exception of the two mentioned is a ‘failure’ of sorts.
The underrated managers
Take Steve Bruce for example. The former Manchester United centre back took charge of his 400th managerial game in the top tier of English football – becoming just the seventh person to achieve such a feat – on October 6th against his former employer. Yet since his appointment at Newcastle, which is a tough job, he’s been met with a host of insults suggesting he’s ‘out of his depth’, ‘tactically inept’ and ‘****’.
At a mid-table level you have people like Eddie Howe who has established Bournemouth – a club who have an 11k capacity stadium – in the Premier League whilst playing football that, for the most part, is easy on the eye. Let’s not exaggerate things, he does receive credit for the job he’s performed but then there’s the nagging doubts of his ability to be a success elsewhere because ‘he left Bournemouth before and struggled at Burnley’ whilst others question his potential to handle the pressure that a ‘bigger job’ would bring.
That’s just a couple of examples though, so let’s add more evidence to our point. See Sam Allardyce, he’s a manager who has achieved success (relative to expectations) everywhere he’s ever took hold of the reigns and yet there isn’t a club in the Premier League where the majority of the fan base would take him as their manager. Why? Style of play, boo-hoo, etc. They’d rather play, or at least attempt to, more ‘entertaining’ football and lose – remind me, how are Everton doing?
The overrated ones
I’ve always thought entertaining football was winning football but apparently that’s not the case either. See exhibit D – Jose Mourinho, one of the most decorated managers of all time. Mourinho has won everywhere he’s been, including leading two unfancied sides (Porto and Inter) to Champions League glory. Still, after his spell with Man United – where, by the way, he won the Europa League and a League Cup – many speak about him like an old horse that needs to be put down out because it’s ran its last race.
If you’re still in doubt, then Arsene Wenger is this cases equivalent to DNA in a legal battle. Wenger was once revered for revolutionising the game in England, he played splendid football, won trophies and even went an entire season without losing a game but now he’s seen as a man who ‘underachieved’ with Arsenal as they should have won more and, if not for ‘Wenger’s ways’, would have done so. Give over, success isn’t guaranteed for anyone.
Perhaps it’s time we bite the bullet and insist that managers have to see the season out on rolling 12-month contracts, they’d be guaranteed time, there would be no huge payoffs and focus could be put firmly on the football.
Will it happen? I doubt it but something needs to be done because at the moment even the very top coaches in the world are just one wobble away from being seen as ‘past their best’ and that’s a slippery slope for our much-loved game to take.
At this moment, some bookmakers, like BetAmerica, already are trying to predict which Premier League manager will be sacked first. Will it be Ole, Marco Silva or Pochettino? We might be still in for a ride and who knows if there are some surprises.