The past seven days in the premier league has witnessed two managers relieved of their duties.
Both Unai Emery at Arsenal and Quique Sanchez Flores, at Watford that was his second spell at the club and marked the hornet’s second managerial change of the season.
Arsenal director Josh Kroenke revealed that the decision to remove Emery from his position had been ‘weeks’ in the making as they felt that the head coach had lost the backing of the fans. The former Sevilla and PSG boss was on a run of seven games without a win.
Former Arsenal player, Freddie Ljungburg, replaced the 48 year old and the Swede opened his managerial account with a 2-2 draw away to Norwich this past weekend.
Ljungburg is the latest appointment by a club chairman and the board of a former player at one of the big six clubs following the trend of Frank Lampard at Chelsea at the start of the season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and has prompted Kroenke to say that, “ Ljungburg has Arsenal DNA and understands the club.”
These latest managerial sackings however prompt the question… Is too much blame being placed on the manager?
Head Coach versus Manager role
For a start some teams nowadays have Head Coaches while others have Managers.
The former Tottenham Manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking in 2015, highlights the subtle differences between the roles:
“If you are the manager, you decide many things about the club. But if you are a head coach, your responsibility is to play better, try to improve the players and to get positive results.”
“At Southampton, I was manager my responsibility was not only to coach the team. With Tottenham, I am a head coach. A head coach is head of your department. My department is to train the team.”
The attributes needed to be successful are reportedly the same for both roles, being adaptable in terms of training and good judgement on team selection for instance.
The head coach however can protest regarding lack of signings, but there is a lack of authority on the role compared with being a Manager.
It seems that the days are long gone when an Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson figure end up having complete control in terms of how things are run at football clubs.
Ultimately however is enough time given to managers or head coaches these days to implement the changes they require?
Former Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, speaking to Harvard Business Review said:
“I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed. So we tried to visualise the team maybe three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly.”
Ferguson continued: “Because I was at United for such a long time, I could afford to plan ahead – no one expected me to go anywhere. I was very fortunate in that respect.”
Is football after all a team game?
Football is supposed to be a team game, so shouldn’t the players, coaching staff and those who run the club be held equally accountable?
There is a squad of 25 players and even though the manager is there to inspire, implement tactics and produce impactful substitutions, he is not out there on the field playing the matches.
Sir Alex Ferguson was often praised for bringing on substitutes that would lead to last minute Manchester United winners. More recent examples include Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers, who have been praised for the way they set up their teams at Liverpool and Leicester City respectively.
Managers therefore are quickly praised but equally critics are ready to pounce if things are not quite going to plan. This leads to increased scrutiny on the man in charge and he is more often than not, provided with enough time to turn things around.
Flores for instance was only given 87 days so the window provided is getting shorter for managers to make the desired impact that the clubs fans and owners are looking for.
When asked about the recent pressure that Everton manger, Marco Silva was under, England and Everton’s number one goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford said:
“ A few bad performances should not put the manager under pressure”
“ We have to look at ourselves as individuals and as a squad. You are a team and you win together and you loose together.”
Sacking managers is not always the answer
Pickford has currently had 11 managers throughout his Premier League career to date, since his introduction seven in three seasons at Sunderland, who are now currently in League One and four in the past three seasons at Everton.
Although Silva and his team enjoyed an impressive conclusion to the previous campaign, there is little suggest that Everton will challenge currently for the top six positions that they are looking to break into.
Owners expecting quick results
The influx of money, particularly in the Premier League and the spending power of clubs has changed, particularly in the past few years.
It has become harder for the top clubs to get the players that they want as other teams are under less pressure to sell and want to get the maximum amount for the player in question.
When the high transfer fees are spent, Emery for instance had over 100 million to spend on transfers over the summer, including 70 million on Nicholas Pepe from Lille, both the fans and the owners expect the side to hit the ground running.
If the desired results are not being delivered the boardroom will look for someone to blame. The easiest answer will ultimately always be the person in charge, the manager.
Challenging football schedules
Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp eluded to this matter at the start of November as the German said,
“ Crazy football schedule for international players, there is no time for the manager to work with the players on the training field.”
Sadio Mane, one of Liverpool’s key attackers for instance has only had two weeks break all year round. The league leaders are currently at a start of a run that will see them play 13 matches over a six-week period.
It is therefore a struggle for a new manager or one that is under pressure to implement a new style of play or change tactics for an upcoming game if he does not have enough time to coach the players.
There is also the addition of international tournaments such as this year’s Nations League competition that increases the amount of time that players are away from their club sides.
The demanding schedules lead to the increased chances of injuries to significant players for key games as well as player fatigue that leads to a greater chance of players making mistakes out on the field of play.
Pressures of qualifying for Europe’s elite competitions
All the elite clubs strive to be apart of the Champions League with the prize money seemingly increasing year on year, for this season clubs would have secured roughly 15 million just for reaching the group stage.
This would drive club owners to make knee jerk decisions, especially if their team was not performing on the field.
Media scrutiny on Managers
Finally the media scrutiny on managers in this day and age is enormous. Particularly for sides such as Manchester United and Liverpool, who have former players as pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.
They are quick to point out what the manager should and should not do using video technology in their Sky Sports Studio.
The influence of the Video Assistant Referee is also proving to be a game changer this season.
The manager also has to watch what he says in the pre and post match interview. He is ultimately put under the microscope more than any one individual player as he is exposed to the media every week.
If a player has a bad game he can choose to avoid the media and public eye following the match and can always redeem himself the following week.
When it is going well, the manager is quick to be praised by everyone and can supposedly do no wrong. When things however start to go wrong, fortunes can change very quickly, owners want to see a return on their increased investment and it is on the whole easier for them sack one person rather than wait till the transfer market to sell and sign numerous players.
Feel free to give 24/7 your opinion, is too much blame and pressure being put on the manager or head coach?