Sportsthoughts (90) – The perils of Premier League management

There was an intriguing table in The Observer today about the longevity of Premier League managers (as managers, not people!). It ranked the current 18 – two clubs, Spurs and West Brom, don’t have a “permanent” manager, having recently sacked the incumbents.

There’s one outlier: Arsene Wenger, who joined Arsenal in September 1996. Now that Fergie has retired from Man Utd and David Moyes left Everton to replace him, (oh, and Tony Pulis left Stoke) Arsene is truly left in splendid isolation.

It is staggering that second in the table is Alan Pardew, at Newcastle. Appointed in December 2010. Second longest, with three years service. And every time Newcastle suffer a dip in form, people are calling for his head. They are doing well at the moment, so maybe he’s safe for a while.

And then, even more amazingly, third is Big Sam at West Ham. Appointed in June 2011. After we were relegated. A mere two and a half years ago. Mind you, it feels like an eternity… of grim, percentage football. I dream of a future West Ham manager who restores the club tradition of attractive, attacking football.

So far this season five Premier League managers have lost their jobs. 25% of the total. Mostly near the bottom of the table (Big Sam is the exception amongst all the teams around him), but now including Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham. What is this all about? Partly it is power-crazed owners from abroad who know little about English football and care even less. But the root causes are MONEY and FEAR. Intertwined. The fear of relegation is what drives 10-12 of the 20 clubs in the PL each season. The only objective is staying in the league and continuing to get the massive handouts from Sky and now BT. It’s big money and they just can’t imagine life without it. The economics of most Premier League clubs is highly risky. You pay high wages to attract the best players. You pay absurd transfer fees for some pretty average players. All in the hope that they’ll keep you in the division, and if you are really lucky, get you into the top four, where the lucrative Champions League beckons.

Money, money, money, money, money….

In fairness we get some very good football these days. Watching some of the world’s finest players. But there is almost no patience. Dip in form, whispers start. Run of three or four losses, future questioned. Much more than three or four and you are out.

The January transfer window concentrates minds too. You are the owner – or on the Board – and your club is struggling in December. You have twenty or thirty million which could be invested in the Window. The fans are turning against the manager. Do you want him investing that money in players that fit his vision, when you have gone off his vision? Of course not.  Taxi for the manager!

And the risks of sticking with the manager are there for all to see. West Ham, in the 2010-11 season, had a discredited manager, Avram Grant, at the turn of the year. The fans wanted him out. The Board sniffed around other managers, rather too publicly, which further undermined Avram. But they didn’t apply the axe. He hung on and the Irons were relegated.

So we are all complicit. We quickly tire of managers if they are unsuccessful – or even if they are playing the wrong kind of football. We want change, hope. And then add on top of that the megalomaniac owners…

Wanna be a Premier League manager? You’ll get two years if you are lucky.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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10 Responses to Sportsthoughts (90) – The perils of Premier League management

  1. dc says:

    not really staggering….moyes left his post because he was offered a better job, ditto brendan rogers,paul lambert and roberto martinez. So it’s not all about getting the sack – some of the mobility is upwards and a reward for a strong performance.
    Fans are worse now than they used to be, incredibly impatient and with a bizarre belief that a new manager will bring everything they crave…..not long ago this season a shouty fan outside Emirates demanded that Wenger be sacked, now they are top of prem league and through to last 16 of Champs League as you might have noticed.
    ps….where’s the bowie blog?

    • John S says:

      Agree a couple of upwardly mobile managers, and Rogers and Martinez doing v.well. But Lambert, Hughton and Mackay are all hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Five could easily be eight quite soon.

      Glass Spiders soon – sorting out the dodgy photos!

  2. Sigh!
    I don’t know any of these names, but I know money,money money. Therefore I know what you are saying.
    Happy Holidays, John!

  3. DyingNote says:

    What was it that the boys in Pink Floyd sang a few years back? Ah, money.

    I’ve often wondered about Wenger hanging on at a club with what is one of the most frustrating bunch of players.

    • John S says:

      Arsene is embarked on a project with no end. Fingers crossed the league title will be his this season. But the might of Man City and Chelsea lurks.

      • DyingNote says:

        It’s just that Arsenal always looks fragile – somehow not quite fully there. And that I suppose has been their undoing. I too hope they can past that this time.

  4. Dood says:

    Cheers, John, and greetings to all. To pick up on DyingNote’s post, one of many curious things about Wenger is that he really likes the frustrating bunch of players, and I don’t think he’d have it any other way: he’d rather win nothing with all these twinkled-toed midfield wizards than land some random pot with a more conventional approach. Hence his refusal to spend transfer money when it was offered, simply because he didn’t seem to think he could find the right targets. The January window will be key for his top requirements (further support in central defence, and of course another striker), but knowing Wenger, he’ll probably buy another brace of elfin Spanish noodlers.

    Back to John’s piece. So Mackay’s now gone, though I think Lambert and Hughton will survive. They both have strong support from their players – you might have seen the way Villa celebrated the goal on Saturday – but, far more importantly, from their owners too. The real conundrum is closer to home, and Big Sam. Sullivan and Gold remain very voluble in their support, but the nightmare scenario of hosting Barnsley and Brentford in the Olympic Stadium must surely be creeping up on them. I think he has no more than a few short weeks to turn things round – and the date of Carroll’s return is still no clearer. A challenge.

  5. John S says:

    I’m not sure Arsenal will buy anyone of note in the window. As ever striker and centre back would be the key areas to strengthen, but they’d need to be very good to be worthwhile. As for Big Sam, I’m torn. I hate all these knee jerk sackings. But I want to see West Ham playing good football again.

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