Roberto Di Matteo
What do these managers have in common?
They have all been victim to the modern day football epidemic.
21st century managerial roles are no easy task, that’s for sure. In this day and age, if things start to take a turn for the worst, the manager is to blame, always.
It is something we have become accustomed to as football fans; managerial merry go rounds, but are they always really the ones we should be pointing the finger at? There have already been 44 managerial casualties in English football this season alone. (Premier League- League 2)
Roberto Di Matteo accomplished something that Chelsea fans had been dreaming of completing for years, winning the illustrious Champions League, the trophy which has eluded Chelsea for so long. Blues owner, Roman Abramovich is renowned for his little patience in regards to manager sackings, with few coaches surviving more than two seasons at Stamford Bridge.
It was clear it was a trophy which Abramovich was craving, and when Di Matteo won the Champions League in 2012 many saw him staying for a long time, however, he was sacked just six months after winning the prestigious trophy and left many asking, why?
Claudio Ranieri. History maker. When he was appointed Foxes’ manager at the start of the 15/16 season, many were quick to criticise this decision. By the end of the season though, those people were left choking on their words as he achieved the impossible. Winning the league with a side that survived by the skin of their teeth the previous season was unthinkable, unimaginable, simply ludicrous! Especially considering they weren’t one of the sides to spend big and splash the cash.
The Foxes only spent £26.7 million in the summer transfer window as opposed to sums in the region of £100 million from the top 6 sides. Leicester proved it isn’t all about money, so long as you have tenacity, fighting spirit, and belief, anything is possible.
They beat off all the top sides and left their mark in the history books. 5000/1 to win the league at the start of the season, they did just that. Many were starting to wonder how they would do the following season; surely they couldn’t pull it off again? Top four? Some even pointed at relegation sardonically. The loss of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea this summer proved to be monumental this season as Ranieri’s men struggled to find their unbelievable form of the title winning heroics. In February they found themselves down in the dumps, relegation a probable outcome.
Leicester fans were left astounded when they heard the news, the man who made Leicester a somebody from a nobody, a side that people now recognised and appreciated, a man who showed them that anything is achievable; gone.
The players who were tearing apart defences last season, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, had been ghosts of the players they were, and the fighting spirit they possessed seemed non-existent up until his sacking. How can a team full of champions turn back into relegation dog fighters in such a short space of time?
Arsene Wenger, a legend of the game. Entering his 21st season with Arsenal and still yet to finish outside the top four, pretty impressive. The Frenchman has won pretty much everything there is to win in his extensive tenure- with the exception of the Champions League and surprisingly, the League Cup. His managerial campaign has been nothing but impressive, he oozes class and respects his opponents.
He has led The Gunners to three Premier League titles, six FA Cups, and six Community Shields and who can forget the historic ‘invincibles’ season, where he guided his side to a Premier League title without losing a single game along the way, an accolade yet to be matched by any other manager.
Times have not been as successful recently however. Apart from the two back-to-back FA Cup successes in 2013/14 and 2014/15 and two community shield victories ;which many downplay anyway, Arsenal haven’t won a trophy since the FA Cup in 2004, which has left many fans fed up, craving a change at the helm.
It has become habitual for Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League every season. They have had the quality to make the cut for the previous 21 seasons; no easy task. All this success he has brought the club is remarkable and many other sides would have loved to have had the stability and consistency that Wenger has installed at Arsenal.
Supporters of The Gunners have started to become fed up with just finishing in fourth however, and not actually challenging in the Champions League. In the last four seasons, they have gone out in the round of sixteen every time. There have been some embarrassing performances in this period too, most notably this season’s 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich. This year’s league campaign has been disappointing also, and this year could well be the season where they don’t make the top four.
This recent disappointment has been the final straw for many. An influx of ‘Wenger out’ banners have flooded in around the stadium, with more and more appearing after each downfall their side endures. There have always been fans against Wenger at Arsenal, but it has always been a minority, this minority has now transformed into a majority.
‘ Wexit’ ( A pun on Wenger and Exit) protests took place outside the Emirates before their FA Cup clash vs Lincoln City , with masses joining together to vent their anger at the most successful manager in their history, the man who shaped the way they play, who transformed the side.
It really is a sad state of affairs to see fans desperately crying out for the person who created a legacy at the club, to leave. Rumours are suggesting it will be Wenger’s last season in charge anyway, it truly is a sad way to say goodbye after such a glittering career.
But why is it always the manager’s fault?
Why do we automatically disparage the manager and call for his head, what about the players?
Yes, players are put under the spotlight and are often talked about not living up to their price tag, but it somehow reverts back to the manager. “They paid too much for him”, “The manager is playing him out of position”, “The manager isn’t giving him enough chances”.
The players are out on the pitch performing week in, week out? Supposed to be playing for their manager. If there is a bad performance, the players can go home and regroup for the next match, the manager goes out to face the questions of the media and defend his position, as he is scrutinised about his future.
Player power rings to mind. Arsenal this season is a perfect example. It appears that a lot of fans want him to depart, and this seems to have rubbed off on the players. The Gunners fail to show up in the matches against the top teams, and whenever they shape up for a tough test, the players seem to capitulate, lack fight, spirit, and a willingness to win.
In the games where you really need the big players to rise to the occasion, they have fallen short. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, arguably their two best players seem non-existent and even in losing positions there appears to be no determination to change the outcome, not just with them, but the whole team. Many believe that the players also too want Wenger to go and thus are not playing to their ability to mount the pressure on him.
The same can be said for Leicester. What happened to the never say die spirit of the previous season? What changed? Yes, Kante was lost but that’s one player; not the whole team. The Foxes found themselves slumped near the bottom of the table and with Ranieri’s job hanging in the balance you would expect the players to come out fighting, to save the job of the person who made them all heroes.
This was not how it worked out at all; the players didn’t seem interested in going out and putting their life on the line to keep the Italian safe. They did the opposite, got him sacked. After his sacking, reports said that some of the senior players in the side had taken this one step further and went as far to meet the owners to call for him to go.
So it was dilly dong, dilly gone for Claudio, as many Leicester fans were left disgusted by the treatment of the manager they were expecting to see in charge at the club for the rest of his career! There was talk of a statue even being built in Leicester to commemorate King Claudio! Instead, he was made to walk the plank.
Many people argue that it is the manager’s fault and it’s his tactics that he is getting wrong, but it is evident that players do have control of what is happening to their managers and it seems they do decide if they want to play for them. This is illustrated by Leicester’s form since Ranieri’s exit.
They haven’t lost since he departed, winning four games consecutively, and magnificently making it into the quarter finals of the champions league in a row under Craig Shakespeare. How could they turn that around in such a short space of time?
Another problem with modern day football is not just the player power, but also the dissatisfaction of the owners. Di Matteo won a cup that fans were dreaming of, but still saw him face the boot. Admittedly, Chelsea were suffering some poor form in the league, but surely that trophy salvaged some of the disappointment?
So what must managers do to remain in a job? It seems there are no pleasing owners at times, even if you win all the trophies there are to win in one season, but the next you don’t win them all again, then you are now under pressure and face losing your job.
An example of this, Luis Enrique, who won the treble with Barcelona two seasons ago, has seen his Catalan side dip in form in the league this year, but nonetheless are in second place; hot on Real Madrid’s heels, remain in the domestic cups, and are into the quarter finals of the Champions League , but still found himself subject to serious scrutiny from fans- and since then has announced his resignation.
In difficult moments, managers are still given the backing of the board, for the club only to go and sack the manager anyway in the following week… As what happened with Ranieri.
Times have changed, and players and owners have a much greater influence on a manager’s position at a club than in the past. Even if a team is playing bad, the players seem to escape unscathed from criticism- they can’t be “sacked” so to speak, unless you terminate their contracts which costs an awful lot to do. One thing is for sure, in this modern era of football, being a manager is no easy task. If you win big, you reap the rewards, but sometimes even if you win big, you are shown the door.
This really poses the question: Is there any way you can truly win as a manager?
By Tom Cavilla, 18 years old.