It has been two years since Arsene Wenger stepped down after two decades in charge of Arsenal. A shining light of longevity amongst Premier League’s increasingly dwindling managerial tenures, Wenger’s departure arguably signalled the end of an era for the Premier League. However, the Frenchman’s departure was widely touted as an opportunity to start afresh for the gunners.
Fast forward a few years and things look increasingly bleak for the Gunners. Having sacked Unai Emery, Arsenal have been a shadow of their former selves. Currently, under the mentorship of former midfielder and fan favourite Mikel Arteta, Arsenal are yet to find their identity as he tries to get his team’s balance right. They are having a hard time qualifying for the Europa League when they were previously ridiculed for consistently occupying the fourth place in the table. Arteta should be given more time to stamp his authority on this team.
The days when managers were given several years to mould a club according to their philosophy are long gone. An astonishing amount of money is being invested in the game as a result of the commercialization of modern-day football. When we arrange the clubs according to net spend since the summer of 2015, it is hardly surprising that teams such as Manchester City, United and Arsenal occupy top positions in the chart. However, there are instances wherein “smaller” clubs who often have to fight for survival, such as Brighton, Bournemouth and Aston Villa, have ended up having a higher net spend than the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea.
This points to the fact that teams, especially those vying for the title and those that are threatened by relegation are spending exorbitant amounts to achieve their goals. For example, in the last five years, Aston Villa have spent £160.89m and Brighton have spent £206.49m, which are both significantly higher than the likes of Chelsea and Spurs.
As a result of this, managers who do not produce quick results often pay the price. This is especially true for top clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea, where managers are often subject to lofty expectations right from the start and end up being sacked within a year if they fail to cope with the pressure. Even taking a club from the brink of relegation to winning the Premier League was not enough to save “Tinkerman” Claudio Ranieri from the sack in the following year.
It is now a well-established fact that managers are paying the price of an increasingly goal-oriented approach employed by Premier League clubs. The data speaks for itself. The median tenure for Premier League managers hired in the last five years has been 483 days while the average tenure is around 745 days. This is in stark contrast to the all-time average of 1165 days. Additionally, Premier League clubs have hired an average of 3.45 managers in the last five years, and this is excluding caretaker managers. (Figures updated till January 2020)
The repercussions of such a goal-oriented approach could be enormous. Firstly, with transfer fees skyrocketing and clubs prioritizing instant results over long-term foundations, youth development has been understandably sacrificed. Managers would be reluctant in handing first-team opportunities to inexperienced players, especially when they have their jobs on the line. Jose Mourinho is routinely counted amongst the best managers in world football. However, “the special one” is known for not handing opportunities to youngsters. We can safely assume that this is a result of his hunger for trophies and quick achievements. Who is to ensure that clubs do not go along the same path?
Also, this has seen the rise of a unique trend in the Premier League. A new set of veteran managers now cycle between jobs trying to save clubs from relegation. It is often the case that when a mid-table team slumps into the relegation zone, these experts are hired for the sole purpose of survival. On survival, these managers are then often sacked as the team looks to rebuild under a different philosophy. A perfect example of this is Tony Pulis, who has managed four clubs in the span of the last six years – Stoke City, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Middlesborough. Similarly, Sam Allardyce has successfully guided the likes of Sunderland and Crystal Palace away from relegation after being appointed mid-season in winter.
The only anomaly (for the lack of a better word) in this never-ending carousel of managers is Jürgen Klopp. Since his arrival from Dortmund in 2015, the charismatic German has made Anfield his own by endearing himself to the fans by continually producing results and even leading them to Champions League glory. It might be hard to believe now, but Klopp had his fair share of doubters in Merseyside when he took over from Brendan Rodgers. Klopp’s first season in charge of Liverpool ended in a disappointing eighth-place finish with just sixty points. Had he been fired then; would Liverpool have gone on to achieve what they have achieved now? It can be argued that Klopp had the perfect ingredients for success- his history, his charismatic personality and above all, the fans’ backing, that ensured that his survival.
However, it must be noted that the case of Klopp is the exception rather than the norm. For a myriad of reasons, Premier League managers find themselves increasingly wary of the sack and it is taking its toll on the modern game. It can be argued that managers themselves start looking for greener pastures after tasting success at a single club, but the Guardiolas of today are a minority when compared to clubs sacking managers. Whatever the reason might be, it is clear that this managerial merry-go-round has altered the job requirements and description significantly. Whether it is for the better or worse, remains to be seen.
Written by Aniket Kar
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