Monday 20 November 2017

Why we need to stop being sentimental about sacking managers

By Max McLean

Is the sack race an essential part of a football club’s evolution?

Sackings are as much a part of the Premier League furniture as Mike Dean’s no-look yellow cards, but the shock which greets each turn of the managerial merry-go-round never seems to abate.

But if it’s such a bad idea, why do football clubs keep on doing it? Well, maybe there’s something more to the sack race than we’re allowing ourselves to understand.

Nobody likes to see someone get fired – but is it necessary for Premier League evolution?

Leicester City – Shakespeare in Love

The sacking of Claudio Ranieri at Leicester was the most high profile of the season, and provoked a reaction that suggested fans thought the Italian should have been given the club’s backing.

In reality though, you can only live off the shine of one Premier League title for so long, and this season the Foxes were in freefall – cry “sentiment” all you like, but fans will be thankful if they’re bathed in Premier League sunshine again come August.

And since Ranieri’s sacking, Premier League survival looks all the more likely – Craig Shakespeare has Leicester playing like champions of England again.

Three wins from three, against Liverpool, Hull and Sevilla, are demonstration enough that a change of manager often helps the medicine go down, or in this case, stay up.

Arsenal – is variety the spice of life?

Leicester’s success in winning the Premier League and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals puts the travails of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger into very sharp focus indeed.

Leicester won the Premier League in their second season since earning promotion from the Championship – Arsenal have failed to win it back for 13 years now.

The Foxes have also reached the Champions League quarter-finals at their first attempt, when the Gunners have failed to do so every year since 2010.

The common denominator that preceded both those Leicester successes? A new manager. To Arsenal’s credit they have stuck by Wenger, and that’s a rare thing in the modern game – but is it denying them silverware?

The relegation rumble

Of course, the sack race takes place mostly in the southern regions of the division, where fear of the drop drives the managerial carousel.

And it’s not without its merits. Hull City were backed by many to go straight back down in the summer. When Mike Phelan was sacked, the Tigers were without a win in nine league fixtures – they’ve since taken 11 points from eight.

Swansea are another example of a sacking success. Since the departure of Bob Bradley from the club, the Swans have won five league games in 10.

And the two sides propping up the rest of the division? Middlesbrough and Sunderland, neither of which have sacked a manager this season. Go figure.

Chelsea’s recipe for success

Has any club mastered the art of the sacking? One team in particular springs to mind, and that’s Chelsea.

Since Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Blues boss in 2004, Chelsea have had nine full-time managers. In that time, they’ve won 13 major honours, including four league titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League.

Numerous sackings have been met with disbelief – European Cup-winning manager Roberto Di Matteo’s dismissal included – but the fact remains, if Antonio Conte adds the Premier League or FA Cup this season, he will become the sixth of those nine managers to have secured silverware for the club.

The fans will remember those who brought success to Stamford Bridge with fondness – they will gaze upon the medals they won even more so.

Press Association

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