Just why do managers have such short tenures in charge these days? Nowadays managers can consider themselves lucky to have stayed in a job for over a year and absurdities are happening such as Nottingham Forest parting company with Alex McLeish and searching for their fourth manager since July.
Fans are getting as equally impatient as their owners are; there were calls for Brendan Rodgers to be sacked after his first league game in charge of Liverpool, a 3-0 away defeat to West Brom.
I have my own personal theory for this, I will explore that theory and look at other possible reasons. Finally a conclusion must be made; will it stay like this forever?
The first thing to do would be to emphasise that not all clubs fire managers at the drop of a hat, but most do. The current fifth longest serving manager in the Premiership today is Roberto Martinez, who was appointed in June 2009; under 4 years ago. Nine current Premiership managers have been in their current job for less than a year. In Serie A it is even worse, since the end of last season 18 managers have left their job. In La Liga 10 clubs currently have different managers to the ones that they ended last season with and the Championship is just as bad, 17 current managers have had their job for less than a year. In fact in the whole of the football league, 52% of managers have been in their job for less than 365 days (including the 3 clubs with vacancies).
Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes and John Still of Dagenham and Redbridge remain exceptions to the rule but a worrying trend is arriving; clubs don’t really stick with their managers. Why is this?
The transfer window?
My personal theory on this subject is that the introduction of a transfer window has contributed to the short tenures of managers. Think of it this way, if a club has started the season disastrously and sits bottom of the league then they feel that they must do something to get the team playing well. However the transfer window is months away and they do not wish to wait until January at which point they may still be bottom and could even be cut adrift from the other clubs. They want to act now. The only option available is to change the coaching staff and changing the manager is likely to have the biggest effect. Maybe 15 years ago the club would have looked at bringing in a new player but now it seems that sacking the manager is the only option they have.
I’m sure that you’re also familiar with the saying ‘the transfer window is coming up’ which crops up whenever a managers future is being discussed around December. The idea that a new manager needs to have a full transfer window to bring in the players that he wants is common, and must also play on the minds of the directors and owners of clubs. A manager may find himself sacked in order to give his replacement time to make transfers whereas he could have been given a few extra months to turn the clubs fortunes around.
Curious to find evidence supporting or rejecting this theory, I looked at all 7 clubs which have been in the Premiership since it began, Arsenal, Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man United and Spurs in case you were wondering. All of these clubs would have been in the Premiership for a decade with the transfer window, and a decade without the transfer window. By looking at their number of managerial changes either side of 2002/3, we can see if this theory holds true; if the theory is correct then clubs will have had more managerial changes during the era of the transfer window than before.
The results are relatively vague. Arsenal have had more managerial changes (2) before the introduction of the transfer window than after it (0) while Everton have also (6 changes before and 0 after). Villa, Chelsea and Liverpool are the opposite (3 and 5, 5 and 8, 2 and 6 respectively) while Spurs and United are equal on either side (5 each for Spurs, while United have had a big fat zero). It must be noted that 3 of these clubs contain the 3 longest serving managers in the football league, so this skews the result slightly but we can see a general trend, even if it is not conformed to by all clubs. So what can be said about the transfer window and its effect on the duration of a manager’s tenure? I’ll let you to draw your own conclusions.
The hands-on owner
Another reason that may be pointed to is the type of owners that now sit in the posh boxes at grounds (or don’t appear in the ground at all in some cases). A stereotype that has emerged is one of a wealthy individual that takes over a club with the intention of making it his plaything. With the English leagues in mind, Chelsea and QPR are prime examples of this. Because of this mentality, the owner will happily remove a manager from his position if he is not satisfied with him. Those who watched ‘The Four Year Plan’ documentary on QPR may remember Flavio Briatore sending a message down to the touchline for a certain player to be substituted on, amid multiple exclamations of the manager being an ‘idiot’.
This style of ownership is clearly going to have an adverse effect on managers and would only reduce their time at each club. While having these kinds of owners could be considered detrimental to the game, they do bring a large amount of money which brings the team success. You can see this with Chelsea; despite the number of managers they’ve over the years of Roman Abramovich’s ownership they experienced their most successful ever period. Even now the Chelsea fans are wary of criticising Roman, instead choosing the current manager, Rafa Benitez, as the subject of the boos.
Alternatively you may point to the increasing amount of money in the game and the knock-on effect of receiving, or not receiving, the riches on offer. This in particular means either achieving promotion or European football or avoiding relegation. Very few teams can safely say that they are secure in a certain position and aren’t at risk of dropping out of their current position. As a result, the pressures on managers to achieve their aims are higher than ever due to the severe financial consequences if they fail. A perfect example would be the top 4 in the Premiership, previously an exclusive club but now challenged by two other clubs to make six teams competing fiercely for four positions.
I cannot think of any way to prove this point in terms of statistics, yet I still think it does have an effect. More than any other league, the Championship is the one which has become more and more congested in terms of ability. A few teams could justifiably claim that they are both hanging over the drop zone and sitting a few points away from the play offs, the margin for error is minimal and managers do seem to suffer from it.
The increased pressure
If there is increased pressure on the managers, could it be forcing them to walk away? Two examples which sprung up at me were Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. At Barcelona and Chelsea respectively, both had overseen the best period in the clubs history yet they walked away from it; Pep claiming tiredness and Jose because of his relationship with Abramovich. In looking at a few statistics, I was intrigued by what I found. What I found stood out the most in Spain, where 4 of the 10 managers who had left since the end of last season had left because their contracts had expired. Italy and England also saw managers resign; they jumped instead of being pushed. While I thought it was worth raising as a point, it seems to count for only a tiny minority. While having a contract expired doesn’t necessarily mean that the manager chose to leave, the case of Pep shows that the increased pressure that I have mentioned earlier can impact upon a manager on a personal level.
What hope is there?
Finally the question must be asked, is this how football will be from now on? Will short-term managerial reigns be the norm or is there another option? With money becoming more and more influential and the need for promotion or European qualification becoming more and more paramount it would be hard to say that there is, however I have another league to mention.
While Serie A has overseen 18 managerial changes since the end of last season, the Bundesliga has seen 5, and one of those was because the manager was appointed to another job, one was also a resignation. Could we, once again, look to the Germans to see how it should be done? Already we acknowledge their superior youth development, financial control and stadiums yet we could possibly add handling of managers to that list as well.
Personally I believe all factors that I have mentioned contribute to the situation that we find ourselves in now. While I do believe that the transfer window has had an impact, I might argue that the hands-on owners have had the biggest impact, closely followed by the increased money and pressure. One thing seems to be for sure, the futures Deutsch.