English Football

The managerial merry-go-round is running out of horses…but then there’s Simeone

dugoutLIVERPOOL now have their man in Juergen Klopp and the honeymoon begins in earnest. It’s a good hiring for Liverpool, one that should restore their European credentials and maybe reintroduce a bit of fun into what has become a poker-faced club in recent years.

Klopp didn’t have many rivals for the job, because the pool of top-line managers is become a bit shallow. The same names get thrown into the ring whenever a major job comes up, but Klopps’s appointment may be the first of a number of deck-chairs shuffling around among top clubs in England.

Jose Mourinho tempted fate and teased his employers with a playful “sack me if you dare” after Chelsea’s latest setback. Champions sometimes fall from grace but generally, a good team is a good team for a season or two. In all probability, Chelsea will regain their poise and claim a place among the Champions League qualifiers for 2016-17. It will take a supreme effort, however, for Chelsea to reclaim their crown in May, but if they fail in their bid to ascend the table, it is not beyond the realms of fantasy that Jose Mourinho will be moving on.

Chelsea may have to reinforce from one of their dressing room annexes abroad

Chelsea will take under-performance badly. Mourinho has never had to contend with failure at a major club. Roman Abramovich, we know, sends his axe-men to Cobham when things don’t go according to plan. What happens if come Sunday May 15, Chelsea haven’t qualified for the UEFA Champions League is anyone’s guess, but it is a fair bet that changes will be made. There’s plenty of time for an out-of-sorts squad to come good and with 30-odd players out on loan, there may be options in-house or in the club’s dressing room annexes in continental Europe. According to media reports, Mourinho will not be splashing the cash in January, so one or two could be retrieved from Arnhem and other locations.

But if it goes wrong, Chelsea will be back in familiar territory. They are running out of options. The best man they have had apart from Mourinho, was Carlo Ancelotti, but he was sacked after the trophy-less season that followed the 2010 double. Pep Guardiola is not likely to swap Munich for London SW6 and after that, who do we have?

Some managers suit certain clubs. Arsene Wenger, for example, is the right fit for Arsenal, but his successor could not possibly be the likes of Mourinho.  And following Sir Alex Ferguson was never going to be easy for anyone. It’s the “Revie to Clough” syndrome all over again.

Arsenal would never go for a character as explosive as Mourinho, although Wenger, in his own way, is every bit as confrontational as the Portuguese. The media, and indeed Arsenal fans, forgive Wenger a lot of sins because he looks like a Don and uses cerebral terms like, “it was not of the required quality”. You just cannot imagine Mourinho at the Emirates, Arsenal  – a club that has represented tradition, stability, common sense and conservatism – are much more likely to go for someone who won’t make the wrong sort of headlines. Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp would be tailor-made the club. But Arsenal sprung a surprise when they appointed Wenger in 1996 and they could do it again when Wenger finally moves upstairs.

Pellegrini could be an early Champions League exit away from a taxi ride

Where there could be movement over the next few months is in Manchester. Manuel Pellegrini is an early Champions League exit away from a discreet taxi and if that happens, City will think big. If Mourinho was to leave Chelsea, you can certainly imagine City being a possible destination. City may also think about luring Ancelotti back into the game.

And what if the reign of Louis van Gaal comes to an end this season? It hasn’t been an easy marriage over in Salford, largely due to LVG’s uncomfortable persona. You sense that United’s men upstairs are not 100% enamoured with the Dutchman and with the anvil that is expectation at Old Trafford, can you envisage the relationship going beyond its current term?  For all the talk of Ryan Giggs, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that  Guardiola will set up shop at United in the near future.

Tottenham are not quite in the same league, and neither is Frank de Boer in the same quartile as Mourinho and Guardiola. If the apparently itchy feet of Ajax’s coach point towards North London, he could be just the man should White Hart Lane dispense with yet another manager. Laurent Blanc of Paris St. German could also be compatible with a dugout off the Seven Sisters Road.

So that leaves Chelsea and possible replacements should the public “vote of confidence” prove to be as flimsy as it has been in the past.  If Abramovich was brave, he would look at people like Sevilla’s Unai Emery or Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mircea Lucescu (admittedly at the veteran stage of his career), or even River Plate’s Marcelo Gallardo, but he’s been down that boulevard before and its full of broken dreams (AVB).

The obvious choice, if Chelsea want to look outside the usual front-runners, is Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone. He would be “Mourinho-lite”, hungry and tactically savvy.  Not for nothing did he describe his playing style as “holding the knife between his teeth”. Simeone would not fit the bill at Arsenal or United, but as with Mourinho, Chelsea or City would be a happy union. What’s more, the fans would love him.

Simeone’s credentials since he’s been at Atletico Madrid are impressive. He’s won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Europa League and has been runner-up in the UEFA Champions League. For any team other than Barca and Real to win La Liga is an enormous achievement and he’s kept the momentum going to some extent.

Of course, a few good results here and there and all will be forgotten, but the past decade indicates that the top six clubs in the Premier, with the exception of Arsenal and, until Ferguson, Manchester United, do not give their managers long to get it right. United are on their second boss since Ferguson, Liverpool’s last manager was appointed in 2012, Pellegrini has been in office since 2012, Mourinho’s been at Chelsea since 2013 and Tottenham installed Pochettino in 2014. Change is coming…

Trophies won in past five years (League, Cup, Europe)

14-15 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 Total
Mirceu Lucescu 0 1 2 2 2 7
Pep Guardiola 1 2 0 1 2 6
Frank de Boer 0 1 1 1 1 4
Jose Mourinho 1 0 0 1 1 3
Luis Enrique 3 0 0 0 0 3
Laurent Blanc 2 1 0 0 0 3
Diego Simeone 0 1 1 1 0 3
Jurgen Klopp 0 0 0 2 1 3
Carlo Ancelotti 0 2 1 0 0 3
Unai Emery 1 1 0 0 0 2
Arsene Wenger 1 1 0 0 0 2
Marcelo Gallardo 1 0 0 1 0 2

 

 

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