What have you done for me lately?

jose-mourinho-sacked

José Mourinho has been sacked as Chelsea manager. Having lost nine times in 16 matches, this season has been disasterous, but we’re only seven months removed from Chelsea hoisting the Premier League trophy. What does a manger have to do these days?

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osé Mourinho has been sacked. Again. From Chelsea. Again.

Clearly things had gone wrong this season at Chelsea — the record speaks for itself — but I think before a club fires its manager, it’s necessary to first look at a few criterion before proceeding. So before I go off about how ludicrous it is to fire José Mourinho at this stage of the season, let’s think about what someone who isn’t crazy should ask themselves before firing their manager:

1. is there a better manager available?

This is an important one, for the obvious reason that if there’s no one better available, there are very few reasons not to let the current manager ride things out. Top-level football suffers from a philosophy problem: too many owners think they know what the answer to the club’s problems are and are too demanding of instant gratification. More clubs should decide who the man for the job is — especially when you’re a club of Chelsea’s means and can pay any manager in the game — and give that person complete creative control.

Much like directing a movie, nothing good ever comes from studio interference, writing-by-committee and hiring a yes-man director. Far better is the course of giving a creative genius you believe in the freedom to do what only creative geniuses can: catch lightning in a bottle.

So, with Mourinho, is there anyone better? Well, no, and yes. Like Messi and Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola and Mourinho have a very symbiotic Spider-Man/Venom relationship. On almost anyone’s list of the best current managers, Mourinho and Guardiola would be One and Two. It recently came out that Guardiola was going to step away from Germany’s Bayern Munich at the end of the season, so while there’s no one better available now. There will be a comparable option soon.

On the downside, Guardiola seems most likely to head to Manchester City, or possibly wait for the Manchester United job. If Chelsea sacked Mourinho, in part, because they thought they could get Pep, they’ve taken a gamble. They’re almost  certain to have a manager on the sidelines next season less talented than the man they’ve sent packing.

2. who is to blame for poor results?

This is trickiest of all, because it requires making judgement calls. If the team has enough talent, one supposes that poor results are the fault of the manager. Sometimes though, the dressing room can be a toxic atmosphere, which would require time and patience for the manger to clean up1. Has the manager lost the dressing room? In that age-old sporting parlance, “losing the dressing room” means that the team no longer responds to the manager. The reasons for this can be numerous. Firstly, it can be because the manager isn’t any good. It can mean the manager has damaged relationships within the team. It can be because the team has developed a perception of weakness or a lack of confidence in the manager, or it could be because the team’s current culture doesn’t gel with what the manager is trying to do. It’s understandable that some long-tenured veteran players may bristle at change or a shift in power.

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So what’s gone on with Mou at Chelsea? Well, the club cited a “palpable discord” between him and the players as their reason for sacking him, so it’s safe to say that he had lost at least part of the dressing room, but like any classroom or workplace, dressing rooms can be rife with cliques and camps. While speculation has pointed to players like Cesc Fabregas, it’s hard to believe their captain John Terry wouldn’t be able to quell some of the insubordination if he weren’t involved as well — but the who isn’t all that important anyway.

Some would argue that losing the dressing room makes the manager’s position untenable, but this isn’t necessarily the case. If you have the right man for the job, you back him, and you allow him to ship out any problem players, thereby strengthening his position in the process.

Not every manager is Sir Alex Ferguson, certainly, but the model is there. Find your man, give him your unyielding support so his power cannot be questioned by players, and hope you’ve chosen well. Arséne Wenger at Arsenal is another prime example. His reign hasn’t been as trophy-laden as Ferguson’s, but with Wenger, Arsenal chose a pragmatic visionary and trusted him to take the club forward, and they’ve been rewarded for doing so.

A web poll on one of the big English papers has popular opinion currently at 62% that Chelsea have made a mistake. The club’s owner, Roman Abramovic has now sacked seven managers since 2003. Perhaps it’s his philosophy, not the manager’s position, that is untenable.

 


  1. Sunderland are a perfect example of this. They’re notorious for having a boozy, lazy, manager-killing work ethic

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