Playing Russian roulette with managers

The ruthless execution of club managers: is it a knee-jerk reaction that’s become fashionable or whether modern-day football is actually that competitive? That’s the big question.

Walking a tight rope? Claudio Ranieri was unceremoniously shown the door after he had guided Leicester, who were 5000/1 to win, to the EPL title. This is an indication that no manager is safe.   -  AP

Modern-day football is a lot of things: it’s fast-paced, tactical, has so much of science calling the shots and refuses to stop surprising. But for the football manager, to put it very simply, it’s unforgiving.

It doesn’t take even 10 league games in a season before the heads start rolling off the chopping block at clubs. We’re at a stage in the European leagues season where you shouldn’t really be discussing title contenders or relegation-bound teams, because more often than not, these battles go down to the last week of the football calendar, and sometimes even the last minute. Ask Manchester City and Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero.

But we’re only in October and Bayern Munich have got rid of Carlo Ancelotti, Leicester City have sacked Craig Shakespeare, Everton have divorced Ronald Koeman. Slaven Bilic looks like he’s on his way out and the list could only get longer. The big question, and one that I’m not sure I have the answer to, is whether this ruthless execution is a knee-jerk reaction that’s become fashionable or whether modern-day football is actually that competitive?

Except for Arsenal, who seem to operate in a parallel world with a different set of rules, most clubs don’t have ‘faith in the manager’ on their agenda anymore. As I write this piece, Twitter’s just told me that Rangers have sacked manager Pedro Caixinha after seven months in charge. His fault? Trailing the Scottish League leaders Celtic by eight points rather early in the season.

I, for one, am in favour of handing a manager more time than the average of eight games that’s doing the rounds. A manager brings with him his own style, his ideology and for that to take effect, is a process that needs time. Sacking a manager after one big defeat early in the season never made any sense to me. But if Claudio Ranieri can lose his job after guiding Leicester — who were 5000/1 to win the league — to the title, then no one is safe.

Did he deserve more respect and more importantly, more time? Yes! I don’t mean any disrespect to Leicester and I am in fact a fan of what they went on to achieve, but I don’t see the club ever repeating their astonishing run to the title. Would I back them if Ranieri was still around? Maybe. But a ‘maybe’ definitely has more hope than a ‘will not’. For the record, Ranieri is now managing French side Nantes, who, after 10 games, are sitting pretty in third place and trailing leaders PSG by just six points. Of course, no one is guaranteed success because you’ve won something the previous season as manager. But when there’s so much of a season left, you’ve got to back your manager.

I can’t really put my finger on an instance but I am certain that sacking and replacing a manager in haste has been counter-productive for more than just a few clubs.

Then again, football nowadays is so much more than just about, well, football. The amount of money being pumped in by owners makes managers a lot more accountable than they ideally should be. Everyone wants a quick return on money and it’s sad to see how that turns out on some very talented managers who deserve better.

But for every Ranieri, Ancelotti and Shakespeare there’s the coach of Spanish youth side CD Serranos who was sacked by the board after his under-11s beat opponents Benicalap 25-0! The result was deemed as a lack of respect for rivals and the coach lost his job. It’s a mad world that we live in, but one where I’m glad I’m still a footballer. No trench coats and touchline boundaries for me!