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Are football managers always to blame when things go wrong?

Friday 27th October 2017
Another week has passed in the Premier League, and once again it led to a call for manager's heads. Ronald Koeman has lost his position, Slaven Bilic is seemingly on the brink and even a minority of fans are calling for Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp to leave after disappointing defeats to Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.
Are fans too harsh on managers? Are clubs too quick to move them on when things get tough?

Many different people will come up with different answers and opinions but could it be that football managers are the fall guys when nine times out of ten it isn't their fault that things have taken a downturn at their clubs?

Football is a unique sport in that there are fewer stoppages than any other sport in the world and with the ball being in play for several minutes at a time it is impossible for the coaches to have a real influence on what 22 players and a ball do during these passages of play. Naturally, there are elements of football that can be coached, such as set pieces, formations and deciding how high to set your defensive line in a game to name a few but there are still too many things beyond a managers control for them to have the level of influence that they are often held responsible for.

There has been a growing number of situations over the last few years where a manager who had been doing a good job suddenly suffers a turn in fortunes and ultimately loses their job. There are examples all over the footballing world of this with the two most obvious examples being Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Claudio Ranieri at Leicester. Did they suddenly become bad managers overnight? It is highly unlikely so what are the reasons that things went so wrong so quickly?
The likelihood is the blame lies with the players. In the two cases mentioned above Chelsea and Leicester, both turned things around as quickly as their form had dropped once they got rid of Mourinho and Ranieri with exactly the same squad of players. Were the new managers simply better tacticians than those they had replaced resulting in a dramatic turnaround? Honestly, I don't think so.

So what is the reason that results suddenly change after a good period and then when the manager is replaced the performance levels suddenly increase? It probably comes down to player motivation. When a new manager comes in everyone is eager to impress them and wants to make an impression to earn themselves a spot in the team. They are keen to try and implement new ideas and will do whatever it takes to get that spot in the team. However, after some time some relationships start to fracture, some players aren't happy with their role and even with the players who are playing regularly complacency starts to kick in and they are no longer going that extra mile to prove themselves and suddenly the rot begins to kick in.

Is there a time frame for this? Many commentators and experts have mentioned Jose Mourinho's third season blues and perhaps there could be something in that. When you look at the list of all 92 football managers in the English leagues just 15 (16.3%) of those have been with their current clubs for more than three years. When you reduce that further there are only 24 (26.1%) managers who have been with their current clubs more than two years. That's a remarkably low figure and you have to wonder how managers are supposed to plan for a club's long-term success.
The thing with football now is that changing a manager is used almost like a medication at the majority of clubs in the English leagues. Once things start to go wrong the first response is to make a change to the manager and unfortunately, we have reached the stage were it generally brings about a positive response as the players knuckle down and the cycle begins again.

Football management has now become a short-term game of trying to get the most out of the short period when a manager is still getting the most out of his charges before the inevitable downfall occurs.

Therefore the days when managers and teams built great dynasties look to be in the past as modern football sucks up yet another of the things that made the game so great in years gone by.
Gerry Johnston

I am a 33-year-old sports writer from Ireland who enjoys watching European football. My main focus is La Liga, but I do keep a close eye on all of the major leagues throughout the world.


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