Does it actually work to keep chopping and changing the manager?
How is it then that Chelsea have been so successful despite instability?
Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea he has employed nine managers in as many years. Convention has it that this is madness. Stability breeds success – look at Manchester United.
Yet if the latest manager, Rafael Benitez, wins next month's Club World Championship, Chelsea will have lifted 11 major trophies in that time, more than any other English club, including United. Maybe, as several pundits have suggested this week, Abramovich's rotating door management policy works.
Consider the advantages. At the first indication that a manager is failing he is axed, instead of being allowed to linger on overseeing a period of decline. Players are kept on their toes, fresh ideas are introduced, a wider network of contacts utilised. After all, is this not what governments do with the great offices of state when the Cabinet is reshuffled? Look, conversely, at what happens when there is stagnation, as at Fifa where there have been two leaders in 38 years, during which time the organisation has fallen into disrepute. Avoiding such scelerotic management and the resultant patronage is why the US Government only allows presidents to serve two terms. And then there is Arsenal, seven trophyless years and counting.
Sir Alex Ferguson, eight years at Aberdeen, 26 at Manchester United, producing the most successful eras of both clubs, unsurprisingly disagrees. "Longevity helps," he said. "That is my opinion."
The stats back him up. An examination of the managerial turnover of the 11 clubs to have had at least one season in the last decade with a 35,000-plus average gate (as good a guide of a 'big club' as any) reveals – barring two exceptions – those with the fewest changes have won the most honours.
The exceptions are Everton, whose consistent performances under David Moyes have not yet brought honours though they have delivered a series of top-10 Premier League finishes, and Chelsea.
"Chelsea have had a lot of success," added Ferguson. "There are a lot of teams who have spent a lot of money and won nothing. There are a few who've spent and won no titles, no Champions League, No FA Cup, No League Cups."
Generous, but only true up to a point. Malcolm Allison's Manchester City, Peter Ridsdale's Leeds United, Sir John Hall's Newcastle United all spent significantly with little reward in terms of silverware, but no club has spent to the degree Chelsea have without success. Even Portsnouth, the one outsider to win one of the English game's two big honours in the last two decades only did so at the expense of near bankruptcy.
Chelsea, nevertheless, have won a lot, practically everything. Instability reigns?
There is no logic to this theory, despite the examples given above. Fifa may have suffered from stagnation but the constant turnover of chairmen and chief executives at the Football Association have weakened the body to the extent that the Premier League (who have had the same chairman and chief executive since 1999) effectively runs the professional game. As for the great offices of state, the continual reshuffles have left the Departments of Health and Education in turmoil as each new minister throws out his predecessor's policies (even when of the same party) and brings in his own initiatives. Then, when he has finally come to understand such sprawling portfolios, he (or she) is reshuffled elsewhere to start again. The US limitation on terms of office, meanwhile, do not apply to members of Congress who, in domestic policy, wield at least as much power collectively as the president. The two-term policy is designed to curb the power of the executive, not promote new ideas. And Arsenal? They have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League 13 years in succession, an achievement most clubs would envy.
How is it then that Chelsea have been so successful? The reality is the club has had stability – on the pitch. The spine of the team, Peter Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, came together under Jose Mourinho in the summer of 2004 and remained the heartbeat of the team for eight seasons. Chelsea should probably have won more titles, at home and abroad, and surely would have done were it not for the constant change of manager. That they have won as much as they did is down to these four players.
But Drogba is gone, while Terry, Cech and Lampard are in their thirties and in decline. It is not immediately obvious where their replacements are going to come from. Maybe Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, and Radamel Falcao will be the new spine. They will need to be as it seems clear, with Benitez hired on a short-term basis, that the manager's name will continue to be chalked on his office door rather than inked.
Ferguson has no doubt where the blame lies for his colleagues' insecurity. "It has changed over the last 25 years," he said. "New types of owners have come in. Look back at say Arsenal under the Hill-Woods. You'd never expect anything like [Chelsea's management changes] happening under stable people like that. But it has changed. You have got Russians, Americans, all sorts, Chinese. Maybe they expect to come in and win everything. Maybe they think it is easy."
1. Mishmash of the Day is out of touch with its viewers
Expect Twitter to be aflame with dissatisfied #MotD viewers tonight, as most weekends. Unsure whether viewers are fresh from the pub, youngsters watching the Sunday morning repeat, casual football fans or aficionados, the programme is a mishmash of lame banter and superficial analysis. And MotD2 is even worse.
The problem is partly Match of the Day's personnel, some of whom are coasting, but also the format and editorial control of star pundits. MotD's "analysis" mainly consists of showing goal repeats while describing what happened, but not why. Unlike Sky, the BBC has not realised that the English football audience is becoming more tactically sophisticated and wants to be informed as well as entertained.
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When in Rome... dress smartly, carry Corriere Dello Sera, avoid the main piazzas, drink quietly, hire a car and park north of the stadium: in short, travel undercover. It should not have to be that way for football fans. Uefa must act before it has a tragedy on its hands.
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This week I stumbled across film of Eddie Gray's memorable 1970 goal for Leeds against Burnley. It is easy to forget how terrible pitches used to be, yet Gray's skilful footwork in the mud is rarely matched even on today's carpets.
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