Hire and Fire a Management Problem in English Football
The 2015/16 football campaign is barely half done at this point, and the English Premier League has already been a bloodbath in terms of management shakeups. Liverpool sacked Brendan Rodgers; Aston Villa fired Tim Sherwood; Sunderland dismissed Dick Advocaat; Meanwhile, other managers like Louis van Gaal (Manchester United) and Steve McClaren (Newcastle United) could very well not last until the end of the season in their current positions.
A New Sacking Record
The Premier League’s turnover rate has been modest compared to that of the Championship, too. Indeed, England’s second professional football tier has sacked a combined total of 10 managers so far this season. In fact, according to the LMA (League Managers Association), the top four divisions of English soccer sacked 29 managers in the first half of the 2015/16 campaign.
Since there are 92 teams spread out across those four divisions, that means roughly a quarter of England’s football clubs have fired their managers in the past five months. Also according to the LMA, 29 is the highest number of sackings that have ever been recorded at this point in the season—a not-so-flattering record that showcases a problematic trend in modern English soccer.
The hope, of course, is that things will improve in the second half of the season and clubs won’t continue sacking their managers at the current pace. The all-time season-long record for sacked managers (again, in the top four English soccer divisions) is 53, set back in 2002/03. But with things still going badly for several teams who replaced their managers (Sunderland and Aston Villa remain at the bottom of the barrel, and even Jurgen Klopp is struggling at Liverpool). With most of the top Premier League teams considering going after Pep Guardiola in the spring, that record might still be in reach.
It’s also worth noting that since the LMA issued their mid-season report, several more managers were sacked from jobs at lower-tier clubs. So the actual “fired manager” tally at this point is actually more than 29.
Addressing the Problem
English clubs aren’t the only ones with quick trigger fingers. Real Madrid sacked Rafael Benitez this season after just 25 games in charge, despite the fact that he’d won 17 of those matches and lost just three of them.
Still, the fact that the hire-fire culture exists throughout the world of soccer doesn’t excuse the Premier League for this season’s dismal statistics. For every club that gives their manager a chance to turn things around (Chelsea arguably kept Jose Mourinho in charge for too long, even when it was clear that his relationships with players had soured), there are another three or four willing to pull the trigger on firing coaches who don’t deliver instantaneous good results.
Sometimes, the decision to fire a coach is opportunistic. Liverpool probably fired Rodgers more because they had a chance to hire Jurgen Klopp rather than because the Irishman was mismanaging things at Anfield. After all, Rodgers had lost his three best players (Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, and Raheem Sterling) in just a little over a year: any manager would have needed time to rebuild.
Other times, the decision to fire a coach is a PR move. Tim Sherwood saved Aston Villa from relegation last season, but when the team collapsed this past fall, Chairman Steve Hollis really had no choice but to fire him. Fans expect clubs to take action when their teams are failing, and Aston Villa were the definition of “failing” at the beginning of the season. But the fact that it took Remi Garde more than two months to win a single match proves that not every failure is the manager’s fault.
What’s the answer to this problem? Clearly, consistency is the only job security in English football. Arsenal hasn’t won a title since 2005, but they have dependably remained a top-five soccer club. As a result, Arsene Wenger has been able to hold onto his job for nearly 20 years—more than twice as long as literally anyone else in professional English football.
Do you have an opinion on the matter? Should soccer clubs be contractually forced to give their coaches at least six months to get situated and find a groove? Or is the hire-fire culture just a part of the sport? Hope for the best for managers like Louis van Gaal and Steve McClaren with a new Manchester United shirt or a Newcastle United kit 2015/16 on Soccer Box. Then, follow us on social media and share your opinions on the sacking problem in English football.