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This season the managerial merry-go-round in the Premier League hasn’t had quite the number of passengers it usually has. Only 3 managers who began the season have lost their jobs; Steve Bruce at Sunderland, Neil Warnock at QPR and Mick McCarthy at Wolves. It remains to be seen if this will remain the case between now and the end of the season, but it is to the credit of the Premier League clubs that on the whole they have stuck with their managers; rather than wielding the axe like some of the knee-jerk reactions we have seen in previous seasons. It is quite possible however that the reasons behind this are financial, and some clubs have no choice but to stay with their managers as they can’t afford an alternative. Despite this record, it is quite feasible that come May, the top 6 Premier League teams could all be searching for a new manager and here’s why…
Manchester City – Roberto Mancini
Currently, Manchester City lie at the top of the Premier League table, where they’ve been for most of the season, 2 points clear of their fiercest rivals Manchester United. Granted this is a great position for Mancini to be in, but at a club like Manchester City the manager’s position is never secure. The owners have pumped millions into making the club dominant force in football and won’t accept second best. City have never challenged for the title before but their city neighbours in second place certainly have and will push the leaders all the way. Manchester City have to keep their nerve at the top of the table, but their form since Christmas, with Manchester United snapping at their heels, has been decidedly shaky. They are out of the FA and Carling Cups and failed in their first season in the Champions League, crashing out in the group stages. They may be the favourites to take the Europa League crown but this will not appease the demanding owners at the Etihad. The only trophy that City can still win which will please their wealthy chairman is the Premier League title; if they don’t Mancini will almost certainly be out of a job.
Manchester United – Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial record at Manchester United is unrivalled; 12 titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 Champions League titles amongst others make Ferguson the most successful manager in English football. His Manchester United team are again challenging at the top of the table, trying to win the club’s 20th league title. If United do overtake their local rivals Manchester City to take the Premier League title, it leaves Ferguson with a decision to make. He celebrated his 70th birthday in December and despite having no desire to quit, has stated that he wants to leave on a high by winning a title. Not only that but current Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has declared his intention to leave the Bernabeu at the end of the season. Sir Alex also recently said in an interview that his successor needed to be a man with experience of success. Could it be that Ferguson decides the best move for the club would be for him to step aside to allow an available Mourinho to take the reins at Old Trafford? Especially as other Premier League rivals (including big spending ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City) will also be monitoring Jose Mourinho’s position very closely.
Tottenham Hotspur – Harry Redknapp
Tottenham Hotspur have played some of the best football of this season’s Premier League and much of this is down to their manager Harry Redknapp; a man who’s taken the club from the doldrums of the league to challenging at the top in his tenure at White Hart Lane. This form has attracted the attentions of the FA, who need a new England manager after parting company with less-than popular Italian Fabio Capello, and Redknapp is the clear favourite. There’s no doubt that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will put up a fight to keep his manager but he may not have a choice if Redknapp wants to go; and it would appear to be a perfect fit for all concerned. He’s now 65 and may feel a job where he doesn’t deal with the day-to-day running of a club, as well as the privilege of managing his country, is ideal.
Arsenal – Arsene Wenger
There’s no doubt that since Frenchman Arsene Wenger came to the Premier League with Arsenal he’s had a profound effect on the English game; changing attitudes to training, diets and tactics as well as building some of the most successful teams of the modern era, not least the ‘Invincibles’ team of 2003-04. However, the current Arsenal team is the weakest seen under the leadership of Wenger. This was underlined last week at the San Siro when AC Milan thrashed a poor Arsenal 4-0, more or less killing off their Champions League dream for another season. They followed up that performance by being dumped out of the FA Cup by Sunderland, and now have no chance of silverware this season. It’s now 7 years since Arsenal won a trophy and it may be a case of the 7-year-itch at the Emirates. Whilst it’s extremely unlikely that the board would sack Wenger after what he has done for the club, he may be asked to take a role such as Director of Football to allow a new man to take over, with the name of Pep Guardiola currently being whispered.
Chelsea – Andre Villas-Boas
It would certainly appear that the managerial position at Chelsea is the most likely to become vacant following a difficult season for 34 year old Andre Villas-Boas. After an incredibly successful season with Porto, Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich thought he’d found the man to succeed the first Italian to win the Premier League title, Carlo Ancelotti. This was always going to be a difficult season at Chelsea with the squad going through a transitional period, but AVB hasn’t particularly endeared himself to the Chelsea faithful. His sometimes perplexing tactical choices and questionable man-management skills of high profile players have left usual title challengers Chelsea fighting for 4th place. They are one of two English clubs still in the Champions League, and it remains to be seen if they will proceed further in the competition, which may keep Villas-Boas in a job. The Portuguese manager claims he is working on a project at Stamford Bridge but following a poor season by Chelsea’s standards it is doubtful whether he will be allowed to continue that project.
Liverpool – Kenny Dalglish
Kenny Dalglish is a Liverpool legend, and since his return to the hot seat at Anfield succeeding Roy Hodgson, has presided over a turn-around in the team’s fortunes. On the pitch they are performing much better than this time last year, despite some disappointing home results, and still remain in the hunt for a Champions League place. Dalglish’s problems lay off the field, and especially with how he dealt with the Luis Suarez racism issue. Since his return to management, Dalglish has hardly endeared himself to the press and nowhere was this more evident than his post-match interview with Geoff Shreeves following his team’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. The interview was dominated by Suarez’s refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand before kick-off and Dalglish’s reaction to being questioned about the incident was aggressive. An apology quickly followed but Liverpool’s American owners were suitably worried that the club’s reputation has been damaged by the events, and if the team don’t achieve above expectation by the end of the season may try and find an excuse to replace Kenny Dalglish.