In a previous Business of Soccer article, “One Secret to Successful Management“, I spoke about the rarity of tenured managers (5+ years with same club) in the Barclay’s Premier League (BPL) and the relationship between managerial longevity and club success. After this offseason, 3 of the 4 tenured managers mentioned in the article (Moyes, Pulis, and Ferguson) have since left their respective clubs, either for retirement or another club. These moves, along with some other moving and shaking at the manager position around the league, have turned the ’13/’14 season into one of the toughest ever to predict.
Several big name clubs made some big time managerial moves in the offseason. Chelsea brought the “special one”, Jose Mourinho, back to its sidelines and Manchester City parted ways with Roberto Mancini after he failed to match his championship ’11/’12 campaign results with arguably the most talented squad in the league, finishing 12 points from the top of the table. Mancini was replaced by Chilean Manuel Pelligrini, and David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United upon his retirement, and Roberto Martinez, former Wigan boss, replaced Moyes as the Toffees’ new manager. Tony Pulis left Stoke City on “mutual consent” terms with the club to be replaced by Mark Hughes, former QPR boss prior to Harry Redknapp.
Though clubs have certainly been active in this year’s transfer market, the buzz around the league is abnormally more managerial focused as opposed to the players. Aside from Manchester City’s loss of Carlos Tevez, none of the aforementioned clubs lost any of its key players during the transfer window, and in fact, most strengthened their depth charts. Manchester City more than made up for their attacking loss by adding 4 top name players to its ranks: Paulinho, Jesus Navas, Negredo, and Jovetic. If the level of talent is relatively on par with last season’s squads, why then are bookmakers on oddschecker.com, such as William Hill, reluctant to put any distance between their top picks for clubs to win the league this season? The answer is the uncertainty that comes inherently with a new manager at the helm of some of the top clubs.
Bloomberg published an article yesterday explaining the odds. William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly was quoted in the article and explained,
It’s one of those ones where you actually don’t know what’s going to happen. Anything can happen when you change the manager. It doesn’t matter how good the team is, if you don’t get them playing the right way they can fall out of contention.
While most are concerned with who will win the league, Crilly noted that the relegation race could be just as tough to call as the title race. Though the three newly promoted Championship clubs, Hull City, Cardiff City, and Crystal Palace, are odds on favorites for relegation this season, strong cases from Newcastle and Stoke City can also be made.
Nobody knows what they are going to do. You can argue it’s going to be as close at the bottom this year as at the top because there are plenty of teams who could go down.
The uncertainty felt by fans and experts alike is driven in large part by the changed managerial landscape in the BPL from last season. This feeling is rooted in the fact that it does not matter how talented a team or an organization may be; without clear direction, strategy, and leadership from the manager(s), talent is all but useless. All of the new BPL managers got to where they are for a reason, but pressure and expectations are mounting for what promises to be one of the most entertaining and topsy-turvy BPL seasons in recent history.