Put yourself in the shoes of a Premier League club owner for a minute. The team you’re responsible for have started the season with two wins from 12 games and is stuck in the bottom three. While the season is not yet a lost cause, there are the inevitable murmurings of player and fan discontent. Do you stay strong and back your man, or do you look in another direction?
If you decide to go with the latter option, then another question arises. What type of manager do you go for? An up and coming progressive manager whose philosophy is to play an entertaining brand of football, or someone from the old guard whose mentality is to win football games — irrespective of how he has to go about it?
The different approach that each club takes in this kind of position is fascinating and has led to a major talking point this season.
A Misguided Return to the “Old Guard”
With such exorbitant amounts of money in the game today, football can become a highly lucrative bonanza for the clubs who are run efficiently — and with a clear method in place. The opposite, of course, applies to those clubs who consistently make rash decisions and employ the wrong type of individuals.
Relating to the initial question that was posed, the 2017/8 season has seen owners turn to the ‘old guard’ with the feeling that they have the know-how to steer a sinking ship to safety. Veteran managers like Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce will find a job in the Premier League due to their previous history of getting teams out of trouble.
While Palace remains under threat of relegation, there’s a strong case to be made that Hodgson has outperformed Allardyce this season, especially when you consider the resources of the two clubs. Some of Everton’s displays — especially those away from home and against top-six opponents — have been nothing short of abysmal. However, that notwithstanding, it doesn’t come close to the pitiful season that West Brom fans have had to endure.
The type of football that Tony Pulis produces could be kindly be referred to as antiquated — and if you are brutally honest, unwatchable. To the credit of the Welshman, he has made a living from getting teams out of trouble or, in the case of Stoke and West Brom, establishing them in the Premier League. Most observers at the Hawthorns felt that he had run his race and it was time for a new man at the reigns. That man in question was none other than Alan Pardew.
Pardew is clearly a man who does not lack any self-confidence and felt it was time to step back into the hot seat after his failure at Crystal Palace. Fans hoping for a brave new era wouldn’t have taken long to feel underwhelmed. While it’s true that his team had more of the ball and created a more chances than under the Pulis reign, the end product was severely lacking. Moreover, fans who were hoping to see new faces in the team and injection of fresh blood into the sqaud were left sorely disappointed. Pardew seemingly had the same mindset of his predecessor and stuck to the ‘old guard’ without giving valuable minutes into the likes of Sam Field and Oliver Burke. A baffling move which exhibited a distinct lack of trust in his young players.
The lack of cohesiveness showed on the pitch, as the Baggies season went from bad to out-and-out disaster. This week, Pardew was finally put out of his misery with the frankly awful record of one league win in 18 matches (which came against Brighton in January). It could easily go down as one of the worst managerial reigns in Premier League history.
Uncertain Futures for Established Managers
It is all well and good to lean on experience when seeking to get your side out of a hole, but like players, managers can become out of form or even out of touch with modern football.
David Moyes, who who had lukewarm support from the West Ham fan base when it was announced that he would replace Slaven Bilic, is a case in point. The Scot had a less than flattering recent record at the top level, most notably with Sunderland last season when they won just six games and finished rock bottom on 24 points. While he has performed better in his role this season, they have lost three of their last five games including the humiliating loss to Burnley which saw uproar in the stands.
Moyes, and recent Southampton appointee Mark Hughes, who are both on short term contracts, are lacking the comfort enjoyed by some of other managers in their position. The next few weeks will tell whether they deserve another season.
Time for the Next Generation?
Experienced managers have the type of savviness that their younger counterparts lack. In essence, they know how to self-promote, get their face seen by doing a stint of punditry, and, with that platform, talk about how keen they are to get back to management. In the main, they feel that the Championship is below them and believe there is a job in the Premier League with their name on it.
Younger managers have to do the hard yards and excel for a long period of time to even get a look-in. The likes of Gary Rowett, Lee Johnson, Neil Harris and Graham Potter are doing some fine things with their respective clubs at this time.
However, it will take a brave owner to change the overall mindset of ‘jobs for the usual suspects’ and give the next generation a go. As we have seen from the likes of Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche if you give them a chance, good things will happen.