December 26, 2017 9:04:41 pm
The first half of the football season in 2017 was filled with managerial sackings all over Europe. The failure to procure desired results prompted clubs to make changes in leadership. The phenomenon of “manager bounce” invaded football, especially among smaller clubs. The sackings also led to the return of some of the popular and experienced managers back to different set-ups.
English Premier League
In England, the sacking of manager began even before the season started. In June, Southampton announced that they had sacked manager Claude Puel after one year.
It is hard to understand what went wrong for Puel, who took the Saints to League Cup final against Manchester United in February where they almost stole the crown from them. Under his charge, Southampton ended the season in eighth position, slightly lower than their 6th position from the previous year. His style of play came under criticism from fans which finally decided his fate. His sacking appeared questionable as some of Southampton’s players including Oriol Romeu, James-Ward Prowse, Nathan Redmond, Cédric Soares enjoyed their best season under him.
But, Premier League was not done with him, as Puel made an unexpected return by grabbing the now-prestigious managerial role at Leicester City. The 2015-16 Premier League winning-team got off to a mediocre start to the season and remained in the bottom three in the initial stages. The poor performance led Craig Shakespeare’s sacking four months after he took the managerial job from Claudio Ranieri. The club soon announced the decision to hire Puel. His presence had an instant impact as Leicester went on to defeat bigwigs such as Tottenham Hotspur and climbed to the eighth position in the table.
In September, Crystal Palace sacked Frank de Boer just after five games in charge. The Dutchman became the manager to have the shortest tenure for a manager in the history of EPL. The Eagles had slipped to 19th position in the table after losing first 5 games which prompted the decision. It opened the door for former England manager Roy Hodgson to take on the job, who struggled to get desired results at first, but with a return to form from Wilfred Zaha, started building a surprisingly strong attacking unit. He took Crystal Palace out from relegation zone as Eagles climbed up to 16th position.
But the best managerial change came from Everton where a struggling Ronald Koeman was replaced by “relegation zone expert” Sam Allardyce. The Big Sam did it again. Koeman, who had a really strong transfer window, struggled to use the resources. But Allardyce knew exactly how he needs to use Wayne Rooney, whom he managed during his stint with England national team. The former United man showed excellent form and became a regular goalscorer under Allardyce. The Toffees did not lose a single game in five matches and climbed up to the top half of the table under him.
Another manager who failed to make the best of the summer signings was West Ham’s Slaven Bilic. The Croatian had a successful transfer window but his side slumped to continuous defeats and ended up in the relegation zone. Bilic’s sacking prompted the return of former Manchester United manager David Moyes. In spite of a huge victory against Chelsea, Moyes still has failed to bring in a consistency in results and West Ham are still at 17th position in the table.
West Brom and Swansea, who are lying at the bottom of the table, also sacked their managers due to recent failures. While Tony Pulis was replaced by former Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew at West Brom, the Welsh club have still not named a replacement for Paul Clement.
The biggest sacking of the season perhaps happened at Bayern Munich when UEFA Champions League winning manager Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in September. The result was announced just a day after Bayern suffered a 3-0 defeat against PSG in a Champions League fixture. His sacking brought the return of Jupp Heynckes as interim manager. In his fourth term with the Bundesliga champions, the 72-year old brought Javi Martinez back to midfielder duties, who became the perfect glue joining the attacking set-up with the defence. Heynckes’ back-to-basics philosophy worked in Bayern’s favour as they slowly climbed to their preferred top position in the Bundesliga table.
After Dortmund’s winless run reached 12 games in all competitions by December, the club decided to part ways with manager Peter Bosz and appointed Peter Stoeger as the manager. The selection came as a surprise as Stoeger was sacked just a week ago by FC Cologne who were lying at the bottom of the table. But the Austrian justified the appointment by winning the next game against Mainz and helping Dortmund to climb up to the third position in the table.
Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo, who took the club to a massive comeback draw against Liverpool in a Champions League fixture in November, was sacked after the midweek 3-1 loss against Real Soceidad. Berizzo’s sacking came just a week after he came back from the operation to remove prostrate cancer. The club has not announced any replacement yet.
If there was any club that was appearing to be on a “revamp” mode during the summer transfer window, it was Serie A’s former giants AC Milan. It was seven years ago that Milan had last won a Serie A title and since then were failing to go climb up to their former heights.
Under head coach Vincenzo Montella, the 18-time Italian champions spent a whopping £210million to invest in big players all around Europe, including Juventus’ defending maestro Leonardo Bonucci. The club was sold to a Chinese consortium in April this year by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and under the new guard, it looked like Milan could regain their former glory.
But, as the season progressed, Milan’s on-field performance left a lot to be desired. The 19-year old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma came under massive criticism from fans for reportedly pushing for a transfer and Bonucci also felt the wrath of thousands of fans at San Siro Stadium for insipid performance. With the Rossoneri slipping to seventh by November end, Milan’s style of play under Montella came under criticism and he was replaced by former captain Gennaro Gattuso.
But Gattuso, who was known for his hot-headed on-field behaviour, did not provide much impact as Milan have won only two out of six matches in all competitions under him and slipped to 11th position in Serie A table.
Of all the managerial sackings this year, Lille’s manager Marcelo Bielsa’s appeared to be the least surprising one. The Argentine was sacked a month after he was suspended for a string of poor results and reportedly for “an unauthorised visit” to see former Chile assistant Luis Bonini who was suffering from cancer. Bielsa was brought on by the club this year in hopes of taking the club to European shores.
The manager too invested heavily in summer and brought in over a dozen players but the team struggled and dropped into the relegation zone, which finally sealed his fate by mid-December. The club announced that former Saint Etienne manager Christophe Galtier will be replacing Bielsa as the manager. Galtier, who played for Lille in 1987-1990, and served as the manager for Etienne for eight years, is French League’s longest serving manager, and could provide the change Lille need.
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