There is a joke going around that in order to speed up the hiring and firing process at Chelsea, Roman Abramovich has fired Pep Guardiola. Like all good jokes it’s mostly amusing because there’s an element of truth in it. But it hides a misperception that is gaining traction within football and the media. That misperception is that the longevity of the manager and the patience of the board is what guarantees success. Look at Fergie and Wenger and Moyes so the story goes.
The problem is that the received wisdom is the wrong way around. It is not the longevity of the manager that guarantees success, it is success that guarantees the longevity of the manager. We all know how close Fergie came to being sacked and how fortuitous his escape was. However, the fact remains that it was his success on that windswept day in January 1990 that saved his job and it has been his continued success that has allowed him to stay in the job for so long.
Similarly, Wenger has remained in his job because of his original success and his continued relative success in keeping his side in the Champions League for so many consecutive seasons. Incidentally, each club will create its own view as to what defines success for that club.
Which brings us back to Stamford Bridge. What defines your success as a manager at the Bridge is what the owner tells you it is. I’m sure that each incoming manager is made acutely aware of what the owner defines as success and they sign up to it. Whatever the reason, it is safe to assume that Roberto di Matteo knew exactly what was coming and the interview given by Jon Obi Mikel after the Juventus defeat told the story. Mikel said, “it can’t be left to just five of us to defend. We won last season by defending as a team”. Last season the manager did not play in the expansive style the owner demanded but won the Champions League and stayed in a job. This season he has tried to appease the owner. He lost and now he’s out of a job.
The moral is, keep winning and you’ll keep working.
Dr Chris Brady is a visiting professor at Salford University’s Business School.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.