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An open letter to the owners of EPL clubs

Modified 20 Dec 2013, 19:47 IST
Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

Andre Villas-Boas, manager of Tottenham Hotspur gives instructions watched by Steve Clarke, manager of West Bromwich Albion

Patience has become an expensive commodity nowadays in modern football. The sacking of Andre Villas Boas and Steve Clarke clearly suggests that. The Premier league has not even reached it’s halfway mark and 25% of the managers have already been sacked. Clarke and Boas especially had done remarkably well with their teams last season. But a bad patch of results or a couple of matches was all that was required to sack them.

Steve Clarke had a pretty poor 2013 in terms of results but that can be attributed to the fact that West Bromwich Albion were already safe from relegation and away from European spots. As a result, it can be argued that players lost their appetite required for winning matches.

This year was a different case altogether. West Brom performed admirably well against bigger teams defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford and getting creditable draws against Arsenal and Chelsea. This clearly demonstrates Clarke’s pedigree as a coach. Instead of sacking him, I feel the West Brom board should have supported him in such difficult times. Clarke possesses the capability to steer his team out of trouble and any team would be lucky to have him as their coach.

Gareth Bale had an excellent season in the Premier League last year when he was single handedly responsible for taking Spurs close to the brink of Champions league qualification. But equal credit should be given to Villas Boas whose tactical acumen was quite evident when Bale was given a free role in the hole. This new role was greatly responsible for the increased return in his goal tally.
Apart from Bale, Vertonghen and Lloris, Tottenham boast a pretty average team. Daniel Levy realized that and made a host of new signings with the money obtained from Bale’s world record transfer. Villas Boas had made Tottenham Hotspurs pretty hard to defeat. They had already registered a lot of clean sheets this season. Inspite of all the so-called troubles Tottenham faced, they were only 6 points behind 2nd place. Hence, the decision to sack Villas Boas becomes all the more shocking.

Injuries to Chiriches, Kaboul, Vertonghen meant that Spurs had to field an entirely inexperienced backline against arguably the most lethal striker in the world at the moment which was primarily responsible for their disastrous performance. I am not sure if Mr. Levy got that. New signings usually take 6 months or a year to settle down. Levy failed to understand that either. Buying 8 players for 100 million and expecting them to have an immediate impact is foolish. But sacking the manager because those signings don’t click immediately is simply preposterous.

In that respect, I feel that the Manchester United board has shown a lot of maturity. It’s difficult to see a team that were crowned Champions last year languishing in and around the 8th position for the better part of the season. But the United board realize that once the team starts to click under Moyes, United will once again be challenging for trophies. Moyes’ Everton stint shows his capabilities as a reactive manager able to set up his teams to stifle the opposition’s style of play which is what Ferguson used to do more often than not.

Liverpool are already reaping the benefits of giving time to Brendan Rodgers to ensure that the team gets accustomed to his philosophy. Liverpool’s unexpected lofty position in the Premier League is a testament to the smart thinking of their owners. Very few managers like Pochettino and Martinez click right from the start. Usually, there is bedding-in period involved which is followed by a lengthy period of stability and success.

The importance of stability is all the more clear when you look at Ferguson and Wenger, two of the most successful managers in the Premier League. Ferguson had an equally torrid start to his Manchester United career while Wenger has been receiving a lot of flak due to lack of trophies in recent seasons. But the boards stood by Ferguson and they were aptly rewarded with 12 league titles along with a couple of European cups. On the other hand, Arsenal’s decision to keep Wenger is already paying dividends as they are leading the Premier League as we approach Christmas. The team that is leading at Christmas has more often than not won the Premier League and this year could be no different as well.

I am not sure where West Brom or Tottenham go on from here. Squads at Manchester City and Chelsea have also faced great struggles while adjusting to their new coaches inspite of having a pre-season with their new managers. As a result, it is extremely difficult to see teams like Spurs and West Brom performing well under their new managers.


Short-sightedness of the owners is primarily responsible for the poor performance of English clubs at the Champions League as well in recent seasons. England enjoyed its best period in the Champions League with the so called Big Four. The unique thing about the Big Four was that each of their managers was given time to settle down and lead their teams to unprecedented success.

I feel that the owners should act in a responsible way and give their new managers time to settle down and implement their philosophies. The decisions to sack managers should be made after considerable thought and not just be a knee jerk reaction to a couple of bad results. EPL will remain the best league in the world only as long as its teams are playing well and that will happen only if the teams enjoy a period of stability. It’s now upto the owners to ensure that EPL continues to sit on its lofty perch ahead of the other leagues.

Published 20 Dec 2013, 19:47 IST
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