Graham Potter, Brendan Rodgers and the madness of the Premier League

Less than two trips around the sun but apparently more than enough time for a manager to tumble and burn in the searing heat of the Premier League atmosphere. ‘Sacking Sunday’, as it is already known, saw the number of dropped managers in England’s ruthlessly ridiculous top flight rise to 13 in a single season – one that has the best part of two months remaining – and dragged their average down durability at an all-time low.

First up was Brendan Rodgers, a relative veteran who managed to survive for over four years, who could no longer convince Leicester City board that he remained their best hope to stop an alarming descent towards the relegation zone. Fans have been less supportive for some time but it took the Foxes finally slipping into the bottom three with the loss to Crystal Palace to reconcile decision makers’ thinking with the paying customer.

Many expected the former Celtic manager to leave earlier in the season but it seems previous successes have bought Rodgers some extra rope. After his sudden, acrimonious departure from Glasgow in 2019, the Northern Irishman won Leicester for the first time in the FA Cup and twice led them to a Champions League spot. However, this was followed by a decline that left the club justified in opting for a fresh start. It can be argued that Rodgers overachieved at the highest points of his reign, but he certainly hasn’t achieved some time since.

It makes his sacking a relatively uncontroversial one, the natural end of the relationship between manager and club. The other layoff of the day? Significantly more difficult to unpack.

The decision to fire Thomas Tuchel and replace him with Graham Potter felt odd at the time. Well, odd in most contexts, but very on-brand when it comes to Chelsea. After winning the Champions League just months after arriving, there was a significant slump in form in Tuchel’s final days in London, but it was playing out against the backdrop of immense upheaval.

CONTINUE READING: Jurgen Klopp admits he’s still a Liverpool manager ‘due to the past’

Roman Abramovich’s ownership had come to a chaotic conclusion, followed by the consortium led by Todd Boehly who were quick to confirm they would run the club no less bombastic. Boehly embarked on a relentless summer spending spree that saw the addition of 10 new faces to Tuchel’s squad. The former Borussia Dortmund coach started to find the best formula for all these new elements and the results of the first season reflected that.

Could Tuchel have done better during this time? Probably. Was a dismissal premature? Given what has happened since then, you would have to say yes.

The recruitment of Potter from Brighton was intended to herald a change of pace at a notoriously trigger-happy club. The message from Boehly and his staff was that long term thinking is here at Stamford Bridge and it will stay here. When the club embarked on another incredibly expensive recruitment campaign in January, they were assured that it was all part of a master plan; the front-loading of Potter’s squad for a quick return to the elite that would later pay off in silverware and prize money.

But barely two months since Boehly put away his checkbook, Potter was kicked out. A man they were willing to invest millions and millions of pounds in – massive wages in a five-year deal, even more massive transfer spending – who was scrapped after just seven months on the job. It is true that the ex-Brighton boss did not look up to the task at hand, rather that he was hired to replace a proven world-class coach who was backed to the hilt with staggering expenses only to be summarily dumped when when the results weren’t there indicates a totally broken leadership culture in the Premier League.

Chelsea are now hinting they will take their time in appointing Potter’s successor, effectively writing off the rest of the season just weeks after attempting to buy back into the elite in the shortest possible time. At the current pace, Boehly is on track to ensure history will reflect the Abramovich era as comparatively tranquil.

In a healthier world, Chelsea’s turmoil could serve as a cautionary tale for chairmen with itchy trigger fingers, but the odds dictate – especially as the specter of relegation grows high for several clubs – Potter won’t be the last manager to hack the block in this bloodbath of a campaign. Even Jurgen Klopp, the most successful manager in Liverpool’s modern history, has felt the heat. The German openly admitted on Monday that the only reason he still has a job is because of past glory – as if they’re kind of ancient history and not just a blink of an eye.

That there have been serious discussions about whether Klopp could lose his job after an admittedly disappointing season shows the madness of how managers are treated in the English top flight. His Liverpool team needs to be rebuilt, but surely no one deserves the right to lead it more than Klopp, considering how he ripped the club out of years of painful mediocrity and restored it to continental superpower status.

CONTINUE READING: Six contenders to succeed Graham Potter as Chelsea head coach

Crucially, he did it because he was given time to do it. It also took Pep Guardiola two seasons to bring Manchester City back to victory. Manchester United appear to be charting such a course with Erik ten Hag but it will be interesting to see how much pressure he finds himself under should their current decline in form translate into something more permanent.

The average manager’s tenure, which falls under two years, comes at the end of a week in which Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, two coaches whose managerial dynasties have been built on trust and patience even in difficult times, are inducting into the Premier League Hall of Fame included the confirmation that we may never see their likes again.

As brilliant as Ferguson and Wenger were, they lived charming lives compared to a current generation constantly fending off existential threats. Graham Potter, Brendan Rodgers and the madness of the Premier League

Russell Falcon

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