Is the “Premier League manager” becoming a thing of the past?

Well, some might feel a bit surprised at the title, others might feel intrigued at the idea of the Premier League managers turning into remnants of the past. However, for the ardent football fans this title – rather, this trend – might ring a bell and remind them of some instances in past which justify putting forth the bold question. This would be all the more true for gamblers and punters who follow Premier League betting odds, and keeping a track of how the manager’s role is being side-lined. In this article, we have made an attempt to see why and how exactly that change is being brought about.

A Shift in the Trend

As recently as May, Unai Emery was given the baton at Arsenal, but in the capacity of head coach rather than in the capacity of a manager. He replaced Arsene Wenger, who was labelled as the manager of the club for the last 22 years. Another example can be taken by Maurizio Sarri stepping into the shoes of Antonio Conte as the leader of Chelsea. Though he leads the team, he has retained the tag of head coach.

Out of the top rung of English football clubs, Emery and Sarri are among the six head coaches, and 14 other clubs have retained the position of “manager”, for now. Though the number are a minority, it does represents a shift and a trend that the official boss of the team is now moving away from an overarching role of overseeing every activity of the club.

Is there any actual difference?

Mauricio Pochettino changed his title from head coach to manager in 2016 when his contract with Tottenham was extended. He commented that since the time he had been associated with the club, he was more of a manager than just a coach. Well, the difference in the role of coach and a manager might arise in terms of dealing with affairs such as recruitment and transfers. A manager is responsible for various issues of the like nature, as opposed to simply coaching. One rumour behind why Antonio Conte stepped down from his position of manager is because of him not being given the autonomy that a manager wields.

This can also be seen in how Arsenal have created two divisions – head coach (Emery) and head of football relations (Raul Sanllehi), with the two dealing with the different aspects of the game. This rift in managing power and coaching players is also seen at teams like Everton and West Ham, where major decision such as transfers are not taken by the manager or any single person.

Is the Premier League actually witnessing a change?

In light of the above incidents it can be said without a doubt that Premier League football is definitely witnessing a change. Garry Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender, has spent a considerable time studying the different models being employed by football clubs, and he too believes in this changing dynamic of football. He opines that coaches minds are preoccupied with pressing matters such as choosing their teams, training sessions, etc. Hence it becomes taxing for them to take care of matters such as future signings and contract negotiations on top of this.


The Dugout: Can Claude Puel keep Southampton on the rise?

The 2016/17 Premier League season is less than a week away and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and here, ‘The Dugout‘ will assess whether Claude Puel can keep Southampton fighting at the top end of the Premier League in his first season in English football…

Southampton FC have gone from strength to strength since returning to the Premier League four years ago and are now preparing for life under new manager Claude Puel.

Between them, Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman have turned the Saints into one of the Premier League’s most energetic and dynamic teams. As a team, they have succeeded with a strong defensive unit and a fluid, attacking setup over the past three seasons, despite losing several high-profile names each summer.

This summer has been no different. Sadio Mane has joined Liverpool, while Victor Wanyama has moved to Spurs, with Graziano Pelle heading off to ply his trade in China. Replacing those three first-team players would have been enough of a challenge by itself, but throw a new manager into the equation and the challenge becomes even greater.

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The Saints finished 6th last season – their best top flight finish since 1984 – and will want to see their team kick on again after improving their league finish every year since returning to the Premier League. That is far from guaranteed though in what will be a hugely competitive campaign.

Claude Puel moves to the south coast after spending his entire career in France. The 54-year-old manager made over 600 appearances for AS Monaco over the course of a 17-year playing career before moving into management with the same club in 1999, winning the league title in his first season as a head coach.

Since then, he has managed Lille, Lyon and most recently Nice, all without winning any silverware. However, he has a reputation for building solid teams by placing emphasis on youth development and getting his sides to play attractive football.

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So what can Southampton fans expect to see from their new head coach over the upcoming campaign?

A different tactical setup…

Southampton have thrived in a 4-2-3-1 formation over the past few seasons but may now be set to line up with a new-look system for the 2016/17 season. Claude Puel deployed a 4-3-2-1 system at Nice last season to good effect, as they finished fourth in Ligue 1, scoring the third-most goals in the division.

The Saints have gone unbeaten through preseason, with Puel using a 4-4-2 diamond formation as well as a 4-3-3 setup on a couple of occasions so it remains to be seen what the setup will be for their first league game of the season against Watford on Saturday. But the 4-2-3-1 that fans have been used to looks to be gone. New signing Nathan Redmond has been deployed as a striker alongside Shane Long during preseason and that will be a tactical decision to look out for.

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Youth development to continue…

There is no doubt that one of the deciding factors in bringing Puel to St Mary’s was the fact that he has a proven track record of developing youngsters. The Saints academy is one of the best in the country and a whole host of young stars are constantly looking for first-team opportunities. Puel could be the man to keep the youth system thriving on the south coast.

He will need to ensure he does use the club’s homegrown talent to stay competitive without the financial muscle that their Premier League rivals possess.

Attractive style of play…

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Saints fans will not want to see their style of play change too much despite a change of manager and that should not happen under the Frenchman. Puel is known for encouraging free-flowing, attacking football and so Southampton should continue to impress neutrals with their approach to games. The key will be finding the right personnel to fit Puel’s system.

The creative instincts of Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse will need to be let loose, while Shane Long and Nathan Redmond will guarantee that the Saints have plenty of pace in the final third. Losing Pelle means the Saints will need to rely on Charlie Austin if they are to stick with an out-and-out target man this season. If not, Shane Long will have to unlock defences with his clever runs in behind, but fans shouldn’t notice too much change on the entertainment front at St Mary’s this year.

Will Claude Puel keep Southampton at the same level they have been at over the past couple of seasons? Will they remain in the top half of the Premier League?

The Dugout: Can Ronald Koeman take Everton to the next level?

The 2016/17 Premier League season is less than a week away and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and here, ‘The Dugout‘ will explore if Ronald Koeman can take Everton to the next level…

Everton fans will be hoping the appointment of Ronald Koeman can signal the beginning of a new era for the club as their Premier League season begins at home against Tottenham this weekend. It has been a tough two years to take for the Toffees as they have finished 11th with 47 points in consecutive campaigns and have looked a shadow of the side that finished 5th just three years ago.

The time seemed right for Everton to part ways with Roberto Martinez and they have done very well to lure Ronald Koeman away from Southampton after a successful season. Koeman guided the Saints to a sixth-place finish and Everton fans will be hoping he can repeat that feat or even better it this season.

Koeman has a great platform to start with at Everton, with a squad who have been underachievers in the last two campaigns. It will be interesting to see how he can develop the players and push the side back up the table.

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So how can Koeman take Everton to the next level?


It is no surprise that a team performs much better when they are highly motivated and Koeman can do just that. The Everton players looked in disarray for large parts of last season despite some great results against the top clubs. Koeman has the experience of being part of a setup that thrives on motivation from both his playing and managerial days.

The Dutchman has been working on his squad in the summer transfer window, releasing a number of long-term servants to the club with the likes of Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar all departing. He is clearly looking to freshen things up and bring forward a less predictable Everton for the coming season.

With Koeman’s ability to motivate players, Everton fans will be hoping top players will become more consistent. Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu are three players who came under some criticism last campaign for inconsistent performances. There is no doubt they are all capable of putting in world-class shifts and with Koeman directing the style of play, these three could massively benefit from his guidance.

While these three were in no way to blame for Everton’s below-par season last term, they are the types of players who are expected to provide. If Koeman can motivate the strong attacking trio to feed the striker – whoever that may be as uncertainty still looms over Romelu Lukaku’s future – the club should look more deadly in front of goal in the upcoming season.

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Premier League record:

Koeman has had a brilliant start to managerial life in the Premier League. He guided Southampton to a 7th place finish in his first season as manager and finished 6th in the last campaign, proof Koeman has the ability to improve a side in the world’s most competitive league.

Squad consistency:

Through their Premier League history, Everton have been a side who have boasted long-term squad players, something Koeman will relish the opportunity to work with. At Southampton Koeman perhaps didn’t – or wouldn’t – have had the opportunity to keep the same group of players for season upon season.

Koeman is already under pressure regarding the future of both John Stones and Romelu Lukaku. So far Everton have shown their resolve to keep their best players – a similar scenario to their continued rebuff of Chelsea’s efforts to tempt Stones away from the club this time last year.

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With this in mind Koeman has a great platform to build a squad with a strong core knowing that the club will be backing his every decision regarding the future of his players.

Koeman has a lot of work to do to take Everton to the next level but in joining the club he has the chance to do so. The Toffees appear to have a policy of giving players and staff every opportunity to reach their highest potential before stepping in and taking any action and he will be hoping to hit the ground running against Tottenham on Saturday.

Is Koeman the right man to lead Everton forward? Can he take them to the next level?

The Dugout: Why Antonio Conte can restore Chelsea’s reputation

The 2016/17 Premier League season is fast approaching and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and here, ‘The Dugout‘ will explain why Antonio Conte can restore Chelsea’s reputation…

Chelsea fans will be itching for the new season to start after a dismal 2015/16 campaign which saw them finish in their lowest Premier League position since 1996. Antonio Conte’s debut season looks set to be a tough task, he took on the role with the knowledge he needed to reignite a side full of under-performing world-class players.

For the first time since 2003 Chelsea will not be playing in the Champions League, although a tough one for the fans to take, there should be no excuses for a lack of focus domestically. Chelsea should be able to compete to their full potential in the new campaign and under a manager with a fierce reputation it is going to be a interesting one to watch.

Chelsea may have only won the Premier League just two seasons ago and still have many players from that squad for the new season, but this is a completely difference experience for them, fighting back to the top is an extremely difficult task as Manchester United have found in recent seasons. The appointment of Conte looks to be very astute and given how his Italy side performed at the European Championships, a squad regarded to be one of their weakest for many years, we can expect elements of the unexpected this season.

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So why will Antonio Conte restore Chelsea’s reputation?


It is no secret how passionate Conte is as a coach. His emphatic celebrations and reactions on the touchline at Euro 2016 spoke volumes for how much winning means to him. He is a manager with a winning mentality and a reputation to be feared. If someone is not pulling their weight and giving everything for the team, they will know about it.

The Italian is renowned for being respected by his players and his philosophy is simple. “I always give education and respect but I demand the same, for all the people that work with me. I give them this and I demand this.”

The former Juventus coach added: “This was taught to me by my family, to give education and respect to all people. If I don’t have this, you are asking for trouble, for a problem.

“I love to be with my players, to speak with them, to help them to understand my philosophy, my methods and my thoughts. I love this. Hopefully when the players understand this we have a fantastic relationship.”

Conte’s vision is clear for all to see, work hard and show respect and in return there will be no issues.

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Winning mentality: 

Conte is a winner, it is as simple as that. In his playing days at Juventus he won Serie A five times and then as a manager he famously guided them to three consecutive titles between 2011-2014.

The 46 year old also has an impressive European track record, winning the Champions League, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup all as a player with Juventus. He has already spoken of his disappointment not to be managing Chelsea in Europe’s top competition this season and expects his side to return to the highest level.

Defensive Focus: 

Chelsea’s defence of their Premier League crown last season was nothing short of embarrassing. They conceded 53 goals in their 38 games and this is something Conte will no doubt be looking to improve upon.

Conte’s preferred formation of 3-5-2 served him well during Euro 2016, but he is by no means scared to use differing tactics. Chelsea have been using a 4-2-3-1 formation for a number of seasons now and players have got used to this style.

The Italian means business, he has already strengthened the squad with the signing of N’Golo Kante and rumours are continually flying around that he is looking to sign another central defender.

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Chelsea have had a managerial carousel in the Roman Abramovic era, and whether or not the fans like that, it has bought continued silverware. Conte will be aware he will need to get things right quickly or he could just be another one struck off the list.

After losing his opening friendly as manager Conte found a lot of positives and it is very early days for both the players and the man himself. He has the character and confidence in his ability to get Chelsea back to competing at the highest level but this is by no means an easy task.

Will Conte restore Chelsea’s reputation? Has he got his work cut out with this job?

The Dugout: Pep Guardiola’s new era at Manchester City

The 2016/17 Premier League season is fast approaching and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and here, ‘The Dugout‘ will assess whether Pep Guardiola can quickly adapt to life in the Premier League with Manchester City…

Manchester City fans have had a lot to cheer about over the past five or six years but the arrival of Pep Guardiola to The Etihad will have left supporters grinning from ear to ear since his appointment was announced on February 1. Guardiola is not just ‘the next manager’ to be tasked with getting City’s star-studded squad to achieve greatness, he is the man expected to deliver a lasting legacy along with consistent title wins – something the club have so far failed to do.

It is a new era for the club. A new badge has been unveiled and under Guardiola’s guidance, fans will be hoping to experience the most successful spell in the club’s history.

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City may have won the Premier League in two of the past five seasons but they haven’t been able to really dominate English football as they will feel they should. Guardiola will be expected to bring a first title in three seasons to the club in his maiden campaign in England. But he is coming into a new league in what is poised to be the most competitive season in Premier League history. The Spaniard admits he has taken the most challenging job of his coaching career by moving to Manchester but he is focused on the task at hand and City fans are right to be excited for the upcoming season.

So what can City fans expect from Guardiola’s reign at The Etihad?

Trophies… And lots of them…

Guardiola’s reign at Manchester City will be deemed a success or failure based on the number of trophies he is able to win. He arrives in Manchester after winning 22 trophies over nine seasons with European giants FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich – an average of 2.4 per year.

FC Barcelona 2008-2012: La Liga x3, Champions League x2, Copa Del Rey x2, Supercopa de España x3, UEFA Super Cup x2 & FIFA Club World Cup x2.

Bayern Munich 2013-2016: Bundesliga x3, DFB-Pokal x2, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup

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Critics will point to the fact that he has coached extremely talented teams in leagues where competition is limited to two or three teams competing for the title. The same critics will be suggesting the 45-year-old is not cut out for life in the Premier League but he has responded to that theory by saying: “That’s why I’m here. To prove myself.”

Only time will tell if Guardiola is able to achieve success using his possession-based tactics with this Manchester City side, but he has proven to be a natural winner as a manager and supporters will be expecting silverware. The Citizens have only failed to win a trophy in one of their last six seasons, winning two Premier League titles, two League Cups, one FA Cup and a Community Shield over that time. It has been a great few years but the new manager is expected to do build further on those achievements.

Attractive football… 

Guardiola will bring a new style of football to Manchester City. His style. After achieving great success with Barcelona and Bayern using his philosophy of possession-based, high pressing football, City can expect to see a new-look approach over the course of the 2016-17 campaign. Mauricio Pochettino has turned his Tottenham team into a real force in England by playing a similar style, so there is no doubt it can work in the Premier League. Guardiola just needs to find the right balance between beautiful football and physicality.

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Speaking in his first press conference as City boss, Guardiola made it clear what he expects of his teams: “At the end what we want is so simple; when the opponent as the ball, take it back as quick as possible. When we have the ball try to move as quick possible, to create as much chances as possible. That’s all. And good team spirit. That is my target in my next life here in Manchester.”

Manuel Pellegrini was criticised for his tactical setup on several occasions during his tenure but City fans can expect the football to be a lot more attractive under Guardiola, whether they are successful or not.

Emphasis on youth…

Jose Mourinho sparked national debate in relation to his youth policy during his first Manchester United press conference. Whatever your thoughts on the new United boss, Guardiola’s success working with youngsters has been a lot more evident over his managerial career.

Having worked with Barcelona’s B team before stepping up to the senior squad, he knew all about the club’s young stars. At Bayern, he installed a new ‘tactical culture’ to the club, from the first team all the way through to the academy and the same will now be expected at The Etihad.

Guardiola moulded the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Pedro and Thiago Alcantara into world-class players during his time in Barcelona. He will give players opportunities and more importantly, will be patient with them as they develop.

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He has already mentioned how impressed he has been by some of the current City youngsters and they will be looking to impress when giving opportunities by the new coach: “Now I realise in a short time we are working with 9-10 players in the second team and most of them I’m really impressed with their quality.”


Pep Guardiola is a composed man. He is not going to be able to match the likes of Antonio Conte, Slaven Bilic and Jurgen Klopp when it comes to animated touchline drama. But that doesn’t mean he is any less passionate about his job or his players.

“I need time but as soon as possible we are going to try to create team spirit,” he has said. “That is the most important thing. After you can create tactics but we have to create something special with ourselves.”

The Spanish manager will be seen issuing tactical instructions on the touchline but he will go about his job calmly and with a measured approach. He knows what he wants from his players. That will be made clear from the word ‘go’. So long as his players respond positively, Guardiola and Manchester City should be able to enjoy huge amounts of success over the next few years.

Will Pep Guardiola be an instant success at Manchester City? Can he win the Premier League at the first attempt?

Five facts that prove how bad Everton’s season has been under Roberto Martinez

Everton have today sacked manager Roberto Martinez at the end of what has been a thoroughly disappointing season for the Toffees.

The Spaniard, who had three years left on his contract before today’s departure, has been relieved of his duties before the club’s final game of the season at home to Norwich on Sunday, with David Unsworth and Joe Royle set to take control of that game.

Martinez was appointed as Everton manager in 2013 and enjoyed a fine first season, leading the club to a fifth-placed finish with a record Premier League points tally of 72.

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But things have only worsened since the end of his first campaign, with the Toffees on course for their lowest league finish since 2004 and here are five facts that prove how bad a year it has been for the Merseyside club.

1. Home discomforts

Everton have picked up just 20 points from their 18 home games this season – their worst return in the club’s Premier League history, regardless of Sunday’s result against Norwich at Goodison Park. Their 20-point haul at home is also the joint-second worst return in Premier League this year, as only Aston Villa have picked up less (11).

2. Fortress? What fortress?

The Toffees have suffered eight home defeats this season, and another loss on Sunday would equal the club’s worst return in club history – nine home losses. The club lost only once at home in David Moyes’ final season in charge in 2012/13.

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3. Missed opportunities

Everton have dropped a total of 37 points from winning positions over the past two seasons. They have dropped 18 this season, with only Tottenham (20) and Liverpool (19) dropping more. While they dropped 19 points from winning positions last season, which was the most in the Premier League.

4. Merseyside misery

Everton’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool on April 20 was the club’s joint-worst Merseyside derby defeat since November 1982. They also lost 4-0 to Liverpool in Martinez’s first season in charge so he failed to really deliver in the biggest game of all.

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5. Leaky defence

Everton have conceded 55 Premier League goals this season – their most since letting in 57 in 2003/04. Their 3-0 defeat to Sunderland on Wednesday night saw the club concede three goals in back-to-back Premier League away games for the first time in seven years. They have now kept just one clean sheet in their last 12 games and the new manager will need to work on the defensive problems immediately.

Has the time come for Arsenal to sack Arsene Wenger?

By Daniel McClue

Arsene Wenger has been Arsenal manager since 1996 and is the longest current serving manager in English football. Over the course of his reign, the Gunners have enjoyed incredible successes – most notably The Invincibles of the 2003/04 campaign.

But things haven’t been quite so successful in recent years, with Wenger now a man under intense pressure more often than not.

He has be in charge of Arsenal for a massive 1063 matches, winning 611 and accruing an average of 1.95 points-per-game in that time. In comparison, Jurgen Klopp gathered 1.90 points-per-game in 318 games for Dortmund, while Sir Alex Ferguson managed 1159 games for United, winning 2.10 points per match on average.

The Frenchman’s quality as a manager is undeniable, however, since the 2003/04 season when his team went unbeaten, Arsenal have only finished second once – that came the following season – after that they have finished either third or fourth ten times in a row, with that run looking set to stretch to eleven following Sunday’s final game of the season at home to Aston Villa.

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What this consistency guarantees is Champions League football year after year, a competition they have never won despite reaching the final in the 2005/06 campaign. But is this enough for Arsenal fans to be satisfied? Or is it time to change things up?

When Wenger retires his legacy will be remembered forever. He is often spoken of in the same vein as Sir Alex Ferguson as the pair are considered to be two of the greatest managers in English football history. What Wenger brought to Arsenal when he signed in the mid-nineties was incredible stability coupled with attractive, fluid football – all without (until recently) spending excessive amounts to revamp his squad.

Consistency is important in a league in which only six teams have yet to be relegated since the start of the Premier League in 1992, Aston Villa being the latest victims. However, in a time where social media has formed a route for people to voice their opinions, it is becoming more evident that this is not enough. Many Arsenal fans on Twitter aren’t wanting to reminisce on past successes with ‘#WengerOut’ trending after several disappointing results in recent months.

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Sports fans are fickle, it’s in our nature, particularly those supporting the top teams who have achieved success over and over again. We all want our teams to win and to do so every year. This results in an incredible turnover in managers for some teams. Some clubs have won many trophies with this method (look at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich) while others have fallen from grace (look at Leeds United’s collapse).

Wenger’s consistency is good, but for the fans it’s not good enough. They want trophies and something to brag about as “we’ve qualified for the Champions League 18 seasons in a row” may be remarkable but it still doesn’t quite equal “we’ve won the Champions League”. The club has enjoyed success in the FA Cup in recent years but that is not enough for a club as big as Arsenal.

After Arsenal went unbeaten over the course of a whole Premier League season in 2004 many fans expected them to create a dynasty. Expectations were to win several league titles in a row while pushing for a Champions League trophy.

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This never happened. The club, under the guidance of Wenger, never pushed on and instead seemed to settle into a groove while teams around them rose up. Both Chelsea and Manchester City invested millions into becoming top teams and in the process created a solid group of teams challenging for the same goal. The Invincibles season is now 12 years old and the club have not come close to producing a team with anywhere near as much quality in every position since.

This season has produced arguably the most incredible story in all of sporting history, as Leicester City have won the Premier League for the first time in their history despite being 5000/1 outsiders at the start of this campaign.

Since the 2003/04 season only Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have won the league. Those three dominant teams have struggled and seeing Leicester go on to claim the title must aggravate the Arsenal fans and will be seen as a missed opportunity, particularly given the Gunners’ position at the top of the table at the turn of 2016.

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This year also marks the first time in 21 years that arch rivals Tottenham look set to finish above them, with Spurs two points ahead of Arsenal entering the final game.

This season would have been the perfect year for Wenger to spend £100 million+ in the summer or overpay for a superstar in January to win the Premier League, instead Arsenal only signed Petr Cech and Mohamed Elneny. As good a signing as Cech was, the overall transfer business was not enough improvement for a squad that finished 3rd last season.

In 2011/12 Robin Van Persie was the league’s top scorer with 30 goals while leading the line for Arsenal, but that summer he was sold to Manchester United for £22.5 million. In 2011 star midfielder and club captain Cesc Fabregas was sold to Barcelona for £23 million, he would later sign for Chelsea, their London rivals. Other questionable transfer deals include sending Ashley Cole to Chelsea in return for William Gallas and selling Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City for £25 million a season removed from being the club’s top scorer.

What Wenger does for Arsenal, to the satisfaction of the board, is make sure the club breaks even every season. The amount of money received from finishing in the top four of the Premier League is over £21 million, which is then saved rather than immediately splashed out on expensive players and he isn’t afraid of instead selling stars to fund moves for more talent.

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The problem the board face is that top managers have become available in recent years with the likes of Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte all looking for new jobs, but Arsenal have not gambled on them, missing their opportunity to pick up a great coach out of contract, without needing to spend money to pay off a release clause.

Wenger is unlikely to be sacked, as the club have had the same results for too many seasons for them to pull the plug now. His current contract ends in 2017 and it is much more reasonable to expect them to wait until he leaves mutually, especially as he is now 66 and this could very well be his final coaching role with a team. This will also give the club a whole season to lineup a possible new manager.

It will be interesting to see which manager they go after, Diego Simeone is a highly regarded coach who would keep the team at the top, but his style of management and the way his team plays is the opposite to that of Wenger.

Other names linked with the job are Ronald Koeman, Joachim Low and Roberto Mancini but several more are expected to be lined up as and when Wenger’s time in the dugout comes to an end.

The board will be confident of finishing in the top four again next season, but what this year shows is how unpredictable football can be at times. Should they reach out for a new manager now? Or wait until 2017 to find a new leader? Wenger should probably be sacked, but he won’t.

Getting Stuck In: Why is MLS foreign to foreign coaches?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into how foreign coaches have struggled in Major League Soccer and why that might be the case.

As I sat freezing my butt off in the Nordecke section of Crew Stadium (I still refuse to call it MAPFRE Stadium) for the Eastern Conference final game against the Red Bulls, I wondered why over the years so many foreign coaches have bombed in MLS. And the first person I thought of was Ruud Gullit, the Dutch great who scored goals for the likes of PSV, AC Milan and Chelsea. If you remember, Gullit signed to manage the Galaxy in 2007 and proceeded to lay an egg. Gullit was paid a ridiculous ransom (the highest paid coach in MLS at the time) for kidnapping the Galaxy’s winning ways. He only coached for parts of two seasons and LA missed the playoffs both years, which is hard to do in the playoff-friendly MLS format. Not only did he ruin the beginning of Beckham’s MLS career, but he looked clueless when it came to tactics (didn’t practice set pieces much in training) and even dumber when it came to signing players and understanding the salary cap and draft rules.

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But the highest profile foreign coach bust has to be Carlos Alberto Parreira. The MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) hired the Brazilian World Cup winning coach to guide them in 1997… to the dumpster. His 13-19 playoff-less record didn’t get him fired (he left on his own terms) but he must’ve felt out of his depth when it came to MLS. He didn’t understand that you really need to make smart personnel decisions in MLS, not just throw any players together and call them a ‘team’.

So when I looked down the sidelines during the Eastern Conference final through my frosted over glasses, I saw two American coaches who looked right at home in MLS in Gregg Berhalter and Jesse Marsch.

Berhalter, the Crew SC head coach and technical director was the first American coach to manage in Europe when he took over at Hammarby in Sweden. (There’s a separate column for another time as to why U.S. coaches aren’t getting much of a shot in Europe; I mean c’mon, you don’t think Bob Bradley could’ve done a good job at Villa?).

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Berhalter, having played in the league, understands his limitations, and with Columbus being such a small market team and having limited off-the-field revenue streams he has to be smart (the Galaxy are in the midst of a ten-year, $44 million sponsorship deal with Herbalife, while the Crew have a much smaller five-year deal with shaving cream company Barbasol).

A foreign coach might just go for DPs left and right (see Galaxy under Gullit), but Berhalter has to be shrewd and know the American soccer landscape. His formula is to sign underappreciated foreign talent (Federico Higuain, Harrison Afful, Cedrick Mabwati and Gaston Sauro for example), blend in some established MLS players (Kei Kamara, Michael Parkhurst), sign players through the draft (Ethan Finlay) and grow players through their academy (Will Trapp). It’s a roster filled with good signings alongside good draft picks and a smart use of the Designated Player rule, using only one of their three available slots (Higuain is a modest DP and somehow Kamara isn’t one).

Currently there are only five foreign coaches in MLS with two more on the way as Patrick Vieira (NYCFC) and Veljko Paunovic (Chicago Fire) are set to enter the league in 2016. That could mean trouble, especially for NYCFC. They canned Jason Kreis, an MLS-winning American coach that knows the league like no other having scored over 100 goals in over 300 appearances with FC Dallas and RSL. His success at RSL, like Berhalter’s, was based on extreme knowledge of the league. The only reason Kreis got fired was because foreign owners didn’t understand the MLS concept fully. You need a balance of players, not three DPs, a high priced US International and a bunch of low-level talents. Kreis had no chance. So they go with Vierra, an unproven big name (only coaching experience is with the Manchester City reserves). Good luck Patrick. History is not on your side.

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One case that could go against the grain is that of Oscar Pareja’s. Pareja has done an outstanding job with FC Dallas but he played in MLS for eight years, coached the U.S. U17 team and had a stint with Colorado as their main man. Yes, he was born in Colombia, but he was very much raised in American soccer.

So could a Jose Mourinho come over here and have the same success he’s had in Europe (forget about this year’s current slump)? Well, most would think yes. But I have my doubts based on what I have discussed. I know he wouldn’t do much in his first year that’s for sure. Could you imagine him having to deal with a salary cap? The unheard of amount of travel (Seattle to Orlando is pretty far)? Or knowing how to draft college players? And what would he do when confronted with allocation rankings or the targeted allocation money rule on top of other crazy MLS nuances? He might just pack his bags and head back to London with a headache.

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Look, I think Owen Coyle at Houston will figure it out and so will Adrian Heath at Orlando because they are humble, good guys, willing to learn and embrace MLS. But neither made it to the playoffs this year. Only four foreign coaches have won the MLS Cup: Gary Smith, Thomas Rongen, Frank Yallop and Piotr Nowak. I don’t count Sigi Schmid since he moved to the U.S. from Germany when he was four years old, while Nowak and Rongen feel American since they are well-versed in American soccer with Novak having served as Bob Bradley’s assistant on the U.S. National team and Rongen spending over 35 years in the U.S. as a player and coach, most notably as the U20 U.S. coach.

So after thawing out and digesting the Crew’s 2-0 first-leg win over New York and Portland’s 3-1 win against Dallas on the same night, it looks likely that two U.S. coaches will make it to the 2015 MLS Cup Final (Berhalter vs. Porter). And if that happens, it sure won’t be very foreign to anyone, will it?

New York City FC confirm Patrick Vieira as new head coach on three-year deal

New York City FC’s managerial search lasted no longer than a week as Patrick Vieira has been appointed as the club’s new head coach on a three-year contract following the exit of Jason Kreis last Monday.

Vieira has yet to manage a club at senior level and will join NYCFC on January 1 after four years of coaching work with Manchester City’s youth and development squads.

Vieira has been the head coach of Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad for over two years and despite reports claiming he wanted to stay in England if he was to move into first-team management, the Frenchman has now opted to take up the challenge of trying to lead NYCFC to MLS glory.

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The former Arsenal midfielder was heavily linked with the vacant Newcastle United job in the summer but he eventually rejected the opportunity.

He will now move from Manchester City to join their sister club in Major League Soccer. NYCFC endured a disappointing debut campaign in MLS after failing to make the playoffs and Vieira will now be tasked with unifying the squad ahead of their second ever season.

It will be interesting to see how Vieira manages fellow midfield legends such as Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard but his appointment is undoubtedly an exciting one for fans on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Arsenal supporters will be intrigued to see how the 39-year-old fares considering he has been linked with the job at the Emirates once Arsene Wenger leaves his post.

A report in the Daily Mirror a few weeks ago claimed Arsenal were looking to bring Vieira back to North London in a coaching role to learn from Wenger, with the aim to see him eventually replace the 66-year-old.

His move to MLS with New York City will put an end to those reports for now as Vieira enters the world of first-team management with a real challenge on his hands.

Will Patrick Vieira succeed as New York City FC manager? 

Patrick Vieira and Fabio Capello early frontrunners to replace Jason Kreis at NYCFC

New York City FC have made their first major decision following the end of their inaugural season in Major League Soccer by “parting ways” with head coach Jason Kreis.

A statement released on the club’s official website last night said: “New York City Football Club can confirm that they have parted company with Head Coach Jason Kreis.

“The announcement comes following a review conducted at the end of a disappointing campaign.

“Prior to the start of the season, it was agreed with the coaching team that the securing of a playoff place was an appropriate target for this year.

“A win rate of less than one in three games and a points tally which was the second lowest in the league is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed.”

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The decision means NYCFC will need to look for a new man to lead the club in what will be their second season following an expansion campaign that failed to meet expectations.

Manchester City’s position as one of world football’s leading sides means that City Football Group could use the MLS team’s parent club to hire a new coach.

Patrick Vieira is has been strongly linked with the job after coaching Manchester City’s youth, reserve and development squads over the past four years.

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The Frenchman was interviewed for the Newcastle job in the summer but ultimately walked away from any offer. He is believed to be keen on coaching in the Premier League but could be swayed by the challenge of getting NYCFC’s group of stars to click.

Another big name being linked with the Eastern Conference side is former England manager Fabio Capello. The Italian tactician has been out of work since leaving his post as Russia manager in July and hasn’t managed at club level since leaving Real Madrid in 2007.

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NYCFC are believed to have already opened talks with Capello and the Italian is certainly not afraid of managing big-name stars – something NYCFC bosses could see as the primary trait any new coach must possess.

The club are unlikely to rush into a decision, though yesterday’s statement said that any new coach needs to be in place by the time preseason rolls around in January.

“The Club is committed to ensuring that a suitable candidate is in place in good time to prepare for the 2016 season and an announcement will be made when a candidate is confirmed.”

Do you think Jason Kreis deserved to be sacked? Who should NYCFC look to replace him with?