Soccer remains one of the only true games of the world. While the popularity of soccer in the United States is still growing, across South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe, football is religion. In England, that holds absolute truth.
The Premier League is the most competitive and one of the most talented leagues from top to bottom in the entire world. The greatness of the “big boys” to the quality of the bottom-half, along with the cherished history of the clubs and some of the most passionate fans in all sports, makes the Premier League stand out from the rest.
Like every other major European soccer league, PL soccer is unique in its style. It’s a combination of so many different styles that make the league one-of-a-kind. Some players bring their blistering pace to their team. Others use precise positioning. Some simply utilize brute strength. But the man that brings it all together is perhaps the most overlooked and underappreciated on his team.
Premier League manager is a special title. It’s the league where managers go to validate their success and where successful managers crack. Many successful PL managers have either arrived from a top European club or will be on their way to a top European club. The job entails the extremely diligent study of every opponent. For instance, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he watches his opponent’s last six games.
There’s finding the balance of first-team players with the promising academy players. There’s dealing with the immense workload of the English competitions—EFL Cup, FA Cup, the league—not to mention, European competitions. The job is overwhelming and often underappreciated.
Oftentimes, players should be the discussion of their team’s important, title-chasing victory. Or, the heart-breaking, season-ending loss. Yet manager is always either a main topic of discussion or the entire problem altogether.
New manager for Chelsea Football Club Antonio Conte has his club first in the table with a 10-point gap. Chelsea lost to Arsenal 3-0 before Conte switched his formation to the unorthodox 3-4-3. From there, they went on to win 13 straight matches, tying the PL record. Praising Conte is all the rage of Chelsea fans—and fans all around the league. But don’t forget: Chelsea were crowned PL champions just one year before last season.
He did bring in new players this season like David Luiz and N’Golo Kanté, but they kept many parts of the championship-winning team. Conte is quickly becoming a contemporary Chelsea icon. And honestly, it’s hard not to love him and his antics. He’s a fanatic on the touchline and his enthusiasm is like none other, especially in the league. He is a pure supporter and a fantastic manager. Life is good at Stamford Bridge. The same cannot be said over at The Emirates.
Arsène Wenger, manager of Arsenal Football Club, is the longest-tenured manager in the Premier League. He’s managed the Gunners for 20 seasons, bringing plenty of success. He’s won the league three times, which includes the best team in PL history—the 2004 Invincibles—that went the entire season undefeated. And, he’s also won the FA Cup six times and has qualified for European football every single season he’s been in charge.
This season, the Gunners are sitting in their customary fourth place, remaining in the hunt for another Champions League qualification. There’s only one problem: Arsenal haven’t won the league since 2004. And, they’ve been eliminated in the Round of 16 every season for the last six—only making it to the Final once—in 2006. The fans and pundits have had it with Wenger. His lack of spending and his team’s consistent lack of backbone have all but led to his isolation from the Emirates faithful. It has become draped in “Wenger Out” banners and the fans are restless with the same results year in and year out.
In European football, Arsenal drew the dreaded German giants F.C Bayern. Hopes were high that Arsenal would compensate for the weak season in the league with a strong Round of 16 performance against Bayern. The stage was set for Arsenal and Wenger to regain a lot of the lost hope in the biggest game of the season to that point. The final score: Bayern 5-1 Arsenal. Reactions: Wenger Out.
A Premier League manager is often misunderstood and treated unfairly. It’s hard for a manager to leave on a good note with the fans and the team because it’s uncommon that a manager leaves voluntarily. When it’s going well, the manager is a genius. When the team is underperforming, it’s the manager’s fault.
José Mourinho managed that very Chelsea team that won the title in 2014-15. The following season, the Blues had only won five of their first 16 PL games and were 16th in the table. Mourinho was sacked not even one year after winning the league.
Former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini wasn’t sacked in the traditional sense, but he and the team agreed to mutually part ways after he took City to the upper echelon of world football. City hadn’t won a championship since 1968 before he guided them to two titles in three years (2012, 2014).
Aston Villa, relegated for the first time in team history last year, are currently 15th in England’s second division. Who was the first person blamed for their downfall? The manager—all five of them. From the beginning of 2014 to now, Villa has had five different managers. Two of them, Rémi Garde and Roberto Di Matteo, were both in charge for only five months.
Swansea City, 16th place in the Premier League, are currently on their fourth manager since 2013. Their third, former U.S Men’s National Team manager Bob Bradley, became the first and last American manager in the PL. His record as a manager was 2-7-2 as he led the team for only 11 games and a total of 85 days. Or, the second-shortest managerial stint in the Premier League. He inherited a bad situation (17th in the table) and a team that wasn’t his. But he was sacked on December 27th, right before the January transfer window.
Lastly, there’s the unfortunate tale of Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester City legend. Ranieri, the mind behind the truly incredible story of Leicester City’s 2016 miracle. The one of escaping relegation one season and winning the league the next. He found hidden jewels and gave them the chances to shine. Players such as Jaime Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Kanté, Danny Drinkwater, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan are now Leicester City heroes.
Everyone loved Ranieri for his calm demeanor and the humbleness he consistently showed. Halfway through last season, Leicester was still atop of the Premier League table. Yet, he continued to say that his team was just trying not to get relegated. Of course, they stunned the football world. Not only were they not relegated, but they were champions.
This season, on the other hand, was everything but a fairy tale. It was a nightmare. In February, Leicester City were 17th in the table and had only won five of their 25 PL games. And, had not scored one goal in the 2017 calendar year until dispatching Liverpool on Monday. Leicester chose the last resort option: sacking Claudio Ranieri. Sacking the man who had given them the thrill of a lifetime.
The Premier League is competitive, world-class and dominant because it demands the best. It demands the best from fans, players and of course, the managers. So whether it’s Conte, Mourinho, Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, Eddie Howe, Slaven Bilić, Big Sam Allardyce or David Moyes, the truth is that no Premier League manager is safe.
That’s simply the nature of the business.