It’s the time of the season when jobs come up thick and fast. For the unemployed manager, the pundit’s sofa becomes a good place to watch the car crashes as they happen and line yourself up as a potential successor to the current incumbent.
Football management is a dog eat dog world and Jose Mourinho is hungriest of the lot.
The press report he turned down the Lyon job with the French club’s president Aulas claiming the Portugeezer already chose another club. That immediately presumes an English club although Real Madrid’s lack of ambition when it comes to appointing coaches suggests otherwise. If Zidane can return, why not Mourinho?
Most likely it is the Premier League and there is a fair chance it will be north London. Stories are ten aplenty that Pochettino’s Golden Era is passed and he is out the door next summer. That’s no different from the past two summers when he was supposed to be taking on a bigger job at home or abroad.
Even more of a shame because he brought the verb ‘Spursy’ to life and into everyday use, even if hacks still try and portray it as a term of success. It isn’t; Spurs didn’t take the word and make it their own, to paraphrase Louis Walsh.
Mourinho is favourite for that job but put a spanner in the works when he claimed “there is plenty to like about the Arsenal squad” at the weekend. Given the growing disaffection with Unai, was he touting for the job?
It puts an interesting spin on Raul’s words at last night’s supporters Q&A.
The threat isn’t undiminished by the absent ‘or else’. Indeed, it is more menacing in its absence but is it a genuine threat or imagined?
Will Unai get to the Final Third?
Everyone knows Unai Emery’s contract has a break clause next summer. Arsenal can change bosses and not pay compensation. You might argue that is immoral but that’s the nature of football. Having one boss in charge for 20 years distorts the morals of the boardroom.
On paper, Raul seems to be laying down the yardstick of a Champions League place. You can interpret it how you want but I’d venture it is via the top four. Winning the Europa League ought to be a high priority, for some kind of redemption for last season but nothing more.
We threw fourth away last season. This year, it is once again in our control as we currently sit in one of the Champions League places. There’s a long way to go and we’re sure to slump at some point. How Emery manages that slump will determine where we finish.
Let’s be honest, when Raul talks about Champions League football, the target is the top four. If we’re looking at winning the Europa League as the primary route to the top table, there’s something very wrong with the club’s management.
By next spring, the hierarchy will have a good idea over Emery’s future. Jf we’re cruising to the top four with plenty of points in hand, they won’t put the feelers out for a new boss. If we’re struggling, Raul and Edu will be right little chatterboxes.
The question is whether Mourinho will be one of those they talk to. He does, after all, come with an awful lot of baggage. It says something when sticking a thumb in a Barcelona coach’s eye is overshadowed but his diabolical treatment of Dr. Eva Carneiro does just that.
Does Jose Mourinho represent the values of Arsenal Football Club?
Specialist in What?
Despite a long and glittering career, Mourinho is damaged goods. The style of football he believes in brings success – dependent on the players at his disposal – but it is short-lived.
And English football moved on. Liverpool and City are winning trophies playing entertaining football overall. That’s not something he managed at Manchester United, that’s for certain. And Arsenal are in a similar state to United before he took over.
Yes, he delivered two cups in three seasons at United but delivered just one top-four finish. He was sacked in 2018 with United 19 points behind City at the time and already out of the Champions League race.
While players bear responsibility for that as well, it is the manager who picks the XI, who selects the tactics, Mourinho, who coveted the United job for so long, found it too much to handle.
And in that, in having to rebuild a squad, let alone develop one with a focus on youth, he writes himself out of contention for the Arsenal role.
Yes, he will bring you a limited amount of success but the price a club pays is far too high for it to be worth Arsenal taking the risk.
At the other end of the scale, are former players such as Mikel Arteta and Freddie Ljungberg. The latter is the favourite now, occupying the same chair as Arteta when Arsene was heading out the door.
Does a lack of experience hold them back? Should it? There’s an interesting question. Ljungberg’s ‘fans’ argue the young players know him and so now do the older players. The biggest question mark is over what input he is having into the side’s tactics now? Is he involved or does Emery rule with an iron fist? That is his purview and his alone?
Lego of my Hair
Arteta, meanwhile, is reportedly heavily involved at City and is viewed in some quarters as heir apparent to Guardiola at City.
The decision to go for experience when Arsene left was right in my view, Gazidis, as usual, made a cock-up in the choice. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, however.
If Ljungberg and Arteta are in the frame, what of Vieira and Campbell? The latter keeping a seemingly-doomed Macclesfield in the Football League is worth two or three trophies. That he walked due to unpaid wages is no surprise. Who wouldn’t?
Raul and Junior know fans want success but we want to feel the players deserved it. League positions don’t lie. If you finish fifth in the league, that is exactly what your efforts earned; there were four better teams. It doesn’t matter if you threw it away through poor results. They are part of what sort of team you are.
Arsene Wenger’s first ten years in charge spoiled people. We saw great football and success but those who saw the Graham-era ’86-92 saw a different type of good football. Both managers knew what their respective teams’ identity was.
Graham built his success on a strong defence. He believed if you got that right, it supported the rest of the team. Wenger, to a lesser degree, did likewise but he preferred a more open style of play.
The other side of the coin is Emery’s chameleon. It doesn’t work; players are skittish and confidence is low. He has a good squad of players, which with some improvements, could be great. I don’t think he will see those improvements happen, even if he finishes fourth or higher this season. I just don’t believe he is the man to take us a step higher.
Who is? Let’s see which specialist in failure is available next summer. Football manager, the only profession where doing a bad job guarantees a new one. Aside from politics.