Each football season in England a ridiculously high number of managers lose their jobs. I have some advice for anyone in that role. Come up just short of winning anything and your (short-term) future should be assured.

Don’t win anything … but do all you can to give the impression that just around the corner you might. Want example? Think about Pochettino at Spurs or Klopp at Liverpool. No one seems to be after their heads … for now, at least.

I’ll expand on my line of thinking.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Take the past five winners of the Premier League. We have had Manchester City (Mancini), Manchester United (Ferguson), City again (Pellegrini) Chelsea (Mourinho) and Leicester (Ranieri). How many are still in the same role? None! Sir Alex may have got out on his own terms but none of the most successful managers of the past five years are still with their title-winning clubs.

The story isn’t much better when considering the FA Cup. Louis Van Gaal got the heave-ho from United within 24 hours of delivering glory. Wigan’s Roberto Martinez used it as a springboard to better things at Everton (or so he thought ) and I’ve already covered Mourinho at Chelsea.

So out of the 10 most recent winners of the English game’s top two trophies only Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger is still with the same club. And, given I’m writing this soon after the Gunners’ “what’s the time?” humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich (10-2) I’m not sure how much longer he will retain the manager’s role.

That said, I expect Wenger will at least be allowed to make an honourable exit that acknowledges the great work he has done for the club. At the end of this season I expect him to be offered an “upstairs” role in recognition of both his triumphs and his loyalty.

Arsène Wenger

I refer you back to my second paragraph … at least Wenger has managed to give the impression in recent seasons that the big win may be just around the corner. His problem is that now it seems the Emirates’ faithful no longer believe. Maybe if Wenger had never won the league his very long string of top four finished would be seen as a form of success. Maybe!

Two paragraphs earlier I used the word “loyalty” in the context of football. Crazy of me. I expect Arsenal to be “loyal” to Wenger but the owners of Leicester City obviously couldn’t find the word in their Thai-English dictionary.

Leicester City

When the news of Ranieri’s sacking emerged I shared the indignation of many. What a way to reward him for taking the club to the biggest success in their history, I thought. But the fact was that at the time the club looked like slipping into the relegation places and no MD can sit idly by when his company looks like losing a “contract” worth up to £100m a year, which is what the TV deal looks like working out at.

On reflection the Thai owners had to act. maybe they should have just avoided issuing the vote of confidence in Ranieri a matter of days before ditching him. A polite no comment” may have been better.

Speaking of Leicester reminds me of some of the predictions I made back in the August issue. With about a third of the season left (at the time of writing) I’m sorry to report that more of them are looking off the mark than on the money. Good job I didn’t put my money where my mouth is.

At the time I wrote the August piece Big Sam Allardyce was still manager at Sunderland so I did not predict they would be relegated. That’s looking a bit sick now though I hope to be proved wrong.

The bookmakers’ favourites for the drop were Burnley – but I chose three others. I now expect the Turf Moor club to reach safety. The bookies were offering just 10-1 on Leicester being relegated. It’s not often (last season apart) they get it wildly wrong.

My three for the drop were Swansea City. Hull and Middlesbrough. I might yet be right on all three but I have a feeling that the Welsh side now has a reasonable chance of pulling clear. I would wish them well but, by implication, that means I’m hoping another team makes the drop instead of them, which is not the case.

My top four (in order) was Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. In making that prediction I did not take into account the not playing in Europe” factor.

As I write Chelsea are sitting 10 points clear at the top. Only the most cockeyed optimist would bet against them. It may come across as churlish to say this but the fact they are not playing in Europe this season has helped Chelsea. They have a super bunch of players. Good enough to win and compete in Europe. But those extra rest days and not having to fly up to thousands of miles mid-week in European competition can only have helped their title bid.

It may sound daft but I would understand a fan saying “if my team can’t finish in the top four, I’d prefer to miss out on a Europa place”.

At Manchester United it looks like their only route into next year’s Champions League will be winning the Europa League. No top four finish for them as I predicted. They don’t get beaten very often (not forgetting the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea), trouble is they don’t win very often either.

Still with United I have a concluding thought. TV coverage is getting more and more sophisticated. Maybe the Red Devils should point this out to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The elbow he delivered to Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings was obviously in retaliation for the defender stamping (accidentally or otherwise) on his head. In my youth I would wait 20-30 minutes before indulging in any “afters” if I felt they were merited. Zlatan waited about two. Fact is that thanks to TV you can’t get away with much anymore. If the ref doesn’t spot you the cameras will.

Had Zlatan been sent off at the time someone else would have.


By Dave Buckley