The managerial musical chairs. Where does it get anyone?

By Tony Attwood

Paul Heckingbottom signed a new rolling contract with Barnsley last Friday.  Leeds United sacked their manager Thomas Christiansen last Sunday.

Paul Heckingbottom’s new contract had a release clause in it.  Leeds offered him a job, he accepted it and so on Tuesday Heckingbottom has gone to Leeds, four days after signing a new contract.

Barnsley put out a statement saying, “The club are shocked at Paul Heckingbottom’s desire to leave, having agreed a new contract last week.”

Meanwhile today’s Telegraph says, “Antonio Conte’s days at Chelsea appear to be numbered,” after the defeat to Watford.   The Telegraph tells us that Chelsea have won just two of their last 10 games but I am not sure that is right, although it is true that they have let in seven goals in the last two games.

Here is the list excluding their two Football League Trophy games played recently

Date Game Res Score Competition
03 Jan 2018 Arsenal v Chelsea D 2-2 Premier League
06 Jan 2018 Norwich City v Chelsea D 0-0 FA Cup
10 Jan 2018 Chelsea v Arsenal D 0-0 League Cup
13 Jan 2018 Chelsea v Leicester City D 0-0 Premier League
17 Jan 2018 Chelsea v Norwich City W 1-1 (5-3) FA Cup
20 Jan 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Chelsea W 0-4 Premier League
24 Jan 2018 Arsenal v Chelsea L 2-1 League Cup
28 Jan 2018 Chelsea v Newcastle United W 3-0 FA Cup
31 Jan 2018 Chelsea v AFC Bournemouth L 0-3 Premier League
05 Feb 2018 Watford v Chelsea L 4-1 Premier League

Our last ten games isn’t too much better with four wins and only two PL defeats just like Chelsea.

Date Game Res Score Competition
28 Dec 2017 Crystal Palace v Arsenal W 2-3 Premier League
31 Dec 2017 West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League
03 Jan 2018 Arsenal v Chelsea D 2-2 Premier League
07 Jan 2018 Nottingham Forest v Arsenal L 4-2 FA Cup
10 Jan 2018 Chelsea v Arsenal D 0-0 League Cup
14 Jan 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal L 2-1 Premier League
20 Jan 2018 Arsenal v Crystal Palace W 4-1 Premier League
24 Jan 2018 Arsenal v Chelsea W 2-1 League Cup
30 Jan 2018 Swansea City v Arsenal L 3-1 Premier League
03 Feb 2018 Arsenal v Everton W 5-1 Premier League

The difference of course is that Chelsea have had three defeats in the last four and although one of those was in the League Cup to Arsenal, it was a game with the first teams playing.  And it was a semi-final, which tends to be taken fairly seriously, even in the League Cup.

But Chelsea are still five points ahead of us as the table shows…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 26 22 3 1 74 19 55 69
2 Manchester United 26 17 5 4 51 18 33 56
3 Liverpool 26 14 9 3 59 31 28 51
4 Chelsea 26 15 5 6 46 23 23 50
5 Tottenham Hotspur 26 14 7 5 51 24 27 49
6 Arsenal 26 13 6 7 51 35 16 45

So are things really that bad for them, or is it just the fact that they are not got things right across a couple of recent games?

It is hard to find an excuse in the January transfer window.  Chelsea brought in three players: Ross Barkley from Everton for £15m, Emerson Palmieri from Roma for £17m and Olivier Giroud from ourselves for £18m.  They didn’t lose any major talent, and indeed all their departures were loans.

Arsenal on the other hand, as you will well know, brought in Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the swap with Alexis, but the whole transfer window was one of utter criticism of the club for getting itself into the situation in which Alexis could go.

Of course Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came in from Borussia Dortmund for £56m.  But then we lost Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott, and Olivier Giroud.

So how come it is Chelsea in crisis instead of the usual Arsenal in crisis?

The problem is that for most journalists and all the bloggettas, clubs and players are only as good as their last game.  There is talk of Lacazette being sold in the summer at a knock down price, whereas his performance this season, although not at the highest level, has been ok in my view.  Nine goals and three assists is not tremendous, but it is ok for one’s first year at a club for, as the figures show us, 50% of big name players don’t make out too well in the first season after the transfer, but then come good.  But even with the kicking of Lacazette, we still are not getting the Arsenal Crisis talk that Chelsea have.

So what else is wrong?

One problem for Chelsea is that they have only scored 46 goals this season as opposed to Arsenal’s 51.  But they have the third most solid defence in the league (equal with Burnley), and they are only one point behind Liverpool.

In the under 23s league they are mid-table but even so some way ahead of Manchester United and Tottenham.

Thus  there isn’t too much wrong, except that with the owners billions they are not going to win the league, not this year, and probably not for the next five years (as long as there is no democratic uprising in Abu Dhabi or the UAE, and as long as leaving the UK government sets out rules on the employment of foreigners that excludes the Premier League once we leave the EU next year).

But the current ownership at Chelsea is based on a model of winning the league and/or the Champions League on a regular basis, and that is now not possible because the Man City billions are bigger that the Chelsea billions.  And Man City have already their new stadium, originally paid for through the kind generosity of the UK state.  Chelsea, like Arsenal and Tottenham, have to build their own new stadium, and in Chelsea’s case that means probably playing away from home for three or four years.

Tottenham have thus far proved that playing at Wembley is not the disaster area I predicted.  But there is of course still time for that.

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And to prove the press in-exactitude is not new, trying this 

5 Replies to “The managerial musical chairs. Where does it get anyone?”

  1. @Tony

    I think that things with Chelsea and Conte are very simple.

    Last season they had only domestic fronts to think about which helped them to keep their Best XI on the pitch for most of the time. Also, players such as Hazard felt much better in Conte’s system than in Mourinho’s concentration camp for talents and there was that magnificent tactical switch to back three at the half-time of their 3:0 defeat at the Emirates which had a major influence on the rest of the league. They played well and won 30 league games including a streak of 13 consecutive victories with a 4:0 thrashing of Man United and a 3:1 victory at Etihad but their magic disappeared against us in the FA Cup Final. Mind you, their brilliant point and goal tally somewhat masked the fact they looked a bit flat, especially in big games away from home (defeats against Manchester United and Tottenham).

    This season, they got mid-week European games, Terry retired (which probably didn’t help Conte), they got self-inflicted problems with Diego Costa who Conte had wanted to replace with Lukaku (but ended up with a non-home-grown Morata instead). The fact they got one of the toughest CL groups didn’t help either. Also, they went all the way to the Carabao Cup semifinals which was a further stretch for Conte’s troops.

    Finally, it seems that Roman A. is no longer ready to strengthen the team but rather replacing the departing players. Conte got players that were his second or third choice instead of those he really wanted. Three or four years ago, Chelsea would have tried to hijack our move for, say, Aubameyang or to blow away Man United in the race to get Alexis. It seems that Abramovich is preparing the club for years of austerity due to a new stadium.

  2. Maybe Conte has got a “secret” offer from somewhere else?
    Or maybe he has some bother with the owner(players needed) and wants to leave(speak be sacked)?
    Or maybe the owner has some bother with him/another manager in sight and is acting accordingly and waiting for him to resign?

    The possibilities are endless, but it seems clear that he is not happy any more.

  3. Tony

    This is at the heart of it:

    “But the current ownership at Chelsea is based on a model of winning the league and/or the Champions League on a regular basis, and that is now not possible because the Man City billions are bigger that the Chelsea billions.”

    Absolutely spot on.

    And that is THE big drawback with the bankrolled model of running a football Club.

    As I have maintained over many years, consistant, on going mega spending will always win you trophies.

    The problem is WHAT trophies? That’s where the problems start.

    If there are 3 mega rich clubs with a fairly equitable net budget for player acquisition, as we’ve pretty much had these last 10 years or so, then it’s quite reasonable to expect them to share the trophies around, including the biggies, such as CL and PL.

    Last 10 years


    4 PL
    1 FAC
    3 LC
    1 CL
    1 EL



    3 PL
    3 FA CUPS
    1 LC
    1 CL
    1 EL



    2 PL
    1 FAC
    2 LC


    So given that City joined the mega rich club a tad late, we can conclude from these numbers that everything’s being shared around fairly evenly.

    The problems arise when it looks like the 100’s of Millions of the personal fortune you are ploughing in to the Club are simply not going to be enough anymore. And that’s what I think is happening at Chelsea with Roman.

    He can see that it looks as if no matter how much he spends, both Manchester City and Manchester United are going to be able to spend more, much more, than he can.

    Another title must be looking a distant dream at the moment.

    But it’s not only on the domestic front he has problems, he can also see what is happening on the continent at PSG.

    Madrid, Barca and Bayern don’t look like going away anytime soon either.

    So the next CL success must be looking a distant dream as well, at this moment in time.

    Roman may be a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them. I think he can see the writing on the wall.

    So yes, as Tony says, on the face of it things are not that bad, especially when you look at recent history, or indeed the here and now. But recent history and the here and now are not the issue for Roman. The future is the problem, and seeing the general landscape as it is, let alone what City alone look like being capable of doing financially for the foreseeable, must be a daunting prospect for someone in his position.

    He has some decisions to make. Does he keep raising the stakes against an opponent with many many more chips than he has, and that are almost certainly sitting on what is the equivalent of a Royal Flush?

    Or does he throw in his hand and cut his losses?

    Well I think it’s too early for that, but I do believe it’s crunch time for Roman.

    I believe if he does sack Conte, and things don’t vastly improve under the next incumbent he may well cut his losses.

    If he does I think Chelsea could be in big trouble.

  4. Nitram,

    you forget that his name and face have appeared on a recent list of persons of interest of the US Treasury….
    That must have him much more worried and probably makes Chelsea less of a priority.

    Just a conjecture, but I cannot imagine that said list does not have an effect on how you conduct your business and manage your wealth

  5. Chris

    Indeed, just another reason to make him look twice at his fortune before throwing any of it into what is an ever deepening drain.

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