15 managerial appointments – the verdict

May 23, 2011

Domenico di Carlo

Back in August, ZM published a list of the 15 most intriguing managerial appointments of the summer.

All were taking new jobs with speculation about how well they would fare. Some have done brilliantly, but more have been a disappointment, and an amazing number are no longer in their position. Here, then, is a summary of how each has performed.

15. Domenico di Carlo, Sampdoria

What was said - “Sampdoria have Champions League football (as long as they progress past the qualification round…it is the lethal combination of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini that Samp are basing their side around.”

How Sampdoria did – Relegated. Di Carlo was sacked in March.

Sampdoria managed to blow their Champions League hopes in the qualification round with a late concession against Werder Bremen, and by January they’d lost both Cassano and Pazzini. The relegation is only partly the fault of di Carlo, who was in 9th position at the midway point in the league, and 14th place by the time he left the club, and Sampdoria ended up 18th. Losing the star strike partnership was a huge loss, and Samp went on a five game run without scoring a goal that coincided with Pazzini’s departure.

Rating – 3/10.

14. Michael Preud’homme, Twente

What was said – “Preud’homme has a small squad to work with, and the pressure of competing in the league and Champions League, McClaren might turn out to be a very difficult act to follow.”

How Twente did – Knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage, but a second-placed league finish, after losing to Ajax in a final day decider.

After starting the season with two 0-0s, it seemed that Preud’homme was going to struggle, but a good title charge and a victory in the Dutch Cup final means he can be regarded as a success. Slipping from 1st to 2nd in the league was obviously a disappointment, but considering that Twente lost many of their first-choice players from the championship season, it was a decent effort. The task now is to build the squad, and try and make a bigger impression on the Champions League, if Twente can get past the qualifiers.

Rating – 7/10.

13. Paulo Sérgio, Sporting

What was said – “Somewhat of a rebuilding job needed at Sporting…a title challenge is probably beyond Sporting this term”

How Sporting did – Another third place finish, miles away from the title winners Porto, and disappointment in the cup competitions too. Sergio was sacked in February.

Sporting’s main problems have been off the pitch this season, but there was on-pitch turmoil too. Sergio never really seemed sure of his best formation or starting XI, and it produced a disjointed, scrappy side that lacked cohesion. A title challenge was never likely, whilst getting into a European place always seemed assured, so perhaps judgement on Sergio came down to the derby games, with little else to play for – Sporting lost both games 2-0 to Benfica.

Rating – 4/10

12. Avram Grant, West Ham

What was said – “The West Ham job is a decent opportunity for him to further his career”

How West Ham did – Relegated, 20th place out of 20. Grant was sacked shortly after the relegation was confirmed.

Grant was hardly helped by being spectacularly undermined by West Ham’s board, but that doesn’t excuse West Ham’s poor performances all season. Grant appeared clueless tactically – with reports, like in his Chelsea days, that the players were essentially managing themselves – whilst midfielder Scott Parker seemed to be the one giving dressing room team talks. It’s difficult to understand quite what Grant was actually doing at the club, and it’s equally difficult to imagine him getting another Premier League job soon, having taken consecutive sides to 20th place in the Premier League, after the failure at Portsmouth last season.

Rating – 2/10

11. Bernd Schuster, Besiktas

What was said – “A tremendously underrated manager who has experienced some level of success almost everywhere he has managed.”

How Besiktas did – Spent the campaign around 6th place, nowhere near a title challenge. Schuster left the club in March.

No success here. Schuster spent his time bringing in big name players, many Portuguese – Ricardo Quaresma, Guti, Hugo Almeida, Manuel Fernandes and Simao. He combined these acquisitions with an attacking style of play, but there were various reports that he didn’t have control of the dressing room, and he chopped and changed systems with no regard for continuity. The sacking was no surprise.

Rating – 3/10

10. Andre Villas Boas, Porto

Andre Villas Boas

What was said – “The new Mourinho? That’s the expected label for every promising new Portuguese manager, but Villas Boas is more likely to be Mourinho-esque than any other.”

How Porto did – Treble winners, and unbeaten all season in the league.

An astonishingly successful season for Villas Boas, where he transformed Porto from also-rans last year, to amongst the best sides in Europe, despite getting rid of two key players – Bruno Alves and Raul Meireles. Porto were rampant against the smaller Portuguese league sides, and often against genuinely good teams too – Benfica were thrashed 5-0, Villarreal were beaten 5-1. The one disappointment is that we didn’t get to see Porto in the Champions League – hopefully the squad will stay largely intact next season, with Villas Boas still at the helm.

Rating – 10/10

9. Jean Tigana, Bordeaux

What was said – “Tigana’s managerial career has been something of a disappointment…transfer activity has been quiet – largely a good thing, since Tigana’s main concern was keeping Yoann Gourcuff.”

How Bordeaux did – Midtable for the entire campaign. Tigana left earlier this month.

Gourcuff left, and Bordeaux never looked like challenging for the Champions League places. Strangely, they did well against the top sides in the league – they drew both games with Lille, and beat both PSG and Lyon, but the performance over the course of the season was poor. Bordeaux generally dominated possession but frequently looked clueless in the final third, and Tigana’s career has taken another blow.

Rating – 4/10

8. Max Allegri, Milan

What was said – “A tremendously difficult job…it’s difficult to see how he’ll be able to transform this Milan squad into genuine title challengers unless there is significant investment in the side.”

How Milan did – Champions for the first time since 2004.

Significant investment arrived – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Kevin-Prince Boateng joined late in the summer, whilst Antonio Cassano, Mark van Bommel, Nicola Legrottaglie and Urby Emanuelson followed in January. Allegri’s side were unquestionably the best side in Serie A over the course of the season, combining a familiar base to the side with revolving door of talent upfront. The limp display against Tottenham in the Champions League suggests that this wasn’t a great side, but Allegri deserves praise for turning around Milan so quickly.

Rating – 8/10.

Roy Hodgson

7. Roy Hodgson, Liverpool

What was said – “Hodgson has finally found himself taking charge of a big club in his home country…we can be sure that Liverpool will be well-organised and positionally disciplined.”

What happened – Liverpool spent most of Hodgson’s reign in the bottom half, until he was sacked in January, and Kenny Dalglish took them up the table.

Well-organised and positionally disciplined they may have been, but Liverpool were frequently toothless upfront, and played very poor football that infuriated Liverpool supporters. Liverpool’s best displays under him were against the top sides – an opening day draw against Arsenal that should have been a win, a narrow defeat to Manchester United, and a controlled 2-0 win over Chelsea. This just suggested that Hodgson’s methods suit an underdog rather than a side looking to challenge high up the table, and his attitude away from home was rather defeatist. Hodgson has since taken charge of West Brom, where he has experienced success, but both he and Liverpool are better apart.

Rating – 3/10

6. Gigi Delneri, Juventus

What was said – “Another crack at managing a ‘big’ club for a manager who has been tremendously successful at clubs with slightly lower ambitions.”

How Juventus did – A final position of 7th. Delneri was sacked this weekend.

Juventus had only lost twice by the end of 2010, but a disastrous January and February saw the side slip down the table and out of Champions League contention. The difference in performance in the first half and second half of the season was stark, almost as if opposition managers were able to work out Delneri’s rather predictable 4-4-2 formation after one attempt. The sacking came as no surprise, and like Hodgson, it seems Delneri is not suited to big clubs.

Rating – 3/10

5. Michael Laudrup, Mallorca

What was said - “Mallorca finished in fifth last season, just one point off Champions League football…they are in a prime position to push on.”

How Mallorca did – 17th place, one point off relegation.

It’s mystifying how Mallorca managed to end up in such a state – they were in the top half of the table with five games to go, but an end-of-season collapse meant they almost ended up relegated. Like Tigana, Laudrup showed an ability to compete with the big sides, as Mallorca drew with Barcelona and Real Madrid, and beat Valencia, but there were also heavy defeats and Mallorca rarely showed the attacking football Laudrup had promised.

Rating – 4/10

Sinisa Mihajlovic

4. Sinisa Mihajlovic, Fiorentina

What was said – “His reputation as a player hardly makes him the most obvious candidate to become a successful coach…we might see Mihajlovic’s on-pitch behaviour come back to haunt him.”

How Fiorentina did – Just about ended the season in the top half.

Major injury problems disrupted Fiorentina’s season – star man Stevan Jovetic missed the entire campaign, whilst the likes of Riccardo Montolivo and Sebastien Frey were also out for long periods. Taking this into account, Fiorentina did OK, but it was a season that will be forgotten quickly – with nothing to play for after the early Coppa Italia defeat, Mihajovic’s performance is slightly difficult to judge, but he’ll probably be given another season.

Rating – 5/10

3. Steve McClaren, Wolfsburg

What was said – “He is in charge of a tremendously talented bunch of players…it’s not unrealistic to expect a title challenge.”

How Wolfsburg did – Bottom half for the entire campaign. McClaren was dismissed in February.

A tremendous chance gone to waste. McClaren had rebuilt his managerial reputation after the success with Twente, and now finds himself back being linked to West Ham, a second tier club, having been at Wolfsburg, a side who won the championship as recently as 2009. McClaren was able to bring in players, but had a bad relationship with Edin Dzeko, who eventually left in January, and star signing Diego rarely showed his true quality. A run of seven draws at the turn of the year suggested a lack of confidence and belief, and McClaren’s poor showing even resulted in an impressive ‘umbrella protest’ from the Wolfsburg fans. He left the club just one point off relegation, they ended up two points off relegation.

Rating – 2/10

Jose Mourinho

2. Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid

What was said – “He has played down expectations, notably saying “I am successful at clubs, generally in the second year,” a more modest introduction than his opening pronouncements when arriving in London and Milan.”

How Real did – Second place in the league, a Champions League exit to Barcelona, but a Copa del Rey in the bag.

Mourinho knew how difficult his task was, and dethroning the greatest club side of this generation proved too much in the first year. The 5-0 defeat at the Nou Camp was unquestionably Mourinho’s lowest point as a manager, and whilst he recovered to win the Copa del Rey, Real’s performance against Barcelona in the Champions League was disappointing, and Mourinho’s subsequent excuses rather sad. The side is in a good position to push on – Mesut Ozil has been fantastic, Cristiano Ronaldo has been prolific and the defensive part of the side is in good shape, and assuming Mourinho is around, they should strongly challenge for the title.

Rating – 6/10

1. Rafael Benitez, Inter

What was said – “He’s in the difficult position of taking charge after the most successful season in Inter’s history, and since they have won the past five Serie A titles, anything but a sixth will see Benitez ridiculed.”

How Inter did – 7th in Serie A when Benitez left, 2nd by the end of the season

Benitez took charge of a side that appeared physically and mentally exhausted, and the amazing stream of injuries he had to deal with was probably no coincidence. Benitez supporters point to the injury crisis as the main reason he failed, but Benitez actually dealt quite impressively with that – his problem was that when he had something close to his full side available, Inter rarely played well. There was a run of eight games where Inter only scored five goals, whilst they failed to score against fellow big clubs – Juventus, Roma and Milan all kept clean sheets against Benitez’s Inter. He won 40% of his league games in charge, whilst his replacement Leonardo won 74%.

Wesley Sneijder didn’t like his tactics – “I got frustrated under Benitez….he wanted me to play as a striker,” whilst Cristian Chivu threatened to walk off the pitch unless the forwards started defending. Amongst all this, Benitez did manage to win the World Club Cup, but it’s been a disappointing couple of seasons for one of Europe’s top coaches.

Rating – 3/10

Overall conclusion

Nine sackings, only two league titles.

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