So, the moral of the current London football story seems to be … if you reach a European final, you’d better win it! Last week Spurs decided to ditch Mauricio Pochettino who had led them to the Champions League final the previous season. Now, Europa League finalists Arsenal have dumped Unai Emery. I don’t think we can draw a direct line between those Euro defeats and the departures of the two, but I think it’s fair to say that, had either of them triumphed, they would be bullet-proof this season pretty much whatever their results.
Instead, at the time of writing, Arsenal sit eighth in the Premiership with 18 points and Spurs are two places and one point behind them. Both in the top half of the table – hardly failure, or is it? The expectations and pressures placed on football managers are getting crazy. Last season the two north London teams finished fourth (Spurs) and fifth (the Gunners).
Ask the fans of Crystal Palace (currently 13th) and West Ham (17th) if they would take that sort of ‘failure’ and they would probably bite your hand off. Indeed, it would surprise no one if the Irons manager Manuel Pellegrini were next for the chop given that they sit just one slot above the relegation places. The prospect of the London Stadium hosting Championship matches next season sounds a footballing (and financial) disaster to me.
Pellegrini is 3-1 to be fired next with one bookmaker, just a short way behind Everton boss Marco Silva. Pellegrini has a decent CV including, of course, the trophies won while with Manchester City. For that matter, Emery was no slouch before he arrived at the Emirates (especially in the Europa League, winning it three years on the bounce). Poch, of course, hasn’t won anything.
What of the other London Premiership managers? I expect Roy Hodson to leave Palace when he has had enough and I feel Frank Lampard, thanks to Chelsea’s transfer ban, has a year “free from criticism” in which to experiment. He’s making a good job of it so far given Chelsea lie fourth.
Who will replace Emery? All sorts of names are being lobbed into the mix. Even Pochettino, though it is hard to imagine a former Spurs manager being made welcome. To the best of my knowledge only two managers have held the top job at both London clubs since the war. Terry Neill was one of them. He went straight from the Spurs to the Gunners. The other was George Graham who moved in the opposite direction, but spent a couple of seasons at Leeds in between.
Sportsmail columnist and former Arsenal centre-back Martin Keown last week said he believed Arsenal should consider appointing Pochettino.
Speaking at Sportsmail’s ‘A Pint with Piers’ event in London, Keown said before the news about Emery’s departure emerged: “There’s no need to panic at Arsenal, we are getting close to panic by the way, because we’re not having the best of seasons, but the powers that be at the top of the club should be seriously considering Pochettino. I have a lot of admiration for what he did at Tottenham, the way he nurtured those young players and he didn’t spend a great deal of money.”
Keown said he believed Pochettino’s departure could spark upheaval throughout the division and even Europe. Looks like a wise call in light of today’s news.
And, speaking about the Spurs replacement, he added that Jose Mourinho will have to fall back in love with the game to be a success at Spurs.
“The thing that stays in my mind is the Mourinho that finished at Manchester United, having to be dragged out of press conferences, totally having a go at his players, he lost the dressing room and fell out of love with the game of football in his quest to be successful. He has to jettison that part of himself,” Keown said.
Read the MailOnline Keown exclusive here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-7707847/Martin-Keown-calls-Arsenal-Mauricio-Pochettino.html
Who else is in the Arsenal frame? The BBC is suggesting the following as being among the candidates:
Patrick Vieira – very popular because of his exploits with the club as a player. We are seeing a few similar appointments of ex-players with limited manager experience such as Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Manchester United’s Ole Gunner Solskjaer, although the latter’s future at Old Trafford is looking uncertain. Vieira is currently the boss at French side, Nice.
Freddie Ljungberg – another ex-Gunner. He will be in charge of the team on Sunday after Emery’s departure. Relative newcomer to coaching, so I can’t see him getting the job full time. But then I thought the same of Solskjaer at United.
Mikel Arteta – yet another ex-Arsenal man. Many thought the job might go his way before Emery entered the running. Current No 2 at Manchester City and I believe City boss Pep Guardiola wants him to stay. We’ll see, the lure of the Arsenal job may prove too strong for Arteta to resist.
Then there are a couple names who are not ex-Gunners and who are employed in the Midlands at teams currently above Arsenal in the table…
Brendan Rogers at Leicester (2nd) and Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves (5th). Does Arsenal have the pedigree that might attract these men? Sure, Arsenal is right up there among the biggest names in the sport. But Rogers and Espirito Santo are doing nicely where they are at the moment, thank you. I would be surprised if either were lured away.
And one last name to conjure with … Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe. He has established his credentials on the South Coast and I expect him to move on soon-ish! Perhaps he’s waiting for the England job to be offered.
Who knows, by the time you read this the Gunners may have already found someone!
December 1 update: Well, we already know who was next for the chop … Watford’s Quique Sanchez Flores has gone after yesterday’s defeat at Southampton. He had been back less than three months. Has the situation for West Ham’s Pellegrini eased? A unexpected win away at Chelsea will have done his prospects no harm.1