Arsenal's Patience In Wenger Shows That It Pays Off (Well, Sometimes)
The average length of managerial career in the Premier League is 415 days.
In the modern world of football it is very much patience that needs to be earned. We’re told that this is a problem and that the long managerial tenures of Wenger and Ferguson and their accompanying achievements is a clear pointer that keeping faith is the route to success. A blanket call to show patience with managers is however doomed to failure – patience must also be earned and deserved.
There are a few good reasons to show patience to a manager. If a manager has had good results for an extended period in the past then even a major wobble may be excused. Wenger has had some dire runs of form in the past few seasons but his past track record means that he has earned the right to turn this around. A manager may also be given more patience if there are extenuating circumstances – a poor run of form alongside an injury crisis is much more excusable than with a fully fit squad. A manager may also receive a bit of patience from the board (if not supporters) if they are better than the alternative available replacement. The West Ham board are said to have shown faith in Allardyce for exactly this reason and have seen their faith repaid (at least in terms of results).
There are, however, very good reasons for patience to rapidly become paper thin. Serious underachievement is usually accompanied by a swift kick out the door. Few would argue with Juande Ramos’ removal after gaining only 2 points from 8 games. Likewise Luiz Scolari was sacked for being below the high bar which accompanies managing a club with Chelsea’s spending power. These are examples of definite underachievement rather than disappointment. Norwich fans for example may expect that they would be higher in the league following the summer’s investment in the team. This however is not clear underachievement rather their league position is reflective of roughly where they should be. Hughton’s potential downfall will more likely come from his side’s excruciatingly dull football rather than their actual league position.
Supporters also show a lack of patience when they believe a manager is simply not qualified or experienced enough for the job. Experienced managers can cite situations where they have pulled their team out of similar scrapes or lead them to success. For those without experience they are left posturing with no examples to draw upon. With his lack of experience before being given the job Tim Sherwood is well on his way to joining the likes of Terry Connor and Steve Kean in Premier League history. There is a belief that most managers need to be forged in the fires of lower divisions before being exposed to the harshness of the top flight. Without this experience managers lack the necessary tactical nous, man-management talents or even media skills. Fans tend not to show patience in these men because they were not even deserving of being considered for the job in the first place.
An extensive track record does not necessarily ensure you are given much patience. A long track record of average or worse results can be used as a further stick to beat managers. Alan Pardew’s underwhelming CV has been used as a reason for fans desire to see him removed when Newcastle hit a dip in their now routine roller coaster. David Moyes certainly had plenty of experience from which to call upon but fans questioned whether this experience showed him to be an elite manager capable of maintaining Manchester United at their peak. Moyes has not been shown an enormous amount of patience from Manchester United fans but I think it is unfair to cast them as impatient children for wanting him sacked. If Moyes has come in with a track record like that of Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti or Louis van Gaal then you would afford him to turn it around. Given that he achieved roughly par finishes with Everton and little else fans are entitled to expect him to show little improvement and want him removed.
Returning to an example there are those who think that Andre Villas-Boas was given short-change in being sacked by Daniel Levy whilst many more think he outstayed his welcome by a couple of months. With Bale’s sale Villas-Boas had clear extenuating circumstances behind Spurs’ poor form. Further, he wasn’t seriously underachieving. Spurs fans felt they should kick on towards the top of the table on the back of signings. The reality is that the wage budget and net spend is reflective of a team that should be finishing 5th or 6th. However, his experience was limited and his lack of flexibility certainly showed hallmarks of a naïve coach. His track record was too short to really make predictions on his future – his immense success at Porto balanced by a calamitous spell at Chelsea.
Villas-Boas fell victim to another factor in the removal of patience – emotions. Humiliation in defeat and boredom in victory will quickly lose you supporters’ patience. Hughton’s mind-numbing tactics are mentioned above whilst Allardyce appears to be rapidly losing supporters because of frustration at his methods being at odds with the fan’s desires. Moyes’ tenure will likely come to an end not only because of his track record, experience and results but because of the embarrassment this season has caused both fans and the club. Emotions are much harder to objectively account for but that does not mean we cannot empathise with fans who have at the end of their wick with their manager.
In the end, patience is a virtue but like respect it should not be given out without considerations of deservedness. It should be given to those who fans believe will push their futures forward but when fans or chairmen are prone to perceived knee-jerking it should be considered whether their manager deserves patience – many do not.