Arsenal

Who Are …The 4th Place Managers?

The contest for fourth place in the premier league is becoming almost as exciting as…. err…the battle for first place in the premier league.  With Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Aston Villa and possibly Everton –stranger things have happened- all battling it out for a place in the Champion’s League the repercussions for three of the clubs managers could be very similar.

First of all, let’s get the two managers out of the way whose jobs are more than safe regardless of where their team finishes.

David Moyes will be at Everton next season even if they fail to win a game from now until May- which going by current form is about as likely as the Scot taking a job at Eastlands as a ball-boy. Should Everton by some miracle actually achieve fourth place then it will be the greatest shock in modern football since Craig Fagan scored a goal. Everton and Moyes, will probably be happy to finish the season in the form they’ve been showing recently and look forward to the next campaign with confidence.

Martin O’Neill, like his colleague over at Goodison Park, is under no real pressure to deliver fourth place to Villa- at least not job wise. Should Villa fail to qualify for the Champion’s League, you’d be pretty surprised if the board decided to get rid of O’Neill. Despite some rather disappointing results recently, the pocket-sized manager is still one of the most respected in the game and you’d expect him to improve the squad in the summer and try and finally achieve what he’s been threatening to do for the past two years and end the ‘top four’ domination of the top four league places.

It is when we get to the other three teams in the fourth spot ‘mix’ so to speak that we see there’s the chance that some, or maybe even all of them could be joining the dole queue in the summer.

The safest one would appear to be Harry Redknapp, after all when he took over the Spurs side early on last season they had just endured their worst start to a season since time began and his predecessor had helpfully sold off almost the entire strike force. This season Spurs have at times looked awesome, with 9-1 victories, bag loads of goals- including several hat-tricks and a cup run all making it a time to remember. Should Spurs lift their first piece of silverware in almost a decade in the FA cup then Redknapp can rest assured his job will be safe. However there’s a slim chance- and I say slim more from what I’ve been hearing from Spurs’ fans rather than any league tables- that should Tottenham, fail to land any silverware and finish outside the top four then ‘Arry could be on his way. It does seem highly unlikely that a manager who has taken a team from bottom of the premier league to the top five or six, in less than two seasons would be shown the door but is it really beyond the realms of possibility? Redknapp is 63 years-old and has recently admitted taking pills for his heart and has also had worries over allegations of tax evasion.  Again I don’t think there is much chance of Redknapp leaving WHL in the summer but if the board, who’ve backed him magnificently in the transfer market decide they may be better off giving a younger coach a chance to succeed where ‘Arry failed he could be on his way. Redknapp often strikes me as a manager who has to be doing something constantly, whether it’s signing players, giving interviews, or making funny gestures, he seems to be constantly ‘on the go’ and you’d imagine the only way he’d leave WHL is if he was dragged out kicking and screaming.

Rafa Benitez on the other hand, is almost certain to be shown the exit door from Anfield should Liverpool fail to win fourth spot-regardless of much kicking and screaming he does. Excuses and time seem to be finally running out for Benitez and even though this season he has been hampered by a lack of real financial clout due the ongoing Hicks-Gillette saga, you sense that it is a matter of months rather than years before he’s finally shown the door. His one possible saving grace could be the Europa League, but even if he wins that it will not give him Champion’s League qualification so the real question is ‘would winning the Europa League pacify the fans?’ Somehow I doubt it, especially if Liverpool fans have to endure Manchester United- who many believed they’d be challenging for the title again- lift more silverware. Benitez must realise that winning fourth spot is practically essential to him keeping his job, a club with a history such as Liverpool’s cannot stomach being out of Europe’s top competition for what is essentially a season and a half. Out of any managers mentioned Benitez is the one who needs fourth spot the most.

That just leaves Roberto Mancini over at Eastlands, who’s done a fairly decent job since he took over at Manchester City from Mark Hughes – which may be the problem. The idea of a manager getting sacked after just five months when their team is in the top six would seem preposterous to most normal clubs. However since the sheikh rattle and roll brigade took over, nothing at City can be classed as normal. The club now has enough money to have ridiculous expectations, the owners are willing to bankroll any transfers regardless of how over-inflated they are, but you’d imagine they expect quite a lot of success in return- ‘decent’ may not be enough. Spending hundreds of millions on a ‘project’ and not seeing it in the top competition available may make the owners consider new management. This sounds overly harsh on Mancini who’s hardly had a chance to bring in his own players and has seldom produced a bad result. It would be a big surprise if the Italian was shown the exit door in the summer , the problem is with so much money being spent and the possibility that rent-a-banana Gary Cook could have some influence over who the owners entrust with their team anything seems possible. I personally expect Mancini to be at City next season, regardless of their final finish, the only way I could see him leaving is if the club not only fail to reach fourth spot but if another more successful manager becomes available. The irony may be too much to take if Jose Mourinho left Internazionale in the summer and was persuaded to replace Mancini again. Somehow I can’t see it happening but then again I never thought I’d see the day we were calling Manchester City ‘The richest club in the world.’

One answer to all these theories and conjecture is that all the aforementioned clubs simply swap managers. Get the chairman together and then put all the manager’s car keys in a bowl-like they do at certain parties, so I’ve been told- and whoever gets chosen moves to that club. Redknapp could carry on constantly buying and selling players at Liverpool, Benitez could lure Torres to Eastlands and Mancini could try a dark blue and white scarf at WHL, everyone could be a winner.

Read more of Justin’s work at his excellent blog ‘Name on the Trophy’

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