The big story of the Premier League season so far is how Mikel Arteta has transformed his Arsenal side from Champions League bottles to potential title contenders sitting top of the table, but if we cast our minds back to a year ago, the Spaniard was constantly bombarded by calls for him to be sacked, whether that be from fans or even the press. While Arsenal have performed throughout the 22-23 season, so far there have already been 3 sackings in not even 3 months, with Scott Parker, Tomas Tuchel and, most recently, Bruno Lage all being relieved of their duties at their ‘respected’ clubs. Has it come to a point where we must ask ourselves what is happening in this country regarding managers and whether we can learn from Arteta’s time at Arsenal and decide that ‘trusting the process’ may be better than going for the eject button.
Last season saw 10 managers ‘get the sack’ over the course of 9 months. In how many of those situations did the media or the fans consider that at the end of the day it is a man losing his job. How would the average person feel if when they were struggling at work, they had cameras in their face every day asking them if they should just do the ‘honourable’ thing and resign? The truth is we do not treat managers like the average person. In Football, if you’re being discussed by the media, it’s one of two extremes. Your side is either on the way up, or the pressure is one you to keep your job.
In ‘All or Nothing: Arsenal’, you can see the manager’s perspective as Arteta has to address the press while Arsenal are underperforming. When his focus most weeks will be player fitness and what tactics he’s going to use in his next game, how is he supposed to feel when suddenly the press doesn’t care about what happens on the pitch and instead ask him whether he feels he has the support of the club behind him. We don’t treat managers as sympathetic characters, we hold them to account as if they’re politicians, when they arguably do less harm than the latter.
Arteta will be used to this treatment as he approaches three years in his position at Arsenal, and in those three years he has won an FA Cup, a community shield but only managed two 8th placed finishes in his first two seasons. Arsenal’s league position was held against them as an argument for change in the manager’s seat built the club held firm and trusted the process Mikel was building at the North London giants.
Arteta’s own situation can be easily compared to that of Sir Alex Ferguson, possibly the best managers the beautiful game has ever soon. While he cannot be compared to Sir Alex in terms of achievements, Sir Alex can sympathise with Mikel as nearly four years into his job at Manchester United it was believed amongst many that if he was to lose his next game, an FA Cup match against Nottingham Forest, he would be sacked by Manchester United. Winning that game saved his job and Manchester United, as the Red Devils would go on to lift the FA Cup that season and under the Scotsman, they would win 13 League titles and two Champions Leagues alongside other domestic silverware.
Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that there is no instance where it is correct to be sacked. There are many examples where a manager being sacked has turned a club’s fortunes around such as Steve Bruce last season being replaced by Eddie Howe, who kept the club up successfully and is now challenging higher up the table for European places.
The issue itself is that in Football when things are going wrong at Football clubs the fingers all point to the manager first. Even if it’s just a rough patch of 4 games going wrong, or there are injuries in the squad, it seems the boards of clubs don’t care and will happily get rid of their managers as a quick fix instead of working with their managers. In a country where we can bet on which unlucky boss will lose their job first, we must look at ourselves and change this sacking culture as it sends the completely wrong message to the next generation of managers.