A look at why the managerial changes at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea spell a great opportunity for Liverpool FC in the Premier League
The Premier League reset button
Someone has hit a reset switch on the Premier League. It’s quite extraordinary when you think about it, especially when you like at how quickly it all happened. In the duration of a few months, the 3 top ranking clubs from last year have all had major overhauls in management. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have all seen their managers leave and new (albeit mostly familiar) faces replacing them. David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho will replace Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez in the coming season. Such a wide-spread change of guard at the top of the League should have Liverpool FC on high alert. What better time to grab a seat on the high council than when the government is going through a transition.
The next season two to three seasons will see these new bosses either finding their footing in the Premier League or falling flat on their faces. Liverpool FC need to hope for the latter and use this time to wisely work their way up the table.
The 3 top ranking clubs from last year have all had major overhauls in management… The next season two to three seasons will see these managers either finding their footing in the Premier League or falling flat on their faces.
Last Season’s Big Boys are in Turmoil
You know the level of unpredictability at the peak of the Premier League is high from the fact that Mourinho’s return to the Blues seems to be the situation with the least amount of uncertainty.
At Manchester United, there seems to be huge chasm in the middle of the Old Trafford dressing room, one that appeared the day after Sir Alex Ferguson managed his last United game. Losing SAF feels like losing a parent to the United faithful; a strong, paternal figure who exuded confidence, and under whose watch nothing could go wrong. David Moyes is probably still contemplating whether he should start chewing gum and gesticulating at referees once the season starts, simply to give the players and fans a bit of comforting familiarity. It’s difficult to skirt the ‘big shoes to fill’ cliché when discussing his situation; the difference between managing Everton and managing Manchester United could be a bite too big to swallow for the Scot.
Moyes is probably still contemplating whether he should start chewing gum and gesticulating at referees once the season starts, simply to give the players and fans a bit of comforting familiarity.
Over at Manchester City, the incoming Pellegrini is a bit of a wild card; the only one of the three managers who is a newcomer to the Premier League. In a way, he is to La Liga what Rafa Benitez is to the Premier League; tactically sound manager who gives consistent performances, but never seems to achieve anything more than European qualification in the League. In his stints at Villareal (2004-09) and Malaga (2010-13), he has lead his teams to solid league performances, with the biggest highlight probably being Villareal finishing 2nd in the 2007-08 season. But the pressures in the Manchester City job would be a tad higher; probably more comparable to what he experienced in the 2009-10 season with Real Madrid. This was the season when both Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka were brought in, along with Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and others, for around £200 million. That season, Madrid experienced an embarrassing exit in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey, then an embarrassing exit in the round of 16 of the Champions League, and then a 2nd place finish in La Liga, which was followed by Pellegrini’s sacking. Internal politics at the Santiago Bernabeu club and an extremely strong Pep Guardiola led Barcelona are often cited as reasons behind his poor lone season with Madrid, but politics, pressure and strong oppositions will not be far when he takes over at Manchester City either.
Internal politics at the Santiago Bernabeu club and an extremely strong Pep Guardiola led Barcelona are often cited as reasons behind [Pellegrini’s] poor lone season with Madrid, but politics, pressure and strong oppositions will not be far when he takes over at Manchester City either.
Jose Mourinho is a changed man. He says so himself; in his recent interviews he has indicated that he has learnt much from his stints in Italy and Spain. Of course, he would have learnt a lot even from his first tenure at Stamford Bridge. He will return a better tactician (where better to learn tactics than the Italian Serie A) and also better at managing Abramovich (where better to learn boss-management than Real Madrid). His managerial excellence is undeniable, and his list of achievements probably unmatchable. Jose Mourinho, a.k.a. The Special One, a.k.a. The Only One, a.k.a. The Happy One returns to his old stomping ground with the limelight firmly pointed in his direction. But the League is not how he left it; Chelsea is no longer the only money spewing club in England. It will have to be seen how well, and how quickly, Mourinho adapts to the new look Premier League.
Goliath is vulnerable; David, ready you rock
The state of flux that has enveloped the top of the Premier League should put the Liverpool management on high alert. Has Alex Ferguson stuck around, and Mancini had been retained and given the kind of transfer war chest Pellegrini probably has lying on his desk right now (around £45M already spent on Fernandinho and Jesus Navas, and still eyeing £20M rated Isco and £60M rated Edison Cavani), the situation would have been far more bleak for Liverpool FC. But the fact of the matter is that new managers are a very hit-or-miss situation. Sometimes they set the League on fire, sometimes they bomb badly and don’t even last a full season. With three new managers, the odds of one or two of them slipping up are pretty good. If anyone thinks that a rich club will finish on top simply because of the finances at their disposal, remember that Chelsea finished 6th in the 2011-12 season, in a season where they brought in Juan Mata, Gary Cahill, Raul Meireles, Romelu Lukaku and others.
Liverpool are themselves in a better shape than last season. The manger’s style and the squad available are much more in-sync than 12 months ago; since then Sturridge, Coutinho, Aspas and Luis Alberto have been brought in, each one being exactly the kind of versatile attacking player Rodgers loves to work with. As of now, the priorities have to be as follows:
- Close the Luis Suarez situation, one way or the other. If he stays: great, he will love playing in the new look team. If he leaves: make Real Madrid (or whoever) pay through the nose, and invest the money smartly in the transfer market (especially on atleast one good forward who replace Suarez’s goals)
- Bring in one or two key players (a central defender is an essential bare minimum) to ensure a better overall squad next season
- Inject confidence into the team. Make sure that when they step on the pitch, they remember that others who wore the Liver bird emblem on their chests were world beaters. Time for the new blood to step it up.
- Go for it. At this point, taking too cautious an approach or allowing the team to be satisfied with a 6th or 7th place finish cannot be deemed acceptable. The team needs to gun for a much higher target.
The point is not that Liverpool FC will suddenly win their 19th title in 2013-14, but if the Reds want to return to the upper echelons of English football, now is the time to make your move. If Rodgers can steal a Champions League spot in the next 2 seasons, and retain it in the next one, it will go a long way in the re-establishing the club as a table topper.
And remember, The Others are also circling
Others have been lurking in the shadow, on the lookout for this exact chance. There might be more than one reason why Arsene Wenger looks like he might finally be breaking his own transfer rules with a high-value signing like Gonzalo Higuain. Tottenham Hotspur are well poised to take advantage too; it seems like they have secured the futures of manager Andres Villas-Boas, as well as of Gareth Bale. With a strong showing last season, Spurs are one or two key signings (Leandro Damiao has been strongly linked for a long time now) away from being a team that challenge for the top. Liverpool will have to be vary of their threat as well.
Come what may, the English top tier is approaching uncharted territory; It is up to Liverpool FC and its custodians to make sure they make the most of it.