The end of the Premier League year and the start of summer often brings around a period referred to as ‘silly season.’ Normally, this refers to transfer activity as clubs are linked with every name under the sun by journalists who have literally nothing else to do. However, the ‘silly season’ this summer hasn’t taken its normal shape yet. The Premier League is currently witnessing a managerial merry-go-round of the highest proportion. With the names in the division’s dugouts changing more frequently than Jordan’s husbands, there is an unusual amount of activity for the summer months. The Coin Toss assesses the movers and shakers on the touchline:
After their miserable season and subsequent eighth placed finish, it was no surprise to see Kenny Dalglish given the boot. Despite winning the Carling Cup, the Reds just weren’t competitive enough and they will spend another season outside of Europe. To be honest, had it not been for Dalglish’s history at Anfield, chances are he’d have been given the chop a long time ago. A host of names have been linked, Roberto Martinez was interviewed, a number of people turned it down including Didier Deschamps, Frank De Boer and Jurgen Klopp, while Liverpool themselves decided Andre Villas-Boas wasn’t the right man. The endless saga has led them to Brendan Rodgers who performed miracles in charge of Swansea last season. Playing football of the highest calibre, his 11th placed finish represented a fine return for a man who is relatively inexperienced and therefore the step up to Liverpool will be a significant challenge for Rodgers. Having learnt the tricks of the trade from the ‘Special One’ himself though, Rodgers has all the necessary tools to fire the Reds back into the Champions League.
It’s all gone quiet on the Western front of London as far as the Chelsea job is concerned. After his FA Cup and Champions League triumphs, it seemed almost impossible for Roberto Di Matteo not to be appointed as the permanent boss at Stamford Bridge. However, no one can second guess Roman Abramovich and the lack of news regarding Di Matteo’s future is worrying for the Italian. Clearly, the Russian owner is looking for a more household name to lead the challenge and the likes of Fabio Capello and Laurent Blanc have been mentioned. However, rumour has it the Blues are desperate to convince Pep Guardiola to move to London and abandon his planned sabbatical. Everyone apart from Abramovich can see it would be crazy not to appoint Di Matteo full-time, but having finally bought the prize he so desired, the Russian is not concerned what the pundits think. Expect a potential surprise this summer.
With Brendan Rodgers set to sign a deal with Liverpool, this unfortunately means the Swans need a new man in charge at the Liberty Stadium. Whoever is appointed faces an incredibly difficult challenge. It could prove almost impossible to replace Rodgers given his achievements last season, while the players have publically stated how gutted they are about his departure. The new man needs to able to play football the Swansea way and therefore all early signs point to Brighton manager Gus Poyet. He has performed miracles at the Amex Stadium, first leading them out of League One, then impressing last season in the Championship, while also playing a decent brand of attacking football. Whether he wants to leave his Brighton project is another matter so Chairman Huw Jenkins would have to work hard to prize him away. Ian Holloway has also been mentioned and it would be a surprise if the Swans didn’t appoint someone involved in the lower leagues. Jenkins saw something in Rodgers that other clubs obviously didn’t so names previously unheard of in the Premier League like Karl Robinson at MK Dons or Paul Tisdale of Exeter City could be potential candidates.
Randy Lerner made the worst decision of his professional career bringing Alex McLeish over from rivals Birmingham last summer and Villa almost paid for that with their ever-present Premier League status. They survived by the skin of their teeth and McLeish was moved swiftly on, reputation in tatters. Lerner needs to make a far better choice this time around. Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared the early frontrunner, the former Manchester United hero decided the role wasn’t for him. Roberto Martinez was also a candidate, but he publically rejected the role 12 months ago. This has pushed Villa towards Norwich’s Paul Lambert, whose name has been consistently at the top of the bookies’ lists. After weeks of deliberation, it seems Lambert has decided to quit Carrow Road and head to a side that finished lower in the table. For Villa though, it’s a sound decision based on footballing terms. Lambert has worked wonders sealing two successive promotions before leading the Canaries to a twelfth placed finish in the Premier League. Given the lack of talent in his squad, his tactical brain and motivation skills are obviously of the highest order and under his guidance, Villa should improve considerably next year.
Lambert’s decision to quit for Villa Park will come as a huge blow to the supporters who have enjoyed some wonderful times in the last couple of years. As with Rodgers, replacing Lambert will prove almost impossible. Given the more traditional nature of their footballing approach, the regular names have been doing the rounds, including Steve Bruce, Alan Curbishley and Mick McCarthy. However, a couple of obvious choices stand out. The first one is Chris Hughton at Birmingham, who has been strongly linked with West Brom, but would be a good choice if attainable. Second is Lee Clark, out of work since being surprisingly sacked by Huddersfield, but he is rated very highly in terms of managerial ability and masterminded the Terriers to a long unbeaten run. However, one potential candidate could be Malky Mackay who led his Cardiff squad to the playoffs, despite losing a host of key players last summer. He cut his managerial teeth at Watford and continued his progress at Cardiff last year. Whether the Bluebirds would let him go is another matter, but Norwich could do worse than to appoint another Scot in the dugout.
Considering all the turmoil surrounding other clubs’ managerial changes, the open vacancy at the Hawthorns has gone somewhat under the radar. Roy Hodgson left the club for the England job and his shoes will leave a considerable hole to fill. Chris Hughton is believed to be a strong candidate following his work at Newcastle and then Birmingham and Ray Wilkins has apparently been interviewed, but it seems Chairman Jeremy Pearce is set to turn to 53-year-old Ralf Rangnick. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bundesliga, Rangnick is experienced in Germany’s top flight and led Schalke to a Champions League semi-final where they lost to Manchester United in 2011. Citing exhaustion, he resigned that summer, but he is ready to return to management and it seems as if West Brom could be his destination. Foreign appointments are often a gamble, but Rangnick comes with an impressive CV and West Brom fans will eagerly await what he has to offer.
For the last couple of weeks, it seemed as if Dave Whelan needed to start the search for another miracle worker. For that’s exactly what Roberto Martinez is, after keeping Wigan in the Premiership time and time again. This latest great escape may well have been the best and it is unsurprising a number of teams have been chasing the Spaniard. However, movements elsewhere mean it is likely Martinez will be in charge at the DW Stadium next year. If things change though, all signs once again point to Steve Bruce who has a good relationship with the Chairman following his two previous spells at the club. It’s a tough job managing the Latics, indeed once again this summer the star players are moving on and one has to wonder how long Martinez can continue at the club.