The EPL man­agers’ mu­si­cal chairs game

There’s lit­tle job se­cu­rity as a foot­ball man­ager or coach. With prepa­ra­tions for the 2016/17 English Premier League sea­son al­ready un­der way, new ar­rivals like Pep Guardi­ola and An­to­nio Conte will rep­re­sent new hope for clubs and fans

CityPress - - Sport -

Bay­ern Mu­nich man­ager Pep Guardi­ola’s exit from the Ger­man club, and im­pend­ing move to Manch­ester City, was one of those open se­crets known by ev­ery­one who watches foot­ball long be­fore he signed a three-year con­tract in Fe­bru­ary. The for­mer Barcelona boss has en­joyed suc­cess with Die Roten, win­ning three Bun­desliga ti­tles and one DFB-Pokal dur­ing his time in Bavaria. But his fail­ure to make a real chal­lenge in the Cham­pi­ons League means his time at the club will be re­mem­bered as sat­is­fac­tory – though per­haps not good enough for a club as pres­ti­gious and am­bi­tious as Bay­ern. While still con­sid­ered one of the best man­agers around, the Cata­lan needs to prove he can take City to the pin­na­cle of Euro­pean foot­ball. The club hi­er­ar­chy has al­ready in­stalled Fer­ran So­ri­ano as chief ex­ec­u­tive and Txiki Be­giris­tain as di­rec­tor of foot­ball – both for­merly of Barcelona – in a clear ef­fort to get the Cit­i­zens play­ing like the Blau­grana. Guardi­ola will be seen as the final piece in the puz­zle.

City have made progress in the Cham­pi­ons League this sea­son, beat­ing Paris Saint-Ger­main (another wealthy club look­ing to build a team of Euro­pean cham­pi­ons) to reach their first semi­fi­nal in the com­pe­ti­tion. There they were nar­rowly de­feated by Real Madrid.

Guardi­ola will be ex­pected to take them one step fur­ther.

There is also change in the air at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea are pre­par­ing for the ar­rival of their new man­ager, An­to­nio Conte. The Blues would have started the 2015/16 sea­son ex­pect­ing José Mour­inho to re­main at the helm for the next few sea­sons. But a dis­as­trous cam­paign saw the Por­tuguese boss sacked and Guus Hid­dink in­stalled in the in­terim.

With the Dutch­man in charge, the club hi­er­ar­chy fo­cused on the search for his re­place­ment. They de­cided to bring in the for­mer Juventus boss, who led the Bian­coneri to three Serie A ti­tles between 2011 and 2014 af­ter cut­ting his teeth in Serie B with Bari and Siena.

His suc­cess in Turin saw Conte drafted in by the Ital­ian na­tional team, and Blues fans will be ea­ger to see how the Az­zurri look in the up­com­ing Euro­pean cham­pi­onships in France.

Back at the Bridge, tar­gets will be set for next sea­son. The first pri­or­ity will be to re­turn the club to the Cham­pi­ons League, cour­tesy of a top four fin­ish in the league. While Conte will no doubt be aim­ing for the Premier League ti­tle, it won’t be de­manded that he wins it in his first sea­son. How­ever, for a club like Chelsea to lure and then re­tain the best play­ers, they need to fea­ture in Uefa’s top com­pe­ti­tion. The Blues won’t be able to com­pete in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion next sea­son, but that means that they can fo­cus on get­ting back to the top of the do­mes­tic stand­ings.

Else­where in Eng­land, un­cer­tainty abounds at Old Traf­ford. Manch­ester United man­ager Louis van Gaal seems on the brink of get­ting the sack, with Mour­inho wait­ing omi­nously on the side­lines.

A fifth-place fin­ish in the league means the Red Dev­ils miss out on the Cham­pi­ons League. And un­am­bigu­ous dis­con­tent from the fans means the Dutch­man won’t last long if the club can re­place him with the for­mer Chelsea boss.

The Por­tuguese man­ager has been rel­a­tively quiet since Chelsea showed him the door, but he still has one of the most im­pres­sive CVs in world foot­ball. The mu­tual re­spect of Sir Alex Fer­gu­son won’t hurt his chances ei­ther. Mour­inho prom­ises suc­cess, and that is ex­actly what Old Traf­ford craves.

There will also be changes at Wat­ford and Ever­ton, both of which fired their Span­ish man­agers to­wards the end of the sea­son. The Hor­nets parted ways with Quique Sánchez Flores, while the Tof­fees lost pa­tience with Roberto Martínez af­ter another dis­ap­point­ing sea­son.

For­mer Napoli and In­ter Mi­lan man­ager Wal­ter Maz­zarri is the strong favourite to take over at Vicarage Road, while Frank de Boer, David Moyes and Ron­ald Koe­man have all been linked with the va­cant job at Good­i­son Park. – TEAMtalk Me­dia

CHANGEOVER An­to­nio Conte PHOTO: JEAN CATUFFE / GETTY IM­AGES

NEW BROOM Josep ‘Pep’ Guardi­ola PHOTO: DANIEL KOPATSCH / GETTY IM­AGES

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