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Unai Emery

Managerial merry-go-round has hit full speed already

The dust has barely settled on this season’s Premier League but the managerial churn is already in full swing. Sam Allardyce and David Moyes both hit their minimum targets by keeping Everton and West Ham in the Premier League, but both departed anyway. Carlos Carvalhal and Paul Lambert failed at Swansea and Stoke, were relegated and met the same fate. Finally, Arsene Wenger hung up his ribbed jacket and left the Arsenal dugout for the final time.

What comes next for each club is fascinating. West Ham acted quickly in securing former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini on what appears to be an extremely lucrative contract. On the surface the appointment could be considered something of a coup, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that after a meandering end to his City career and two lucrative years in China, Pellegrini has entered the pre-retirement zone. That may well do him a disservice, but the appointment mimics a lot of West Ham’s transfer activity: the credentials of quality are there, but they are also firmly in the past.

If asked, Everton would probably reply that they are in the stage of doing “due diligence”. Their next move appears to lie in the hands of new technical director Marcel Brands, who has picked up the role after Steve Walsh’s underwhelming tenure ended.

Shaking out the remnants of 18 months of transfer woe will take time but Brands has already hinted at a new approach: "If you think about what Everton’s plans are, I think a modern coach will fit into that profile. Then his philosophy and how he wants to play is important. I think it has to be a coach who wants to work with young players."

It’s an about-turn from both Ronald Koeman and Allardyce, who had more stoic and possibly safer ideas about how best to recruit and play. That’s the inherent risk that every club outside the top six has to balance ahead of any appointment. There is often a desire is to be “modern” and develop talent, but the grim reality of results and the relegation trap door creates fear and risk aversion.

A commitment to a philosophy doesn’t necessarily create quick results either, and even Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino, buffeted by the wealth and talent of their squads, took a year before they really started reaping the benefits of their styles. This is why Allardyce continues to gain employment. What he does wins few friends but he solves immediate problems and will no doubt be in work again, probably around November time.

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There is a small irony that only relegation appears to have pointed Stoke and Swansea in the direction of the “young English manager”. It’s quite possible that picking up a struggling club in mid-season stymied any moves in that direction when Carlos Carvalhal and Paul Lambert were installed, but with Stoke having employed Gary Rowett and Swansea making moves towards Ostersund’s Graham Potter, it appears that the view from the Championship is different.

Rowett, 300 games into his managerial career, can perhaps feel mildly unfortunate not to have landed a Premier League role having gained solid results in recent seasons for both Birmingham and Derby. He will get his chance to exploit Stoke’s considerate wealth next season, but the squad faces significant challenges to recalibrate for their new challenge, and how much player turnover they will experience before they line up come August remains to be seen. 

A potential Potter appointment would signify a return to an idea of a footballing philosophy at Swansea. The apparent loss of “the Swansea Way” predicated decline, mediocrity, managerial churn then relegation and if there is a desire to return to the methods that brought better days before, Potter could well be a shrewd appointment. His success in the Europa League this season shone a light on him, is methods and his team, and even if he turns down this opportunity it surely can’t be long before his career takes a significant leap upwards.

Lastly, Unai Emery quickly picked up the Arsenal job, blindsiding a fanbase that had already come to terms - with mixed feelings - with Mikel Arteta getting the job. The instant reaction was more confused than pleased, but upon reflection the employment of a head coach with an extensive list of trophies on his CV, vast experience despite his relative youth (he’s 46 years old) and a flexible philosophy could well be a fairly smart move.

The challenge at Arsenal remains similar to that of previous seasons: the defence needs strengthening and the team is still short in central midfield, so it will be interesting to see how the club approach this. With Emery appointed as head coach, and having previously worked under a director of football system extensively, the ideas may well join up.

Questions can be asked of each of these appointments and Arsenal, West Ham and Stoke have their man in his role already, while Everton and Swansea still wait. One thing is certain, though: with a World Cup occupying much of the summer and a shortened transfer window, pre-season will return all too quickly. Plans need to be finalised and realised soon, or some clubs will already be playing catch-up before a ball is even kicked.

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