The managerial merry-go-round is one of the unpleasant facets of Premier League football. Too often, the board members of clubs are quick to sack a manager due to a string of poor results or because of outside pressure. The objective of dismissing a manager is, of course, to effect change. Immediate results are often improved, but the song generally remains the same. Conversely, there are the untouchables; the managers who are rated so highly or have achieved so much that they will never have to take a trip to the gallows. This is not a new problem, but one that has become more apparent in recent times. Two men that highlight this interesting state of affairs are Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish.
With regard to Wenger, it is hard to argue that Arsenal should begin the search for a new manager, and this is not an attempt to advocate that course of action. He is an excellent manager that has worked wonders for his club — once upon a time, at least. Arsenal has not improved in recent years while clubs around them have. Arsenal and Manchester United used to represent the upper echelon of the Premier League. Systematically, Chelsea, Manchester City and now Tottenham have replaced Arsenal as a top 4 side. Wenger has said that a Champions League place is his target. At this point, it looks unlikely.
The frustration for Arsenal fans, and supporters of the Wenger football ethos, is that the same problems have persisted at the club for upwards of five seasons. Namely, a lack of veteran know-how, little graft in midfield, little quality on the bench, and inconsistent defending. At some point he must be held accountable for either being unable or unwilling to change. However, despite the fans’ and Robin van Persie’s reaction to a substitution this past weekend, Wenger remains untouchable. “In Arsene we Trust” is a slogan in limbo, lost somewhere between a statement in faith and a joke.
Dalglish’s situation is different because he has not been the manager of Liverpool for a long period of time. However, he has managed long enough to be evaluated. Clearly, Liverpool has improved under Dalglish. The club’s record under him has been measurably better than the Roy Hodgson era. However, the degree of improvement, when compared with money spent, has been substandard. Hodgson spent approximately $37 million, and obtained a winning percentage of 42% in 31 games. Dalglish has spent $179 million, and achieved a winning percentage of 51% in 51 games. A more telling stat, is that Liverpool’s winning percentage this season is 40%. Given the resources at his disposal, Dalglish’s tenure has not been overly successful. Dalglish was supposed to restore the glory and the aura at Liverpool. Yet the club has been plagued by inconsistent play on the field and controversy of it. There are no cries for his dismissal. Would that be the case if he was not an Anfield legend?
It is difficult to say whether either club would benefit from a managerial change. Especially Liverpool where Dalglish deserves more time. Dalglish will probably be afforded that privilege so rarely given to managers, because he is untouchable. In a results oriented business, when you are a manager of a top club, you have to be at least challenging for a top four finish. If that is the bar by which Dalglish and Wenger are to be evaluated, they are failing. Interestingly, Andre Villas-Boas is the most maligned manager of a top team. Villas-Boas has his club sitting in fourth, five points ahead of Arsenal in his first season as manager. How he must envy Dalglish and Wenger.