Appointing a new manager is a question of style, not celebrity



In what came as no surprise to regular viewers of Premier League: The Movie, less than 4 days after I had expressed mild amazement at the lack of panic induced knee-jerk sackings this season, two managers were promptly pointed in the direction of the door and told not to let their giant pay-offs hit them on the way out.

Whilst only those returning from a particularly lengthy tour of duty aboard the International Space Station will have been shocked to hear of the fate which befell Mark Hughes, Roberto Di Matteo's unceremonious departure caused enough tutting in the football press that the conference to announce it sounded as if it was being held in the back of a maraca shipment being rolled down a steep hill.

As the pair were awkwardly exchanging nods at the Hammersmith Job Centre Plus, their replacements were being ushered through the door, introduced to the dinner ladies, and telling their respective secretaries that if anyone calls claiming to represent a Mr Arshavin, they're out. Whilst both chairmen can be applauded for relatively swift transitions, a quick look at the Premier League table highlights how important it can be to make the right appointment.

Last summer, there were three vacant managerial positions that needed filling. Roy Hodgson had swanned off to play a game of pin the tail on the Pirlo, Kenny Dalglish had his keys taken off him at Liverpool after the signing of Stewart Downing proved he was in no state to drive, which inadvertently led to Brendan Rodgers exiting Swansea.

As any patronising pundit will tell you, this season's “overachievers” have been West Brom. Obviously sooner or later the “bubble will burst” and better teams will “figure them out” but until then it's worth praising the Baggies board for the appointment of Steve Clarke. It's almost unheard of for a Premier League chairman to give someone their first managerial post without them having been a high-profile player, but Clarke's subtle passing game has been as effective as it has been easy for the side to adapt to. He hasn't pulled up any trees, so to speak - he's just gradually evolved an already solid side into something a lot more dangerous going forward.

On Sunday, the other two teams in this little tale went head-to-head at the Liberty Stadium. Liverpool took plenty of time in finding the right man to sweep up the broken glass of Kenny Dalglish's shattered legacy, and after interviewing candidates aplenty, decided that Brendan Rogers and the ball-retaining, pass-'em-to-death stylings he'd instilled at Swansea were the way forward.

That left Swansea in need of a new number one. Instead of looking around the globe for a manager who might play a style of football they'd like to see, they looked at what they already had and tried to find a manager who not only shared a similar ethos and would work well within the current system, but had the nous and the experience to integrate something else into the equation.

Michael Laudrup was one of the most effective users of possession the game has ever seen, so getting to grips with a team of players who've made their very living out of retaining the ball took less time than it takes someone to learn to spell his surname. But the true masterstroke of the appointment comes, as it does for Steve Clarke, in the slight alterations he's been able to make to their existing template.

Last season, Swansea passed the ball an average of 18,500 times per game, but only about four of these were in the final third. Teams found it very difficult to hurt them purely because of how little they'd see of the ball, but they also knew that they weren't going to be too much of a handful coming the other way. An 11th-placed finish was impressive, but only four teams scored fewer goals than they did. Now Laudrup, one of his generation's most esteemed attacking midfield players, has added a genuine goal threat by turning the departure of Joe Allen into an opportunity to bring in Jonathan De Guzman, and also replacing the crafty Gylfi Sigurdsson with out-and-out goalscorer Michu.

Nothing drastic, just two small alterations that have transformed a team who already knew how to keep the ball into one that can do real damage with it. Their passes-per-game stats are down slightly, but chances created are up. It's been evolution that's seen a team highly fancied to be “found out” this season into the top half of the table.

Meanwhile at Anfield, while the signs are becoming more positive for Brendan Rodgers, he's still spending his training sessions trying to teach Steven Gerrard that recycling the ball isn't a hippy thing, and Jamie Carragher that one-touch is more than just a handy way to buy DVDs from Amazon. Rodgers may be a great manager, but appointing a coach whose style of play suits the players available remains the best way to ensure a smooth transition.

Read more from Adam HERE.