This past weekend cost two notable Premier League managers their jobs, with Andre Villas Boas's sacking from Spurs being the most high-profile. The Portuguese manager got the axe on Monday morning after his Tottenham side slumped to a thumping 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool in front of their own White Hart Lane faithful on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday evening, to some people's surprise, West Brom relieved Steve Clarke of his duties at the Hawthorns mere hours after an uninspiring 1-0 defeat at Cardiff. The game proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Scot after a poor run of results which carried over from the back end of last season. In fact, West Brom's record in 2013 is below par, recording only seven Premier League wins this calendar year so far.
The general consensus seems to be in favour of Daniel Levy's decision to part company with AVB, particularly after Spurs' £100m plus summer spending spree has proved to be an unsuccessful formula to match the high pre-season expectations they had for themselves, especially with talk of pushing for the league title. West Brom's decision to sack Clarke is one that hasn't raised too many eyebrows given chairman Jeremy Pearce's track record with managers - look at Roberto Di Matteo.
That being said, were Tottenham and West Brom right to sack AVB and Steve Clarke? Or have managers today become a convenient scapegoat for the failures in club boardrooms and of the players on the pitch?
When looking at both managers' time at their former clubs, one can pick out very similar traits in respect to the given club's ambition. They both took to their positions in the summer of 2012 and had good debut seasons, especially Clarke, who guided West Brom to an excellent start which proved to be the foundations of a strong 8th place finish. Spurs, though disappointed not to finish in the Champions League positions, only finished one point behind rivals Arsenal who had an amazing run to end their year.
What proved to be a turning point for the two managers in question, however, was the loss of their respective talismans in the summer - Romelu Lukaku for West Brom and the now seemingly irreplaceable Gareth Bale for Spurs. Both clubs are most definitely missing the influence and goals that those players brought to the side. Both clubs made attempts to fill the void, Bale to Real Madrid and Lukaku's loan deal coming to an end, but neither club's signings have really stepped up to the plate.
West Brom are splashing out a lot on Nicolas Anelka's wages, but the striker has only played seven times this season, failing to score as of yet. They also spent fairly big on Victor Anichebe, who was never even close to be being a prolific goalscorer when at Everton, only netting 18 Premier League goals in 131 games.
The same can be said for the signings brought in at Spurs to replace Bale, chief among them being the £30m spent to bring in Erik Lamela from Roma, a player who has so far been very quiet to say the least.
But are the managers to blame for failing to get the most out of their squad? Or is it actually bad pieces of business in the boardroom by signing the wrong players? Either way, AVB and Clarke could certainly have been given a bit more time to put everything together and should have been cut a bit of slack.
AVB had to incorporate a large number of high-profile signings into the team and while they have had some pretty poor results recently, the manager can only take so much of the blame. Looking at the now fatal 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, Spurs were only 2-0 down before Paulinho got sent off. Had he still been on the pitch, the result may have been less humiliating and might have even saved AVB his job at the very least.
In Steve Clarke's case, before the run of four defeats was that infamous day at Stamford Bridge when his side rightly felt cheated after being denied a famous victory after they conceded a highly dubious penalty in the dying embers of the game. Who knows what that last minute penalty did for the confidence of those players. Had they won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, would they then have gone on to lose four on the trot?
Whilst there is no time for 'shoulda, woulda, coulda' in Premier League management, there is only so much a manager can be responsible for. While AVB's tactics have been roundly questioned and West Brom's 2013 has been poor, give the managers time to turn them around. Look instead at boardroom decisions and individual player performances which may be letting down their management.
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