Arsène Wenger has been the manager at Arsenal since October 1996. The amazing thing is that second place on the Premier League managerial tenure list goes to Mark Hughes, who has been in charge at Stoke City for just four seasons. Eight Premier League managers have been in charge for less than a year.
It’s a sign of the times. With the exception of a few comfortable chairs such as Wenger’s, today’s managers at the top level begin their jobs already on the hot seat.
The chief conductors of the managerial carousel these days might be the Pozzo family, which owns Watford in the Premier League and Udinese in Serie A. Since taking over Watford, the Hornets have had seven managers in six years, including an astonishing four different managers in a span of 37 days. At Udinese, the Pozzos have averaged one manager per year for nearly three decades, and twice managed the feat of having four managers in a single calendar year.
Everyone loves to jump on owners for being too quick to fire managers, but lately, it seems like the quick are better off than the patient. Leicester City fired Claudio Ranieri less than one season after he won an improbable league title. Replacement Craig Shakespeare immediately turned things around and took Leicester away from the relegation battle and into the Champions League quarterfinals.
Paul Clement, Swansea’s third manager of the year, only took over at the beginning of January, but he immediately drove his team out of the ditch and all the way to safety from relegation, finishing with four victories in five games to claim 15th. At Chelsea, Antonio Conte took just one season to lift Chelsea from disaster back to the league title.
Even the Pozzos, with their managerial itch to dismiss, have found success. Watford had been relegated in its two previous Premier League tries. Now in the Pozzo fold, the club’s next season will be its third consecutive in the top flight. Udinese hasn’t been relegated in 20 years, and has regularly competed for Champions League spots despite having none of the advantages of other storied Italian sides.
At the top of the European leagues, the era in which a manager might have a long grace period to build a club in his own image seems to be all but over. Today, the responsibility for acquiring players and setting team direction falls more to owners, who tend to be far richer and more hands-on than in the past.
Meanwhile, managers come and go more often than star players do. Time is an unaffordable luxury for most of the men who patrol the sidelines. It’s win now or look for another job. While it seems counter-intuitive, more often than not, the quick firing seems to be the right move.
SOCCER SHORT TAKES
• I don’t often mention the Scottish Premiership, but Celtic’s unbeaten season in Scotland was simply astonishing. The Glasgow club won 34 of 38 games (four draws), the first undefeated season in the Scottish top division since 1898-99. The team’s 106 points is a new European record, and it left them 30 points ahead of the second-place team.
• Alex Morgan’s final game with Lyon in France will be Thursday as her team takes on Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final. Morgan (above) already helped Lyon to an 11th consecutive league title and a sixth consecutive domestic cup. All that’s left is a second consecutive European Cup to complete the trophy case.
• A review of my Premier League predictions for this year: I correctly predicted Chelsea would win the title, and that Liverpool and Manchester City would also place in the top four, though I mistakenly put Manchester United, not Tottenham, in a Champions League place as well. My relegation predictions were off, as I got only Hull City correct among the relegated teams.
WEEKEND WATCH GUIDE
FA Cup Final: Arsenal vs. Chelsea, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Ch. 9. This is it for Arsenal, its only chance to rescue something from a disappointing season. No matter the result, it could be manager Arsène Wenger’s last game in charge of the Gunners. For Chelsea, the perfect cap to a title-winning season would be to take home the FA Cup.
Liga MX Final: Tigres at Chivas, 6 p.m. Sunday, Univision. Both teams come into this match looking for a second trophy — Chivas, to go with its Copa MX title from the spring, and Tigres, to match its fall-season championship. The first leg settled nothing; Andre-Pierre Gignac scored twice for Tigres in the closing moments, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 draw.
MLS: Houston at Dallas, 7 p.m. Sunday, FS1. The two Texas sides in MLS were flying high before last weekend, when Dallas lost at home to San Jose, and Houston earned a pasting at Atlanta. Dallas is struggling to get on track, with its winter signings yet to make a mark. Houston is a surprise contender in the West, but for how long?
English Championship: Reading vs. Huddersfield Town, 9 a.m. Monday, beIN Sports. A morning game on Memorial Day might feel a little odd. But this playoff final in the second division is one of the biggest games of the year in England. The winner goes to the Premier League next season. The loser waits at least one more year. It’s a fascinating game every year.