Managers Who Lost, 2009-10

So the “league” seasons have run down now, officially. We still have the Champs League final to go, and a cup final in Spain.

We all know about the close victories ultimately won by Chelsea, Barca and Inter and the great fight put up by the runners up. But this has also been a season of incredible drama and twists and turns. And if anything, it was a season for managerial drama like no other. So I thought we should list the winners and losers, among the managers of the year, for 2009-10!

First, though, let’s start with those who won’t make it. And heading this list, unfortunately, will be Rafa Benitez, who was expected to take Liverpool to the top, but in fact, found himself out in the footballing wilderness this year, with next season also consigned to the second tier of European football. Close on his heels is Mancini, who managed a fifth place finish, but could have done so much better. Both these managers suffer from defensive mindsets, and both have paid a heavy price for not trying to win the games they should and could have.

Also missing the cut, albeit narrowly, for me, will be Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger, Martin O Neil, Gianfranco Zola, Leonardo, Ferara and Zacheroni and yes, Pep Guardiola. Let me explain. Guardiola misses out in my book for one simple reason, he has underperformed from the levels he has defined himself. It’s not just about the treble last year, but equally about team selection, tactics, motivation and management. He sold Eto’o for Ibra and arguably paid the price. But this season I can’t remember a moment where Guardiola tactically defined a match or made an inspired substitution in  critical tie.  Instead he seemed this season to rely on Messi. Yes, its unfair, but we would not judge Messi by the standards of David Bentley, so why not apply the same logic to managers? This is the same reason that Sir Alex misses out – despite a very creditable fight with an injury ravaged team already depleted and psychologically debilitated by the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez.

Zola was undermined by the clubs owners, but before that, by fate, Iceland’s collapse, the demise of their shirt sponsors, and every possible disaster. Yet, this year, Zola has always come across as more of a great man, than a great manager.

Arsene Wenger is hobbled by his own philosophy and this season was no different as a reluctance to spend on defensive positions cost Arsenal their season. Sir Alex should not have depended so exclusively on Wayne Rooney. Martin O Neil doesn’t have a game plan for when weaker teams come to Villa Park and look to play on the counter.

Martin Jol had to watch as McClaren walked off with the Eredivisie this year, albeit by just a point. Gallingly he also had to endure his past wards at Spurs dance all the way to the 4th spot, an opportunity cruelly denied to Jol by the now infamous dodgy lasagne.

And to end today’s football fix a quote from the incomparable Brian Clough, on Sir Alex Ferguson and his failure to win successive European cups: “For all his horses, knighthoods and championships, he hasn’t got two of what I’ve got. And I don’t mean balls!”

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