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Sky Sports' Johnny Phillips: Outside noise cranks up the pressure on bosses

By the close of the first weekend in November a quarter of the Premier League’s managers had lost their jobs.

Nuno Espirito Santo.
Nuno Espirito Santo.

That speaks volumes about the climate they are having to operate in.

Managing football clubs has never been more difficult, in an age where the external noise can play such an intrusive part in the job.

Xisco Munoz was first to lose his post. In his only full season he took Watford up to the Premier League, where he survived only seven matches before his dismissal on 3 October.

Later on in the month, and perhaps more predicatably, Steve Bruce parted company with Newcastle United once the new owners allowed him to take charge of his 1,000th match as a manager.

November has been a particularly fatal month for the men in charge, with Nuno Espirito Santo, Daniel Farke and Dean Smith all being axed.

Nuno’s departure left the sourest taste. His entire employment amounted to just 10 Premier League games, leaving Tottenham Hotspur eighth in the table, and a handful of cup matches.

Having spent most of the summer embroiled in the Harry Kane transfer saga with no funds to spend on players, he should at least have been given time to sort out a squad which had been playing poorly under the previous permanent incumbent, Jose Mourinho.

Either don’t appoint Nuno in the first place or give him an acceptable amount of time to make a mark.

A trend emerging with some of these dismissals has been the haste with which replacements have been lined up.

Today’s managers know full well that they are operating in a world of Machiavellian figures, going behind their backs to secure the next man before they have been sacked.

Speaking with one of the 15 Premier League managers still in a job recently – away from the cameras – it was interesting to hear his concerns about the narratives that build up around management. Particularly the voices that club owners are being exposed to.

On a match-by-match basis, performances are picked apart by former players, pundits, journalists and supporters. Analysis is often condensed into convenient soundbites, clipped up for digital hits and clicks.

The agenda is often set before a manager is given the opportunity to enlighten us on the meticulous planning that goes into each and every game.

It hugely frustrates managers that certain elements of matches are highlighted at the expense of the wider context of long-term strategies. Former players often spread themselves thinly across various media, expected to give views on all 20 Premier League clubs and beyond when they have spent little or no time analysing or studying those teams. There are only a few platforms that can give the necessary time and space for lengthy analysis.

Everybody is entitled to a voice, but that does not mean it deserves to be taken seriously.

Look at the case of Arsenal Fan TV (AFTV) , which was initially set up to provide fans with that voice they deserved. It quickly turned into an incoherent ranting forum rife with hysterical screaming and unacceptable personal abuse once it became clear that the model for success was a numbers game.

The most popular videos – some with over four million views – are filmed directly after defeats, full of sweary vox-pops demanding managers be sacked.

With over 1.4million YouTube subscribers AFTV has been a great commercial success, and the characters made famous with their vacuous shouting are now given airtime in the mainstream.

It would be grossly unfair to tar all fan media with the same brush, there is plenty of excellent content out there from some intelligent and thought-provoking supporters. But the headline grabbers? It’s nearly always the shock-jock reactionary nonsense served up by the likes of AFTV. And it is that type of noise that becomes harder to block out.

On this corresponding weekend of the very first Premier League season, in 1992-93, Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were 10th in the table, after consecutive 1-0 defeats at home to Wimbledon and away at Aston Villa. Ferguson had been in the job since 1986 and appeared as far away as he had ever been from winning a first title at Old Trafford.

In 2021, would he be remaining six years in the job with big money spent, no league title, marooned in mid-table and an army of self-appointed spokesmen ready to offer soundbite after soundbite on any platform available to them?

It is hard to imagine how Ferguson could have survived if that had been this season.

Fortunately, for Manchester United, it wasn’t 2021 and you know the rest of the story.

With five managers sacked already this season, perhaps it is time for a change in the tone of criticism that comes the way of those in charge of our football teams.

What makes a manager suitable for the job in August but the wrong man in November?

With just 11 Premier League games gone, it is far too early to make any meaningful judgment on a manager’s work this season.

Sadly, the historical trend suggests the noise will only get louder in coming seasons, and with it plenty more early curtain calls for under fire Premier League managers.

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