I was about to hit the sack but was jolted by the news that [Chelsea just sacked Scolari](http://edition.cnn.com/2009/SPORT/football/02/09/chelsea.scolari/index.html).
There are numerous academic journals that discuss the efficacy of sacking football managers on the basis of improving performance. Some look for a correlation between sackings and performance with inconclusive results while others report that [stability is best](http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/about/warwickmagazine08/fire/). There is an [interesting study](www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/research/faculty/pdfs/hope_when_sack_manager.pdf) that calculates exactly when clubs should sack managers. And of course there’s BLeong’s own study on [firing and maximum efficiency](http://bleongcw.typepad.com/simple_is_the_reason_of_m/2008/01/firing-of-bpl-f.html). My thoughts are not as scientifically derived, but here goes:
Typically you would hear of clubs scraping the bottom of the barrel resorting to sacking managers. Certainly if you’re desperate and it’s likely that the manager of a bottom-ranked club may not be very good, then it’s worth trying. However, sacking also occurs within the upper echelons of football, usually when a team fails to win a certain title (e.g. Champions League), or a certain number of titles. They become victims of their own sucess, and in English football it is Chelsea that has become a case study of such practices.
I was surprised that Scolari was sacked so soon. However, looking at Chelsea’s recent track record, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock. I still think Jose Mourinho made the best impact on the team as a coach, and if that wasn’t good enough than it would be very difficult to please their billionaire owner, even with a new coach who’s won the World Cup.
Money can buy good players, but it alone does not create a good team. Kaka has also proven that money cannot buy a good player when he plays football not just for the money. Money also cannot keep a good player if he wants to fly back to Brazil. Man City, which aspires to be the new Chelsea, has been learning these lessons.
Money can also buy you good managers. But if you interfere in decisions and buy expensive players who add little value to your team, you frustrate your managers and defeat the purpose of hiring them in the first place. We learn in business school that you should not appraise people on factors that are out of their control. That was exactly what happened with Mourinho.
Also, the other top clubs have had managers for a while. Liverpool has showed great promise under Benitez, and this season particularly with the Premier League. Man U have had Fergie for so long, that even as a non-fan I’d feel strange when someone replaces him (after retirement, of course). Wenger is a bargain hunter and developer of youth talent. His slowness to acquire outside talent has compromised Arsenal’s short-term competitiveness but I hope to see things getting better from now on.
Back to Chelsea. I’m quite opposed to constant sacking of coaches with great track records, especially if they haven’t had time to prove themselves. Especially if there’s a history of sackings without much improvement. It implies that other things could be wrong, not necessarily the coaches. It also encourages short-term behaviours and places tremendous pressure on the new manager.
On the other hand, Chelsea can’t bite the hand that feeds it. Without Abramovich’s riches it would arguably not have had such a good run in recent years. However, as discussed above, riches only take you up to a certain point. The billionaire owner seems to believe that money can buy you everything, and that people are like replaceable components. That isn’t necessarily the case.
In an environment as competitive as the Premier League, nobody can be number one all the time in everything. When you start considering all other options as failure, you will never be happy. Might as well spend your billions on something else with a much higher return on happiness.
But wait, maybe that can’t be bought just with money.