In what is perhaps a speculative discussion about the level of power players have over their tactical masters, the indispensable question mark is whether football players sabotage their managers’ careers with below stellar performances over time.
Aitor Karanka is the latest managerial name to join the list of the sacked in the Premiere League just three and a half years after taking the mantle at the Riverside stadium as Middlesbrough sit second-bottom of the Premiere League with only 10 matches left for the 2016/2017 campaign.
In a club statement, the Boro’s chairman Steve Gibson admitted that “Aitor is tired, he has worked so hard for our football club over the last three and half years and the tension surrounding the end of last season would have taken its toll on anyone.” a result of his somewhat premature departure from the club.
It appears however, that Karanka’s departure is not only a result of fatigue brought about by his role as head coach but by player power which was similar to the departures of Claudio Ranieri from Leicester, Mike Phelan from Hull and Jose Mourinho from Chelsea. Karanka in his first season at Boro saved them from relegation, steered them to the play-off final in Wembley in his second season and earned them direct promotion in his third season in charge, clearly highlighting his tactical prowess.
On the day of his sacking in December 2015, Jose Mourinho famously expressed that “When I die, let my Chelsea players lower me into my grave so those bastards can let me down one last time.” Blaming them for his sacking. At the time, the special one was fresh of a league cup and premiere league triumph in the previous season and was seemingly looking to defend Chelsea’s crown, but 9 defeats in the first 16 games in the Premiere league got Mour an undeserved sacking.
Speaking on the special one’s sacking Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry noted “The players should be held accountable. What happened in some of the games is not all down to Mourinho. There was a lack of desire and commitment. You can’t sack the players, so go for the manager. I am now thinking if I am going into the right profession.’’
Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton added saying “The truth is there are a lot of enormous egos in that dressing room and some of them have downed tools. It is not acceptable but it is nearly always the manager that carries the can. I know what it is like when big players are upset – they don’t just turn round and say: ‘Oh, all right. After what Mourinho said about betrayal he knew he had to go. He is not daft. He knew there would be consequences after the words he used.”
After Mour’s departure, Chelsea, who at the time were risking battling relegation turned their fortunes around under new manager Guus Hiddink and finished well above the relegation zone. Similarly, Ranieri found himself in the same boat as Mourinho being sacked a season after delivering the impossible with Leicester, earning the foxes their first premiere league title. It’s not clear whether there was existence of a case of any manager-player discontent in Leicester but their performance post Ranieri’s sacking is very telling.
Leicester have won all their games in the Premiere league after the Italian’s departure and are now through to the Quarter finals stage of the champions league after dumping out Sevilla who sit third in the Spanish topflight in the last 16 of Europe’s heavy weight championship. The foxes face Atletico Madrid in the Quarters and are looking to extend their fairy-tale from England to conquer Europe.
Whether or not premiere league players are sabotaging manager careers is still far-fetched however, player power is a clear trend in football, at least Mourinho thinks so replying “In this case, I know the names.” When asked if Karanka’s departure was the result of player power.