Walter Mazzarri

Watford and Crystal Palace show changing nature of management game

There were two very unsurprising pieces of Premier League managerial news released in May, and one which came as an altogether bigger shock.

The first was Watford’s decision to part ways with Walter Mazzarri, which was actually announced prior to the Hornets’ final game of the 2016/17 campaign against Manchester City. The former Napoli and Inter head coach may have fulfilled his remit by keeping the club in the top tier, but he was not overly popular with players or supporters. His departure, in the end, had come to feel inevitable.

The same can be said of Arsene Wenger’s decision to sign a new two-year contract at Arsenal, which was finally confirmed a few days after the triumphant FA Cup final against Chelsea. The club had delayed the announcement, which was unpopular with a number of supporters who were pushing for change, but it had been clear for a number of months that Wenger would not be walking away from the north London outfit. There was, moreover, no indication that this will be the 67-year-old’s final contract.

The one development which did come out of the blue was Sam Allardyce’s exit from Crystal Palace, who he had led to survival thanks in part to a trio of impressive victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. The former Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United boss announced his intention to retire from the game, which makes sense in hindsight – Allardyce was clearly burned by the England experience – but nevertheless took Palace fans aback when it was confirmed in May.

All three clubs serve as excellent examples of the ways in which management is changing. Since Sean Dyche parted company with Watford in July 2012, the Hornets have employed eight different bosses: Gianfranco Zola, Beppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia, Billy McKinlay, Slavisa Jokanovic, Quique Sanchez Flores, Mazzarri and the incumbent, Marco Silva. In the same timeframe, Palace have employed Dougie Freedman, Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew, Allardyce and Frank de Boer – seven managers in total.

Whenever a coach leaves his post at one of the above outfits, there are calls for Watford and Palace to embrace stability and find a candidate who is in it for the long haul. In fairness to the pair, they have been unlucky at times – Garcia left the former due to health problems, for instance, while the latter did not intend to lose Freedman, Pulis or Allardyce – yet it is worth bearing in mind that both clubs have enjoyed great success despite regular changes of manager. Watford and Palace have been able to absorb frequent coaching departures due to the strength of their behind-the-scenes structures, which have allowed them to establish themselves in the Premier League.

The days of a single man controlling a club from top to bottom are now virtually gone, with Wenger the sole exception in the English top flight. Watford and Palace have demonstrated that a lack of continuity in the dugout is not necessarily a barrier to achievement.

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