Weekly Why: Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and the Trend of Midseason Appointments

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2016

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Welcome to Bleacher Report's Weekly Why, a place where we discuss world football's biggest questions that may go neglected and/or avoided. Ranging from the jovial to the melancholic, no subject matter is deemed off limits.

Why Aren't Clubs Waiting to Announce Managers? 

Most of the time, writers ask questions with ulterior motives. Using questions at an argument's beginning holds suspense and opens lines of discourse that blanket statements can't.

I say that to say: Most of the time when I'm asking a question, I know what the answer is, and I'm merely attempting to create an environment of intrigue. This time, though, I'm genuinely asking. I don't have too many preconceived notions about the answer, and to be honest, I'm rather conflicted.

There's a trend occurring in football. I'm not sure whether I'm just noticing, or whether it's a new development, but managers being announced during the season seems to be a new business model. Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich was the first time I consciously paid attention to such movement, and since, clubs around the globe have made similar decisions.

The most recent example being Antonio Conte.

Italy's current manager was named Chelsea's first-team head coach on Monday—via the Blues' official Twitter page—effective once his national-team duties have concluded at Euro 2016. What the delineation between "manager" and "first-team head coach" is probably lies at technical director Michael Emenalo's doorstep and his largely hit-or-miss transfer dealings.

After sacking parting with Jose Mourinho in December, the search for Chelsea's next permanent boss took three-and-a-half months; the west Londoners have another four months before 2016/17 begins, and they can start their summer preparations knowing their managerial head-coaching situation is resolved.

Once he has completed his mission with Italy, Antonio Conte will take on Chelsea Football Club.
Once he has completed his mission with Italy, Antonio Conte will take on Chelsea Football Club.CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

In this case, I see merit in announcing one's manager/head coach during the season.

For Chelsea, 2015/16 is pretty much over. Interim manager Guus Hiddink has seven matches left to oversee. Youth players are sure to debut. The likes of Alexandre Pato and Matt Miazga are likely to feature heavily, while those with Euro 2016 on the horizon [read: "Eden Hazard"] will probably disappear with phantom ailments.

Allowing players and supporters the foreknowledge of the club's stance when there is nothing to play for (except the faint hope of UEFA Europa League football) appears a measured strategy.

Chelsea have season-ticket holders to inspire after woeful events. They require some direction with contract negotiations and transfer targets. Most importantly, they need to remove the sour taste of 2015/16 from their mouths as quickly as possible—so announcing Conte in April, under these peculiar circumstances, why not.

My understanding, though, ends there. When a manager is sacked, appointing a caretaker and/or interim manager is required. Sometimes—as seen with Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp—a club can find their next permanent manager in the same season. All well and good.

What I've a hard time grasping are situations like Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

From Guardiola's disclosure he wouldn't re-sign with the German champions—effectively finishing his three-year deal and moving on—speculation about his future was incessant. I was more taken by the why, not necessarily the where or when.

Occasionally your next manager is on the market, and you have an opening (see Liverpool); sometimes they aren't.
Occasionally your next manager is on the market, and you have an opening (see Liverpool); sometimes they aren't.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This means #CFC are rooting against Italy in the Euros, so Conte can start his project ASAP.

Mi dispiace, my Italian brothers/sisters.

— ChelseaTalk (@ChelseaTaIk) 4 April 2016

Pep Guardiola has done this twice now. Does he know something we don't?
Pep Guardiola has done this twice now. Does he know something we don't?CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

While a captivating league, there's no disputing the Bundesliga's best club, Munich, are an unassailable force—meaning their manager's only true measure of success is winning the UEFA Champions League. It's certainly possible Guardiola realised Europe isn't dominated by skill alone, but the inescapable element of luck.

If one's long-term job security cannot be anchored in domestic competition, then leaving cannot be too harshly criticised, but I thought Guardiola learned his lesson not to accept positions before campaigns ended. 

When he signed midseason with Bayern in January 2013, the former Barcelona manager had no inkling his task would be replicating Jupp Heynckes' 2012/13 treble; that trio of trophies changed expectations. Combined with the Bundesliga's aforementioned limitations, this cocktail was (my version of) why Guardiola eventually took Manchester City's escape route.

The more I thought, however, the "when" became increasingly problematic; that hasn't changed, but I'm not confident I'm right.

Chelsea's predicament was so toxic and desperately required remedy, that postponing Conte's arrival would've served little purpose for their rebuilding job. Manchester City, on the other hand, were in the title race, competing in two domestic cups and had the Champions League to worry about.

Since Guardiola's announcement to take over for Manuel Pellegrini on February 1, the Citizens have dropped 14 of 21 Premier League points and are fending off Manchester United and West Ham United for the EPL's fourth position.

Strange timing gets the likes of Manuel Pellegrini and Carlo Ancelotti awkwardly involved.
Strange timing gets the likes of Manuel Pellegrini and Carlo Ancelotti awkwardly involved.GERARD JULIEN/Getty Images

It would appear the midseason announcements had the reverse effect on City than what transpired with Bayern in 2012/13. This time, instead of massive expectations, Guardiola could conceivably manage a club without Champions League football—an unthinkable proposition when he elected to swap teams.

Similarly, Munich have dropped seven points in the nine Bundesliga fixtures since, when they only dropped five points in the season's first 19 games.

I'd be foolish to assert because a manager declares their intentions early, losing is a guaranteed side effect; there are far more variables to winning football matches than where one's manager coaches next season.

What I am asking is this: Do these announcements have untoward ramifications? Does knowing one's manager isn't staying around affect preparation, study habits, concentration levels, training sessions and/or one's commitment (whether running an extra sprint, sacrificing your body for a tackle/block, etc.)? Possibly even bigger, for professional athletes: Should the manager's status determine one's dedication to their club?

I'd like to think "no" on all counts, but I'm not convinced it's humanly possibly to detach your relationship with your manager from professional duty/responsibility; one of the primary reasons Conte is necessary at Stamford Bridge was the English champions having this exact issue with Mourinho.

If midseason managerial announcements are where football's going, then I suppose I've got to accept it—but I'll be asking "are we there yet" from the back seat every three minutes.

Last Weekly: Diego Costa, FIFA's International Laws and the Myth of Nationality | Why Are International Football's Rules So Loose?

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.


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