Things change quickly in the world of football. On May 24th, Jose Mourinho celebrated another title win with Chelsea, while Gary Monk concluded a record-breaking season at Swansea by guiding the club to their highest ever league finish of 8th place.
In short, these were two of the most secure managers in the Premier League, blessed with the full backing of their fans and clubs. Monk was a young English coach with a progressive, easy-on-the-eye style, tipped to be the next manager of the national team, while Mourinho was at the start of building his own Alex Furguson-esque dynasty in West London.
Fast-forward seven months and things could not be more different for two managers who seemed as secure as any in their positions. If you’d have told Gary Monk that after 15 games his side would be only one point behind Chelsea, he would have thought it was too good to be true. Sadly for both managers, Chelsea are down in 14th, with four wins and eight losses, 17 points off table-toppers Leicester City.
Let’s start with the Swansea manager. Since taking over at the club, there have been persistent doubts about his lack of managerial experience, but his team has continued to prove the critics wrong. Aside from last season’s record-breaking league finish, Monk has kept faith in the possession-based style which has become Swansea’s calling card in recent years. But after a positive start to the season, Monk, one of the league’s youngest managers, has watched his team win just one of their last eleven games.
In truth, Monk is probably suffering for setting expectations so high during his short time in charge at the club. His team currently look devoid of ideas, confidence and fight; a potent combination, especially when key players such as Bafetimbi Gomis and Jefferson Montero have dropped in form so dramatically.
Chelsea’s first half of the season has been nothing short of dreadful. A tally of just four wins and three draws sees Mourinho’s side way down in 14th place, and embarrassingly, just two above the relegation zone. Nobody is expecting them to be contenders for relegation, but their spectacular collapse is remarkable given how they strolled to the title by eight points last season.
Why has it happened? You can take your pick from a number of theories, but it’s probably a mixture of them all. Yes, they’ve been unlucky with some decisions in matches, but in general key players look drained, out of form and suffering from a later than normal return from pre-season, while the manager has courted controversy and generally destabilised the harmony at the club.
Mourinho has never lasted more than three years at a club and now perhaps we are seeing why. His management heavily relies on intensity, mental strength and a near-constant sense of conflict, three things which can be quickly undermined by a physically and mentally exhausted squad. Perhaps Chelsea needed to reinforce their squad over the summer break, but they’re definitely capable of better than they’ve shown so far this season.
So what does the future hold for these two managers in perilous positions? If rumours are to be believed, both are quickly running out of time to save their jobs. That Mourinho is still at Chelsea speaks volumes about the club’s new-found willingness to back managers and take a long term view of things. Having said that, there will be a point at which enough is enough. That point could well come in the next week, with crucial games against Porto in the Champions League later today and the visit of Leicester City on Monday. It looks as though he has two games to save his job.
At Swansea, if recent stories are true then Monk’s sacking may be just a matter of time. It looks as though chairman Huw Jenkins is keen to find a successor before dismissing his current manager. David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers have both been strongly linked with the role.