What’s the cause of all this Premier League managerial upheaval?

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roberto-martinez-croppedThe remarkably capricious nature of the current football season was epitomised in the space of 24 hours this week.  Three days after lifting the F.A. Cup at Wembley thanks to a near faultless performance against Manchester City, many of Wigan Athletic’s familiar foibles were readily apparent on Tuesday as they shipped four goals at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and consequently returned to the Championship after an enchanting eight years in the Premier League.

The following night, Chelsea’s tumultuous campaign was given a silver sheen when they defied a technically superior Benfica team to win the Europa League.  The Blues’ triumph in Amsterdam gives rise to the extraordinary situation – regardless of the detail attached to each case – whereby the winners of the continent’s secondary competition as well as the side which finished runners-up in the Premier League and F.A. Cup are seeking new managers.

That is without mentioning the English Champions having appointed a new man to their top job and, if Bayern Munich prevail in next week’s Champions League final, the possibility that the victors in the biggest tournament of all will begin their next campaign without the boss who oversaw that achievement – Munich took the decision to appoint Pep Guardiola in January, in preference to retaining Jupp Heynckes.

It was acknowledged upon his appointment that Rafa Benitez’s time in charge at Chelsea was only ever on an ‘interim’ basis.  The fortunes of the Spaniard during his six months at Stamford Bridge have fluctuated wildly.  What cannot be contested is that Benitez consistently finds a way of delivering material success.  That is a fact the 53 year-old will happily confirm, and one to which supporters of Valencia and Liverpool will readily attest.

Moreover, it is a trait he shares with the group of players presently under his command.  This has been a season, despite a hugely promising start, of many lows for Chelsea.  On Benitez’s watch, the more damaging defeats were those in the semi-finals of both domestic competitions – particularly the F.A. Cup loss to Manchester City.  Roberto Mancini’s team brought their recently infrequently seen ‘A game’ to Wembley, and Chelsea simply couldn’t live with it.

That the Londoners’ gravely unpopular manager resuscitated a fatigued and downcast bunch, to the extent that their qualification for next year’s Champions League is assured and yet another trophy has been claimed, will ensure his search for a new employer is brief.

The same is likely to prove true for Mancini.  The Italian doesn’t possess the intangible aura of Benitez, that air of complete control and certainty that everything will turn out at as planned.  Nevertheless, Mancini has delivered the goods at the Etihad Stadium, if not at the level desired by his former chiefs, then to a degree that will attract many potential suitors.

The respective three-and-a-half year and six month reigns at the latest clubs of Mancini and Benitez might have undulated starkly in terms of their prosperity, but nothing can match the last week for Wigan’s manager, Roberto Martinez.

The unique and somewhat crazy bubble in which football exists renders possible the status quo whereby a cast of men who have hoovered up a string of the game’s more prized baubles are on the job market, while the Premier League’s most recently relegated boss is asking for time to consider his future amidst rumours that he will be lured away by a bigger rival.

All of Martinez’s laudable tactical attributes were fully evident on one of the greatest days in his club’s history, Saturday’s F.A. Cup final.  The erudite Spaniard was spot-on with every element of his plan to overcome Manchester City’s group of superior players.  Having witnessed a rarely used back-four fail so miserably to keep Swansea City at bay in his team’s previous league fixture, Martinez reverted to his favoured three at the back – and how it paid off.

Roger Espinoza thwarted the raiding menace of Pablo Zabaleta – such an integral part of City’s attacking thrust.  James McCarthy and Jordi Gomez displayed admirable discipline to hold their deep-lying midfield berths, so allowing Callum McManaman, Shaun Maloney, and Arouna Kone licence to exert their trickery, daring, and imagination on, traditionally, the grandest of football stages.

It is the manner in which those inventive, forward players – and before them the correspondingly blessed Victor Moses and Charles N’Zogbia – so freely express themselves under Martinez’s guidance, that speaks loudest for the 39 year-old’s managerial and coaching capability.

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