The Talk of Troy

Hansi Flick sacked after stunning friendly defeat: the issue of manager sackings

TOT’s Channin Zhao discusses the pressure managers face, and whether managers can really be held to fault for a club’s lack of success.

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On Sept. 10, the German Football Association (DFB) announced the sacking of national football team head coach Hansi Flick following a humiliating 4-1 friendly defeat against Japan on the day prior.

Flick had massive success during his 2019-21 spell at Bayern Munich, winning seven championships, including the great treble. However, of Flick’s last 16 matches, Germany has won just four games, including a group stage exit in Qatar. They have also conceded 11 goals in their previous five fixtures, an alarming statistic considering Germany will be hosting the European Championship in nine months.

A statement from the DFB president Bernd Neuendorf read, “We need a spirit of optimism and confidence with a view to the European Championship in our own country… Sporting success has top priority for the DFB. Therefore, the decision was inevitable.”

Apart from Hansi Flick, both of his assistants Marcus Sorg and Danny Roh have left the role. German Sporting Director Rudi Völler, Hannes Wolf, and Sandro Wagner will take charge as “caretakers” of the national team until further changes.

The days of Arsene Wenger, of Alex Ferguson, of holding managerial roles for up to a decade, have long passed. Now, every post-game dinner could be a coach’s last meal at the club. Just a few days apart from the sacking of Hansi Flick, Lyon sacked their head coach Laurent Blanc as the club is standing at the bottom of the table, as well as Poland sacking national team head coach Fernando Santos.

Were all these sackings truly necessary? In many cases, the team’s underperformance was not solved by a simple change in management. Take Chelsea as an example: disappointed with Thomas Tuchel’s performances, Chelsea decided to sack the Champions League-winning coach and bring in Graham Potter for £21.5 million, who had led Brighton to accomplish incredible feats. However, Potter only managed for just mere seven months as Chelsea struggled to stay in the top half of the table. Changing to Frank Lampard didn’t resolve the issue either, as Chelsea finished 12th despite spending the most in the Premier League for the past window.

Coaches are often just the scapegoats, covering deeper layers of problems that is either inherent of the team or in the board above. In Flick’s case, Germany lacks a true number nine (Striker), as well as capable world-class fullbacks. In Chelsea’s case, most of the money spent are on young players that are still quite some distance from their full potential.

Preserving the coach may sometimes help the team in the long run. Take Arsenal as an example. In the beginning of 2021-22 season, Mikel Arteta was seriously underperforming, including shocking results such as 0-5 home loss to Manchester City. However, Arsenal stayed with their manager. In the 2022-23 season, Arsenal led the table for a remarkable 248 days, only losing out to City near the end of the season.

Being a manager is not easy. Not only do they have to deal with managing professional soccer players on wages much higher than theirs, they also have to deal with the pressure from the board and the fans if the team is underperforming. Everyone needs a scapegoat, and unfortunately for the sport of soccer, managers often find themselves taking the blame.