Emery’s away blues nothing new
Unai Emery has started with reasonable success at Arsenal, finishing with more Premier League points than last season – and with the hope of Champions League qualification still a possibility through Europa League success. The Spaniard’s success in that competition was one of the reasons he was brought in at the Emirates, after all.
However, the Gunners’ away form home has continued to be a cause for concern in his first season, given that they lost more games on the road than they won.
But perhaps this could have been foreseen. Emery might be famed for his European exploits with Sevilla, but even his final season was far from perfect domestically.
In fact, from one perspective it was the complete opposite: Sevilla went the entire 2015/16 campaign under Emery without a single away win in La Liga. Nine draws, 10 defeats and a seventh-place finish was the worst full season of his tenure at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Klopp’s tipping point?
Jurgen Klopp will lead Liverpool into their second consecutive Champions League final in a few weeks – and his third in total as a manager.
His first came back when he was managing Borussia Dortmund. Most fans know that Klopp’s final season in charge was a strange one: a terrible first half-year followed by a resurgence from January onwards, ending with a seventh-place finish and German Cup final defeat.
But it could have been even worse, with the finest of margins separating that comeback trail from a devastating mindset – and perhaps even the sack. Dortmund lost 2-1 at Werder Bremen in their last game before the winter break, leaving them 17th in the table – and with bottom club Freiburg playing the next day.
With less than 10 minutes to play of that game, Freiburg led 2-0 – a result which would have left Klopp and his team rock bottom across Christmas and the new year. Fortunately, opponents Hannover mounted a revival – including a stoppage-time equaliser – to leave Dortmund just off the bottom by virtue of a single goal scored.
Would it have been the tipping point, had they been bottom? We’ll never know, but Klopp and his side were seconds away from experiencing that exact travesty.
Dyche and Woan: closer than most
Speaking of Klopp, he’s well-known for being close friends with former Huddersfield boss David Wagner. But even their friendship is eclipsed by another pair: Burnley’s own Sean Dyche and his assistant Ian Woan.
The duo’s professional relationship was first forged in their youth academy days as players for Nottingham Forest, and has endured to this day in the dugout at Turf Moor. They don’t just work together, they live together – half of the time, anyway. Woan was best man at Dyche’s wedding and the two live together when working around the training ground, with both having families established in other parts of the country.
Dyche appointed Woan as his assistant at Watford and did the same at Burnley. While he might be the boss now, it wasn’t always the case: Dyche, the younger of the two, rented a house owned by Woan in his more youthful playing days. That time, the living arrangement lasted four years; this time around it’s almost seven and counting in the Burnley dugout.
Pochettino’s quick mark
Some bosses don’t have a lot of experience when they face their first big game in charge. Of course, every manager has to have precisely zero games experience when they take on their first role – but usually they’d have had some time on the training ground through coaching.
For Mauricio Pochettino, however, it was straight in at the deep end: he finished gaining his UEFA Pro Licence as assistant manager for Espanyol’s women’s team, took over as the men’s boss, fielded two training sessions in less than 24 hours and then faced Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
It was the most difficult opening test imaginable, but Poch and his side took a 0-0 draw – and thus began an impressive coaching career which has taken him to fan favourite at Tottenham. Oh, and a Champions League final.
Nuno: one of a kind
What do the goalkeepers do after retiring? Coach goalkeepers, usually – if anything at all. Few make it to top managerial positions in the Premier League, but that’s just what Nuno Espirito Santo has done.
Wolves’ boss spent almost two decades as a keeper, in Portugal and Spain for the most part, and was Jose Mourinho’s backup shot-stopper as Porto won the Champions League in 2004. He finally lay down his gloves in 2010 and initially followed the usual route: coaching his old position, working for an old manager.
But then he took a different path. Success in his first solo role means he’s never looked back, and he’s now the only former goalkeeper acting as a manager in the entire Premier League. He’s faring somewhat better than the last notable equivalent managed, when Reading sacked Nigel Adkins in 2014.
Sarri in for Conte – and not for the first time
Maurizio Sarri arrived at Chelsea last summer after his much-heralded exploits at Napoli. It was his first job outside Italy and came after he replaced compatriot Antonio Conte in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Nothing too untoward about that – except it’s not the first time these two crossed career paths in this way. The first was even more convoluted.
Conte, after retiring from playing, was first assistant manager and later boss in his own right at Arezzo, his first managerial role in 2006. It didn’t last too long, with Conte in charge for only three months – and the man who replaced him was Sarri. He fared little better, lasting just over four months at the Serie B side before being fired… and Conte reinstated.
Despite a turnaround under Conte Arezzo were relegated to Serie C anyway that season, and have never been back in the second tier since.
Roy the runner-up
This season, Roy Hodgson became the oldest manager to lead a team into a Premier League fixture, and his managerial career has spanned far and wide. He’s now spent more than a decade in England, though, beginning when he took Fulham from the brink of relegation in 2007/08 to the 2010 Europa League Final.
Hodgson suffered defeat that day to a Diego Forlan-inspired Atletico Madrid – but that wasn’t his first heartbreak in the same competition. Over a decade earlier he’d led Inter Milan down the same path, into the UEFA Cup final against German side Schalke in 1997.
It was the last such final played across two legs and, after both teams won 1-0 at home, Hodgson and the Nerazzurri lost 4-1 on penalties. Two finals, twice beyond 90 minutes… two tough defeats.
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