Tuesday 29 April ~
Football statistics calculated only from the start of the Premier League in 1992 can seem absurd. Yet sometimes as a medium-term view they can be instructive. One such example is Manchester City this season, who have achieved their highest ever Premier League points total already. They have also beaten Manchester United twice and can finish no lower than ninth, with two games to go. However, amid reports of a “very unpleasant meeting”, City owner Thaksin Shinawatra seems to believe that Sven-Göran Eriksson is "not the right man for the job" and Eriksson's agent Athole Still claimed it is "looking odds against" the Swede still being manager of Manchester City next season.
So despite Eriksson delivering step one of Thaksin's five-year plan – finishing in the top ten – on time, it looks like Man City will spend yet another summer in search of a boss. Understandably this decision has been unpopular with City players and fans alike. Only last week Micah Richards said "I think it is crazy that his job is even being talked about as being in danger – he has been good for everyone at City" and today Eriksson received support from defender Michael Ball. City fans have reacted with a mixture of shock and anger too.
Eriksson took over as City manager five weeks before the start of the season and his late and expensive signings were thrown together with, at first, plenty of success. Though slightly fortunate at times, by November City were third in the league. They were in poor form from the turn of the year, however, and now have just four wins in their last 15 games. Perhaps fatally the first game the Thai chairman attended in six weeks was Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Fulham. The falling out between manager and chairman has been mainly due to Shinawatra's very public criticism of the team's poor run and control over transfer policy – high-profile moves for Ronaldinho and fellow Brazilian Jo have been conducted over the manager's head. Shinawatra knows very little about football; his thoughts on City's declining form included “we have some good players but we need more” and “midfielders, midfielders are the key”. But it seems that he wants a manager who will meekly comply with his authority. Whether he will find such a manager, especially one with such a club-level reputation and track record as Eriksson, remains to be seen.
When he does find and manage to persuade a manager to take his job (once his hundreds of millions of pounds of Thai assets are unfrozen his task will be easier) the cycle will begin again. A competent manager – Luiz Felipe Scolari is the first name to be linked – could get City to a very respectable league position but this is exactly what Eriksson has achieved. Unfortunately, as more and more clubs come under the control of autocratic owners, acts of wanton stupidity at boardroom level are going to multiply.