With riches comes pressure for Mancini
British oddsmakers are already listing Roberto Mancini as favorite to be the first manager fired in the Premier League this season, highlighting the pressure on the man in charge at Manchester City.
Even the slightest of setbacks won’t be acceptable for City’s wealthy Abu Dhabi owner – as Mark Hughes discovered to his cost last season.
Even helping the club to a fifth-place finish in May – City’s highest since 1992 – after less than five months in the job wasn’t enough to silence Mancini’s critics.
But the 45-year-old Italian isn’t showing any strain, outwardly at least.
"I don’t get pressure," Mancini insists. "Before I was a manager, I was a player for 11 years and I never felt pressure then. I managed Inter Milan for four years. No other manager has been there for that long."
He replaced Hughes, who enjoyed success in his first managerial position with his native Wales and then at Blackburn but was fired in December, midway through his second season with Manchester City, when the club’s owners began to doubt his ability to guide the team to a top-four finish.
While there’s plenty of focus on Mancini at big-spending City, Alex Ferguson’s rule is virtually unchallenged at Manchester United despite only collecting the League Cup last season and making just minor adjustments to his aging squad in the offseason.
Ferguson’s 11 Premier League titles and two Champions League triumphs make him almost untouchable at Old Trafford.
"I can keep going as long as my health keeps going," Ferguson said. "I tried quitting a few years ago and it was a disaster. Agony."
Arsene Wenger also goes into the new season at Arsenal with no serious threat to his job security despite failing to produce a trophy since 2005. Top-four finishes in the league have proved acceptable for the Gunners despite struggling in Europe competition.
It’s the stability enjoyed at United and Arsenal that Chelsea must forge after a succession of managers at Stamford Bridge. The Blues went through three managers in the two years before settling on Carlo Ancelotti last June.
And with Ancelotti, Chelsea has a manager who can create such stable foundations at the club.
Crucially, he’s living up to the expectations created under Jose Mourinho, who won the Premier League in 2005 and ’06, after winning the league title in his debut campaign.
What Ancelotti shares with fellow Italian Mancini – albeit in smaller measures – is the backing of a wealthy owner in Roman Abramovich.
Operating in more frugal conditions is Roy Hodgson, who was persuaded to defect to Liverpool from Fulham after Rafa Benitez’s troubled relationship with the Anfield hierarchy proved beyond repair in June.
Benitez was expected to deliver the Premier League title in May. Now the Reds are just desperate for Hodgson to guide them back into the top four – and with it the Champions League competition in 2011.
While Liverpool remains English football’s most successful team historically, it hasn’t added to the 18th title won in 1990 and slumped to seventh last season.
Hodgson has none of the riches available to Mancini or Ancelotti.
What the appointment of Hodgson in July did do, however, was to provide a boost for English managers at a time when Premier League clubs were looking abroad for coaches.
Having previously taken charge of three national teams and managed clubs in six countries, the much-traveled Hodgson finally secured a top job at home he has craved after masterminding Fulham’s remarkable run to the Europa League final in May.
Hodgson’s main rival among the other English managers is likely to be Harry Redknapp, who is one year his senior and also at the pinnacle of his career having helped Tottenham into the Premier League’s top four.
Finishing among the Champions League places is the target for Martin O’Neill, who has transformed the fortunes of Aston Villa and led the Birmingham club to three successive top six finishes.
For Blackpool, manager Ian Holloway’s task will just be ensuring the club survives its first season in the topflight since 1971. Even if the newcomers don’t provide memorable performances on the pitch, Holloway is likely to be the most entertaining character off the field with his array of one-liners and quips.
At least he sounds like he’s willing to take on all comers.
As he joked during his time as Queens Park Rangers manager: "Most of our fans get behind us and are fantastic, but those who don’t should shut … up or they can come round my house and I will fight them."