Xabi Alonso Gaffer of Bayer Leverkusen

Managerial Musical Chairs: Summer ’24 Is All About the Gaffer

We all love transfer windows. Big money moves, new players arriving at your club, and lots of drama—if the Caicedo saga of 2023 is anything to go by. However, this summer, the “gaffer” is on the agenda.

The upcoming summer is set to be carnage in the managerial department. Top clubs all around the globe will be looking to replace their current managers. We could then see the replacement replaced. Let’s start with the biggest name on everyone’s lips: the sensation, Xabi Alonso.

Xabi Alonso

Xabi is currently the manager of Bundesliga leader Bayer Leverkusen. Alonso is unbeaten and has been getting the best out of his players using a 3-4-3 system with the likes of Jeremie Frimpong and Alejandro Grimaldo.

Frimpong now has ten goals and ten assists in all competitions, and Grimaldo has eleven goals and twelve assists at the time of writing. Both of these players operate as wingbacks, and between them, having forty-three goal contributions is nothing short of spectacular.

Alonso has been tipped to replace the departing Jurgen Klopp with his links with the Merseyside club, where he won multiple trophies. Alonso would be a good fit; however, anyone who goes to Liverpool will struggle, as they will always be compared to the legacy that Klopp has left behind.

Apart from this, Liverpool will probably enter a rebuilding phase similar to the season Guardiola had at Manchester City and the two-to-three seasons Mikel Arteta had at Arsenal before back-to-back title-challenging seasons. Alonso wouldn’t be the wrong choice with this “rebuild” period likely, and patience will hopefully be accepted across the Liverpool fanbase.

However, some news sources have suggested that the club closely monitors Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi, potentially ahead of Alonso in the current “gaffer” search. However, something will materialise properly once Liverpool appoints a sporting director, which is currently vacant.

There is also the option of Bayern Munich, with the German club confirming that Thomas Tuchel will not carry on beyond the current season. They are also on the hunt for a new man at the wheel. All three of Bayern’s managers appreciate Alonso. They want to bounce back from a likely second-place finish after years of total dominance in German football. They also want to return to the big stage and feel Alonso could be the man to take Bayern back to where they belong.

Thiago Motta

Motta is having a sensational season at the helm of the Italian side Bologna. They have also won six out of their last seven games. Motta has transformed the Bologna side into a defensive powerhouse, conceding the second-least number of goals in the league and keeping eleven clean sheets. The Brazilian-born Italian international joins the long list of midfielders who are top-level managers.

Motta could be on the move this summer, with many big clubs monitoring his progress in Italy. Juventus is touted in the Italian media as a potential destination, replacing Allegri. Motta has created a possession-based side with an average of 57.3% per game. They don’t necessarily score many goals; however, they are very competent at the back, and these foundations make them successful.

Thiago Motta’s tactics are interesting. He sees the game in a horizontal style, with him being quoted as saying:

“The goalkeeper counts towards one of the midfield seven. For me the attacker is the first defender and the goalkeeper is the first attacker. The goalkeeper starts the play with his feet and the attackers are the first to put pressure to recover the ball.”

Thiago Motta

This vertical way of seeing the game means he talks about a 2-7-2 formation, and as said previously, the goalkeeper is part of the midfielders (7). This is because two players sit wide left, seven players occupy central areas, and two more sit wide right. The idea of central superiority makes his team so successful, as do the positional rotations.

The style is similar to that of a certain Pep Guardiola. Wherever Motta ends up in the summer, whatever club gets him will hugely benefit from a manager who is set to go to the very top and should it be Juventus, as that’s the most likely destination as it stands, he would be the one to return Juventus to the very top of European football.

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Thomas Tuchel & Erik ten Hag swap?

With Thomas Tuchel leaving his post as Bayern Munich manager at the end of the season, his destination is a hot topic. It has been widely reported that the German feels his Premier League journey has yet to end and still has work in the English top flight. INEOS will also be looking to clarify their managerial situation before the start of next season, and the chances of Erik Ten Hag staying in the post will become ever slimmer. It has been reported that INEOS likes the idea of Tuchel and wouldn’t be against the appointment; however, he is not their priority.

With Ten Hag possibly leaving, would a move to Bayern Munich suit the Dutch manager? Some would say his high-intensity football that we saw at Ajax would be a stellar fit for the often gegenpressing Bundesliga, and a move to Bayern would suit him well. However, the Dutchman has some downsides with his scouting and signings. He recommends being cautious after spending £82 million on Brazilian winger Antony, with his time in England being very unsuccessful, to say the least.

This “swap” could be the best outcome for either side as the compensation payments for the two wouldn’t have to be paid to the sacked, and they would both get the new starts they are both after, especially from INEOS, who want to implement their own blueprint for Manchester United and help return the club to the top.

Roberto De Zerbi

De Zerbi has done a stellar job at Brighton in the past year. He has used the foundations laid down by Graham Potter and taken the Sussex side to the next level, achieving the Europa League last season. Some issues have persisted this season, which have led to some inconsistencies within the side; however, these can easily be down to the players in the role and playing a brand of football that doesn’t necessarily suit all. At a larger team with more funding, De Zerbi has all the ingredients to become a top-level coach and dominate his division.

Teams like Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Juventus all have a supposed interest in the Italian manager and would like his services to bolster their sides, respectively. De Zerbi plays edge-of-the-seat possession-based football in Brighton. With the correct personnel, he could really cause damage, suffocating teams with his heavy possession sides and constantly baiting the opposition press until gaps open elsewhere. The chances of him leaving Brighton are high this summer, and I am sure Tony Bloom has a replacement lined up and ready to take the reigns should he leave; however, his destination is somewhat more interesting.

Does he go abroad and take on another challenge with the likes of Barcelona or Juventus and help rebuild their sides and help them properly compete and win titles season after season? Or does he stay in the Premier League and take on the challenging task of creating his legacy at Liverpool, attempting to beat Jurgen Klopp’s?

Or does he at least match or take on, as Neville called it, ‘The blue billion-pound bottle jobs’ in Chelsea and try to unite the fans and players whilst getting them competing at the very top of the Premier League once more?

Barcelona’s Dilemma

The sudden announcement that Xavi would leave his position as manager at the end of the season shocked Barcelona. This comes after a league title last season; however, a slight drop-off in performances sees the Blaugrana five points from the summit. Barcelona has been reportedly interested in sextuple-winning coach Hansi Flick, Champions League winner Thomas Tuchel, former Madrid star Xabi Alonso and Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi.

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Barcelona wouldn’t have even dreamt of having a new manager search for the summer of 2024, as they were pleased with the project and the process Xavi was taking the club through.

Any new manager that comes in would have to succeed instantly to get on the right side of the supporters. However, Barcelona has many talented young prospects that need management but also elevating to help their development and become a staple on this side.

The manager would have to be a project manager with long-term priority rather than short-term success for the board, as they want to instill some consistency and stability in a financial hell hole while also keeping their hopes up of winning another Champions League title before the close of the decade.

Manchester United & INEOS

INEOS has a set 3-year plan for the Red Devils, which is to succeed either domestically or in Europe, with this seen as a project. INEOS have a decision they need to make fast; the club needs to decide whether to stick with Erik Ten Hag at the helm or move to a manager of ‘their’ choice and one that plays the style that INEOS would like to see.

Names have been suggested similarly to Thomas Tuchel (as suggested previously), Graham Potter, Julian Nagelsmann, and Simone Inzaghi. Potter has been unemployed for under a year after being sacked at Chelsea. This has almost damaged Potter’s reputation as an impossible task. Potter has his merits with the stellar job he completed at Brighton, which has transformed them into a top-ten Premier League club. The Englishman could see his future under a project like Manchester United. With the correct investment, INEOS and Potter could work together, creating/re-creating the powerhouse that Manchester United once was.

Inzaghi would also be an excellent option; he has pretty much won the league this season with Inter and also reached the Champions League final last season, with the chance of doing it again this season. The Italian has been widely successful with Inter. It has got them playing some delightful football, emphasising a 3-5-2 and using his wingbacks to damage and exploit the opposition.

Any manager who accepts the position will already have a mountain to climb because of the strength of Manchester City’s rivals; however, with the support of INEOS, they can hopefully do a better job than in previous seasons and gradually rebuild and return United to where they belong. Inzaghi would also be a more long-term manager.

Julian Nagelsmann is a name linked throughout the media with a move to England. Nagelsmann was sacked from his position at Bayern Munich somewhat unfairly back in March 2023 and has recently taken up the position of Germany manager ahead of the Euros in Germany. He has only signed a deal that takes him up to the end of the tournament, so should the correct job arrive, I’m sure he would jump.

only 36, the German is one of the youngest coaches and has been a very underrated manager wherever he has gone. He took RB Leipzig to the Champions League semi-final. He took over Hoffenheim when they were in 17th place, and he took them away from safety to have them qualify for Champions League football the following season. Nagelsmann would be another project opportunity at United, and he would be another typical three-at-the-back manager; however, his style contrasts with the likes of Tuchel, Inzaghi and Potter, with it being a more proactive pressing focus like the RB Leipzig model.

This next appointment or the keeping of ten Hag, has to be a decision that works for INEOS. It’s their first major decision since taking up sporting control at Manchester United, and it will have a huge impact on their supposed three-year plan.

Chelsea, again…

Clearlake Capital is staring down the barrel of its fourth managerial appointment in just under two years since purchasing the club. This would be their third major appointment, as Lampard was only on an interim basis; however, that never worked out anyway.

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Chelsea are struggling to get going under ex-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, with Chelsea fans displaying their unhappiness with chants against owner Todd Boehly and Pochettino himself in the 2-2 draw vs. Brentford.

Clearlake Capital has no other choice but to get this appointment spot on, especially after the monumental transfer fees splashed around like paper money. This appointment needs to return Chelsea to the top and re-unite the fanbase with the board because, at the moment, there is a massive split between the two.

As mentioned before, the likes of De Zerbi and Xabi Alonso have been linked, and Zinedine Zidane and Rúben Amorim have also been put out in the media as possible names for the club to choose from. Although there has never been confirmation that Mauricio Pochettino’s days are over at Chelsea, you would assume the board isn’t happy with the performances, and the chances that he will be replaced increase after every game.

All options seem open; some appear better than others, with De Zerbi and Alonso looking for better options for Chelsea and those needed to help bolster Chelsea’s return to the top. However, Amorim is a good shout, but some structural issues have come to light with his football, and there are questions over whether he would adapt to the Premier League, which is hard to do with no experience in the league itself.

Whoever gets the job as Chelsea “gaffer” or if Poch stays in his role, they will have to improve the squad massively and reach the Champions League. A goal the club needs to push themselves to do and keep them battling at the top end of the European and Premier League stages, respectively.

The Potter Possibility?

Graham Potter is a name thrown around every time a club in the Premier League needs a manager. So naturally, again, in the summer, Potter will be on the radar of many clubs, with the likes of Manchester United, who had been mentioned previously; however, an idea or possibility that hasn’t yet is the West Ham job that could open up with the growing discontent around David Moyes.

This would be a side-ways step for Potter; however, it would be one that he may need to rebuild his pedigree that has been hurt from an almost impossible Chelsea job. West Ham would be an excellent move for him, with their talent and fans giving him a chance to rebuild after this season’s (crazy) discontent over Moyes. The style of football would be a noticeable change from the pragmatic football that Moyes plays and one that could appeal to fans and board alike at West Ham.

Any option for Potter to help rebuild his pedigree would be decent, as I believe he is a very, very good manager. One failed stint at Chelsea has shot his reputation to pieces.

The summer will be one of the busiest in history regarding managerial hiring and firing and will undoubtedly change the outlooks of many clubs for the better or the worse. Most owners are looking for long-term projects and rebuilds to help take their sides back to the top of their respective leagues and then to Europe. Whatever happens, this is the most saturated the managerial market has ever been and has the potential to be a summer to remember, with the Euros also around the corner.

While most of this talk is speculation, one thing is for sure: the “gaffer” merry-go-round will be in full swing this summer.

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