Wenger and Rodgers' jobs may be safe, but not for the right reasons: Neil Humphreys
In modern football, the word crisis is like Steven Gerrard in Liverpool's midfield.
Sacking odds are revised any given Sunday. Replacements are lined up by Monday morning. Hypothetical axes are swung before breakfast.
Both Arsenal and Liverpool have stated that their respective managers are safe and yet Juergen Klopp is being lined up to miraculously replace both Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers.
Time waits for no manager in the mire. Job security does not guarantee job stability.
If Arsenal and Liverpool lose tomorrow morning (Singapore time), a genuine crisis comes calling.
The embattled managers will be knee-deep in the brown stuff; the clinging stench of defeat doesn't scrub away once it's seeped into a club's soul.
Wenger and Rodgers' jobs may be safe, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
Wenger is revered within the Arsenal boardroom. The club's owners bow to his past successes, his lucrative Champions League qualifications and his economic prudence.
But the Frenchman's omnipotence is counter-productive, echoing Sir Alex Ferguson's dictatorship at Old Trafford.
Unchallenged leaders either do not know when to step down or they anoint the wrong successors.
Liverpool's owners, on the other hand, are applying the wrong sports business model. They are bringing moneyball to Merseyside, appointing a decision-making committee to calculate the club's direction and transfer policy on spreadsheets.
Experienced baseball men sit on the committee, but they are playing with the wrong balls.
Fortunately for Rodgers, the Fenway Sports Group has airlifted its tried-and-tested sporting approach of appointing a young, intelligent coach to polish raw, cheapish gems in a long-term business model.
That might work when playing the long game in baseball. In the Premier League, success or failure is measured in days, sometimes minutes.
On May 13, the League Manager's Association awards hailed Rodgers as the brightest of their bunch. He was the best manager in English football.
But, if the Reds lose in Ludogorets, the ranks of the myopic minority calling for his sack on Merseyside will swell.
Patience might be a virtue in Boston, but it went out of fashion in Liverpool about the same time as tight shorts and Crown Paints.
Of all the managers in the Premier League, Wenger and Rodgers have the most in common. It's not their joint candidacy in the annual sack race. It's their stubbornness.
Their obstinacy is infuriating supporters currently screaming across the airwaves of British sports radio. It's also inhibiting their teams' performances.
Both coaches wilfully ignore or gloss over the failings that are plainly obvious to the most casual observers.
They erred in replacing outstanding talents (Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez).
Instead, they bought sub-standard players and then attempted to convince the public otherwise.
Suarez was irreplaceable, but to suggest Mario Balotelli was a risk worth taking insulted the intelligence of those raised on John Toshack, Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen.
If Balotelli sniffed out chances half as effectively as the Anfield faithful sniffed out phony centre forwards, he might justify his manager's faith.
Both coaches could be accused of resting on their laurels. Too much backslapping distracted from the rebuilding process.
Liverpool's one-man crusade to second place and Arsenal's FA Cup triumph were trumpeted as a new dawn, as if the achievements in themselves were enough.
But again, those successes were built on shaky foundations, barely held in place by Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and a superb opening spell from Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Oezil.
Arsenal and Liverpool's defensive shortcomings were not cracks to paper over with the like of Calum Chambers and Dejan Lovren, but deep, destabilising fissures that threatened to rip the clubs apart.
And yet, both managers mostly looked elsewhere, prioritising erratic playmakers and midfield support acts instead of a couple of no-nonsense centre backs and an uncompromising goalkeeper.
Rodgers' insistence that his "lightning in a bottle" trick with Gerrard as a defensive minder can be repeated is no different to Wenger's adamant belief that his high line and overlapping fullbacks still works.
Such thinking feels delusional.
Decent sides rip Arsenal's defensive naivety to shreds while Crystal Palace's pace made a mockery of Rodgers' revolutionary "seven-zone" passing strategy.
Both teams are bereft of creative ideas, static in midfield and toothless just about everywhere. They play without confidence, without clear direction.
And still, their managers exalt their own virtues and philosophy.
In victory, their principled stance sounds committed and focused. In defeat, they can only appear arrogant, drowning in their own dogma.
Rodgers and Wenger may hold onto their jobs, but not their credibility if they lose in Europe.
A vote of confidence in the boardroom counts for nothing if there is a crisis of leadership in the dugout.
- Ludogorets v Liverpool
- Basel v Real Madrid