The pressure of top-level football has been demonstrated in dramatic style, with four UEFA Champions League participants changing coach since Matchday 1.
Toll of managers
Albert Emon is the latest casualty, dismissed by Olympique de Marseille after winning just once in nine French Ligue 1 games this season. His departure follows those of José Mourinho, Gheorghe Hagi and Anatoliy Demyanenko who parted company with Chelsea FC, FC Steaua Bucureşti and FC Dynamo Kyiv respectively last week. Of that quartet, only Emon guided his side to victory on Matchday 1. The 54-year-old had hailed the 2-0 success against Beşiktaş JK as a "turning point", but it provided only fleeting relief as OM crashed to defeat at AJ Auxerre on Saturday.
Marseille supporters have grown used to false dawns down the years, yet the speed with which their campaign has imploded this time is particularly painful. Expectations had been high when Emon, a former OM player, steered the Stade Vélodrome team to second place last term – and back into the UEFA Champions League after a four-year absence. They were getting results playing attacking football and were widely tipped to challenge Olympique Lyonnais for the title. That the wheels should fall off so spectacularly has come as a surprise, and president Pape Diouf's hand was forced as the boos reached a crescendo at the Vélodrome in recent matches.
Emon's demise was a culmination of events. The sales of Franck Ribéry and Habib Beye left a hole which has not been filled, while big-name arrivals Boudewijn Zenden and Gaël Givet are yet to live up to their reputations. Injuries to Samir Nasri and goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso have also had a significant impact. The coach's replacement, former Belgian international Erik Gerets, can expect an easier ride than Avraham Grant has had at Chelsea.
The 52-year-old Israeli barely had time to gather his thoughts following Mourinho's exit before heading to Old Trafford to play the English champions. Sunday's 2-0 loss to Manchester United FC was an inauspicious start, and things may not get any easier next week when Chelsea visit a rejuvenated Valencia CF who are looking to avenge their quarter-final defeat by the Londoners. Chelsea are yet to announce the duration of Grant's contract, though his is unlikely to be a shorter reign than Hagi's at Steaua. Hagi had been a legend with the club during his playing days yet he was unable to hit such highs from the bench, lasting only six league matches before falling out with owner Gheorghe Becali.
Hagi, 42, had led Steaua through two qualifying rounds to reach the UEFA Champions League proper but he claimed the pressure on him was "like torture" heading into last week's trip to SK Slavia Praha. Steaua lost 2-1 and Hagi was unemployed two days later. Cosmin Olaroiu took Steaua into Europe's élite competition last year and Becali has said he may try to get his old coach back. Meanwhile, Dynamo have turned to a trusted former employee after Demyanenko resigned following their UEFA Champions League reverse at AS Roma. The 67-year-old József Szabó returns for a fourth spell in charge, enjoying a flying start with Saturday's 4-1 triumph at SC Tavriya Simferopol. Dynamo may have struggled to rediscover their Ukrainian championship-winning form, but they can at least maintain Szabó's winning habit when Sporting Clube de Portugal come calling on 2 October.
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