Walter Zenga is now just over 50 days into his job as Head Coach of Wolverhampton Wanderers and following their turn-round 2-0 victory yesterday at Newcastle the club are mid-table, 7 points adrift of the top club Huddersfield. Football is a game of thin margins and lots of ‘ifs and buts’ … ‘if’ only Wolves had beat Huddersfield they would be second today. ‘But’ they are still only 2 points behind the sixth placed club Brentford, who are next up at Molineux on Saturday. ‘If’ Wolves record only their second home league victory and the first since their opening home game of the season they will reach the edge of the play-off zone and create a spring board for an arrack in the top 6. Lose and with Norwich, Brighton and Villa next up after Wigan then, with a quarter of the season gone mid-table mediocrity will return and automatic promotion will be a distant dream.
Whether this season will be a another nightmare or the fulfilment of a promotion dream depends largely on one man…. Walter Zenga. The money has been spent, the squad assembled … for better or worse Wolves aspirations this season for a Premiership return will depend upon the Italian. Much has been said and written on his both his ‘larger than life’ character, life adventures and footballing background. His managerial career is the focus of Wolves fans at the moment and for the record I thought I’d start with the key data on his managerial career …. his coaching and managerial CV to date looks like this …….
- 8/98 to -9/99 – New England Revolution, USA – tenure 12 months – failed to reach play-offs – sacked.
- 10/00 to 1/01 – Brera, Milan, Serie D – tenure 3 months – record 1 win from 9 games – sacked.
- 7/02 to 12/03 – National Bucharest, Romania – tenure 22 months – respectable 8th place finish Liga 1 – left by mutual consent.
- 7/04 to 5/05 – Steaua Bucharest, Romania – tenure 13 months – led the league with only two games to go when sacked!
- 7/05 to 5/06 – Red Star Belgrade, Serbia – tenure 12 months – resigned shortly after winning league championship and national cup competition.
- 6/06 to 1/07 – Gaziantepspor, Turkey – tenure 7 months – resigned after achieving 5 wins in 17 games.
- 1/07 to 6/07 – Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi – tenure 5 months – sacked after winning national cup competition.
- 9/07 to 11/07 – Dinamo Bucharest – tenure 2 months – sacked when 7th in league (compared to champions in previous season).
- 4/08 to 6/09 – Catania, Italy – tenure 14 months – resigned by mutual consent after leading club to a mid-table finish with the highest points total achieved by the club in Serie A.
- 6/09 to 11/09 – Palermo, Italy – tenure 5 months – sacked after 4 wins in 17 games.
- 6/10 to 12/10 – Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia – tenure 6 months – second in table when sacked.
- 1/11 to 6/13 – Al Nasr, SC, Dubai – tenure 29 months – sacked.
- 10/13 to 5/14 – Al-Jazir, Dubai – tenure 7 months – sacked.
- 6/15 to 11/15 – Sampdoria, Italy, Serie A – tenure 5 months – sacked.
- 11/15 to 2/16 – Al Shaab, UAE – tenure 3 months – sacked.
- 7/16 to date – Wolverhampton Wanderers – tenure to date 2 months.
So 15 previous managerial jobs in 17 years, an average of 9 months tenure with the lowest stay being 2 months and the highest at 29 months. However if we focus on his European clubs, excluding UAE and USA, then these total 8 managerial roles, again with an average tenure of 9 months, the lowest stay being 2 months and the longest 22 months. Whist his record in Europe seems similar to that elsewhere there is a difference between the two sets of data. When digging deeper, of the 8 European roles, Zenga was sacked only 4 times and three of these were involving Italian clubs, who are notorious for a sacking culture. Of the other 4 he resigned with a good to great track record at 3 of these with just one exception, again involving an Italian club.
What can we make of this? Well Zenga appears not to be suited to his homeland clubs with an average tenure of 6/7 months. with one relative mid-table success out of 4 appointments. Yet in wider Europe, excluding Italy, he has statistically achieved more than anywhere else. Whether in Europe or not statistically, at least, it appears Walter Zenga is unlikely to stay longer than two seasons at Wolves. A two year scenario probably fits the bill for Wolves owners. Scenario 1 is Wolves are promoted this year and Zenga has a chance to keep Wolves in Premiership with an option to sack him quickly early on if the initial Premiership campaign falters. There does not appear to be a plan B in the new owner’s strategic plan so as soon as there is evidence of Wolves failing to achieve a minimum top 6 position then Zenga is likely to go, so if Wolves are mid-table at Christmas it’s likely he will be sacrificed before the end of the January transfer window, making his tenure in the job just 5 months. The data suggests two options <6 months or >2 years. A perfect match to Walter Zenga’s personality and past record… no in between, no balance, he’s either going to be a great success and a future Wolves legend or a failure who departs the scene quickly.
So there it is ….. which one will it be? The backdrop to the Zenga story gives us a clue. He is passionate, opinionated, a crowd pleaser and a showman. He will be THE personality at Molineux and the players will do it his way or no way. For me, whilst it is a long season, the next few games are critical…if the players respond as one team then there will be fireworks and great results just like the Newcastle game…if the players struggle to adapt to the squad system, in recent games he has averaged 5/6 changes each one, there will be disappointments and shocks like the Barnsley 0-4 loss. All Wolves fans will be hoping that Zenga goes onto achieve great things … his CV suggests it’s possible but it will be an exciting roller coaster of a ride whether short or long. The question is …. how long it will last?