There is no suggestion that Andre Villas Boas or Brendan Rodgers are in need of three points this weekend in terms of the security of their jobs. But it would help fend off the pressure of great expectations at Tottenham and Liverpool.
It is fair to say that whilst there has been no real opposition to the appointment of either coach, they have been met cautiously by each club’s following. Given the impressive work Harry Redknapp did at White Hart Lane, and the struggles of Villas Boas with Chelsea last season, Tottenham supporters are unconvinced that the Portuguese is the right man for the job.
Similarly over at Anfield, Liverpool fans had been hoping for a bigger name, a more established top level coach. That is not to say they are against Rodgers in the way that many opposed Roy Hodgson’s appointment. The former Swansea coach is at least determined to restore the club’s traditional passing style, and make them more attractive to watch.
As with Paul Lambert at Aston Villa, Villas Boas and Rodgers are finding that you do not get a honeymoon period when trying to change a club’s style and make them more entertaining. It is much easier to come into a club with a reputation for good football and turn them into a more effective unit to restore short term fortunes, as Sam Allardyce has done at West Ham. To then be the man taking a formula instilled into most of his players and teach them a new tactical system, almost from scratch, is far harder.
Rodgers, Villas Boas and Lambert have also not been given the similarly easier brief of simply following a successful existing formula. Particularly Villas Boas, following Redknapp, a man who had Tottenham playing some brilliant football at times last season. But the Portuguese is trying to make the team more tactically aware and dynamic in the middle of the pitch.
It is notable that the two managers who have actually won matches since taking over their new teams, Steve Clarke and Michael Laudrup at West Brom and Swansea respectively, have done so by sticking to the same formula of their predecessors. Chris Hughton’s struggles appear more to do with just how well Paul Lambert did to get the team to perform as well as they did, possibly the hardest act to follow of all the managers departing their clubs in the close season.
If Liverpool cannot beat Sunderland, they will find themselves with two points from four games, and goodwill towards Rodgers could begin to ebb away. The margin for error is not huge when managing a team of Liverpool’s expectations. Failure to beat Reading away, and Tottenham fans will start asking serious questions about Daniel Levy’s judgment in firing Redknapp. It is fair to say both Levy and Villas Boas have been given the benefit of the doubt so far, but Tottenham have finished in the top four for two of the last three seasons. They will be disappointed if they don’t match that this year, and another failure to take three points will only make that possibility more likely.
It is hardly crunch time. But for managers who did not arrive in their jobs on a wave of euphoric approval, and whose teams have lofty ambitions, first impressions are key. The window is closing fast on that particular opportunity.