Why did Sevilla sack head coach Eduardo Berizzo?

Colin Millar by Colin Millar / 24 December 2017, 08:32

Ahead of Sevilla’s home clash with Levante on 15th December, the home fans stood as one to give a rapturous reception to their manager.

Eduardo Berizzo was back in the dugout for the first time following a successful prostate operation in November. ‘Fuerza Berizzo’ (strength, Berizzo) was the chant from the stands, giving their full backing to their manager. At the end of the goalless encounter, the unifying message had evaporated and the underperforming Andalucians were met with disgruntled whistles.

Precisely a week later - three days before Christmas - Berrizo was sacked. It is tempting to look at decisions in a purely sporting sense, removing the context of the Argentine’s illness and the time of year, theoretically one of peace and goodwill. This of course, should not make managers immune from scrutiny but the manner in which this decision was made leaves a lot of questions to be answered.

News first broke on Thursday evening, with Cadena Cope leading reports a board meeting had been set for the following evening with Berizzo set to be sacked. On Wednesday, his side had crashed to a 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad. Their seventh away loss in nine in all competitions.

However, had they won at the Anoeta, Los Rojiblancos would have leapfrogged Real Madrid into La Liga’s top four. They also still have the Copa del Rey and Champions League to look forward too. This is no vintage Sevilla, but it is far from a crisis.

Marca were among the leading publications to play down suggestions he would be removed. Surely, they suggested, his personal situation alongside the club’s satisfactory (if not excellent) results (if not performances) would give him more of a grace period, having only been hired in the summer.

So too, the fact his spell at Celta Vigo was a success - leading them to two cup semi-finals last time out. He was seen as a natural successor to Jorge Sampaoli, in the Marcelo Bielsa mould of coaching. Berizzo’s philosophy of pressing and energy were well known, but he was more pragmatic than his predecessor and he was criticised for overt conservatism during his spell at Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan.

So too did fans become irritated at his rotation policy, not settling on his strongest starting line-up and making changes too frequently to both his system and personnel. What may become forgotten in the fullness of time is that Berizzo had to deal with a series of defensive injuries, with midfielder Johannes Geis needing to be utilised at central defender with a constantly changing partner, often a natural full-back.

The departure of famed sporting director Monchi earlier this year after 17 seasons with the club was a moment which may well in future be reflected upon as a game-changer. The first transfer window without his influence was not a romping success, despite the returns of Jesus Navas and Ever Banega. The losses of Vitolo and Vicente Iborra have hurt and robbed the team of two long-serving custodians, while another midfielder - Steven N’Zonzi - also looks set for a January departure.

Berizzo was officially sacked three hours after the supposed board meeting began, and less than an hour after the club’s twitter banner - featuring the Argentine with the hashtag ‘Bienvenido Berizzo’, welcoming him back - had been replaced. The club insisted they had already begun their search for a replacement.

Next up in La Liga is a clash with city rivals Real Betis, which they dare not lose. The new boss should be in place for that clash and they will be made aware of how important the bragging rights within Seville are, while Betis themselves are in need of points after a run of just one win in ten.

Former Malaga boss Javi Gracia - most recently at Rubin Kazan in Russia - is the early favourite for the job, although reports suggest Luis Enrique - out of work since his summer departure from Barcelona - may also be in the frame.

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