That is the number of head coaches who were relieved from their managerial duties in the Premier League last season – equalling the all-time record for Premier League sackings. From Frank De Boer’s dismissal by Crystal Palace after just four games to Alan Pardew waving goodbye to West Brom in early April, the foregoing 2017/18 season was a testament to how volatile the managerial landscape is in world football, not to mention in arguably the world’s most competitive league.
With more and more money being spent by clubs and the quality of competition vastly progressing, managers are desperate to impress and boards of directors are quick to pull the plug; making it inevitable that some of the Premier League’s current faces will be shown the door at some point and will have to fare another ride of the managerial merry-go-round.
So who will be given the boot? Who will have lost the changing rooms? Who will be at the back of the queue at the job centre? Here at 90MAAT we have made some very early predictions.
José Mourinho – Manchester United
“The Special One” may be one of the Premier League’s most successful managers, but he also undoubtedly one of the league’s most controversial. José has started this season’s campaign rather turbulently; firstly chastising Anthony Martial to the press during pre-season for daring to witness the birth of his child, then going on to somewhat publicly fall out with Paul Pogba and his agent over the Frenchman’s desire to move away from Old Trafford. Fast forward four games, which include two flustering defeats away to Brighton and at home to Tottenham, Mourinho – in stereotypically Mourinho fashion – is showing glimpses that he is losing the changing room, similarly to how he did at Chelsea and Real Madrid, as well as rapidly losing the backing of the Manchester United supporters; with sections of followers at the matches seemingly eager to remove José from power. Despite three finals and four trophies in his first two years in charge, a large amount of fans believe that £385 million spent on transfers should equate to a Premier League title and attractive football; not playing second fiddle to their Manchester rivals in every aspect of the game.
The Portuguese gaffer doesn’t show any signs of changing the minds of the United faithful either, with his defensively-minded and somewhat lacklustre 3-5-1-1 formation against notable opponents – which can normally act as more of a 5-3-1-1 when the wingers play more as full backs – providing colourless and mundane viewing as well as failing to get the points needed. Despite Ed Woodward publicly announcing his faith and backing for José, it seems only a matter of time before Woodward’s tolerance cracks due to pressure from board members, fans and even club legends like Eric Cantona. There is still plenty of time for Mourinho to turn his poor start around, but the Manchester United of today look lightyears away from the Manchester United of old that we all became so accustomed to.
Manuel Pellegrini – West Ham United
Only four years ago, Manuel Pellegrini was a Premier League winning manager; basking in the glory of Manchester City’s second ever Premier League title and the jubilation of the City fans who idolised him. Three seasons and one questionable stint in China later, the sombre Chilean is undergoing an utterly disastrous start with West Ham, with the East London club sitting at the foot of the table after four games, without accumulating a single point and baring the joint-worst goal difference in the league. Such a poor showing to the start of the season has left many spectators and pundits questioning – what is going wrong for Pellegrini?
Despite spending £92.5 million on players in the summer window alone, Manuel’s signings – particularly record transfer Felipe Anderson – have failed to integrate into Pellegrini’s side so far this season. One factor of this could be the unfamiliar position that Anderson is playing, with the Brazilian slotting in the number ten role of the West Ham squad rather than playing further up the field; a position he was accustomed to at Lazio. Furthermore, Pellegrini’s 4-4-1-1 formation plays much more central, with Anderson and Arnautović playing vertically in the attacking roles, rather than utilising the formidable wingers that the Hammers have at their discretion.
The West Ham board have remained supportive of the veteran manager despite his bad start, but a difficult fixture away at Everton followed by matches against Chelsea and Manchester united could possibly result in West Ham being pointless seven games in to the season; leaving the board no option but to find a replacement.
Neil Warnock – Cardiff City
Love him or hate him, Neil Warnock is a managerial veteran in every sense of the word. 38 years on since his managerial debut, Warnock is back managing in the Premier League at the helm of the Bluebirds after securing automatic promotion last season from an incredibly competitive Championship. However, mainly due to the lack of financial backing in the transfer window compared to their newly-promoted counterparts, Cardiff are embarking on their second ever Premier League stint with a squad that, on the face of it, looks vastly unprepared for life in England’s top tier.
69-year-old Warnock structured Cardiff as a much freer flowing and forward side last season, playing predominantly 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. In the Premier League, however, Warnock has chosen to play much deeper and opted for the more negative and classic 4-4-2 or a 4-1-4-1 formation instead – sitting back against better opposition and often settling for lacklustre draws; with the current squad not possessing the quality to successfully counter teams in this league on the break. Whilst many will rightly argue that Cardiff’s perhaps inevitable struggle this season has a lot more to do with the lack of financial backing rather than Warnock’s tactics, club directors can become increasingly frantic if the club is languishing in a poor position and will sack the manager rather than attempting to salvage for life after relegation, thus resulting in the eccentric Neil Warnock to be left without a club.
Rafael Benítez – Newcastle United
Throughout his career, Benítez has always set up his teams with the austere philosophy that they cannot lose at any cost – resulting in his defences to be played extremely deep at times; especially against quality attacking opposition. Whilst this has worked with quality players at his disposal at the many clubs he has managed – particularly his title chasing and Champions League winning Liverpool sides between 2005-2009 – the cracks are starting to show in a somewhat melancholy Newcastle side at the start of this season; providing extremely negative viewing in every game played so far and left the Magpies with only one point.
It must be pointed out that the three losses that Rafa has suffered this season have come at the hands of Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City, but the overwhelmingly negative 5-4-1 formation played in games against big teams with deep defensive lines leaves the striker – usually Salomón Rondón – completely isolated and shows no real desire through the eyes of the Newcastle supporters. Whilst such a high-calibre manager for the club he is at and one that Mike Ashley will most-likely want to keep at the helm of the club, Newcastle supporters will expect the promising style of football exhibited by Rafa in previous seasons as opposed to the negative football that he has displayed so far. Alternatively, Benítez is certainly a man of pride and may even walk himself if the fans were ever to get on his back – speaking strictly from a pessimistic and cynical point of view. Patently, time will tell if the Spaniard can improve the form of the Tyneside club, especially against less challenging opposition as the season progresses.
Whilst the aforementioned managers may escape this season without being scalped by the ruthless swing of the managerial scythe, one thing is for certain: It’s only a matter of time before the first Premier League manager is left clubless this season.
Let the Sack Race commence!