The sack race

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-14 5:03:02

Top-flight managers in Premier League already dead men walking

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri applauds the fans before their English Premier League match against Sunderland at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. They won the match 4-2. Photo: IC

We might only be a week into the season but the nature of modern soccer is such that the intense ­pressure never abates and many Premier League managers will already be dreading a knock at the door.

Tasked with delivering at least another season of Premier League soccer, the men in the dugout are the focal point for the failings of the club in the eyes of the board, the ­players, the fans and, perhaps worst of all, the media.

It's somewhat ridiculous that each game comes under such scrutiny that an opening-day disappointment can result in the calls for a manager's head.

Last week, after Arsenal lost to West Ham, there were some so-called Arsenal fans who called in to the BBC's 606 phone-in radio show to demand that Wenger be sacked by the board. Wenger is Arsenal's most successful manager ever, he's delivered the FA Cup for the last two seasons and he is the longest-serving manager in England. If anyone deserves to be cut a little slack, especially for a game that is likely to be meaningless over the course of a season, then surely it is Wenger.

It might not be fair, given that they are rarely given the credit for any success their team may enjoy, but it is the way of the world. Based on the history of the Premier League, someone will be losing their job in the very near future.

In the last 20 years, from the beginning of the 1995-96 season, there have been 215 managerial changes in the Premier League, according to ESPN FC. Even allowing for some managers jumping before they were pushed, retirement and caretaker roles, the vast majority of those changes have been from managers being sacked. That averages out to a little over 10 managers, or at least half of the 20 teams in the top flight, changing every single season.

It's something that the League Managers Association are rightly concerned about but they can do nothing to change the mentality in the game. It's a results-based industry and the importance of Premier League status to the financial future of soccer clubs means that boards are more likely to make a change in the dugout if results are not going their way. Paul Lambert, Alan Irvine, Gus Poyet, Neil Warnock and Tony Pulis were all given their marching orders last season as their clubs slid toward relegation. All of the teams stayed up under new managers. Whether or not those managers could have arrested the slide is open to debate but letting them go was a success. The question is who is going to be first up on the managerial merry-go-round this season?

Here are the four managers that are the bookmakers' favorites for the chop.

Claudio Ranieri

The club sacked Nigel Pearson before the tail end of last season but quickly reinstated him in one of the odder events of the ­campaign. Pearson then felt the axe after the sordid behavior of a number of players, including his son, on a postseason tour to Thailand. Ranieri's opening-day win over Sunderland is certainly in his favor but the club's owners have visions of Leicester becoming a force in the Premier League and may become impatient if results don't go their way in their second season back.

Quique Flores

The former Atletico Madrid man brought Watford up from the Championship but was the club's fourth manager of the season. The owning Pozzo family are unlikely to operate any differently this season and the axe has been hanging over Flores since Day 1. If he does go then it might not be as much to do with soccer as other sackings but it would be a remarkable success if he is still in the Hornets hot seat when the season ends.

Dick Advocaat

The Dutchman was as surprised as ­anyone when he decided to commit to the Black Cats after keeping them up by the skin of their claws last season. The faith of the ­Stadium of Light faithful has already been tested after an opening-day shellacking at Leicester, if the bookmakers are to be ­believed. The Wearsiders' history of ­managers does not bode well. They let go of Poyet last season after 18 months, Paolo di Canio lasted just 13 games before him and Martin O'Neill barely a season and a half before that. The club is set to flirt with the relegation zone once again and that could mean marching orders for the veteran Dutchman.

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers has come under increased scrutiny since getting the Merseyside giants within touching distance of the title two seasons ago. The rebuilding following Luis Suarez's departure last summer was not a success but he survived growing calls for his head after talks with the American owners at the end of last season. The Northern Irish manager was the bookmakers' favorite for the sack before this campaign kicked off and all eyes are on how Liverpool bounce back under him after another summer spending spree.

Posted in: Feature, Soccer

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