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Premier League Sack Race
The Sack Race
The Premier League is arguably the most competitive and financially lucrative league in the world and the managers of every team are under great pressure. The fact that Roberto Martinez is the fourth longest serving manager in the league having only been in his role for just over 2 years illustrates this. With the new TV deal set to kick in next season, no chairman will want to lose the financial benefits the Premier League brings and relegation is therefore out of the question. So lets take a look at the managers who have left so far and those who are under the most pressure.
It came as no surprise to see Dick Advocaat resign his position as manager of Sunderland. Advocaat had been reportedly hesitant to stay on for another season after keeping up the Black Cats last season and was perhaps caught up in the emotion when he decided to stay on. There were then rumours that he was going to resign at the end of August when he felt he was not given the needed resources to build a competitive squad.
The truth is Sunderland are a side who have accumulated a plethora of underachieving players in their squad and have only added to it in their recent transfer dealings and I have to include the likes of Jermaine Defoe and Younis Kaboul amongst in their poor purchases. They have the 8th highest wage bill in the Premier league and when you consider they have lost the promising Jack Colback and Conor Wickhamn in past transfer windows, it gives you an idea of where they are in danger of heading as a club. With a record of 3 draws and 5 defeats they were second from bottom on goal difference and whilst they turned in a good recent performance against Manchester United despite losing 3-0, the following week they threw away a 2-0 lead to West Ham prompting Advocaat’s departure.
Just where they go from here is unclear. I thought at the start of the season that Sam Allardyce would be the leading contender to become manager and it was proved to be the case. Whilst I think that this will probably help them to safety, it is hard to say if this is a good appointment for the long term. Prior to Allardyces appointment, there appeared to be a reluctance amongst potential candidates to accept the role which many see as a poisoned chalice. David Moyes and Sean Dyche were linked as was former US National team Manager Bob Bradley. Harry Redknapp also threw his hat into the ring in a recent interview. Sunderland have a 'sack, sign, survive, repeat' philosophy which is reminiscent of the film "Edge of Tomorrow" so perhaps Tom Cruise should have applied as well. Joking aside, they have to get out of this dangerous cycle and whilst Allardyce I think will keep them up, I also think they need someone more for the long term who will build a legacy that could last for many years.
Allardyce signed for 2 years and his appointment needs to be one the board are prepared to stick with and perhaps even have him groom a successor. He is a former Sunderland player and has also managed Newcastle who he faced in his first home match which ended in a 3-0 win for Sunderland. The problem for Sunderland is that the newly promoted sides have started well (though injury ravaged Bournemouth are starting to fade) and Sunderland have also dropped points against sides that they would expect to beat in any relegation fight. In his first game in charge they lost again to WBA. Allardyce does inherit some good players in John O'Shea, Jeremain Lens, Lee Cattermole and perennial under achievers Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini. He also brings in Paul Bracewell to his management team. There will certainly need to be a clearout of the driftwood in the January and summer transfer windows but with them paying the wages they do, it might be hard to persuade those players to move which is a challenge in itself. Don't be shocked to see Allardyce bring in some of his old players and it would not surprise me to see the likes of Kevin Nolan and perhaps even Andy Carroll roll up at the Stadium of Light.
Dick Advocaat whilst managing Russia
There was no doubt that Rogers is was under some pressure at Liverpool but I thought he may have bought himself an extra couple of games after the draw at Everton. His final record of 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats might on the face of it not seem too bad. However, it was the manner of the performances that have left a lot to be desired and 2 of those victories were home games against Bournemouth and Aston Villa, both opponents that a side like Liverpool should be expecting to beat. The home defeat to West Ham and defeat away at Man United followed by a home draw with Norwich and Carlisle in the League Cup left the vultures circling. Jose Mourinho struggles may well have hastened the Liverpool owners decision to act now as there are few high calibre candidates available with only Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp viable options who would not cost a huge compensation fee. With Ancelotti having already managed Chelsea, it may have been felt that they were in danger of losing Klopp to Chelsea. I actually think the Liverpool owners missed a trick here and it would have been smart to see if they could prise Mourinho away from Chelsea which would have demonstrated the owners intentions and I believe would have guaranteed a return to the top if they had been able to pull it off. However, they opted for the relative safety of Klopp which was not really a surprise.
The owners certainly backed Rodgers in the summer and he was able to bring in the big money buys of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. Much has been made of the transfer committee that supposedly decides Liverpools purchases but I find it hard to believe that Rodgers did not wield major influence on the buys. It is rumored that the transfer committee consistently looks at the sell on value of signings but really few of the recent signings have that potential other then Coutinho and a club of Liverpool's stature should not be a selling club. In the summer Rogers revamped his backroom staff bringing in Gary McAlister and Sean O’Driscoll in place of Mike Marsh and Colin Pascoe but little changed. In his second season Rodgers went close to the title with a side led by the brilliant Luis Suarez whose form led to a move to Barcelona. After Suarez departed the team declined and I think it is fair to say that in that season Liverpool vastly over achieved. Last season they fell out of the Champions League in the first round and were unconvincing in the league and perhaps even fortunate to qualify for Europe. The final match of the season ended in an embarrassing 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Stoke City which is unacceptable for a side like Liverpool. Sure Rodgers has been unlucky with the injuries to key forward Daniel Sturridge but he has had ample money to ensure suitable replacements are at hand. Some of his purchases have been bizarre too. Losing Raheem Sterling in the summer he purchased the Brazilian Firmino who is an excellent player but one who is almost similar to Phillipe Coutinho in style. From his early selections it appeared that Rodgers did not know his best side and how to fit them into a starting XI. The signing of Balotelli and Lambert last season did not work out and this year he signed Danny Ings, an excellent young striker, but started him on the wing against Man Utd. The signings of Clynne and Gomez for the full back positions and Milner on a free were good ones but at the centre of defence they are side that look vulnerable and lack a leader and pace. In midfield, Milner, Lucas and Coutinho aside, they have average performers and lack depth and power. Jordan Henderson has been injured but you have to question whether he really is a Liverpool player and if he is suitable to replace a player like Steven Gerrard as captain. Rodgers treatment of Gerrard was also bizarre and allowing him to leave was a monumental error. Perhaps Rodgers should have looked to Man United’s handling of Ryan Giggs as how you get the best out of your veteran players. Even in the season where they finished 2nd, Rogers made some bizarre decisions in the match at Crystal Palace where they threw away a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 and at home to Chelsea where they lost 2-0. Both were games where Rogers should have been able to shut the game down to take all 3 points at Palace and play for a draw at home to Chelsea. That would have likely won them the title. Liverpool in that season scored 103 but conceded 53 which highlights their persistant defensive problems. You also sensed that perhaps the pressure was getting to the players and I felt that Steven Gerrard's post match huddle after the Man City game illustrated this and it was not smart to do this in front of everyone. Perhaps it also indicated that it was the players who were driving the team on and not Rodgers.
Unfortunately, whilst Rodgers might be a good coach, I think he was found out at a club the size of Liverpool and may be was a little out of his depth at this stage in his career. That being said, Rodgers had no pedigree to manage a club like Liverpool. His manager roles at Watford and Reading did not go well and the fans at Reading actually felt he was ruining the club according to reports. It was eventually at Swansea where he made his name and on that basis got a shot at the Liverpool job. Jurgen Klopp replaces Rodgers and brings own backroom team with O’Driscoll leaving and Gary McAllister taking a role away from 1st team.
Brendan Rodgers in 2014
Despite their end of season surge last season it is no surprise that Aston Villa found themselves rooted into the bottom 3 with 9 games gone. It was a key game at the weekend against Swansea City and unfortunately Sherwood's side lost again to a late goal, a defeat which consigned Villa to the bottom of the table after 10 games and cost Sherwood his job a day later.
Having lost the spine of his team over the summer losing Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Chrisitan Benteke as well as Tom Cleverley, Sherwood certainly had a rebuilding project on his hands. The signings of Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards were made to stabilize the defence and the signing of Rudi Gestede was made to provide the goals that will be missed in Benteke’s absence. It seemed that Sherwood was not particularly happy with some of the other players brought in but he did have the promising Jack Grealish in his side and should be credited for his development, though it is early days yet. Recently Grealish scored a wonderful goal at Leicester City and his celebration indicated that Grealish had a great relationship with his manager and you wonder how his development might be affected by Sherwood's departure. Villa raced into a 2-0 lead in that match but threw it away losing 3-2. In the press interview after the match clearly Sherwood was aghast and looked a broken man. His usually safe goalkeeper Brad Guzan has also looked a little out of sorts of late and the incoming manager may need to look to understudy Mark Bunn if Guzan's form does not improve.
Just who the the next manager might be is really open to question. David Moyes has been linked and certainly he has the experience of managing a top side as he has demonstrated at Everton. Whilst his time at Manchester United was not terribly successful, Moyes did show his ability at handling young players in his development of Adnan Januzaj and also good man management in his ability to turn around the Wayne Rooney situation, despite their past differences. A lack of resources though may mean that Moyes waits for his next opportunity in the Premier League if he even wants to return. It is no secret that chairman Lerner is looking to sell the club and I am not sure that Moyes really needs that aggravation in his next role.
Overall, I feel for Tim Sherwood who really deserved more time particularly after saving Villa last season and taking them to the FA Cup Final. It seems he was getting players signed for him who he didn't really want and Villa could live to regret not giving Sherwood till at least Christmas before making a change.
Tim Sherwood after defeat at Leicester City
At the start of the season I did not think that the Chelsea manager would be one of those at risk but as we enter the month of November that is a real possibility. Having received the dreaded vote of confidence, Mourinho's position is seriously at risk. The only potentially influencing factor of him staying is the lack of the availability of a viable replacement. Carlo Ancellotti and Jurgen Klopp are viable candidates but with Ancellotti having been there before and Klopp joining Liverpool quite who owner Roman Abramovich would court is open to some debate.
Prior to their game against Southampton I did not doubt that Chelsea would recover and would be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. However defeat followed and then they lost again at West Ham on Saturday, their 5th of the season. What is even more worrying is the manner of their defeats and the apparent disharmony in the staff. First we had the bizarre incident with Doctor Eva Caneiro where, after running on to assist injured player Eden Hazard, she was accused of naiveity by Mourinho and potentially having put Chelsea at risk of defeat. Mourinho has been touchy in his press conferences and during Saturday's defeat at West Ham, was sent to the stands and refused his post match press interview. Eden Hazard has been out of sorts and possibly needs a little bit of a rest after his brilliant performances last season. John Terry has been in and out of the side and Mourinho does not seem to be supporting his players as you would have expected him to do in the past. Rumors are rife about dressing room disharmony and you sense, by his petulant behavior, he is trying to put Chelsea in a position where they do get rid of him. Having missed out on John Stones and Paul Pogba in the summer, you wonder if that is influencing his current behavior. Mourinho recently signed a new 4 year contract so would be expensive to get rid of but at the moment he is looking a bit of liability. He is without doubt a great coach and does have an edge to him which the press like to try and exploit.
Having lost 5 of their first 10 games, there is a real possibility that Chelsea miss out on the Champions League which would be bizarre given their convincing league title win last season. With tough matches coming in the next few weeks against Liverpool and Spurs, you wonder if Chelsea lose either if that will spur Abramovich into action but quite where he goes from here is anyones guess.
Mourinho at last seasons Carling Cup final
Next Chelsea Manager
If Chelsea part company with the Special One who could take over?
At the start of the season I felt confident that McClaren was the correct man to finally take Newcastle back to the top half of the table and restore their reputation as one of the biggest clubs in the country. Do not laugh, Newcastle belong at the top. Their 52,000 capacity stadium is one of the biggest in the country and their fan base one of the most passionate. McClaren has a good pedigree having managed Middlesbrough, FC Twente, Wolfsburg and England, among others. He was also assistant to Alex Ferguson between 1999 and 2001 and was rumoured to be in contention to take over from Ferguson when he contemplated retirement in early 2000. His failure to take England to the 2008 European Championships really damaged his reputation with the British press but the reality is that he still remained an excellent coach. In 2010 he took FC Twente to their first ever domestic title in Holland and after that became the first Englishman to manage a top division club in Germany. So when Mike Ashley appointed him as manager in the summer I thought it was a smart decision. Newcastle had narrowly avoided relegation during the 2014/15 season and so Ashley backed McClaren spending GBP45 million in the summer with striker Aleksander Mitrovic and ex PSV captain Georginio Wijnaldum the stand out signings. With the likes of Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Jack Colback, Daryl Janmaat and Papiss Cisse still in the squad Newcastle seemingly had a side that should, under new management, be able to compete in the Premier League.
After a good 2-2 draw with Southampton on the opening day, Newcastle also managed to hold Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford and with a little bit of fortune may have pinched all 3 points. Whilst they did lose two of their first games they were reduced to 10 men on both occasions and had only lost to Arsenal by virtue of an own goal. The month of September got no better with a home defeat to newly promoted Watford being the most concerning though they did manage to hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw having led 2-0 with 10 minutes to go. Their only victory remained a 4-1 win over Northampton in the League Cup, a competition they were dumped out of at home by Sheffield Wednesday. Whilst we should not read too much into the 6-1 slippering they received at the hands of Manchester City (they will not be alone in suffering that fate this season) McClaren must urgently do something to arrest the form of his side particularly in view of how well the newly promoted sides a fairing.
The next 3 games for McClarens side featured home matches to newly promoted Norwich and Mark Hughes’ Stoke side plus they had the derby with also struggling Sunderland sandwiched in between. Having played Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd already Newcastle have not had the easiest start and I think come the middle of November we will have a better idea as to where Newcastle really sit. There is no doubt that McClaren is under the spot light but I think at this moment in time Mike Ashley would be foolish to make a change as after all who would he bring in.
From McClarens perspective, he needs to continue to assess his squad and remove the drift wood that appears to be within the squad. The recent episode of some players turning up to matches in dinner suits as they did not have a club suit implies a lack of seriousness amongst the members of the squad and was not appropriate for a side sat bottom of the table with 3 points from 8 games. If McClaren is able to turn things around, and I think he will, I would like to see him return to Derby to bring the superb Will Hughes to Newcastle as he continues to rebuild the fallen giants. Prior to the Norwich match, McClaren had said that the season starts now and his players duly responded with an emphatic 6-2 victory. However, the following match in the derby against Sunderland, Newcastle were again reduced to 10 men and slumped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat. McClaren needs to arrest the inconsistent form because if Newcastle are not sat in mid table by the turn of the year I expect Ashley to make change before the transfer window opens to give a new manager a chance to turn things around. He is a chairman who cannot afford to miss out on next seasons TV cash war chest. In a season where it looks like Middlesborough might be back in the Premier League next season, it would be a tragedy to lose Newcastle to the Championship.
Steve McClaren whilst at FC Twente
The final and surprising addition to my list. Up until Swansea's victory against Aston Villa on Saturday, Monk's side had not won in 6, since they defeated Man United and earned a lot of plaudits for it. Remember Leicester last season who defeated United only then to run into a terrible slump that they managed to arrest in the final few games of the season saving themselves from relegation? Perhaps the Swansea board remember that. There were rumors of dressing room unrest and on Friday it was reported that there was a large volume of bets placed that Monk's role was at risk and rumors that a more experienced replacement was being lined up. Chairman Huw Jenkins is known for being one of the best chairman in the league and the saying at Swansea is "In Huw we trust". Monk led Swansea to the best Premier League finish in their history last season but this season there is a feeling that opponents see Swansea as a scalp and are raising their game accordingly. Could Jenkins be tempted to make a change and could that be bringing Brendan Rogers back, the man who helped establish Swansea in the Premier League? We will see.