The Premier league can be a cruel mistress for football managers – just ask Jose Mourinho, whose time at Chelsea came to a disappointing end last week after taking his side to the title just seven months ago. They say that football is fickle, and that is no more apparent than in the case of the football manager.
Louis van Gaal is the current bookies favourite to leave his post next, with Manchester United on a six game winless streak, having been dumped out of the Champions League at the group stage. The well-respected Dutch manager had appeared to steady the ship last year by leading the Red Devils back into the top four after the debacle of David Moyes’ short reign, but the weaknesses have been exposed again this season. However, the one thing United do have is transfer funds, and they may well allow the former Holland and Barcelona man more time to try and build a team with new faces coming in during January. They remain joint-fourth with Spurs in the table and are only nine points off Leicester at the top, so it’s certainly not a disaster of Chelsea-like proportions.
There may be a little bit of value in opposing van Gaal with two other managers who are treading on thin ice – namely Ronald Koeman at Southampton and Steve McClaren at Newcastle.
This Season’s Casualties
We only got as far as October before the first Premier League casualty, as Dick Advocaat resigned his post at Sunderland with the Black Cats struggling again. He’s been replaced by Sam Allardyce – surely the very man a team wants in a relegation battle, and he’s at least overseen a few wins as they battle for safety.
Next to face the music was Brendan Rodgers, whose three years in charge at Liverpool saw him take them agonizingly close to winning the title in 2013/14. However, the lack of a trophy or a real challenge in the Champions League saw his three-year reign brought to an end. Jurgen Klopp has been installed as his replacement and has already started to lift the gloom around Anfield.
Tim Sherwood was next to go, at the end of October, after a sixth straight defeat left Aston Villa rock bottom of the table. Under-investment in the squad over a number of years is catching up with the Villians, and the appointment of Remi Garde has done little to change the mood. They remain adrift in the Premier League basement, but sacking another manager is hardly going to change things.
Swansea reluctantly let go of long-term employee Garry Monk in early December, after a run of just one win in 12 games, and the Swans now find themselves in the bottom three. The club are yet to appoint a new man and Alan Curtis is taking caretaker charge while the board search for a replacement, with former Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa said to be top of the list.
Finally, the last man to get the boot was Jose Mourinho, whose fall from grace this season has been nothing short of dramatic. After leading his side to the Premier League title last term, no-one could have predicted such a torrid season which has seen Chelsea lose 9 of their 17 games to leave them wallowing in 15th place. For whatever reasons it looked like the ‘Special One’ had lost the dressing room, and Roman Abramovic decided to take action. Guus Hiddink has been placed in interim charge, and it’s Mourinho’s availability which has led to the intense speculation about Louis van Gaal at Manchester United.
The Next Candidates
The Man United supremo is a hot favourite to go, with most bookies offering odds around the -400 mark, and some national newspapers suggesting he has two games to save his job. It’s worth remembering though, that these markets are highly volatile and a small amount of money can easily skew the odds. Many will have put two and two together and expect United to snap up Mourinho, but question marks remain over whether his style is right for a United side who are versed in expansive football after the Ferguson years.
The Saints had a superb season last year, but they’ve struggled to hit those heights again this time around. They’ve lost a lot of good players too, with the likes of Clyne and Schneiderlin moving on to new pastures, and it is difficult to replace that sort of quality. At the moment they’re 12th in the Premier League, but are only six points off the drop zone and in danger of being sucked into a relegation battle. They face tough games against Arsenal and West Ham over the Christmas period, and Koeman cuts a different figure to the one who was bullish about a new contract earlier in the season when he was being touted for the Holland job.
McClaren has only been at Newcastle since the start of this season, but having spent much of their time in the bottom three, his days could be numbered. They lifted the gloom with successive wins over Liverpool and Spurs, but McClaren himself said that they ‘haven’t turned the corner’ yet, and so it proved as they served up a disappointing 1-1 draw with Villa at home in the following game.
It’s true that as well as being head coach at Newcastle he’s also on the board, but many people thought Alan Pardew was untouchable on his 8-year contract before Newcastle owner Mike Ashley pulled the trigger anyway. If results continue to slide, the Magpie hierarchy have shown they are not afraid to take action. A small wager on the two managers is a sensible way of backing against van Gaal, and they look like the only two in potential danger. Eddie Howe at Bournemouth and Alex Neil at Norwich are other possibles near the bottom of the league, but expectations are wildly different at those two clubs compared to Southampton and Newcastle, and while they keep their heads above water they should be safe.
Next Premier League Manager to Leave Post:
Ronald Koeman (Southampton)
Steve McClaren (Newcastle)
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