After a mammoth managerial merry-go-round this summer, all 20 EPL clubs can now fully concentrate on preparations for the 2021/22 Premier League season with all vacancies now filled.
However, with crowds (hopefully) back in full in stadiums from this August, it surely won’t be too long before the natives get restless at certain top-flight clubs.
Who might be first for the chop in the Premier League?
We’ve assessed the likely candidates …
Premier League Sack Race | Who Will Be The First To Go?
It took until almost the halfway stage last season for a manager to be relieved of their duties, with Slaven Bilić the first to go, leaving West Brom in mid-December.
That was a massive drop on the season before, where no less than five managers had already lost their jobs in that time frame – perhaps a reflection of a growing pragmatism from club owners forged by playing behind closed doors in a post-Covid climate.
Will that patience hold as the fans flock back over the months ahead?
First up, we’re stopping off at Vicarage Road and a club not renowned for its job security both inside and outside the top flight…
It seems harsh to single out a manager currently boasting a 67% win record with his present employers for the firing, but this is Watford we’re talking about.
Javi Gracia was the last Hornets head coach to survive more than a single season in the Premier League, steering the club to the final of the FA Cup in 2019 in his sole full year in charge, although even that wasn’t enough to save him the following campaign.
Now the up-and-coming Xisco will be hoping he can achieve something Marco Silva, Quique Sánchez Flores, Nigel Pearson and Vladimir Ivić all failed to do: finish a full season in charge of the Hertfordshire outfit.
🪓 Chop Rating: 9/10
He’s got the contacts and the profile to make Crystal Palace an attractive proposition to players looking for a Premier League move this summer.
However, will the former Arsenal legend have the coaching chops to emulate the admired but unloved Roy Hodgson in keeping the Eagles safely ensconced in mid-table? His record at Nice, finishing 7th and 5th in his two full seasons with the club, hint he could be the right man to helm a long-term rebuild at Selhurst Park, although things started to unravel in his third season as an alarming autumn slump cost him his job.
His biggest hurdle could be a twitchy Palace board that refused to show Frank De Boer any leniency after his disastrous start as a first-time manager in English football.
While the need for a massive squad overhaul should give the Frenchman excuses for any stuttering start, the evidence suggests Viera won’t have much of a grace period if his new-look Eagles are experiencing teething problems heading into the first international break.
🪓 Chop Rating: 8/10
Things seem to have gone somewhat stale at St Mary’s, but should the finger of blame be pointed at the manager’s office?
Hasenhüttl was briefly touted with some money-spinning moves elsewhere last season as he briefly led Saints to the top of the Premier League table back in November.
That bright spot would prove to a false dawn as Southampton spent the rest of the season floundering back towards lower mid-table, and another struggle could be in prospect after a difficult summer for the Austrian in the transfer market.
With Saints’ owners reportedly looking to sell, and Danny Ings itching for a lucrative move away, Hasenhüttl looks to be in something of a bind this summer.
Whether he walks away to ensure his stock remains high, or relations before board and manager simply become too strained in the months ahead, the 53-year-old looks to be approaching his end game one way or another on the South Coast.
🪓 Chop Rating: 7/10
Keep Newcastle up.
That’s been Mike Ashley’s mantra to his managers since seizing control of the Magpies, although two trips to the EFL Championship are indicative of the fact he hasn’t always had the greatest success on that front.
Regardless of how Steve Bruce’s tactical acumen is perceived by the more vocal elements of the Geordie fanbase, the current incumbent of the St James’ Park hotseat has more than passed that particular Ashley acid test, twice guiding his hometown club to untroubled mid-table consolidation.
It seems unlikely the notoriously bullish Newcastle chairman will pull the trigger even in the face of any growing supporter unrest this season as the club’s takeover saga drags on. That could mean it’s a burnt-out Bruce who makes the first move should both parties end up parting ways this season if he tires of the constant criticism on Tyneside.
🪓 Chop Rating: 6/10
Could it be left to one of the ‘Big Six’ to balk first when it comes to the next Premier League manager sacked?
It’s open to debate whether the Gunners still deserve that top billing after a lowly eighth-place finish in 2020/21 in Arteta’s first full season in charge.
The Spaniard now has precious little excuse if he fails to improve on that finish with no Europa League football to bother him and a board committed to going all guns blazing in the transfer market this summer.
The North Londoners will surely be loath to go ahead with another embarrassing mid-season axing after dispensing with Unai Emery two years ago, but the pressure for change could prove relentless if Arsenal continue to tread water in the upcoming campaign.
🪓 Chop Rating: 5/10
Is Daniel Farke going to be the Cameron Jerome of Premier League managers?
The former Norwich hitman was the classic example of a striker too good for the EFL Championship, while simply not good enough to cut it in the top flight.
The German boss will now set out to prove he doesn’t occupy a similar Venn diagram as he looks to avoid a repeat of the disastrous distant 20th-place finish he managed in 2019/20.
For now, Farke looks as safe as houses after signing a new four-year deal for the club as a reward for steering his side back to the top flight at the first attempt. However, we all know an extended contract is hardly worth the paper it’s written on in the cut-throat world of Premier League football.
If the Canaries are cut adrift by the time the Christmas decorations go up, will both parties really fancy treading old ground for a third time back in the Championship?
🪓 Chop Rating: 4/10
One of those classic ‘could go either way’ appointments, this one.
Wolves opted to roll the dice when relieving the much-admired Nuno Espirito Santo of his duties at the end of last season at the first hint of things going stale at Molineux.
His successor will be expected to implement a slightly more attractive brand of football in the West Midlands after guiding Benfica to the Primeira Liga title with a joint-record 103 goals in the 2018/19 season.
That feat marks Wolves out as a team to watch for the neutral, but the concern among fans will be over how he failed to match that form the following year, with the former Swansea assistant eventually resigning after a slump that saw the club match their worst ever set of results.
Will he be better for an extended breather?
That’s the unanswered question as he looks to get his fledgling managerial career back on track.
🪓 Chop Rating: 7/10
You have to give it to Rafa. He isn’t afraid of a challenging working environment.
Just look at his CV over the last decade
Taking on interim coaching duties at Chelsea, a club where the supporters despised him. Stepping into the political minefield that is managing both Napoli and Real Madrid. Pitching up with Mike Ashley at a Newcastle side spiralling towards relegation. Embracing the culture shock that is the Chinese Super League.
Little surprise, then, that his Premier League return will see him dive headfirst into possibly his most controversial posting yet as he crosses the Merseyside divide to manage Everton.
While Benitez won’t be phased by any friendly fire heading his way in the early stages of tenure, the Spaniard is unlikely to be afforded much breathing space from a hostile Goodison Park if the Toffees show no signs of improving on last season’s 10th-place finish.
His early signings have also been met with scepticism, with Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray hardly acquisitions hinting at a tilt at Europe.
🪓 Chop Rating: 6/10
Finally, will Nuno last as long at Tottenham Hotspur as the time it took for the Spurs board to identify him as the right man to revive their fortunes?
The former Wolves man has been served something of a hospital pass given he starts his role in the knowledge so many other candidates were sounded out before him.
However, it’s also one hell of an opportunity for the Portuguese given this is a rare example of a manager upgrading with his next career move after parting ways with a previous employer.
Nuno still has one huge issue in his in-tray to clear before even thinking about how to mastermind Spurs’ return to Champions League football – the future of Harry Kane.
Keeping the England hitman could be as important as any much-needed incomings this summer for the new man at the helm in North London.
🪓 Chop Rating: 5/10
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