It’s mid-November, the fourteenth international break of the fledgling 2018-19 season is upon us, and – perhaps most surprisingly of all – only one Premier League manager has been shown the door. In contrast, by this time last season, four managerial changes had already been made – and another sacking would occur before the end of the month.
Yet, we’re a full 97 days into the new season. This can’t be right, can it? Someone should’ve been given the full confidence of the board before a very public and humiliating sacking by now. Frank de Boer must be seething.
In fact, with only the sacking of Slaviša Jokanović so far, things have got so desperate the Premier League Old Boys Club that Harry Redknapp has had to go find work elsewhere on I’m A Celebrity! What next? Alan Pardew on Strictly? David Moyes on Songs of Prayer?
Even though there has only been one managerial casualty, it’s not been for the want of trying; Fulham, Huddersfield, Manchester United, and Newcastle are all intent on playing the sort of football that should’ve had their coaches served their P45s before Halloween.
So, with the John Lewis Christmas ad just around the corner and the gruelling period of festive fixtures looming on the grey horizon, who’s in line to be the second Premier League manager to clear out their office?
Fresh out of the realms of Football Manager, the plucky Serb guided Fulham to a return to the top flight, splurged in excess of £100 million on 14 new players, and is now left scratching his head in wonder as to why his team of utter strangers could not string two passes together.
As if assembling an entirely new squad wasn’t daring enough, Jokanovic walked the fine line between bravery and naivety in his approach to Fulham’s game. His open, expansive and attacking tactics saw the Cottagers concede 31 goals in only 11 matches.
If Fulham are to survive in the harsh climes of the Premier League, they have decided to do so without the saviour that got them there. Fielding 11 different back lines in their opening 11 games didn’t help Jokanovic’s cause, and while there are lessons to be learnt in terms of structure and solidarity, time is fast running out.
Aleksandar Mitrovic already has five goals for the West London outfit, but the brawny target man cannot be relied upon all season to shoulder the burden of Fulham’s hopes. Unlucky, Slavisa.
The miserly Portuguese tactician is part of a much greater problem at the Old Trafford club, and while he would be extremely costly to get rid of, do not be overly surprised to see Mourinho implode in what is typically his troublesome third season.
Describing Manchester United’s football as turgid would be almost something of a compliment. Having suffered through the tenures of Moyes and van Gaal, United fans were hoping Mourinho would return the club to former glories, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Whether he’s alienating established figures (Antonio Valencia), exiling players he himself bought (Eric Bailly) or consistently playing under-performing stars (take your pick: Pogba, Matic, Lukaku), Mourinho seems intent on a course of self-destruction.
A spirited 2-1 comeback win over Juventus and the resurgence of Anthony Martial gave fans a glimmer of hope, but the crushing defeat at the hands of Man City plunged the club back into crisis mode.
It could be a sacking or could well be a resignation, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Jose Mourinho didn’t see out the season.
Ah, things started off so well for Sparky. Brought in to oversee Southampton’s battle to avoid relegation, the former Welsh striker immediately threatened to knock out the troublesome Sofiane Boufal, dropped him from future matchday squads and loaned him to Celta Vigo. The message was clear: Don’t f*ck with Sparky. And it worked. The Saints stayed up by the skin of their teeth.
However, this season, the message seems to have become muddied somewhat. The message is now very much f*ck with Sparky, as his side have registered just one win and scored a paltry eight goals.
Southampton look devoid of creativity and utterly bereft of confidence in front of goal. Sure, they had a bit of rotten luck which led to Charlie Austin’s marvellous VAR rant, but in general, the Saints look so unlikely to score it appears as if they’re actively chasing the league record for goalless draws.
Hughes doesn’t exactly have the most stellar of management records, and is in danger of slipping into that hapless group of managers* that are content to do the rounds of bottom-half Premier League sides in search of their next paycheque.
It would be a surprise to see Hughes last much longer beyond Christmas.
*See, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce, David Moyes, et al.
The job the former England manager did in dragging Crystal Palace out of the mire and free of the relegation battle last season should not be underestimated, but this season the wily ol’ Woy’s box of magic tricks seems to have run out.
In fact, it appears increasingly like his box just contained Wilfried Zaha.
Last season, Hodgson turned Palace from laughing stocks into dependable mid-tablers, but this campaign he has failed to build on a squad that is far too dependent on the talents of their Ivorian winger.
Luka Milivojevic was last season’s top scorer with eleven goals (eight of which were penalties) but relying on other teams kicking your players in their box is hardly the most productive of tactics. Thus, it has proved this season as Palace have scored the second-fewest goals in the league.
A refusal to switch approaches has led to the likes of Jordan Ayew registering a criminal number of minutes, and Palace’s torrid time of late was epitomised by the Ghanian’s absolute refusal to head the ball that led to Tottenham’s recent winner.
As likeable and as successful as Roy Hodgson is and has been at Palace, a relegation battle is a real possibility, and unless things change quickly, he could well be shown the next sacking in line.