Premier League Season Preview: Assessing the sack race

Premier League sack race odds
Patrick Vieira is the joint favourite in the Premier League sack race

Paul Higham looks at the betting favourites and a number of lively outsiders in the dreaded Premier League sack race.

"A high-profile name comes with extra scrutiny, and there are four very loseable games in his first five so a poor start will have him behind the eight ball already."

The start of the new Premier League season is always filled with hope, excitement and expectation, but sorry to burst anyone's bubble but it's also full of trepidation, worry and nervousness for managers who are already under pressure before a ball is even kicked.

We had just four managerial changes during the last season, waiting until December before Slaven Bilic had the dubious honour of winning the sack race when he left West Brom to be replaced by Sam Allardyce.

The axe has fallen much quicker though in recent times, with Frank De Boer getting the chop at Crystal Palace in September 2017 and Javi Gracia leaving Watford in September 2019 - a season when just backing whoever was Hornets boss at the time as the next to leave would have paid off big time.

Watford had FOUR managers that season - and still went down!

You can put a line through a few usual 'untouchables' in terms of Premier League managers, but unusually you'd probably put two of the newly-promoted bosses in that category too.

Daniel Farke is overseeing a long-term project at Norwich who quite simply don't mind if they go back down again as long as the club is being run correctly, while Thomas Frank has done wonders with Brentford and it'd take something monumental for the Bees to think about getting rid.

There are, though, plenty of leading contenders, a few usual suspects of teams and a few lively outsiders to consider, which we'll do right now.

The favourites

Patrick Vieira (Palace) 6/1

First five: Chelsea (A), Brentford (H), West Ham (A), Spurs (H), Liverpool (A)

Tough to know what to make of the former Arsenal skipper after spells at New York City FC and Nice showed little of his ability or philosophy. Roy Hodgson steadied the ship at Selhurst Park and now they want to kick on, but it's a tough job and he needs to build his side around the Wilfried Zaha once again with Eberechi Eze out injured.

A high-profile name comes with extra scrutiny, and there are four very loseable games in his first five so a poor start will have him behind the eight ball already.

Xisco (Watford) 6/1

First five: Villa (H), Brighton (A), Spurs (A), Wolves (H), Norwich (A)

Xisco Munoz.jpg

He's Watford boss in the Premier League, need we say more? Any Hornets manager should be near the top of the betting at any point in time as the owners make no apologies for being trigger happy. Like a cut-price Chelsea they believe the manager is the most expendable asset at the club - but unlike Chelsea they don't have a squad overflowing with talent.

They could make a half-decent start but in one of the hottest seats in management you can just never sit comfortably in the Vicarage Road manager's office - which no doubt has a revolving door on it.

Steve Bruce (Newcastle) 15/2

First five: West Ham (H), Villa (A), Southampton (H), Man Utd (A), Leeds (H)

Newcastle won at West Ham on the opening day last season before struggling but just doing enough thanks to a late spurt to finish comfortably above the drop zone. As long as Mike Ashley is in charge and as long as Bruce is at least keeping their head above water then I think the manager here will be safe enough.

Having the fans back at St James' Park may be worse for Bruce if results don't go his way, and it could be a sticky start. You just imagine that at least one manager will go though before he does.

Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton) 9/1

First five: Everton (A), Man Utd (H), Newcastle (A), West Ham (H), Man City (A)

Ralph Hasenhuttl, Saints boss.jpg

An interesting one here as Hasenhuttl has largely been a success at St Mary's but there could be a growing frustration between the manager and club after he lost star striker Danny Ings to Aston Villa. There's no obvious signs of ambition at the club and a manager like the big Austrian won't want to be in charge of a meandering side happy to fight off relegation for too long.

There's also a tough start for him this season so he's one to watch.

Bruno Lage (Wolves) 11/1

First five: Leicester (A), Tottenham (H), Man Utd (H), Watford (A), Brentford (H)

Wolves worry me, and I can't see them getting anything from their first three games the way they played last season and with Lage hugely untested at this kind of level. It's a big gamble for the club who seem to have lost their way and there doesn't seem to be a clear vision for the future.

The Lage appointment could be a masterstroke or it could be a disaster - and like a few other managers on the list he won't have too much time to deliver.

The usual suspects - will project managers survive?

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) 12/1

First five: Brentford (A), Chelsea (H), Man City (A), Norwich (H), Burnley (A)

Mikel Arteta, Arsenal boss.jpg

The Arsenal boss already has an FA Cup under his belt and yet he'll remain under scrutiny until the Gunners are serious Champions League challengers. The fans here have been spoilt by Arsene Wenger's incredible consistency and it has been a case of careful what you wish for since the Frenchman left the club.

What Arteta really needs to do now is lay down a clear identity and style of play for his team, and the club's fans, to get behind and no European football for the first time in 25 years can actually help him in terms of preparation time if he uses it correctly.

Graham Potter (Brighton) 12/1

First five: Burnley (A), Watford (H), Everton (H), Brentford (A), Leicester (H)

Potter's actually a but shorter than I'd have him as I think he'll be relatively safe given the Seagulls seem to be fully behind his vision despite a dodgy year last season. Hopefully the club's owners are big fans of xG so they'll realise that his football was creating chances - they just weren't taking them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Man Utd) 16/1

First five: Leeds (H), Southampton (A), Wolves (A), Newcastle (H), West Ham (A)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United.jpg

He's signed a new contract this summer and been allowed to splash the cash, again, on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane so he should be as safe as houses right? Wrong! And for two reasons - firstly, because many United fans still don't think he's the man for the job, and that counts for a lot.

And secondly, because the targets are so much higher now he's had time, and a lot of money to get the squad he wants. There's no playing plunky also-rans to Man City and Liverpool - there's been enough spent on this squad to have a serious title challenge and bag some silverware.

If he struggles even slightly, with this squad, then calls for his head will return sharpish.

David Moyes (West Ham) 33/1

First five: Newcastle (A), Leicester (H), Palace (H), Southampton (A), Man Utd (H)

From pre-season sack race favourite to manager of the year candidate - Moyes did brilliantly to get a record Premier League points tally and European football for West Ham last season. So he's rightly a huge outsider to be sacked after signing a new deal this summer.

And still....I'm just not sure how much I trust this Hammers ownership, who you feel never really fancied Moyes that much but felt he had to get a new contract after the job he did last season. Thursday night football could really stretch his squad and a subsequent poor run would put him in the firing line.

The lively outsiders - will new boys get time?

Nuno Espirito Santo (Tottenham) 14/1

First five: Man City (H), Wolves (A), Watford (H), Palace (A), Chelsea (H)

What a start for Nuno as he faces the champions and his old club in the first two games - they also play Arsenal in their sixth game right after Chelsea! The Harry Kane saga hasn't helped, and if he goes then the club are in big trouble.

That usually means the manager gets it, and the added problem here is that his style of football at Wolves was a safety-first variety very much in the Mourinho mould. That doesn't sit well with Spurs fans.

Rafa Benitez (Everton) 14/1

First five: Southampton (H), Leeds (A), Brighton (A), Burnley (H), Villa (A)

RafaBenitezNUFC1280.jpg

Speaking of fans...the Everton faithful were hardly doing cartwheels when former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez popped up at Goodison - as the man who brought the European Cup back to their neighbours across Stanley Park.

Benitez is a good manager, he should at least install a better fitness and tactical regime than Carlo Ancelotti managed when there. He's probably on the shortest leash of any manager with their own fans this season, but he does have what looks a relatively comfortable opening set of games.

His biggest job will be to fix Everton's woeful home form last season (W6 D4 L9) as more of that will see the boo boys out in force.

Sean Dyche (Burnley) 25/1

First five: Brighton (H), Liverpool (A), Leeds (H), Everton (A), Arsenal (H)

Burnley finished just one place outside the drop zone last term and without significant investment yet again Dyche will have a huge job on to once again keep his head above water. Burnley would never sack him, but you wonder how long he's willing to operate in these conditions.

Dyche could and should be given an opportunity at a club willing to spend a few quid and he's already voiced his frustrations on a number of occasions. It's a tough start this season and you wonder if he'll just feel enough is enough if they have a bad start.

It's more of a gut feeling one this one but watch the market as any moves could be significant.

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