Sack season is on the way and, with as many as five Premier League managers on the verge of losing their jobs, Alex Keble predicts Fulham's Scott Parker will be the first to go...
"By 2021 Solskjaer will be pushed out, but that means he isn’t worth backing to be the first manager to lose his job this season."
We are entering the time of year when Premier League managers start to lose their job. Typically the most dismissals come in May, November, and December, and while the pandemic has disrupted the normal pattern of the fixture list there is plenty of reason to assume the first sacking of 2020/21 is just around the corner.
There wasn't a single manager change over the summer, largely because the pandemic meant there was a very quick turnaround to the new campaign. The lack of preparation time - plus the fact boardrooms looked kindly on uniquely difficult circumstances - has made upheaval unattractive over the last few months.
But that patience can only last so long.
Ed Woodward has shown remarkable loyalty to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and even reaffirmed it after the disastrous defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir. With Mauricio Pochettino still available, it makes you wonder what it would take for Manchester United to sack their manager.
Most likely it will be when Champions League qualification begins to look beyond them, and given the Premier League table is very compressed at the moment that should buy Solskjaer time. Then again, their home game against West Brom this weekend could change that; anything other than a win would put United in a very weak position for the next two months.
Games away at Southampton and West Ham in the league are followed by Man City, Sheffield United, Leeds, Everton, Leicester, and Wolves before January. All eight of those will be very tricky, and it's hard to see Solskjaer's side picking up momentum through that run. By 2021 Solskjaer will be pushed out, but that means he isn't worth backing to be the first manager to lose his job this season.
West Brom haven't been quite as bad as the league table would suggest. They are winless from their opening eight games, but are only one point off 17th and put in impressive shifts in the 3-3 draw with Chelsea and the 1-0 defeat to Tottenham. These are very fine margins. Slaven Bilic is unlucky that so many early six-pointers have ended in draws when West Brom could have snatched three points.
There is a sense that the Baggies' most exciting players are still finding their feet, and when they do Bilic will know how to organise the counter-attacks to get them firing. Grady Diangana, Matheus Pereira, and Callum Robinson have not lived up to the billing so far.
However, it is plausible the West Brom board will look for a new manager bounce. As a regular yo-yo club they have certainly been in this position before, finding form after an April appointment of Darren Moore and a January appointment of Tony Pulis.
Perhaps someone like Sam Allardyce is on their radar. Nevertheless, Bilic ought to be given at least until Christmas to see if his popular style of football, which was so successful in the Championship, can work at the top level.
Sheffield United are suffering from a difficult second season, and there is a very real danger of relegation. The Blades failed to add to the team during the transfer window and more significantly their 3-5-2, with overlapping centre-backs and high positional rotation, no longer has the element of surprise.
Opponents have worked out how to play Chris Wilder's side, and without the necessary quality in the final third United are beginning to look blunt. They have only scored four goals so far this season, with an overly-functional shape sometimes leaving them too rigid to create chances.
But their xG stats suggest United should have picked up seven points by now, indicating they have been a bit unlucky, so Wilder will be given time. As the man who lifted them from League One to a ninth-place finish in the top flight, he is a club legend. Wilder will stay and fight it out.
Fulham, on the other hand, have never really taken to their manager Scott Parker. Their promotion to the Premier League happened almost by accident, with Fulham looking pretty uninspiring throughout last season and under-performing with a fourth-place finish. Parker would have been sacked if his side had lost the play-off final to Brentford.
His possession football is a little vague and disorganised, with strange tactical decisions and a porous defence making Fulham vulnerable throughout the 2019/20 Championship season. Inevitably, that has only got worse in the Premier League and Fulham are languishing on four points from eight games, a 2-0 win over West Brom offering a glimmer of hope earlier this month.
Parker doesn't have much goodwill in the bank, and frankly this Fulham team just aren't good enough to start winning games. With Everton, Leicester, Man City, and Liverpool up next, Fulham will surely lose all four and get rid of Parker for someone with a more defensive mindset. Back Parker to be the next manager to leave his post at 7/2.
Sean Dyche has been a brilliant Burnley manager and, even if there is to be a sour end to the journey, he will most likely stay to the end of the season, just like Eddie Howe did with relegated Bournemouth.
Historically, Dyche's Burnley have managed to get themselves out of trouble after a poor start to the season, and while it would be naïve to assume that will happen again (Burnley are stagnating without new signings, scoring just once in their last seven games) that should mean the board give him more time.
Like Wilder, Dyche is a hero and will be allowed to leave on his own terms, and it is improbable another job opportunity will come up for him before the end of the season. He is safe at Burnley for the time being.