Having the new Premier League season weeks away is an exciting prospect for fans up and down the country but for managers it means the pressure will soon be on them to perform straight away, with nearly all the top flight bosses one bad run away from becoming the first managerial casualty of the 2011/12 Premier League season.
Last season saw the trend of sacking managers with far too much ease continue, with Chris Hughton’s departure from Newcastle in December making him the first managerial casualty during the season and probably one of the strangest (along with the departures of Sam Allardyce at Blackburn and Roberto Di Matteo at West Brom). There were also the more predictable sackings, including Chelsea once again getting rid of an apparently under-performing boss Carlo Ancelotti whilst West Ham kept everyone waiting until May to sack Avram Grant. There will no doubt be another raft of managers facing the chop but who will be the first managerial casualty of the new season?
When talking about under-pressure bosses some of the first to be considered will unfortunately always be the newly promoted sides. Norwich, QPR and Swansea face the daunting task of competing in the toughest league in the world and their managers face a long season of probable struggle, pressure and keeping one eye on the trap door. Out of Paul Lambert at Norwich, Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers or Neil Warnock at QPR it is the latter that looks the most likely to be sacked.
Despite guiding his side to Championship glory and a return to the top flight, Warnock faced speculation about his future even before the start of the season was in sight. Whispers about QPR looking for a new big-name manager were horribly unfair on Warnock but with the rumours come lingering doubts already surfacing around Loftus Road (and a possible takeover and fresh approach at the club) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Warnock depart if his QPR side make a slow start to the new season. Rodgers and Lambert are by no means safe themselves and all three managers face a hard job turning their team’s attractive, free-flowing styles of play into successful solutions in the Premier League.
Roberto Mancini’s position at Manchester City has always seemed to be on a knife-edge since he joined the club back in late 2009. The huge investment from the owners has created an instant need for success and whilst their third placed finish and FA Cup glory has kept the vultures at bay for now, any slip in form or lack of improvement from last season will undoubtedly see City look elsewhere for a new manager.
My dark house in the managerial sacking race is Steve Bruce at Sunderland. I have picked Bruce for similar reasons to Mancini above. Sunderland’s owners have shown great faith in Bruce this summer by signing nine players already and if these new acquisitions don’t pay off then Bruce could find himself under pressure very quickly. When looking at who could be facing the chop it is also crucial to check which managers were holding onto their positions by their fingernails last season and I believe Bruce was one of these. Sunderland experienced a shocking run of form that nearly culminated in a relegation battle and so Bruce will pray that his Black Cats side start the new campaign better than they finished the last.
Whilst a lot of Premier League managers stand perilously close to the edge all season, there are others who look almost untouchable in their roles. Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to face the sack even if his side doesn’t make a good start to the league whilst Arsene Wenger has an unparalleled security at Arsenal’s helm however bad things seem to get. Wigan’s Roberto Martinez is also an example of a reasonably secure manager who has the complete backing of his boss (an admirable trait by chairman Dave Whelan that paid off last season). The host of new managers will also be under-pressure to perform, with Andre Villas-Boas, Martin Jol and Alex McLeish already in the spotlight to make good starts at their new clubs.
Whichever unlucky manager is the first to get the chop this season, there will undoubtedly be a host of sackings that make little sense or seem horribly premature when we look back on the 2011/12 campaign. Nearly all managers face extreme pressure from the very first whistle and I have no doubt that come Christmas we will all be talking about at least one managerial casualty in the Premier League already.
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