Swansea City boss Paul Clement became the sixth Premier League manager to receive his marching orders already this season on Wednesday, and it has left many wondering whether Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez could – and perhaps should – be next out the door.
Interestingly enough, the Welsh outfit decided to sack the 45-year-old as they currently lie bottom of the English top flight, while Crystal Palace relieved Frank de Boer of his duties when they were 19th, and Leicester City, Everton and West Ham United axed Craig Shakespeare, Ronald Koeman and Slaven Bilic respectively when they were all in 18th.
West Bromwich Albion are the only club to have fired their manager – Tony Pulis – when they weren’t in the relegation zone, although they were only one place above it and without a win in 10 Premier League games.
While things haven’t worked out for the Baggies under the leadership of Alan Pardew yet – they currently lie in 19th position – the others clubs that decided to act have paid the dividends as none of them find themselves in the bottom five, while Leicester and Everton have moved into the top-half of the table.
That was where Newcastle found themselves following a 1-0 win against Palace at St James’ Park two months ago, but after taking just one point from the last 27 available since then have fallen from sixth down to 18th in the standings, and they are now one point from safety.
The majority of Magpies fans are understandably delighted and honoured that they have a manager of Benitez’s experience at the helm – especially after he stayed loyal to them when they dropped into the Championship and led them back at the first attempt – and he has given them a feeling of pride and optimism that his predecessors perhaps failed to.
However, his side’s recent run of form simply hasn’t been good enough and is a real cause for concern, and you have to wonder when question marks over his future will start to emerge at a time when it is vitally important that the club stays in the top flight.
Yes, the Tyneside outfit don’t have the one of the best teams or squads in the Premier League and the Spaniard was disappointed with his summer business, but with Burnley – whose squad and budget isn’t much better or bigger than Newcastle’s – in sixth position and fellow newly-promoted clubs Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion both above the Toon, you do have to wonder whether Benitez is working to the best of his ability and getting the best out of his players.
While their poor run of form has included expected away defeats against Manchester United, Chelsea and then Arsenal last weekend, the home losses against Watford, Bournemouth and Leicester City were extremely disappointing, and while he may not be solely to blame not many supporters would argue against the fact that there is plenty of room for improvement from the former Liverpool and Real Madrid chief.
The reality of the situation is that if the Magpies lose heavily against West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday, Swansea pick up a win at home to Crystal Palace and West Brom draw at Stoke – none of which could be deemed as inconceivable right now – Newcastle could find themselves bottom of the table at Christmas.
The fans will blame the disinterested owner Mike Ashley and the distraction of the takeover talk for their current predicament – and they may be largely correct with those thoughts – but Benitez is a highly experienced manager who should be able to get himself and his players focused in spite of anything that may be happening off of the pitch.
The 57-year-old hasn’t done that though and he perhaps should be getting more stick from the passionate supporters than he is right now, because his team are in real danger of suffering relegation as things stand.
Considering how trigger-happy Newcastle have been in the past few years with their managers no one is asking for – or wants to see Benitez – get the chop, but you do have to wonder when an improvement is coming and at what point the tide will start to turn among the passionate St James’ Park faithful.
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