It’s that time of the season when the Premier League‘s ultimate sideshow – the sack race – comes to town, and this year the pack appears to be particularly strong. Based on statistics collated from previous campaigns, the first manager is booted out on average after about the tenth game, and with the current season having recently entered the double-figure mark for games played, the gentry of English football are once again at their sartorial best, ready for a day at the races. For fear of missing out, here at FFC Towers we have hastily decided to set up shop on the concourse with our very own ramshackle betting booth, and are offering the very latest (and most accurate) odds on who we think will reluctantly cross the line first. So roll up, and take a peek at our tips for this year’s frontrunners:
1. Brendan Rodgers
Out in front gallops the chestnut-coloured stallion from Ballymena, Brendan Rodgers. After being agonizingly pipped to the post in last year’s more prestigious title race, the Northern Irishman is having a bit of a ‘mare this season, leading the pack in the race for the sack. The loss of top scorer and talisman Luis Suarez in the summer was always going to come as a blow to his Liverpool side, but Rodgers has come under particularly heavy criticism for the way he has spent the considerable sum money gained from the Uruguayan’s sale. None of his eight signings have convinced the Anfield faithful that the team has improved in quality compared to last season, and the defence is arguably more porous than it was when Rodgers took over in 2012, despite heavy investment in the area. His decision to field a weakened starting eleven against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday was justified given the encouraging performance and the fact that most of the first team regulars had been woefully below-par for a number of weeks, but the fact that so many of his players are so visibly devoid of confidence – just a few months after almost winning the Premier League title – is worrying, and Rodgers needs to pick up results quickly. Chelsea are the next visitors to Anfield on Saturday – a loss to the team that ended the Reds’ title hopes in April could also spell the end of Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool.
Odds: Favourite for the sack
2. Manuel Pellegrini
Who would have thought that the two managers most likely to be fighting for their jobs would be the men whose sides finished as last season’s champions and runners-up? After winning Manchester City’s second Premier League title as well as the League Cup in his first campaign at the helm, this silvery steed from Chile was expected to push on in his sophomore year at Eastlands, but if anything Pellegrini has been more like a scraggly old mule than the Red Rum of Manchester. Disappointing domestic defeats against Stoke City and West Ham United have been trumped in Europe by a pretty disastrous Champions League campaign, where the Citizens look set for a group stage exit after two draws and two losses in their opening four games. Wednesday’s home loss to CKSA Moscow saw the club sink to new depths, and the fact is that with the resources available to him and the quality of the players at his disposal, Pellegrini should be securing qualification with ease. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan – who owns Manchester City – has ploughed more than £1 billion into the club since he took over, and is understandably expecting a better return for this monumental investment. A quarter-final berth in the Champions League is his minimum requirement, and if Pellegrini fails to deliver, his time may be up.
Odds: Riding strong in second
3. Alan Pardew
If Alan Pardew thought that four successive wins in all competitions – including a League Cup triumph against holders Manchester City at the Etihad – would ease the pressure that has been heaped on his shoulders since the start of the season, the Newcastle United manager should think again. This English thoroughbred has a lot to do before being considered for withdrawal from the sack race, as he remains a deeply unpopular figure on Tyneside. Indeed, were it not for his side’s recent run of good form, this article would never have been commissioned, as Pardew would have won the race by a canter a long time ago. Magpies owner Mike Ashley – much to the dismay of the actual Newcastle supporters – displayed some clemency in the aftermath of his side’s defeat to Stoke in September, backtracking on his alleged claim that a loss would spell the end for Pardew, and so far his act of compassion has paid dividends as his side have been unbeaten since. Nevertheless, one gets the feeling that another outbreak of discontent and mutiny is only just around the corner at St James’ Park, and that it will take quite some time before Pardew can endure even a solitary defeat without furious, widespread appeals for his sacking. The question is not how far Pardew can take the Toon; rather, it is how long can he last?
Odds: Falling behind, but still in contention
The rest of the runners
Paul Lambert – a strong start to the season for Aston Villa has been overshadowed by a dire run of form where goals have been sparse.
Odds: Taking up the rear in the front pack
Harry Redknapp – performances and results were initially bleak, but a newfound determination and a rediscovery of the goal by Charlie Austin gives his QPR side hope of avoiding relegation, and gives him hope of avoiding the sack
Odds: Early pace setter, but starting to run out of steam
Louis van Gaal – the Dutchman has made a worse start to his Manchester United career than did David Moyes last season. He will be afforded more time than his predecessor, but he needs to start picking up consistent results
Odds: Lagging behind, but with potential to spring a surprise. A dark horse.
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