With the first international break in full swing, some Premier League clubs will be disappointed with their start to the season. History tells us that this will lead to the first managerial change shortly; last season, Frank De Boer was dismissed by Crystal Palace on September 11th after just four games in charge. The year before, Swansea parted ways with Francesco Guidolin on October 3rd. Last Word on Football looks at which Premier League manager may be first to depart, including Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho.
Which Premier League Manager Will Be First to Leave?
Manuel Pellegrini’s appointment was greeted with excitement by West Ham fans after David Moyes’ uninspiring tenure. He oversaw vast changes to the squad over the summer, with spending in excess of £90 million. Expectations were, therefore, high heading into the campaign. This has made their start to the season even more disappointing, losing all four games. Most alarmingly were their poor performances and results at home against Wolves and Bournemouth.
The influx of new signings are yet to gel, with West Ham looking disjointed and ill-prepared so far this season. Whilst this is to be expected with a large number of additions to the squad, whether the board are willing to give Pelligrini time to correct this remains to be seen. With a high wage bill and the recent move to the Olympic Stadium, relegation would be a disaster for West Ham. The board acted swiftly last season, dismissing the popular Slaven Bilic in November. Pellegrini may find himself under huge pressure if his side doesn’t improve quickly after the break.
It has been impossible to avoid the drama surrounding Jose Mourinho at the start of this season. During pre-season, the Manchester United manager publicly criticised a lack of signings and Anthony Martial’s decision to return home from their tour for the birth of his child. Since the season-opening win against Leicester, United have lost twice, most notably an embarrassing home defeat against Tottenham. After this defeat came Mourinho’s lowest moment, a bizarre press conference in which he demanded respect from the press.
Much has been made of Mourinho’s ‘third season syndrome’. At Real Madrid, Mourinho’s third season was a disaster; Madrid finished 15 points behind Barcelona, crashed out of the Champions League semi-finals and lost the Copa Del Ray final to Atletico Madrid. Mourinho also fell out with key players such as Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo. His position was untenable and he left after the end of his third season. Shortly after his dismissal, Mourinho rejoined Chelsea, proclaiming himself ‘the happy one’. Initial success resulted in Chelsea winning the league in his second season. Despite this, just seven months later, with Chelsea a point above the relegation zone, Mourinho was dismissed. Mourinho’s final season with Chelsea mirrors the current one; in pre-season, he spoke frequently about his frustration with lack of signings and he criticised players, staff and refereeing throughout the season.
It is clear, therefore, why some see Mourinho’s third season at United ending prematurely. However, after rewarding Mourinho with a new contract in January, United will be reluctant to move on. Mourinho has been more supportive of his players in the media, recognising the importance of avoiding a fragmented changing room. Mourinho has been particularly praising of Luke Shaw. This represents a significant change from last season. More importantly for Mourinho, United will be keen to avoid another managerial change, as they seek continuity for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The Newcastle board are highly unlikely to sack the popular Rafa Benitez this season. The fans adore Benitez, who has worked on a shoestring budget. However, the lack of backing with signings has left Benitez frustrated and has put even more strain on his relationship with owner Mike Ashley. Benitez refused to sign a new contract over the summer, seeking reassurances regarding support in the transfer market.
However, support did not arrive and Newcastle ended the transfer window with a net profit of more than £10 million. The only other club to end the window with a profit was Watford, thanks largely to Richarlison’s transfer. Michael Owen remains the club’s record signing, a fact symbolic of the lack of investment. Despite this, Newcastle have started the season with good performances. Newcastle have been unfortunate against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, losing narrowly. Benitez’s frustrations with the ownership could see him jump ship should an opportunity elsewhere come up.
Neil Warnock is one of the bookies’ favourites to be first to leave, despite working miracles last season. A string of signings from Championship sides indicated that Cardiff may be happy to accept the possibility of relegation. Whilst this may seem a strange strategy, this would leave them in a good position to regain promotion next season, with a stronger squad capable of competing in the Premier League. Burnley took this approach with Sean Dyche in 2014/15, when they finished 19th but secured immediate promotion the following season. Should Cardiff’s board decide to make a change, Warnock could be facing pressure soon.
After an opening day victory followed by a spirited loss to Liverpool, Crystal Palace seemed to be building on a strong end to last season. However, back-to-back poor performances have marred this effort. Roy Hodgson has enough experience and expertise to turn around Palace’s form. Should Palace continue to struggle after the international break, chairman Steve Parish may react quickly again.
Since leaving Blackburn, Mark Hughes has made a managerial career out of achieving mediocrity with medium-sized clubs. He earned a long-term contract after securing Southampton’s Premier League survival, but must now change their uninspiring style of play. Fans grew disillusioned under Mauricio Pellegrino’s dull football and Hughes is under pressure to improve the style of play and results. An average start to the season and a tough run of fixtures could see Hughes under pressure should neither the results or quality of football change.