Many consider the Premier League the pinnacle of club football globally. Fans argue it is the most competitive, fast paced and combative league in the world. Each team is rife with world class talent, managerial expertise and stadiums with unparalleled atmospheres and passionate fanbases. Who wouldn’t want to manage a team in the English Premier League?
Astonishingly, the Premier League broke a single-season record in 2022/23, a less than favorable one. Premier League clubs sacked 12 this season already. Reminder, there are still eight games left for most clubs.
Now, what do all but three of these Premier League managers sacked have in common? The clubs that fired their managers are either doing the same OR worse than they were under the managers they dismissed. The three exceptions to this rule are Aston Villa under Emery, Everton under Dyche and Palace under Hodgson.
Explaining the manager epidemic
There is a new era of capital injections into the premier league. Foreign ownership, especially, has led to the steady trend of monetizing the league, teams and players. Consequently, turnover within clubs ramps up with more frequency. In many cases, clubs did not need to sack these managers. Others you could make a case for, sure. Finally, some of these coaches probably should not have had their specific Premier League position to begin.
Regardless, the heightened emphasis on success, and early success, at that, means it is a business of points. Points becomes money, and that can often be the knife’s edge. If profit margins aren’t met, heads roll in this new age of football corporatocracy.
Managers in the past received time to build their projects. Boards and owners understood it takes months, if not years, to build a cohesive team, playing style and identity under a manager’s tutelage. Results come with time, just like injections of cash from TV deals and advertising deals.
In the modern game, it is rare you see a manager given the time, financial backing, trust and belief they need to sculpt a team into their vision. Alex Ferguson, Arsense Wenger and others had more time at the wheel. Arsenal and Manchester United delivered success. Ferguson had three seasons outside the top 10 in the English top flight to start at United.
There is a chance some of the managers of the modern era were in a similar boat. But, based on the need for results, they did not have their potential unfold. Mikel Arteta at Arsenal comes to mind. Many clubs would have sacked him after a tough first few years. Yet, he remained, leading Arsenal to the brink of a Premier League title.
The Premier League managers sacked in 2021/22
Rewind to August. Fans buzzed for the restart of the new Premier League season. Promoted teams buoyed with a sense of optimism in their return to the Premier League. The “top six” were looking forward to a season of potential trophy challenges and European glory. Hope was in the air, and fans, managers and players alike couldn’t keep the smiles off their faces.
1. The first domino
By August 30, just five games in, the first managerial casualty occurred. Scott Parker, the manager of Bournemouth, was sacked after a 9-0 shocker against Liverpool. Many spoke out in protest of the sacking; they were only five games into the season. Yes an absolute calamity of a result, but fortunes could have turned quite quickly. Gary O’Neil was appointed head coach, and Bournemouth are still battling relegation. Currently, Bournemouth is in 15th after three wins in five games.
2. Tuchel Taps out
Just one week later, one of the highest profile dismissals of the whole season occurred. Chelsea, under Todd Boehly’s new reign, fired serial winner Thomas Tuchel on September 7. This came after a 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, and a string of poor domestic form. This decision received a huge amount of backlash from not only Chelsea supporters, but players, managers, fans and pundits. Tuchel won the Champions League with Chelsea just 15 months prior.
He had been given a massive war chest for summer spending. He spent a whopping $310 million. How could a club invest so much in one manager’s vision, and then fire him before they could see the very expensive project come to full fruition? Tuchel was subsequently replaced by Graham Potter after a wonderful stint at Brighton Hove & Albion. There, he built up his name and prestige as a top manager in England. Quite comically, Tuchel arguably upgraded to Bayern Munich, while Chelsea are without a manager and sitting in eleventh.
3. Third time lucky
The next casualty was Bruno Lage of Wolverhampton Wanderers. He was sacked on October 2, after a loss to relegation rivals West Ham United. Julen Lopetegui, former Real Madrid, Spain and Sevilla manager, arrived to try and turn around the clubs fortunes.
He has not. Wolves are in 13th place, but the club is just four points above the drop.
4. Bye bye Stevie
Less than three weeks later, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool legend and cult managerial hero of Scottish club Rangers FC was fired by Aston Villa on October 20. Villa may be the only success story of the clubs to hire new managers in the middle of the season. In stepped Europa League specialist and astute tactician Unai Emery. Villa’s fortunes completely transformed, With Emery’s tactical discipline and gamesmanship propping the club. Quickly out of the relegation battle, Villa now eyes a European spot, with four-straight wins launching the club into sixth.
5. Goodbye Ralph (and goodbye Southampton?)
After keeping Southampton safely afloat in the Premier League for four years, the Saints dismissed Ralph Hasenhüttl November 6. Considering the minimal financial resources at his disposal and the limited personnel available to him during his tenure, Ralph had worked wonders keeping Southampton comfortably in the EPL. Nathan Jones took over, but we’ll get to him in a second.
6. Everton frank with their verdict, dismiss Lampard
After a miraculous escape from relegation under Frank Lampard in the 2021/22 season, Everton started the 2022/23 season well. Comfortably in the middle of the pack, Everton had a resolute defense. However, results started to slip, and eventually the relegation battle beckoned. After 20 games, Everton sat in 19th, and Frank was promptly dismissed on January 23. Sean Dyche, an escape artist with Burnley on several occasions, arrived at Goodison. The former Burnley manager improved Merseyside results. Now, Everton sits in 17th place, level with Nottingham Forest, but owning a better goal differential. This appointment feels like only the second case that seems like it could pan out to be a successful decision by the club involved.
7. It’s football Jesse, not Soccer
Leeds assembled a squad eerily reminiscent of the USMNT with Tyler Adams, Brendon Aaronson and Weston McKennie. Yet, the club sacked fellow American Jesse Marsch on February 6. At the time, the club languished in the relegation scrap. It only had 18 points after 20 games in the league. Javi Gracia stepped in on February 21. Form has been inconsistent, with Leeds just a pair of points above Forest in 18. Yet, for a time, Marsch looked like a candidate to replace other Premier League managers sacked.
8. Southampton can’t find their saint
Nathan Jones may go down in history as one of the worst managers ever in the Premier League. Lasting just 3 months, he managed eight league games. In that run, Southampton picked up one point. The epitome, and final nail in Jones’s coffin, was a 2-1 loss to Wolves. In the game, Southampton led, and Wolves only had 10 men. Southampton appointed Ruben Selles as his successor, with Southampton rooted to the bottom of the table.
9. Palace decide geriatrics are the answer
Perhaps the worst of the Premier League managers sacked so far, Crystal Palace decided to fire Patrick Viera on March 17. He had managed the team well over the 2021/22 season and into the 2023 season. Yet, a poor run of form with a 12-game winless run led Palace into the relegation battle. But let’s be honest. Palace are always drawn into the relegation battle in February and March. Then, it strings together a few results and somehow always manage to finish mid-table, typically 12th.
To make matters worse, they appointed 75 year old and former manager Roy Hodgson. Very strange from the Palace hierarchy. Palace sit in 12th, no surprise there, six points off the relegation places.
10. Even Antonio Conte struggles at Spurs
The 15-year trophy drought continues for Tottenham Hotspur. Antonio Conte replaced another serial winner, Jose Mourinho. Although he managed to steer Spurs back into the champions league in 2021/22, Tottenham have underachieved this season, sitting in 5th. However, United and Newcastle have three more points and a game in hand on Spurs. Champions League qualification looks improbable.
After a furious and astonishing rant about the club’s atmosphere, ambition, hierarchy and player mentality following the 3-3 draw with Spurs, it seemed more likely than not Conte would be dismissed. It is quite clear, the managers aren’t the issue at Tottenham, the club hierarchy is.
11. What does the Fox Say? “Bye, Brendan”
Entering his fifth year at the helm of Leicester City, Brendan Rodgers’ time at the club can be viewed as a steady success. They won their first ever FA cup under him, and finished in the top-10 four times. However, results began to deteriorate this year, with the Foxes sitting in 19th place, 2 points from safety. A 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace under Hodgson in his first game back at the helm was the final curtain call, and Rodgers was dismissed. Adam Sadler and Mike Stowell, both long-time coaches under Rodgers, are in charge for the interim. We will see if their fortunes turn, but yet again it seems like another premature dismissal.
12. Even with all that cash, Graham can’t do it
Finally, after a run of seven wins in 22 games under Graham Potter and with Chelsea sitting in 11th, Potter is the latest of the Premier League managers sacked. If given time, maybe he would have come good. But at the end of the day, would he have been better than Tuchel? The chaotic story of Chelsea under Boehly looks set for further chapters of mayhem, and lots of money.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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