Who Will Be the First Sacked Manager in the English Premier League?

By Jerry Summer in Sports
| August 14, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Mark Hughes and Fired Sign

Once upon a time, the clubs in English soccer had a lot of patience for their managers. Each of them was given the time to work with the squad and implement his ideas, even if the results weren’t exactly going their way.

As the game became more and more commercial, the pressure to perform instantly became enormous. This is the reason we see plenty of managers sacked during the season every single year.

Sometimes it works well; sometimes it doesn’t. There are arguments for both approaches, but this won’t the subject of this post.

Instead, I will try to explore the betting market that gives you the chance to place a wager on the next manager to be sacked in the English Premier League.

As it stands, the season has just started, and we’re one game in. It’s really early, but we already know there are a couple of clubs in which the position of the manager is not exactly secure.

I will try to predict who are the most likely to get sacked and see if there is the option to place a bet on them at a juicy price.

Before I proceed, I would like to clarify that I will mostly be talking about managers who will be fired, but the betting market does include those who will leave on their own. This rarely happens, though, so my focus will be on the sacking option.

But first, let’s take a look at the main criteria that suggests a certain manager could lose his job.

Reasons to Believe a Manager Might Get the Sack

There are certain traits, even before the season has started, that a certain manager’s job is in danger. Some of them are obvious, while others are more subtle. Let’s take a look at them.

Tension Between Board and Manager

Since the board of a certain club or the owner (or both) will make the decision to sack the manager, this one is quite obvious. If there is some tension between the two sides, that’s never a good sign.

There are plenty of options here. For a start, the board could be unhappy with the results from the previous season. Or the manager might be unsatisfied with the transfer activity on the market and the squad at his disposal.

Either way, if some kind of conflict exists, it’s obviously a sign that a certain manager might be sacked relatively early.

Tension Between Supporters and Manager

The supporters are the ones who are paying to watch the team, buying merchandise, and actually paying the bill at the end. They don’t have a direct way to influence the decisions of the club, but there are other mechanisms.

If they don’t like the manager for some reason, they always find a way to show it. Whether it will be through planes, protests, or by boycotting home games, it doesn’t really matter.

Once a manager loses the crowd, the situation gets extremely complicated, and it’s hard to win it back. It could easily become the reason for his departure from a certain club and should always be considered when looking at this betting market.

Tension Between Players and Manager

That’s another typical situation. When the manager no longer has the backing of the locker room, the situation might get ugly. There are constant scandals in the press, the players are not always at their best, and the performance of the team suffers dramatically.

If the conflict is between the manager and one or two players, he could end up staying at the club. However, if there are more squad members who don’t want to play for the manager, the board might be forced to sack him.

At the end of the day, it’s easier to replace one man than an entire team.

New Ownership

Nowadays, we see changes in the ownership of soccer clubs all the time, especially in the Premier League. It’s a matter of prestige, but it’s also an exceptional business opportunity, and many trusts or rich individuals are on the hunt for English clubs.

When a deal is completed, this usually creates an entirely new environment. Sometimes, the new owner and the manager might not click. In other cases, the owner has a plan to appoint someone else on day 1.

Either way, if there is a change in the board or the owner of a certain club, this easily could lead to a change in the management as well.

History of the Club

Traditions still matter in English soccer, and there are some clubs that are more conservative than others. They are known for giving the manager more time to install his ideas and work with the players, as opposed to teams who are sacking their managers on a regular basis.

A good example of a patient club is Arsenal, and I can’t see Unai Emery getting sacked unless the results are disastrous.

At the same time, you can take a look at Swansea, who changed the manager countless times in the past couple of seasons.

Ambitions and Potential of the Club

This one is a bit subjective, but it plays a huge role. If the board and the supporters have certain expectations, and the squad is simply not good enough to meet them, the manager is often doomed to fail.

For example, no club in the Premier League expects to get relegated, but certain sides simply don’t have enough quality to stay in the top tier of English soccer. If that’s the case, the manager can’t do much. His team is bound to have a bad streak at some point, and the most likely victim is the man at the helm.

I always try to identify clubs where there is a substantial difference between the expectations and the potential. If such exist, the manager will be in a tough spot to start with, and many underestimate such cases.

Bad Results/Tough Schedule

The list so far has consisted mostly of more general circumstances that could lead to the sacking of a manager. However, the season has already started, so even if you could find one or more of the problems above in a certain club, things haven’t reached the boiling point, and the manager still has the backing of the board.

This is where the results of the side come into play. A good streak and a solid performance on the pitch could fix almost everything. At the same time, a couple of bad games could easily escalate the situation and end in a sacking of a certain manager.

As a result, I believe the schedule of each team in the first couple of months of the season should always play a part in the analysis when taking a shot at this betting market.

Main Candidates and Betting Odds

You now know my main criteria for picking a manager that might be sacked soon. It’s time to take a look at the main candidates for this unfortunate fate and the odds available.

Claude Puel – Leicester City4.00
Jose Mourinho – Manchester United7.00
Javi Gracia – Watford7.00
Rafa Benitez – Newcastle9.00
Neil Warnock – Cardiff City9.00
Mark Hughes – Southampton13.00

Claude Puel

It’s weird how the French manager of Leicester City is the favorite to get sacked, especially if you look at the final rankings of last season. The club finished in the respectable 9th position, which is more than decent, considering the potential it has.

Sure, the perception might be skewed after the miraculous league title a couple of years ago, but to expect more than a mid-table finish is certainly not realistic.

And yet, certain players and supporters were not happy with Puel’s work last year, and there were rumors that he will be sacked.

There’s certainly tension in Leicester, but the club did well in the transfer market.

A quick look at the fixture list shows a bunch of tricky games in the next 5-6 weeks or so. Leicester will face Wolves, Liverpool, and Huddersfield at home, as well as Southampton, Bournemouth, and Newcastle away.

If you exclude the team from Merseyside, all of the other matches are against opposition that is worse than Leicester, at least on paper. And yet, that doesn’t guarantee anything. If Puel doesn’t manage to stay at least in the middle of the table after 7-8 rounds, he certainly could be going.

On top of that, the Leicester City board has been impatient in the past couple of years. Even Claudio Ranieri, who brought the title, was sacked after a string of bad results.

Claude Puel certainly ticks many of the boxes, and this is why he is the main favorite of the bookies to get the sack first. And yet, I feel that he has a decent chance to get some points early on and improve his position.

This is why the price of 4.00 for Puel to become the first manager to lose his job is not good enough.

Jose Mourinho

Some might be surprised to see Jose Mourinho second on the bookies’ shortlist, but I’m not among them. If you take a look at my recent title preview, you will see that the atmosphere surrounding the Portuguese is intense.

He has certainly lost some of the players, he lost a lot of the supporters, and no one knows what could happen. On top of that, Jose is not happy with the transfers in the summer and his final squad.

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho – Manager of Manchester United

We’ve seen him in a certain position before, and it never ends well. Mourinho is not capable of staying quiet, so I feel he will be throwing punches around every time the team doesn’t perform. He will blame everyone else but himself.

As with Puel, I’m not entirely sure that the schedule will help the Portuguese. On the surface, the games against Brighton, Burnley, and West Ham are all winnable, but they are all away from Old Trafford. At the same time, the two home games by the end of September are against Tottenham and Wolves.

The supporters and the board will expect good results, but the fixture list is not that kind. By the time the international break in mid-September comes, the situation could be on the edge. United will play Brighton and Burnley away, as well as Tottenham at home.

If the side doesn’t win at least 6 points in those games, Jose will be in a tough spot.

In my opinion, the possibility of seeing Jose Mourinho gone this season is real. However, Manchester United has been patient towards the last couple of managers. Even the likes of Moyes and Louis van Gaal received a lot of backing.

Unless the players turn on Mourinho, I don’t think he will be the first EPL manager to go. This is why I won’t be touching that bet, even if the price is 7.00.

Javi Gracia

It’s curious to see Javi Gracia as a manager who could lose his job. Watford had a strong to desire to get him, which is the reason many people believe he will be given the time to take the side forward. On paper, there’s no tension with the board, the players, or the supporters.

The team started the season with a 2-0 win against Brighton at home, so it looks good right now. And yet, the price for Gracia to get sacked is 7.00, on par with Mourinho and behind only Claude Puel.

I can easily see the logic behind this, and I don’t expect much from Watford this season. In fact, they are my value pick for a team to get relegated for a couple of reasons.

The first of them is related to the squad at Gracia’s disposal. It badly lacks balance. The defense is one of the worst in the league, while the side depends on a bunch of inconsistent players up front. The incoming transfers were largely of players who have no EPL experience and are of an unproven quality.

This is the recipe of a disaster, and the fixture list is not particularly kind, either. Watford will play Burnley away and Palace at home before a string of games against Tottenham (H), Manchester United (H), Fulham (A), and Arsenal (A).

I can easily see the side in the relegation zone at the start of October, and the pressure could start piling. This is why the price of 7.00 for Gracia to get sacked is certainly worth considering.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez has the backing of the Newcastle supporters, and the players are behind him, too. However, the owner, Mike Ashley, has proven that no manager could work properly in his club, and there’s always tension surrounding Newcastle.

According to most rumors, Rafa Benitez had a list of players he wanted at his disposal. It was completely ignored, and the manager now has to work with a couple of new signings that could very well end up as a bust each.

On top of that, Newcastle’s fixture list is one of the worst, if not the worst in the league. The side already lost against Tottenham and will face Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal in the next 4 games. The only somewhat bright light is the away game against Cardiff, which very well could be a problem, too.

And yet, I feel that owner Mike Ashley won’t sack Benitez, and the fans won’t turn against him. He will have the time to turn it around, and in my opinion, the Spaniard will keep Newcastle in the league.

If he survives the initial onslaught, he should be fine. Despite the terrible schedule, I feel Benitez won’t be the first to go and will ignore the otherwise solid price of 9.00.

Neil Warnock

Despite some decent deals on the last day of the transfer window, Cardiff City remains the worst team in the EPL, at least on paper. The Welsh side simply doesn’t have enough quality or quantity, and life in the top soccer division in England will be a nightmare for Neil Warnock and his boys.

Neil Warnock

Neil Warnock – Manager of Welsh side Cardiff City

The early schedule is mixed, to be honest. After losing to Bournemouth on the opening day, Cardiff has a solid chance of getting some points against Newcastle away and Huddersfield away. The next three opponents are Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man City before the match against Burnley at home.

I certainly think that Cardiff City will be in trouble for most of the season, and the start could be tough as well. And yet, I don’t think the expectations are high, and Warnock has a good relationship with the board, the players, and the supporters.

He might lose his job eventually, but I don’t expect him to be the first manager to do so. This is the reason the price of 9.00 is not high enough for me.

Mark Hughes

Southampton is a club known for selling its best players and losing top managers on a regular basis. And somehow, the team always stays in good health and finishes in the middle of the table. At least until last year, when the Saints barely avoided the drop and were 17th at the end of the year.

I would say their transfer business in the summer left me with mixed feelings. They lost a great player like Tadic and bought a couple of players that are a bit of a gamble, either because of their age, like Mohamed Elyounoussi, their injury record, like Danny Ings, or the lack of EPL experience like pretty much the rest of the signings.

There are a lot of question marks around the team, and this is the reason the bookies see Mark Hughes as a somewhat endangered manager. I completely agree with such an assessment, and I even feel it could be worse than expected. However, there are two things that work in his favor.

For a start, the man has plenty of EPL experience and has managed a lot of clubs with a similar potential. Hughes has been rather successful most of the time and knows how to achieve a respectable finish.

More importantly, he will have a good fixture list to work with, at least on paper. The Saints will face Everton (A), Leicester (H), Crystal Palace (A), Brighton (H), Liverpool (A), and Wolves (A).

The way I see it, there are two options here. In the first one, Southampton does a decent job, gets some points, and Hughes is safe, at least for the first couple of months.

The second one includes close to no points from the away games and 1-3 from the matches at home. There are early indications this could be the case, as Southampton’s first game was a lackluster 0-0 at home against Burnley.

With their best attacking player gone and many of the new signings not contributing yet, it could be a disaster for Southampton. Hughes might manage to keep the ship steady, but the price of him getting the sack first is 13.00.

That’s too big to ignore, as the expectations of the board and the crowd certainly don’t match the potential of the team at his disposal.

The Rest of the Bunch

I think that the likes of Guardiola, Klopp, Pochettino, Sarri, and Emery won’t lose their job this season, whatever happens. Others like Sean Dyche, Roy Hodgson, Eddie Howe, Nuno Santo, and Slavisa Jokanovic will probably finish the season as well. They are all highly unlikely to become the first EPL manager to go.

Chris Hughton, Manuel Pellegrini, and Marco Silva each have a squad that should be too good, so I will leave them aside, too.

This leaves one more man in the equation, and this is the manager of Huddersfield Town, David Wagner.

The price for David Wagner to be the first man sacked is 21.00. This looks tempting at first glance, but I don’t see enough reasons to expect him to go. The atmosphere in the club is healthy, he kept them in the league last season, and the fixture list is rather kind.

Even if Wagner is sacked at some point of the season, I don’t think he will be the first manager to see the door.


As you can see, I feel there are two good options when it comes to the first manager to go. In my opinion, Javi Gracia and Mark Hughes simply won’t be able to cope with the expectations of the supporters and the board.

They don’t have the players to do so, and the fixture list won’t help, either. This is why the prices of 7.00 for Gracia and 14.00 for Hughes represent good value.

Of course, things could quickly go wrong for any of the other managers on this list, so I recommend you stay in touch with the latest events. A couple of defeats in a row might be enough to see someone go.

What do you think? Who will be the first manager to leave in the English Premier League? Let me know in the comments section below.



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