EPL 2017/18: 5 early contenders for the sack race
If there’s one thing that every Premier League season guarantees – outside of jaw-dropping action that is – it’s the continuation of the managerial merry-go-round. Whether it’s a big name being shockingly fired or a hapless manager at a lower-level club being put out of his misery, you can bet your life that at least one Premier League manager will win the infamous “sack race”.
The first boss to go in 2016/17 was Swansea’s Francesco Guidolin, and he was later joined by Alan Pardew of Crystal Palace, Bob Bradley also of Swansea, Mike Phelan of Hull City, Claudio Ranieri of Leicester City, Aitor Karanka of Middlesbrough, and Walter Mazzarri of Watford. Even the close season saw a sacking as Claude Puel was dispatched by Southampton.
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With the 2017/18 campaign just five weeks away, the speculation has to start now – who will be the first Premier League manager to lose his job? Surprisingly this season, I feel that a lot of the bigger names are likely safe. There are still some likely candidates though and here are five of them.
#5 Craig Shakespeare
This one might sound left-field but the facts speak for themselves. Sure, Craig Shakespeare has only been in the hot seat at Leicester since February, and he’s also done a relatively good job – the 2015/16 Premier League champions were in trouble when he was appointed as caretaker manager, but he inspired a turnaround in form that saw them win five in a row. They finished in a comfortable 12th and also made the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League. But look a little further and you wonder if Shakespeare is really safe.
Well, the treatment of Claudio Ranieri shows that Leicester’s Asian owners can be ruthless if on-field events call for it. Nobody expected Ranieri, who had delivered a miracle in leading the Foxes to the Premier League title, to be fired even when the side’s form dipped badly, but it turned out to be the correct move based on what happened next.
And although Shakespeare did well, to begin with, his last few results weren’t great – just one point from the last three games and a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Tottenham.
Historically too, caretakers who step into the main role are never truly safe. They often take charge of an unhappy dressing room and turn it around, only to find themselves out of their depth in the following season. We saw this with Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea in 2012 – the Italian led the Blues to the Champions League title but a bad start to the next season saw him fired, and a similar thing happened to Tim Sherwood at Tottenham as he started in excellent form but soon slipped up and lost his job.
The beginning of the season then is crucial for Shakespeare. Make a bad start – in the same way the Foxes ended last season – and it could be curtains for the former caretaker.