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The Premier League managerial sack race has already claimed two victims this season, with Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino following Watford’s Javi Gracia out of work by losing his job last week. But as December approaches, the positions of several other high-profile managers are becoming increasingly precarious.
Everton’s Marco Silva and Watford’s Quique Sanchez Flores are fighting for survival at Goodison Park and Vicarage Road respectively, while Arsenal’s Unai Emery, West Ham’s Manuel Pellegrini and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are all in need of positive results in the coming weeks to banish fears for their futures.
So who are the most vulnerable managers in the Premier League and what are their prospects of surviving the pressure and holding onto their jobs?
Sack rating: 3 of 5
What’s gone wrong? The Spaniard is now almost 18 months into his reign as Arsenal manager, but there is little sign of progress on the pitch. Defensively, Arsenal remain a mess and their midfield is lacking quality. Without the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored eight in the Premier League this season, Arsenal would be languishing in the bottom half.
Emery’s failure to get the best out of Mesut Ozil and his decision to drop Granit Xhaka and strip him of the captaincy for a clash with supporters have done little to boost his reputation, but it is all about results, and Arsenal haven’t won in the league since Oct. 6.
Can he survive? Arsenal are still in touch with the top four and remain alive in the Europa League, so Champions League qualification remains within their grasp, meaning Emery is at least keeping the team on course for the primary objective.
But supporters have grown unhappy with the Spaniard’s tactics and the team’s results, and the sight of Tottenham sacking Pochettino and hiring Jose Mourinho will have many urging the Arsenal board to show similar ruthlessness. If Emery suffers a defeat in any of his next three league games — at Norwich, home to Brighton and at West Ham — then he will be a in fight for survival.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Sack rating: 2 of 5
What’s gone wrong? Almost a year since replacing Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United are performing worse than they were when the former manager was sacked. United are ninth, nine points adrift of a top-four spot, and have won just four league games all season.
For a club once accustomed to winning major trophies — United never finished outside the Premier League top three under Sir Alex Ferguson — Solskjaer is now on course to post a worse season even than David Moyes, who was sacked weeks before his team finished seventh in 2014.
Can he survive? Pochettino’s availability means that every bad result will prompt inevitable speculation linking the Argentine with Solskjaer’s job, but the Norwegian continues to receive the backing of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Solskjaer’s attempts to rebuild the squad with young, homegrown players is cited as the reason for the hierarchy’s patience, but results have been poor for months and United cannot allow mediocrity to become the norm. But Solskjaer is safe for now, even though results would suggest otherwise.
Sack rating: 5 of 5
What’s gone wrong? The former Hull City and Watford coach has spent almost £180 million on new players since arriving at Everton in the summer of 2018, but there has been little improvement, and the club are hovering just above the relegation zone despite having ambitions of European qualification.
Owner Farhad Moshiri believes Everton can break into the top four with smart investment and coaching, so Silva is under intense pressure to deliver. But four defeats in their past six league games have set alarm bells ringing of a potential relegation battle this season.
Can he survive? The Portuguese must inspire a revival quickly, but Everton’s next two Premier League games are away to the top two — Leicester and Liverpool. Back-to-back defeats in those games and Silva will be lucky to survive in the job. To make matters worse, Everton have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield this century, so if that becomes a must-win game, the odds will be stacked against Silva surviving for much longer.
Quique Sanchez Flores
Sack rating: 5 of 5
What’s gone wrong? Having returned to Watford for a second spell in charge in September, Sanchez Flores has been unable to kick-start the club’s season, and results have gone from bad to worse under the Spaniard. He has inspired Watford to just one win in nine Premier League games so far, and among their four league defeats was the 8-0 humiliation at Manchester City.
Last season’s FA Cup finalists are bottom of the table and they were beaten 3-0 at home by Burnley last time out. Another defeat at second-bottom Southampton this weekend could signal the end, less than three months after taking charge.
Can he survive? Watford’s owners, the Pozzo family, have shown a readiness in the past to dismiss managers when results are going badly, as their decision to sack Javi Gracia after just four league games this season attests. Retaining a Premier League place is regarded as crucial at Watford, so if Flores cannot arrest the slump, he could be gone within the next week.
Sack rating: 4 of 5
What’s gone wrong? Just two wins in 13 league games so far this season have seen Southampton drop into the bottom three, and they go into Saturday’s huge game against bottom club Watford having failed to win in the league since mid-September.
The 9-0 home defeat against Leicester last month, which equalled the record scoreline in the Premier League era, pushed Hasenhuttl close to the edge, but the Austrian has been given the chance to turn the situation around. A failure to hold on to a winning position in stoppage time at Arsenal last Saturday denied the Saints, and Hasenhuttl, a much-needed morale boost.
Can he survive? It is almost a year to the day since Southampton sacked Mark Hughes due to fears of a relegation battle, so the club have form for making a managerial change in midseason. Back then, Saints were third bottom, so they are actually doing worse under Hasenhuttl a year on. A defeat at home to Watford this weekend will send Southampton bottom, and Hasenhuttl will be lucky to survive if that happens.
Sack rating: 3 of 5
What’s gone wrong? The former Manchester City manager appeared to have brought some much-needed stability to West Ham last season, but their ambitious hopes for European qualification this season already look to be over after just three wins in 13 in league games.
Pellegrini has also struggled to connect with the West Ham supporters, who perceive the Chilean to be a distant figure who shows little sense of embracing a club with a strong sense of community spirit. Pellegrini’s tactics and team selection also have done little to endear him to the club’s fans, who have seen the team slide into trouble after a run of just one point from their past six games.
Can he survive? West Ham are hovering above the relegation zone and simply cannot afford to drop out of the Premier League having made the move to the London Stadium three years ago, so if results continue to go badly, Pellegrini’s position will come under increasing scrutiny. The next three games — Chelsea and Wolves away, followed by Arsenal at home — will be make or break, and Pellegrini needs his team to bank at least four points from those fixtures.