As we leave the last international break of 2021, we are just over a quarter of the way through the season and a quarter of the managers who have started the season are no longer with us. Gameweek 12 will begin with three new managers, who have the remaining 26 games to impose themselves and salvage their respective seasons.
Xisco Muñoz (Watford FC), Steve Bruce (Newcastle United), Nuno Espírito Santo (Tottenham Hotspurs), Dean Smith (Aston Villa) and Daniel Farke (Norwich) have all been given the sack as of the time of writing.
This is the highest number of sackings for 17 years and it begs the question, is this a systemic issue or coalescing of unique situations at various clubs which has led to this unique situation.
Xisco was the first to go on 3rd October. His sacking was early in the season, and I suspect was due to the fact Xisco was not considered the manager the team wanted to lead their Premier League campaign. He was swiftly replaced by Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri who masterminded a 5-2 comeback at Everton in his second match and give Watford a very key 3 points.
After that, Bruce was the next to go on 20th October. At the time Newcastle were yet to win a game, however, the immediate cause was the recent takeover by the Saudi led ownership group who decided that the former Manchester United defender was not the man to lead their new project. In addition, Bruce represented the last mark of the unpopular Ashley regime, and it made sense to sack him. In a sense, his sacking represented a palate cleanse, regardless of the poor results.
After a protracted search Newcastle chose Eddie Howe as the man to lead their new project. Lauded for his attacking style with Bournemouth he is expected to get the most out of Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin.
November began with the sacking of Nuno from Spurs. The Portuguese manager had managed to win 50% of his games in the league and even won August manager of the month. Despite that, performances had been uninspiring, and the fans were beginning to turn on him. Being the club’s 4th or 5th choice during the summer meant that he was never highly regarded by Daniel Levy to begin with and the chance to hire Antonio Conte was too good to pass up.
With the international break looming Farke and Smith were quickly dispatched. Farke had finally won a game after 20 Premier League games, but the Norwich board must have decided that after a shambolic start to the season there was no reason to continue with Farke. Norwich were headed for another relegation and the board needed to make a change. It was the most understandable of all the sackings.
Aston Villa were the last of this group to fire their manager. After spending close to £100m in consecutive seasons, the Villains have invested massively in their playing squad and 10 points from 11 games is not good enough. A 5-game losing streak was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Smith was relieved of his duties.
After a quick search Norwich chose to hire the recently unemployed Dean Smith who has a fan in the current sporting director. In fact, he had been one of the finalists for the Huddersfield job a few years back but a strong interview left a good impression and helped him land the job.
His replacement Steven Gerrard has joined from Rangers. After breaking the decade long dominance of their city rivals Celtic. Gerrard is considered one of the most promising young British managers and will hoping to prove himself at a higher level.
Apart from Xisco, we can reasonably argue that every manager on this list was not meeting expectations and/or doing a poor job. With the amount of investment and revenue that the Premier League brings, topflight football has become more high stakes than ever meaning that managers have a shorter and shorter rope. Past achievements mean less in the face of immediate failure and the inability to meet key targets have far-reaching implications in terms of revenue, sponsorship, and transfer targets.
Clubs are less reluctant to pull the trigger in search of the riches that modern football brings. This is a bad thing for managers and players but with fans more vocal than ever and margins finer than they have ever been, we will see more sackings by the time the season is over.