With international competition set to commence next weekend, European soccer leagues worldwide shut down play to accommodate these upcoming matches. This break in play affords team management the time to review the results of the season thus far and to prepare for the next round of matches. In some cases, strategies and field formations are tweaked. However, where success has been elusive, management takes a look at the manager and whether a change in field leadership is needed.
While a decade ago a managerial change in the EPL was almost unheard of at this stage of the season, it is no longer uncommon. Think back to last year at this time, when the Jose Mourinho count-down had already begun. After seven matches have been played in the EPL this season, no team wants to find itself either in or near the relegation zone with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Let’s take a look at the managers who would do well to be updating their resume and having their bags packed if/when their sacking occurs.
Francesco Guidolin (Swansea City) – With one win in their first seven matches, the Swans find themselves one point out of the relegation zone. While other teams have been quietly evaluating their progress, Swansea management have had scheduled talks with possible managerial replacements. While insisting that nothing has been decided upon, conventional wisdom would dictate otherwise.
With names of prospective managers ranging from Welshman Ryan Giggs to former United States skipper Bob Bradley, it seems as though a lot of effort has been exerted in the interview process. Mr. Guidolin might want to check airfares to his home in Italy, since has publicly acknowledged his precarious situation. When the Swans kick off their next match at the Emirates on October 15, expect Swansea City to have a new manager on the field as we say ciao to Guidolin.
David Moyes (Sunderland) – When Sam Allardyce left the Black Cats to take the helm of the England national team in July, Sunderland had to scramble to find a suitable replacement with three weeks remaining until the start of the EPL season. At the time, management found the man they felt was the most qualified available manager in David Moyes.
While he was sacked by Manchester United in 2014, he achieved a degree of success during his twelve-year tenure at Everton while being afforded limited financial resources by the management at Goodison Park. Fast-forward to his current situation, and Sunderland finds itself at the bottom of the table with two points in their first seven matches.
Clearly aware of his situation, Moyes made five changes to his starting lineup and squeezed out a point in his most recent match against West Brom, but the boos by the faithful at the Stadium of Light were clearly heard when the referees’ whistle ended the game. Management has publicly stated that they still support their current manager. While that might be true, the man who pulled the Black Cats out of the relegation abyss last season (Sam Allardyce) is currently available and a fan favorite of the Sunderland supporters. After his resignation from the Three Lions, Allardyce has stated that he is still interested in a managerial opportunity should one present itself. While Moyes seems to have the support of management, Sunderland has found itself on the precipice of relegation too often in the last few seasons, and might not wait too long before pulling the plug on the Welshman. Even if David Moyes survives the bye week, if there is not a marked improvement in the table for Sunderland, expect Moyes to be spending the holidays at home in Wales.
Mike Phelan (Hull City) – Since earning promotion to the Premier League at the end of last season, the Tigers have found themselves on a roller coaster. With the ownership of the team in a state of flux and his own situation tenuous at best, veteran manager Steve Bruce resigned in late July. Current caretaker-manager Mike Phelan had achieved early success but has been winless in his last three matches while publicly pushing for a permanent contract and a resolution of his temporary status.
Owner Assem Allam has had the club up for sale since 2014 and it was expected that a deal would be struck with a consortium from China and Hong Kong. After paying a deposit of seven figures, the period of exclusivity has ended without a deal in place. With reports rampant that the consortium failed to meet the Premier League’s owners’ test, it appears that the soap opera that is Hull City will continue. Should current manager Phelan be given a contract, it is clear that any change of ownership would afford them the flexibility to either retain or cut current staff. After losing their last three matches and finding themselves only three points clear of the relegation zone, it would seem that Mr. Phelan will be looking for work elsewhere in the not-too-distant future.
Mark Hughes (Stoke City) – Finding themselves mired in the next-to-bottom position of the EPL table, it is hard to understand why the Potters are off to such an abysmal start. It was thought that acquiring Swiss international midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and striker Wilfried Bony (on loan from Manchester City) would provide some much-needed offensive firepower up front. But after the first seven games of the season, Stoke City has the worst goal differential in the league. Their normally calm manager, Mark Hughes, was sent to the stands earlier in the season and charged with misconduct by the Football Association.
With three points in their first seven games, the Potter supporters are known for their patience, but their season has provided little encouragement. While Bony has asked Potter supporters to keep the faith on his Instagram page. rumors of discord in the locker room have surfaced between Bony and other team members. This, of course, fuels the rumors that the manager has lost control of the locker room, never a positive sign for managerial continuity. And lurking in the shadows speculation regarding Steve Bruce, former Hull City manager. Currently seeking employment, many believe he would be the right guy at the helm for the Potters. With Hughes a veteran manager, it is possible that Stoke City might wait a bit longer hoping for a change of fortune. If, however, their season shows little improvement, one would expect to see Hughes, like Moyes, enjoying the holidays at home in Wales.