The bookmakers were kind enough to put the ‘next Premier League manager to be sacked’ markets on hold while there was no football. But as soon as things start moving again, these are the five bosses in big trouble…
Dean Smith (Aston Villa)
Four straight defeats including a 4-0 shellacking by Leicester and a gut-wrenching defeat at Southampton that left the manager – in his own words – feeling “embarrassment with the performance”. But the buck has to stop with Smith, who identifies, coaches and then picks those players. And too often this season Villa have been a defensive shambles that makes a mockery of the £50m-plus that was spent on that shoddy defence’s overhaul.
In total, Villa have spent £140m and although a small squad demanded significant investment, there’s no doubt that they have spent the kind of money that should have insured them against being slap-bang in the middle of a relegation battle. They have been unlucky with injuries – John McGinn’s absence has been keenly felt – but Smith has still come up awful short this season. While Chris Wilder had glided on the surface, Smith has drowned.
Is it too late to call Sam Allardyce?
Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)
He escapes any real censure because he is lovely Eddie Howe managing little Bournemouth on a tiny budget but if you finish 14th, lose no key players, bring in five first-teamers and then find yourself in the relegation zone, then questions really should be asked. And loudly. And those questions should get louder with every away defeat – the Cherries have logged six of those in a row. Has the marriage between Howe and Bournemouth finally gone stale?
Again, injuries offer some mitigation for this season’s slump, but for that argument to carry any weight then the Cherries need to come back from the pause looking significantly better than Watford, West Ham or Brighton. They have missed David Brooks and they have missed others, but that will give them no comfort in the Championship, where they could easily sink without trace with Howe still at the helm.
Jose Mourinho (Tottenham)
March was not Mourinho’s month. First there were the two leads thrown away that led to defeat at home to Wolves (‘Tottenham are broken as Mourinho prophecy is self-fulfilled’ was our take), then there came FA Cup exit to Norwich that was helpfully overshadowed by Eric Dier clambering into the crowd. And then there was a forgettable Premier League draw with Burnley that was then overshadowed by Champions League embarrassment that left us calling Spurs a mid-table mess and wondering if Mourinho really was the man for the job.
There are plenty of whispers that suggest Tottenham are already regretting their appointment of Mourinho; how low would Tottenham have to sink for Daniel Levy to pull the plug on this experiment? This has become of the most fascinating football narratives of 2020.
David Moyes (West Ham)
“There is a clause in my contract to extend the deal,” said Moyes when he returned to West Ham on an 18-month deal. “I’m going to make it impossible that that clause can’t be activated.” Can we have an update, David? Actually, we can do that ourselves – only Bournemouth and Villa have been worse over the ten games managed by the Scot. There were wins over the Cherries and Saints (when Moyes went back to basics with a 4-4-2) but there has been precious little else to cheer.
As it stands, West Ham should just about survive. But West Ham did not bring back Moyes to just about survive – whether they end the season above or below that dotted line, the Scot might find himself replaced by someone a little sexier and a little less likely to sign Jordan Hugill.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)
Yes, they were in excellent form when the season ended. And yes, they are on course for a treble of Europa League, FA Cup and the grasping of a Champions League place. But football is fickle and should the season end with no silverware and United in sixth place behind Wolves or Sheffield United, then this will be a catastrophic disaster of a campaign that makes their outlay of almost £200m look like an exercise in moving the deckchairs on a sinking ship. This could all go very wrong indeed.
The good news is that they have got the best of run-ins. Oh and the prospect of a motivated Paul Pogba alongside Bruno Fernandes and the fit-again Marcus Rashford. They really should not cock it up from here.
Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa