Connect in the back of the net

On Monday 26th of June 2017, Frank De Boer was named the new Crystal Palace manager, replacing ex England manager Sam Allardyce after he stepped down at the end of last season.

De Boer’s appointment means the starting line-up of Premier League managers for the 2017/18 season is complete, but who will be the first of the 20 gaffers to be axed by their club?

 

Newly promoted sides

David Wagner

The Huddersfield boss behind the Terriers’ miraculous promotion to the Premier League (with one of the smallest budgets in the Championship) is surprisingly one of the favourites to be sacked first with some bookmakers.

Wagner is seen as a hero by Huddersfield supporters and the club’s hierarchy clearly feels the same, as they wasted no time offering the German a contract extension after the club’s promotion to England’s top division was confirmed.

Wagner has signed two contract extensions in two seasons with Huddersfield and taking into account the phenomenal success he has already accomplished; with a playing style many premier league clubs would be desperate for, makes it hard to see Wagner as a lead contender in the 2017/18 sack race.

 

Chris Hughton

His Brighton side were arguably the best team in the Championship last season, despite losing the Championship title in the final minutes of the 2016/17 season.  

The ex-Birmingham and Newcastle manager signed a four-year contract extension with Brighton in May 2016 and with three years remaining on that deal, the Brighton board have wasted no time backing Hughton in the transfer market, with the club smashing their record transfer to sign Australian Goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

Brighton start the season by welcoming Pep Guardiola’s Man City side to the Amex stadium but following that, Brighton’s next 5 fixtures are all winnable games. Chris Hughton could be the favourite to be sacked first out of the newly promoted club’s gaffers but there will be other managers in the league on thinner ice.

 

Rafa Benitez

A manager with proven Premier League pedigree, with six years under his belt from his time at Liverpool between 2004-2010 and a stint as interim manager of Chelsea during the 2012/13 season.

This will be the Spaniard’s first full season in the Premier league not battling for the top 4 positions or even the title.

Having signed a 3-year contract upon his arrival at Newcastle in March 2016, Rafa failed to keep Newcastle up but chose to drop down a division with the Magpies, despite having a relegation release clause inserted into the contract he signed in March 2016.

Benitez successfully led Newcastle to the Championship title and is now back in the England’s top division with a club whose supporters adore him. Rumours have been circulating about Rafa’s unhappiness at the lack of transfer activity from Newcastle and that he may even have a strained relationship with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.

However, after Benitez chose to remain for a year-long slog to get Newcastle back into the Premier League, it would be surprising to see the former Real Madrid boss quit before he’d had a proper attempt at success with Newcastle in the top flight.  

 

New appointments

Marco Silva

The Spaniard had a number of suitors following his failed attempt to secure Premier League survival for Hull City last season. Despite Hull’s eventual relegation, Silva greatly improved the Tigers and due to the relegation release clause he had in his contract, the Portuguese coach was free to find himself a new club.

Watford confirmed Silva as their new head coach on a two-year contract in May 2017, after being impressed with what they saw of Silva’s brief stint in the Premier League last season.

Watford’s recent head coach/managerial history is an interesting one; in the 2014/15 season which saw the Hornets promoted to the Premier League, Watford had 4 managers in two months as Giuseppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia and Billy McKinlay all left the club before Slavisa Jokanovic’s appointment led to promotion.

Since that season Watford managerial exits have slowed although none of their last three managers have made it past one season at the club, including Jokanovic, who did manage Watford in England’s top division despite leading them to promotion.

Quique Sánchez Flores was appointed for Watford’s first season in the Premiership, whilst Walter Mazzarri was at the helm for last season’s campaign. However, in Marco Silva, Watford have potentially found a head coach who can bring stability to the top job at Watford.

 

Mauricio Pellegrino

The Argentine was unveiled as the new Southampton manager on the 23rd of June 2017, replacing Claude Puel.

Southampton undertook a vigorous search process for their new manager, receiving in excess of 50 applications and interviewing several candidates before eventually deciding Mauricio Pellegrino was the man for the job.

The Argentine has Premier League experiences as both a player and manager, having even played at St Mary’s in his one season as a Liverpool player, before joining Rafa Benitez’s coaching team after a final season playing for Deportivo Alaves.

Pellegrino was appointed Valencia manager in June 2012 but his first job as a manager would end in disappointment as he was sacked before the turn of the year in December 2012.

After spells at Argentinean sides Estudiantes and Independiente between 2013-2016, Pellegrino got a second chance in European football when he was appointed manager of Deportivo Alaves, the club where he finished his playing career.

During his one season at the La Liga side he led the club to a respectable mid table finish as well as remarkably claiming a place in the Copa Del Rey final which Barcelona subsequently won 3-1.

Pellegrino will have the chance to continue the stable success Southampton have achieved over the past few seasons, with a squad full of young sort-after players, that Pellegrino will be tasked with getting the best out of.

A deep run in one of the domestic cups for the Saints looks more likely than Pellegrino finishing first in the sack race following his appointment on a three-year contract as Southampton manager.

 

Frank De Boer

The Dutchman will be hoping it’s not a case of ‘last in, first out’ regarding the line-up of Premier League managers, as Crystal Palace were the final team to appoint their manager for the forthcoming season.

The Dutchman had a glittering playing career which included 5 Eredivisie titles and a Champions League with Ajax between 1988 to 1999. De Boer also won one La Liga title with Barcelona and amassed a total of 112 caps for the Netherlands national team before retiring from playing football in 2006.

Frank De Boer was appointed Ajax manager in 2010 and during a six-year spell as manager of the club he made his professional debut for, De Boer led the Amsterdam based side to four Eredivisie title in a row spanning from 2010/11 season to the 2013/2014 season.

However, Palace may have taken a bigger risk appointing De Boer than it seems at first glance as having left Ajax in the summer of 2016 to join Inter Millan, De Boer was sacked by the Italian giants by the end of November.

There is no questioning Frank De Boer’s success in Holland but Ajax is a club where De Boer has spent almost half of his life. With Inter Milan, it was a jump into the unknown for De Boer having never played or managed in Serie A previously and it ended disastrously.

Crystal Palace fans will be hoping De Boer brings the winning mentality he had at Ajax to Selhurst Park, rather than the lack of experience that cost him his job in Italy after just 85 days in charge.

 

Other contenders

 

Craig Shakespeare

The Gaffer was appointed caretaker-manager of Leicester City in February 2017 and subsequently signed a three-year contract to become permanent manager of The Foxes on the 8th of June 2017.

Shakespeare, who was assistant manager under Claudio Ranieri when Leicester miraculously won the Premier League in the 2015/16 season, has wasted no time in revamping the squad he inherited from the Italian by signing Harry Maguire from Hull City in a £17 million move.

Leicester has arguably the hardest opening set of Premier League fixtures, as The Foxes will have to play Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool within their first 6 games of the season, including kicking off their season with a trip to the Emirates Stadium.

The former England assistant manager, will hope his Leicester side won’t be in and around the relegation zone for a prolonged period of time as the Leicester owners have shown, by sacking Shakespeare’s predecessor, that they are not afraid to wield the axe if the Premier League survival of the King Power Stadium residents looks remotely in danger.

 

Slaven Bilic

The Croat will be entering his third season as West Ham manager, with the two seasons prior bringing a mixture of success and disappointment.

Bilic who made 49 appearances for West Ham as a player between 1996-1997 achieved a noteworthy 7th place finish in the Premier League is his first season in charge.

The 2015/16 season was a special season for West Ham fans, with an opening day 2-0 win at the Emirates stadium, a 3-2 victory over Manchester United in the final game at Upton Park and the remarkable impact of Dimitri Payet to name but a few highlights.

However, Bilic’s second season saw continued speculation around his future at West Ham due to the Hammers failing to consistently perform to the same level they did in the Croatian’s first season at the helm.

Bilic had a number of issues to contend with during the 2016/17 season including moving to the London Stadium, the disruptive manner in which star player Dimitri Payet left the club and a constant list of injuries severely affecting the options Bilic had to choose from within his squad.

Despite these problems West Ham finished a respectable 11th in Bilic’s second season, just one point off 8th position. Slaven now enters the final year of his West Ham contract with a squad that is in need of several key additions if the East London side is going to challenge for a top 8 finish.

Depending on the willingness of the West Ham board to back the former Croatia national team manager in the transfer market, could very well be a sign of how much of a contender he could be in the sack race 2017/18.

Whether the first manager sacked in the 2017/18 season is one of these men, or a name not mentioned above, the 2017/18 managerial starting line-up is one of the most exciting in the Premier League era.

 

Written by Svar Nanan-Sen

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