English Premiership Sack Race: Bilic and Hughes start to worry, Conte and Klopp safe … for now

Ronald Koeman is the latest boss to lose his job following his axe from Everton. He joins Ronald de Boer (Crystal Palace) and Craig Shakespeare (Leicester) as the Premier League casualties so far this season.

Are more managerial changes on the way? Who is leading our Sack Race?

The front-runner

Slaven Bilic (8/11 to be the next manager to leave) looks a haunted man. The West Ham boss was perhaps lucky to survive at the end of last season, a spirited win against Tottenham in the closing weeks probably saving him. But the club’s owners might be regretting upholding their reputation as people who do not sack managers lightly. This has cost them in the past, and it was not just their 3-0 defeat to Brighton last Friday but the nature of it that causes real concern. This looked like a team without much hope or direction. It’s surprising he’s lasted this long, but he might not be around much longer.
Axe swinging

After Bilic, the next man on the list likely to leave his job is Sean Dyche (2/1), but that’s not because Burnley are unhappy that he’s consolidated them in the Premier League and that they sit just three points off the Champions League places. If he wants either of them, Dyche will surely have the pick of the Everton or Leicester jobs, but you get the sense he might just be happy to stick around at Turf Moor and continue the fine job he’s doing there.

In terms of managers looking over their shoulders, Tony Pulis (18/1) might be the most concerned of the rest. West Brom are in the relatively comfortable position of 13th, but it is his approach as much as anything that is causing problems. Self-defeating negativity is perhaps nothing new when Pulis is concerned, but it reached almost comical heights when Pulis used three holding midfielders against Leicester and Southampton. The tide of opinion seems to have turned against Pulis with the West Brom fans, so could the same happen soon in the boardroom?

His successor at Stoke, Mark Hughes (10/1), is in a similar position amid a general sense of ennui about the place. They have had a tricky start to the season and key players have been injured, but there’s something dispiriting about the way they’re playing. If someone better does present themselves, Hughes could go.

Safe … for now

If it weren’t for a few shrewd tactical changes, Antonio Conte (11/1) could be on the other side of this dividing line. With half an hour to go against Watford things were looking grim, but then his substitutes combined to earn a victory and avoid some of the more searching questions about his position. Whether those questions are justified or not is another matter: Chelsea remain in touch with the leaders and even if it will take a mammoth effort to chase down Manchester City at the top, they still look a good — if flawed — team. But, such is the way with things, Conte’s position could still be in doubt with another adverse result or two.

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A win against Huddersfield a couple of weeks ago has shielded Paul Clement (18/1) from the most strident speculation about his future, but that doesn’t mean he can start making permanent changes to the decor in his office at Swansea. As last season showed, the Swansea board are not afraid of making ruthless decisions, and the capitulation against Leicester last weekend will not have helped his chances.

Below the Swans in the table are Bournemouth, but there doesn’t seem to be much chance of the club’s board forcing Eddie Howe (20/1) out. That said, the thought does occur that Howe, with a couple of Premier League jobs open, might think this is the time to leave, that he has taken Bournemouth as far as he can and a new place of work is required. Equally, Rafa Benitez (25/1) has made a brilliant start to the season with Newcastle, but with a pending takeover nothing can be guaranteed: any new owners would be fools to sack him, but could he walk?

Another interesting name to consider is Jurgen Klopp (20/1). Previously untouchable, Klopp has been at Liverpool for over two years now and there seems no sign of him solving the defensive problems that continue to dog his team. John Henry and the other Liverpool owners are big fans of Klopp so his dismissal seems unlikely in the near future, but will another season of often brilliant attacking play with defensive frailty stand for much longer?

It is too early to judge Mauricio Pellegrino (12/1) and particularly Roy Hodgson (20/1), the former gradually imposing his style on Southampton and the latter attempting to dig Crystal Palace out of an especially dank hole. Marco Silva (10/1) has also not been in his current job long, but there is still some talk he might be in contention for the Everton job. It would be a shrewd appointment if they can persuade him to leave Watford only a few months after arriving.

Job for life

Jose Mourinho (66/1)
might be swinging haymakers all over the place, often at his own players, but if for no other reason than Manchester United backed themselves into a corner when they hired him, he will be there for the foreseeable future, at least. Across town Pep Guardiola (100/1) is rather more comfortable, broadly because Manchester City have spent the season eviscerating every team that dares to think it can share the same pitch as them.

Arsene Wenger (33/1) will be at Arsenal, for better or worse, until at least the end of the season, if not longer, and Mauricio Pochettino (100/1) is rapidly establishing himself as Wenger’s equivalent in the other half of North London. This is his club now to do what he wishes with. Finally, there’s Chris Hughton (40/1) and David Wagner (33/1). Brighton and Huddersfield’s starts to the season have both been solid, but for clubs returning to the top flight for the first time in a generation, their positions are safe until they say otherwise.

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