Why are Premier League clubs so keen for managerial change?
Tony Pulis became the fifth Premier League manager to lose this job this season after the Welshman was dismissed by West Bromwich Albion on Monday morning.
The 59-year-old was handed his P45 after his side secured just two victories in their previous 21 fixtures and having received intense criticism from the Baggies’ supporters for the direct style of play that he promoted.
It was less than twelve months ago that Pulis was being widely applauded for the job that he was doing at the Hawthorns, but a poor start to the new campaign and the fear of being sucked into a relegation battle has promoted the West Brom hierarchy to press the eject button.
Pulis will certainly not be the last high-profile manager to be dismissed before the end of the season and he follows in the footsteps of five of his peers who survived even less time in the top-flight of English football this year than he did.
Frank de Boer was sacked by Crystal Palace after just five games in charge and was subsequently followed by the departures of Craig Shakespeare (Leicester City), Slaven Bilic (West Ham United) and Ronald Koeman (Everton).
The irony is that, barring de Boer, four of the five Premier League managers who have been dismissed had previously led their teams to safe, mid-table finishes during the previous campaign and looked, on paper at least, more than capable of turning the fortunes of the club around if given time.
The bigger irony of course is that Pulis, who retains his record of never being relegated and is something similar to a fire extinguisher for clubs that are in chaos, would probably be the perfect choice of manager to save West Brom had he not just been sacked.
Too many itchy trigger-fingers?
So why is it that the chairmen and owners at Premier League clubs are so eager to push the panic button this season? To put this year’s casualty list into context, at this stage last season only one top-flight manager had been axed.
Early results have certainly played their part.
West Bromwich Albion, Everton, West Ham United, Leicester City and Crystal Palace have all started the campaign poorly but, barring the horrendous run of results witnessed by those at Selhurst Park, four of those clubs were certainly not in danger of being cast adrift at the foot of the table.
If the same managers had been able to guide their clubs to the relative safety of mid-table last season, then why not give then the time to turn things around?
Just over a year ago Everton supporters were congratulating the club on signing a high-profile manager in Ronald Koeman. However, the Dutchman was quickly relieved of his duties when his summer signings failed to immediately gel.
Craig Shakespeare had transformed Leicester’s season last year after the Foxes were spiralling towards relegation in Claudio Ranieri’s second campaign, but he was swiftly chopped after an inconsistent start.
Slaven Bilic was widely perceived as being a fantastic appointment for West Ham – has his managerial magic really evaporated within twelve months?
It is also worth noting that none of the clubs that have sacked their manager have seen a drastic upturn in their fortunes and many have struggled to find replacements that have captured the imagination of the supporters.
Leicester appointed Claude Puel, a solid if relatively uninspiring choice, whilst West Ham have handed David Moyes a short-term contract despite his stock being at its lowest ever ebb after suffering relegation with Sunderland last season.
Meanwhile, Everton are still looking for Koeman’s replacement whilst Roy Hodgson has failed to guide Palace out of the relegation zone since his arrival.
So what next for West Brom? Sam Allardyce’s name has been mentioned, but is his brand of football any better than his predecessors?
The biggest problem facing Premier League sides outside the so-called ‘big clubs’ is that they are more competitive and closely aligned than ever before.
All of these teams are content with surviving, safe in the knowledge that there is little hope of breaking into the top six and that the financial rewards for retaining their place in the top-flight are more excessive than ever.
Staying on the Premier League gravy train is now more than important than ever before.
The early season form of the newly promoted clubs, Brighton and Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United, has also added pressure to established top-flight sides – neither of the three look in any real danger of relegation.
There was once a time when newly promoted teams were destined for an immediate return to the Championship barring a minor miracle but, in truth, the Premier League is no longer the daunting prospect that it once was for new arrivals.
No wonder the chairmen and owners at established top-flight clubs are getting itchy trigger fingers.
The combined pressure of needing to retain their place in the Premier League to continue cashing-in on the financial benefits and the good form demonstrated by the newly promoted teams’ means that relegation is a danger that must be avoided at all costs.
The need for short term survival has replaced long term planning.
However, the example of Burnley has shown what patience can achieve. Sean Dyche achieved promotion to the Premier League in 2014 before suffering an immediate relegation back to the Championship.
However, the club chose to keep their faith in the 46-year-old and the result has been a second promotion and the club are currently trying to hold on to the coattails of the ‘big-six’ at the top of the table.
Sometimes change is needed, but at other times patience during the hard times will reap much sweeter rewards.
The current bottom six clubs have all been in the Premier League for at least five seasons – time will tell whether those that have already chosen to replace their manager have made the correct choice.