Along with celebrating a day when a man attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, chairmen of struggling Premier League sides will be contemplating a similar assault on their team—starting with the manager.
November is an awkward time to gauge progress; there are still a lot of games in which to force a change of fortune, but the reality of relegation also needs to be assessed and budgeted for. The January transfer window comes into play, but the managerial position dominates everything.
If the board is undecided on the future of its team's manager, then trusting him with the chequebook in January isn’t something they will be willing to do. Fans will naturally want to see them buy new players to show they are committed to staying up, so to see the window pass by without incident can be very frustrating.
Most clubs don't have the money to buy themselves out of the relegation zone, but it’s always interesting to count the struggling managers who are denied the finances to bolster their squad. Often, it’s a telling sign that the man in charge won’t stay in charge for long.
Adkins has been the subject of speculation from the moment he brought Southampton back to the Premier League. Newly promoted teams are always the favourites to go straight back down, so it’s something he will have anticipated.
However, he would do well to speak to Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, who was unceremoniously dumped by Southampton before August was out. The Saints have lost eight of their opening 10 matches and conceded 26 goals for a goal difference of -12, the worst in the league.
Adkins remains upbeat, yet pragmatic; pointing to the future with hope more than expectation:
I want to be manager here for as long as possible—but what will be, will be. If you want to remain in your job, you have to win games. With players returning from injury and new players who have now settled in a bit more—the unity we have is stronger and we can move forward with confidence (via The Daily Mirror).
Tonight’s game at West Bromwich Albion isn’t one his team are expected to win, but an encouraging performance would help Adkins’ position at the club. Regardless of his prior achievements at Southampton, a win and a draw from 10 games isn’t good enough.
The fixture list hasn’t been kind to them, but losing at home to Wigan didn’t do them any favours, either. November sees them play West Brom, Swansea, QPR, Newcastle and Norwich, which is a run that could decide Adkins’ future.
Any less than five points from those games—Swansea, Newcastle and Norwich are home matches—will likely see a new man tasked with saving the Saints from relegation in the New Year.
The 1-1 draw between QPR and Reading last week did nothing to resolve the situation for the Premier League’s two winless teams, and their managers will not be sleeping well at night. One will be getting much more rest than the other, though.
Both teams have money and both teams have good players, yet both teams sit in the relegation zone with a quarter of the season gone.
QPR are currently enduring their worst start to the season since 1968, when they finished at the foot of the table (via The Guardian).
Owner Tony Fernandes has publicly stated his support for manager Mark Hughes, taking to Twitter after the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal to reassure the fans that Hughes has the backing of the board:
From the managers listed, who will go before the season is out?
I honestly believe we have one of the best managers in the Premier League. And we are in for the long-term. Whatever happens. We love QPR. I'll be there at Reading, so Rangers fans I'll be available to meet and chat. Trust me on this one. Keep the faith. Stability is the key. (via The Daily Mail).
These are encouraging words, except the Malaysian doesn’t have a record as the most patient man in the world. Hughes’ start to the season mirrors that of Neil Warnock, who was sacked as QPR boss in January following a run of eight winless games.
Hughes has not been helped by the performances of his players. There is only so much a manager can do, after all. QPR frequently look like a passionless team with a losing attitude—a feeling only exacerbated by the appointment of Park Ji-Sung as club captain.
There’s no denying that Park has the talent to let his football do the talking, but he isn’t the sort of player to inspire a fightback among his team, nor the man to get in his teammates’ faces and call them out for poor performances.
Aside from the results, that’s the most worrying thing about QPR. They don’t look like a team that is committed to the club’s future—more a collection of individuals who know the club won’t sustain its wage bill in the Championship, so they’ll just leave when they go down.
Reading, on the other hand, are playing football that belies their situation. Despite dropping a four-goal lead to Arsenal in the Capital One Cup, they came out strong against QPR and looked committed and focused.
Brian McDermott hasn’t won a game this year either, but the odds on him being the next manager sacked are 33-1, compared to Hughes as the 4-5 favourite (via TheSackRace.com). The difference lies solely in the attitude.
McDermott’s team look like getting a win and getting out of their situation, while Hughes’ team have one eye on the pitch and the other on the door. If this continues, Hughes will be the one to suffer.
While Roberto Mancini continues to experiment with his Manchester City side, there’s always a danger of him not seeing out the season. City are the only side that remain unbeaten, yet they have also drawn four of their first 10 games.
That sort of ratio won’t win them the league, and with a Champions League exit on the horizon, Mancini could be forced out of the Etihad.
However, outside of the candidates mentioned above, Paul Lambert seems to be the man most likely to be looking for work before May.
Lambert worked miracles with Norwich, guiding them from bottom of League One to a 12th-place finish in the Premier League, all in successive years. He showed a great eye for the lower leagues, brought in players that suited his system and consistently got the best out of them.
The fact that he did it all on a minimal budget and played attractive football made it a formality that he would leave Carrow Road before the start of this year.
His Aston Villa side have looked disorganised, however, and the dropping of Darren Bent caused the striker to vent his frustration through the press. The 1-1 draw with Norwich saw Villa booed off the field after a poor display that saw them lucky to even salvage a point.
The pressure has been relieved slightly following a good win at Sunderland on Saturday—Villa’s first away win since January—but the fixture list makes for truly unpleasant reading this month.
Over the next three weeks, they play Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal. Two of them are home games, but that’s unlikely to help their chances. Arsenal may not be playing as well as they should, but Villa remain underdogs in every game.
Of the teams around them, Villa have the most difficult month. They also play Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham before December is out, so losing ground on the rest of the league will make for a difficult New Year.
It’s yet to be seen whether the team are buying into Lambert’s style of football, with players often looking uncertain of their roles, leading to bad passes and a lack of attacking presence. Villa’s start to the season is their worst in 43 years, and the enthusiasm that met Lambert’s arrival is starting to wear thin.