Sack Race: Ranking the Premier League Managers on Who'll Go 1st

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

Sack Race: Ranking the Premier League Managers on Who'll Go 1st

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    Optimism, encouragement and excitement: Three words which are often associated with the start of a new Premier League season, with new signings, new managers and new clubs all involved in the opening weekend.

    Usually, at least one of those words is forgotten by a handful of sides after day one, with a few more following shortly after as reality hits in—it's going to be a season of struggle, or perhaps a side hasn't strengthened where it should have. Or, maybe, the manager just can't transmit his ideas across to the players well enough.

    Sooner or later, one club board will have enough and the first one to get the boot is always the manager, in a bid to turn around an ailing season.

    Here are all 20 managers ranked in order of how likely they are to depart their current hot seat once the season gets underway.

20. Arsene Wenger

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    Arsenal finally won some silverware last year with the FA Cup, and manager Arsene Wenger signed a new deal shortly afterward.

    All in all, it points to the fact that no matter what happens, Wenger will be the one to decide when he steps down, and it's not going to be midway through a campaign.

19. Roberto Martinez

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    Everton improved in pretty much every regard under Roberto Martinez last season, including in the three most important categories: Wins, points, places.

    The Spaniard is one of the most highly rated head coaches around the English game and has plenty of ambition to improve himself and the team further.

    Competition will be harder to cope with at the top this year, but his job is rock steady.

18. Brendan Rodgers

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    Like Martinez, Brendan Rodgers' job at Liverpool is completely safe after the dramatic progress made under his leadership in the past 18 months.

    He steered Liverpool to second place last season and they are back in the Champions League. That in itself means the season will have additional pressures and challenges, while top scorer Luis Suarez has gone, which is why he is ranked one place lower than Martinez.

    Even so, it's clearly an upward curve for the Reds with Rodgers and he'll be in place all year.

17. Manuel Pellegrini

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    Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini went one better than Rodgers and finished top of the pile last year, in his first season at the club.

    His offensive style of play and improved man management compared to the previous manager means he is well perceived throughout the league, though City only really care about one thing from him—trophies.

    He has already delivered and, in some fashion or other, he could certainly do so again this term.

16. Louis Van Gaal

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    If the top four are iron-clad in their safety and job security, these next four are almost the same, though perhaps with just a tad more open to changes if underperformance ensues, by the nature of the clubs they are at and the pressures of the Premier League.

    Louis van Gaal is new in at Manchester United and the smart money is on him turning the club back into a top-four outfit this very season.

    Tactically and mentally able to prepare his team well, the only minor doubt would be over if his team doesn't hit the ground running in competitive action—will the doubts from last season appear in players' minds again?

15. Tony Pulis

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    Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis steered the side away from relegation and into impressive mid-table anonymity in slightly more than half a season.

    Palace were delighted with that last year and absolutely would be again this term, no doubt. Pulis' sides are always notoriously well organised, difficult to break down and a pain to defend against.

    It will be fine for Palace this year again, but somewhere down the line there will be calls for better football viewing on the pitch. It won't be this season though—so he'll be safe all year as long as they stay out of the bottom-four-or-five teams.

14. Jose Mourinho

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    Jose Mourinho seemed to get a free pass last year, spending significant money but ending the season third place and trophyless. It seems impossible to think the same could be considered this time around after big money has again been spent (and received from sales) on rounding off what is now a very complete, strong-looking squad.

    Mourinho's Chelsea ties means there is little chance he won't see out a full season even if they flop...but does anybody really think that will happen this year?

    Jose is another who is pretty much safe in his work until May at the earliest.

13. Mark Hughes

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    Our final manager in the "safe" group—famous last words—is Stoke City's Mark Hughes.

    He led Stoke to a highest-ever ninth-place finish in the Premier League, in his first season in charge and after overcoming a difficult start.

    The Welshman has improved the team, the squad and the playing style in gradual increments and has looked to do the same again this summer. Presuming no significant downward trajectory once competitive games start, he'll be safe in his work and looking to build toward another mid-table or top-half finish.

12. Mauricio Pochettino

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    Now into the bosses who will likely have to work hard and prove their worth each week, from the outset, to show they should stay in the job.

    Mauricio Pochettino might only just have been appointed Spurs boss, but that hasn't exactly stopped talk around early exits from the men who came before him. When Tottenham spend money, they expect fairly instant rewards.

    Pochettino has a bit of a mess to sort out on the playing side and the club will want to fight for a top-four place this season, which is going to be very difficult to achieve.

11. Harry Redknapp

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    QPR were promoted via a last-minute playoff-final-winning goal, so Harry Redknapp is back in the Premier League.

    Already bringing in plenty of established top-flight players to augment his Championship side, Redknapp has been linked with enough players to fill the Hoops' squad list three times over.

    Safety must surely be the only aim for QPR this season and they should put a side in place capable of doing that. Anything more is a bonus, so Redknapp will be in for a hard season, but ultimately a rewarding one.

10. Steve Bruce

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    Steve Bruce shouldn't be in too much danger...but Hull had a sticky end to last season, despite the FA Cup final, and he has struggled to bring in players this summer.

    A decent squad in place and his own history means they shouldn't really be in too much danger of relegation, but much could depend on Hull's expectancies for the year.

    They finished 16th last season in the end so anything above that line for most of the season should keep Bruce in place.

9. Paul Lambert

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    Paul Lambert, Aston Villa boss, is second-favourite in many folks' eyes (per to lose his job first this season, but it doesn't really make sense from the club's perspective.

    Villa are trying to be sold, have a fairly youthful squad despite recent experienced free-transfer signings, and have an almost non-existent budget to work with. Lambert is clearly not only happy (or at least willing) to work in these circumstances, but also managed to keep Villa up with them last season.

    There isn't really any reason to think he'll be dismissed once the season starts—unless, of course, they are dire in both performances and results and have little prospect of improving.

8. Alan Pardew

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    Alan Pardew somehow escaped with his job intact from a season where he lost 14 of his last 20 league matches, went on a run of leading his side to two goals scored in eight games, headbutted an opposition player and finished 23 points and five places behind Everton, despite being sixth, one point and place behind them on Boxing Day.

    Such is the life of a Newcastle United manager.

    There can be no excuses for non-improvement this season then, and a significant one, after reinvestment in the team in key areas over the summer. Top half will be the minimum objective, but even pushing beyond that should be on the agenda.

7. Nigel Pearson

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    Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson brought his team up from the Championship as champions and will be hopeful that his squad already contains enough talent to now challenge for safety in the top flight.

    As ever, promoted teams will find it tough to attract new talent and win enough points for survival, but he should certainly at least be given most of the campaign to get it right even if the going is tough.

    Beyond Christmas, though, clubs get notoriously twitchy about their league placing, with the money and prestige of the Premier League all-important.

6. Ronald Koeman

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    In a way, Koeman comes into a bit of a dream situation: Build your own team and here's £100 million to do it with. Oh, and if things go wrong, it's not really your fault, since the club sold off all its previous best players.

    Football doesn't really work that way though and Koeman will, especially after spending, be under pressure to deliver results.

    Saints came eighth last year—a similar finish can almost certainly be written off. Anything in the group from 15th to 10th will probably be fine for his first season, but even that will require plenty of good management from the Dutchman, at least early on in the year.

5. Sean Dyche

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    Sean Dyche, like Pearson, should presumably be given a chance to get things right after bringing Burnley up.

    However, they don't have a strong squad in Premier League-quality terms, and will find it hard to attract the players who could help them achieve that ambition.

    Dyche might not get all the way through the season if, later on, it looks as though they are struggling to get enough points—but others could still depart before him.

4. Sam Allardyce

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    Sam Allardyce was a contender to lose his job at the end of last season but West Ham United opted to keep him on—but he'll be judged once the season starts, reports Gary Jacob of the Times.

    Preseason results aren't a barometer of league success, but failing to win also doesn't exactly get the fans on board.

    West Ham finished 13th last season but have never been happy with the stodgy, predictable football with which Allardyce has gotten the results. Points alone won't be enough this time.

3. Garry Monk

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    Swansea City boss Garry Monk did improve Swansea somewhat last season, but not to the tremendous extent that you could be certain it will be an upward trajectory again from August.

    The squad is lacking in some areas and, naturally, the former player doesn't have a lot of experience to call back on.

    When Swansea inevitably hit a tough run of form and fixtures, questions will be asked of Monk and his team. If that bad run comes somewhere around the start of winter and things don't pick up before Christmas, Monk will quickly find that management at the top is ruthless.

2. Gus Poyet

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    Sunderland manager Gus Poyet just about found enough in his team to keep them up last year, but recruitment plans over the summer haven't gone extremely well, especially in the final third.

    The Black Cats are dangerously lacking in that area and if they fail to win games early on and another season of tremendous struggle looks ahead, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Poyet walk.

    He's done enough to enhance his own reputation and show he can cut it in the Premier League; the club now have to come up with answers for him in the transfer market or face a very hard season, possibly without the boss.

1. Alan Irvine

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    Alan Irvine is new to the Premier League sidelines, though not football management itself.

    He takes over a West Brom side which barely escaped the drop last season and, though they have made a number of signings, do not look hugely convincing as a squad yet.

    It's all well and good West Brom being a lower-half table club, but as they have shown with Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Clarke, they won't mess around if results aren't right. Irvine has to start fast and keep consistent, or he'll be out.