When is sacking season in the Premier League? | Premier League

The Premier League is a cut-throat business for managers. One month has passed since Arsenal and Crystal Palace kicked off the new season and two managers have already bitten the dust. Scott Parker was the first managerial casualty when his gloomy assessment of Bournemouth’s survival hopes was too close to the bone for the club’s board. Thomas Tuchel soon followed after the new Chelsea owners decided it was “the right time to make this transition”.

It’s the earliest date that two Premier League managers have been sacked since the 2008-09 season and, with talk of unrest surrounding Brendan Rodgers at Leicester and Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, that trend shows no sign of abating. If anything, the chaos only seems to have continued from last season.

When Ole Gunnar Solskjær was shown the door at Old Trafford on 21 November, he became the sixth Premier League manager to leave his post last season – a new record in the English top flight. You wouldn’t bet against that being gazumped this year. It’s called sacking season. The time of year when coaches lose their jobs nearly as readily as the leaves are dropping off the trees, although it seems to have come early this year.

While it’s easy to look at the past two seasons and assume there is no safe time for Premier League managers anymore, the reality is that ousting bosses early in a campaign is nothing new. Tuchel’s sacking on 7 September ranks as only the third earliest time for two managers to leave their posts since the Premier League began. In the 2008-09 season, Alan Curbishley left West Ham and Kevin Keegan departed Newcastle by 4 September. Clubs were even more impatient in 2004-05, when Paul Sturrock and Bobby Robson were shown the door from Southampton and Newcastle, respectively, in August, and Graeme Souness made it a hat-trick when he left Blackburn on 6 September.

Newcastle fans protest after Kevin Keegan’s exit in September 2008.
Newcastle fans protest after Kevin Keegan’s exit in September 2008. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

It’s not unusual for sackings to come in a glut. One gaffer packing up his things is often the catalyst for more to follow – regardless of what stage of the season it is. For example, when Crystal Palace made Neil Warnock the first managerial dismissal of the 2014-15 season on 27 December, it could have been easy to surmise that clubs were feeling more lenient than usual. Yet, in the 46 days that followed Warnock’s firing, four more managers – Alan Irvine, Alan Pardew, Harry Redknapp and Paul Lambert – left their jobs.

The same happened last season. When Steve Bruce lost his job on 20 October, he kicked off a run of five sacking in 31 days, with Nuno Espírito Santo, Daniel Farke, Dean Smith and Solskjær quickly following.

Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock poses for a selfie in December 2014. He was sacked a week later.
Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock poses for a selfie in December 2014. He was sacked a week later. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Sackings usually come in clusters but they are not always early in the campaign. In eight of the 31 Premier League seasons, there has not been a single sacking until 21 November. Many clubs wait until the international break to make changes so they can bed in their replacements during the two-week domestic gap in league fixtures. It’s a logical decision but something that is relatively recent. Before last season, only nine managers were sacked during the first international break of the season.

Instead, runs of sackings crop up at different times. In the 2019-20 season, five managers were sacked in a five-week period from mid-November to late-December; in 2016-17, three clubs made changes during the Christmas fortnight; roll the calendar back to 2001-02 and struggling Leicester, Derby and Southampton all made changes in a three-week period in October after slow starts to the season.

Sacking season is not a modern-day phenomenon. Clubs were at it in the 1990s too. In 1993-94, the second season of the Premier League, four clubs replaced their managers in 24 days in January. The following season, a whopping six managers left their jobs in 34 hectic days in autumn.

There is clearly a domino effect, especially at the bottom of the table. When one club brings in a new boss to help their fight against relegation, other sides get nervous and trigger-happy. The Premier League has never been a comfortable ride for managers, especially if one of their counterparts has just lost his job.

This is an article from The Set Pieces
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