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2 reasons hardly any Premier League managers have been sacked this season

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As the saying goes, when it rains it pours.

In the 2022-23, the downpour of Premier League manager sackings was constant. In total, 16 fell to the sacking sword throughout the season.

Between August 2022 and June 2023, a manager was sacked in every month, bar December (perhaps the Christmas spirit helped), as the Premier League ran to a new record.

Since the competition’s inception, no season has seen more managers fired from their job than the 2022-23 season. It’s a record that hopefully remains unbroken.

For the league itself, the constant managerial merry-go-round of the 2022-23 season was bad for publicity. Was the English top flight beginning to crumble under the weight of the borderline unmanageable pressure it had created for itself?

Would managers still want to test themselves in the England? Would the competition’s quality rise or plummet in the 2023-24 season? 

These were all questions that couldn’t be answered. Until now. 

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Graham Potter’s Chelsea tenure will go down as one of the worst in league history

Over the last decade, a manager has lost their job before November 11 in seven seasons.

This was exceptionally true during the 2022-23 season. By that date, five Premier League managers had lost their job: Scott Parker (Bournemouth), Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea), Bruno Lage (Wolves), Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa), and Ralph Hassenhuttl (Southampton). Another 11 followed before season’s end.

Yet, that trend has failed to to materialise in the 2023-24 campaign.

So far, we’ve seen just one manager file for unemployment; Paul Heckingbottom.

His hapless Sheffield United side’s poor form, including a recent trouncing 5-0 at the hands of fellow relegation stragglers Burnley, proved enough for the sack.

In comes a familiar face, Chris Wilder. A manager with an affinity for overlapping centre backs and a general purveyor of wildly exciting football who guided the team to ninth place in 2019-20.

But it’s made many wonder what the disparity between this season and last is. Why aren’t clubs sacking their managers? Is there a post 2022-23 managerial sacking frenzy hangover that has some clubs genuinely dazed and confused, unable to muster the strength to fire the man at the helm? Was the 2022 World Cup a main culprit of last season’s blitz? Or was it all simply an anomaly?

Perhaps there are other forces at play.

We’ve run our eye over the Premier League state of play and come up with a few reasons as to why fewer Premier League managers have been sacked in 2023-24.

english premier league boxing day 2023
Managers Erik ten Hag, Manchester United (left) and Unai Emery, Aston Villa (right)

Why we haven’t seen many Premier League sackings in 2023-24

Let’s unpack this; assessing two likely reasons.

Reason 1: A post 2022-23 hangover?

Maybe hangover isn’t the correct word, but there are definitely lingering impacts of last season’s managerial sackings, notably in how clubs handle their chief tacticians this time round. 

Of the seven clubs currently in the Premier League who sacked their manager last season — which is Chelsea, Bournemouth, Wolves, Aston Villa, Everton, Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur, three have kept the manager they brought in at the time of their sacking.

Roy Hodgson is still at the helm of Crystal Palace and doing an admirable job this season, especially in light of injuries and other squad issues. Sean Dyche is guiding Everton back to formidability, even with a 10 point deduction putting a dagger in their safety hopes. But perhaps the greatest post-sacking appointment of the 2022-23 season happened at Aston Villa. 

When Steven Gerrard left, Villa were style-less and rotting. In came Unai Emery, a man whose previous managerial stint in England saw him booted from Arsenal with as much vitriol as any coach in football history.

In the midlands, the Spaniard has led some sort of revolution. His Aston Villa side have been in title-winning form since his appointment, acting as the league’s chief disruptors, and capable, on their day, of triumphing over any opponent. 

These three men have been tasked with leading longer-term projects at their club, and their results in the last 12 months speak for themselves. With varying contextual environments surrounding Hodgson, Dyche and Emery, all three have thrived in their new role, leaving the higher-ups at their clubs happily unwilling to feel the need to meddle.

The remaining four clubs – Chelsea, Bournemouth, Tottenham, and Wolves – are all singing a similar tune, just at different volumes.

Both Chelsea and Spurs, who sacked two coaches apiece during the 2022-23 season, hired Mauricio Pochettino and Ange Postecoglou respectively. With these clubs certain of their floundering on-field prospects and respective of the need for a disciplined, long-term view, both men came in with a modus operandi of performing immediately, while also erecting systems for future success.

ange postecoglou, Spurs
Ange Postecoglou is beloved by Tottenham fans for his character and electrifying tactics

To varying extents, both have succeeded. Prior to key injuries and suspensions, Posctecoglou’s Spurs were flying at the top of the table. Even recently, without key men, Angeball has persisted; performances have been there, even if results haven’t, and the fanbase and wider footballing community is beginning to understand that the Australian was hired for a long time and a good time. 

In west London, Pochettino’s start to Chelsea life hasn’t been as successful as the man in his former Tottenham role, but he too is implementing a style of play that will hopefully breed success in years to come. 

With the seemingly limitless, sometimes reckless, spending of Todd Boehly, bringing in plenty of youth but not much else, a key part of Pochettino’s early days has been about blooding youth today for success tomorrow. 

Pochetino
The task ahead of Mauricio Pochettino is a mammoth one, but he is up to the challenge

It’s fair to say that both Boehly, and Tottenham’s Daniel Levy, have learnt from their past mistakes — as well as the recent success of both Manchester City and Liverpool, who afforded Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp enough time and control to work their magic and sign the players they wanted… and needed.

They say failure is only truly failure if lessons aren’t learnt. 

Clubs across the Premier League have learnt from the failures of the sack-friendly clubs of 2022-23. Aside from Aston Villa, no side wielding the axe last season improved greatly with a new manager, or two, at the helm.

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Todd Boehly’s Chelsea had 4 head coaches in the 2022-23 season

Reason 2: Expectations v results

What clubs expect versus what they get has been one of football’s great tug-of-wars. Each season, lines are drawn in the sand and goals pinned on the dressing room walls, and each season lines in the sand are rubbed out and goals on dressing walls discarded and replaced with fresher ones.

Mid-table finishes become avoiding relegation, title dreams become European fights. Expectations change, that’s for sure. Only rarely are they changed for good reason.

A part of Paul Heckingbottom’s Sheffield United departure is the divide between the club’s expectations for the season, likely to avoid relegation, do not align with the reality (they likely won’t).

Heckingbottom image
Paul Heckingbottom will be asking what more he could’ve to keep the Sheffield United gig

Of course, results have been poor. United look unable to muster any form of competitive edge against Premier League sides, even those of a similar level to them. They have fewer points in early December than Derby County’s 2007 side, who finished on 11 points, and have conceded more goals and scored fewer than any other side.

Yet Heckingbottom’s hands were tied from the get go. Sander Berge and Ilmian Ndiaye, the club’s two best players, were sold in the summer window without signing adequate replacements. Was he ever really set up for success?

Perhaps this is why, when you look across at the other promoted sides this season, Burnley and Luton Town – the division’s lowest spenders – their managers are still in jobs. They mightn’t succeed this season, but they’ll have laid the foundations for future prospering.

There appears to be an understanding within these clubs that survival is not a given, it’s a luxury, especially with the money flooding the top flight at every level. Three teams must go down each season, that’s just the Premier League circle of life.

Teams lower down the division are seemingly coming to the realisation that sacking a manager doesn’t provide the injection of performances and results it once did. A far clearer strategy is to remain patient and build over time, even at the expense of short-term embarassament.

Leicester City, as well as Leeds United, prove that relegation to the Championship isn’t the be all and end all. In the era of parachute payments and increased financial handouts to recently relegated Premier League sides, the drop almost always means re-ascension to the Premier League promised land.

Over the last decade, 60 per cent of promotion places have been filled by recently relegated ‘parachute’ clubs.

Fulham perfectly exemplify this reality. The London outfit were once considered the league’s greatest ‘yo-yo’ club, bouncing between England’s top two flights. It was only recently, after years of graft and pain, that they consolidated their top-flight status.

Elsewhere in the division, just about every club is performing on par with their expectations.

Everton are in the relegation zone not through on-field disappointment but rather board level mismanagement. Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth are flirting with safety and even they’re six points clear at this stage.

Many of the mid-table clubs are performing as is to be expected at the mid-table level; some weeks they’re good, others great, and against the big teams they can flounder. In these environments results are as equally important as performances, and each side in and around 14th to 9th are moving as expected.

With the exception of Chelsea, though. But we’ve covered their situation.

It’s important to note that, as of late, performances have been markedly better than the start of the season, and some green shoots are really starting to bloom at Stamford Bridge.

Arguably the manager next likely to face the chop is Manchester United’s Erik Ten Hag. This is despite his club sitting seventh.

Again, this comes back to the expectations-results dynamic. Manchester United fans, players, and non-playing staff, expected to be in the hunt for Europe, like last season, with the faintest title hope.

They’ve not done that so far this season, nor have they played anywhere near the levels they showed last campaign, when they were one of England’s strongest performers. 

Marcus Rashford is a shell of himself, the midfield looks non-existent most weeks, Antony has had legal troubles, while Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane are out of minutes, and favour. 

United have a weak, easily-scarred underbelly most sides walk through without any stress. It’s safe to say they’ve regressed, and safe to say Erik Ten Hag is the Premier League manager most likely to be looking over his shoulder in the coming weeks.

The phrase, ‘patience is a virtue’, is as old as time. And yet it still very much rings true.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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