As the new season approaches, the inevitable question arises – who will be the next Premier League manager to go?
Head coaches and bosses in English football all need good starts to the campaign, but some clubs won’t.
A season of struggles await some, while others may overachieve and there might even be glory for a precious few.
With the new term underway on Friday, 9 August, we take a look at early contenders in the dreaded sack race.
Three Premier League clubs have changed manager during the close season, but they all look vulnerable to some extent alongside the trio of promoted teams.
Steve Bruce: Could latest appointment be next Premier League manager to go?
Newcastle United have a Geordie in charge again, but Steve Bruce is not Rafa Benitez. Such a move would normally be unifying for the Toon Army, but has proved divisive.
It’s no such much Bruce who is the problem despite his previous spell in charge of bitter rivals Sunderland.
Magpies owner Mike Ashley remains utterly loathed on Tyneside and there is talk of fans boycotting their opening game of the season at home to Arsenal.
The match made in hell between Ashley and Newcastle supporters leaves a toxic atmosphere layered densely over St James’ Park.
Bruce inherits a squad that looks light up front from Benitez following the end of his three-year contract.
Ashley has at least allowed the £30,000,000 received from Ayoze Perez’s sale to Leicester City to be reinvested in a new striker.
Brazilian frontman Joelinton cost a club-record £40,000,000 from Hoffenheim – where Liverpool got compatriot Roberto Firmino from.
Will lightning strike twice? Losing both Perez and Salomon Rondon robs the Magpies of the 23-goal strike partnership that fired them to relative mid-table safety last term.
The start to Bruce’s tenure could hardly be tougher. After hosting the Gunners at home, they place both Champions League finalists – first Tottenham, then Liverpool – away in their first five matches.
October isn’t much kinder with Newcastle facing battles with Manchester United and Chelsea either side of the international break.
In other words, this is a tough gig – even without the hostility surrounding the change of boss.
Plenty is against Bruce then, and it’s no surprise to see bookmakers steadily slashing his side for the drop and installing him as prominent in the next Premier League manager to go betting.
Daniel Farke: An unexpected promotion could come back to haunt him
Norwich City channeled their inner Huddersfield Town when appointing German gaffer Daniel Farke.
The question is now that he’s emulated fellow Borussia Dortmund backroom alumnus David Wagner, can he keep the Canaries in the Premier League?
It’s no surprise that Norwich, who weren’t particularly fancied for promotion, are among the favourites to go straight back down.
They’ve spent very little on signings, netting Switzerland striker Josip Drmic for free and loaning in Patrick Roberts from Manchester City.
Sam Byram, meanwhile, was a bargain buy from West Ham United to give some competition and cover in defence.
The Carrow Road squad is by and large pretty youthful and it’s a gamble that can go one of two ways.
While it paid off in the division below, the lack of Premier League experience is a worry.
Drmic hasn’t played a lot of football of late, and Finland frontman Teemu Pukki must step up on his exploits from last season in attack.
Other Premier League clubs will surely be coveting Norwich’s young full backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis. The vultures probably won’t circle until the Canaries are in trouble though.
Like Newcastle, the East Anglia outfit have a tough start to the Premier League season. Away to Liverpool first, they also face Chelsea and champions Man City at home during their five matches.
That run of early games makes it hard for Norwich to keep the momentum from winning the Championship going.
The Premier League likely offers a stark reality check for Farke and he’s up against it to keep the Canaries in it.
Roy Hodgson: Golden oldie surely coming to end of career anyway
Veteran Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has lost highly-rated right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from his squad at Selhurst Park squad, and Wilfried Zaha could follow.
As of the time of writing, the Eagles have made no move to reinvest the reported £50,000,000 received for Wan-Bissaka from Manchester United. That’s a worry that will only grow if Zaha does leave South London too.
Palace are petty solid but unspectacular and in real danger of stagnating. They’re somewhat one-dimensional tactically, although there may be more to come from midfielder Max Meyer in his second season.
Width is key, but more goals are needed from Christian Benteke and now permanent acquisition Jordan Ayew.
Hodgson and company have a more favourable start than other teams, but later in the autumn is a run of games which may expose the Eagles.
After facing Man City and Arsenal back-to-back in late October, Chelsea and Liverpool are Palace’s opposition either side of the November international break.
If no fresh faces come in at Selhurst Park, then their squad offers nothing new to try and upset the big boys.
Hodgson is in the twilight of his lengthy coaching career. If results are poor, then the Eagles hierarchy might think about a younger man in the dugout.
It leaves Hodgson looking vulnerable in the next Premier League manager to go market.
Frank Lampard: A hero’s return that comes too soon?
Chelsea legend Frank Lampard has returned to Stamford Bridge very early in his coaching career. Many observers think too early.
What a time to be Blues boss though, with the club under a transfer embargo. Is it a free hit for Lampard? Is he risking his legacy as a Chelsea icon?
The answer is yes to both to some extent. Blues owner Roman Abramovich is ruthless and Lampard would be naive in the extreme if he thinks he’s exempt from that when greater managers haven’t been.
Chelsea fans may finally get what they’ve been hoping for in recent years. A growing clamour to see the fruits of their highly-regarded academy setup should be satisfied under Lampard.
So what if it’s more by necessity than by design? The key issue is whether or not it pays off.
That is the essence of the Lampard gamble. The Blues hierarchy can’t make signings for him, so they must work with what they have.
If Lampard does keep Chelsea in the top four, then it’s a success. If not, then he was always hampered by the embargo.
Lampard still needs to get results or he’ll face a similar fate to Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and others.
He lacks the managerial experience of Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Unai Emery. The clubs they manage are the ones battling the Blues for top honours.
It’s a baptism of fire for Lampard, as Chelsea face Man Utd and Liverpool away in consecutive games at the start of this season. He can silence doubters quickly, but what if those matches go against him?
Graham Potter: Can he hang with the big boys?
Brighton and Hove Albion dispensed with Chris Hughton after a second season of Premier League survival.
Graham Potter is a well-regarded young coach who worked wonders in Sweden and then did a decent job with Swansea City.
Transforming the Seagulls from perpetual relegation battlers into something greater demands more. Therein lies the problem.
It’s ambition that has brought Potter this far, but now he has to try and cut it coaching at an elite level.
Belgian winger Leandro Trossard is Brighton’s only major summer signing so far. All that has done though, is forced Anthony Knockaert out of the club on loan to Fulham.
So, can Potter get more out of essentially the same Seagulls squad as Hughton? He needs to, or Albion owner Tony Bloom sacking Hughton will be open to question.
One of the most worrying things about Brighton is their reliance on veteran striker Glenn Murray.
He’s done the business for them up front scoring goals which kept the club in the Premier League these last two seasons, but he turns 36 in September.
Father time will catch up with Murray sooner or later, while no other player netted more than three times in the league last term. That suggests the Seagulls should struggle again.
Some of Albion’s previous signings need to do more if Potter is to have any chance of avoiding yet another scrap. It hinges on them buying into his new methods and tactics.
You could do a lot worse than backing Potter in the next Premier League manager to go market. He really has it all to do at Brighton, but has a generous fixture list and must hit the ground running.
Dean Smith: Supported in the market so must deliver
Championship play-off winners Aston Villa have spent a lot of money – more than £100,000,000 – on remodelling their squad.
Is it fit for purpose for the Premier League? Only time will tell. Nobody can accuse the Villa owners of not backing head coach Dean Smith.
They’ve done their business early and given the new arrivals time to settle, but are there too many fresh faces? Smith has almost entirely remodelled his defence.
While Kortney Hause and Tyrone Mings were both at Villa Park last season, they’re joined as permanent acquisitions by highly-rated Belgian centre half Bjorn Engels, Brentford youngster Ezri Konsa and Southampton left back Matt Targett.
Behind those, Tom Heaton leaves Burnley for Villa to solve their goalkeeping problem. Fulham made similar sweeping changes at the back last season in the Premier League and it didn’t work.
That’s a cautionary tale for Villa supporters. Their midfield should remain constant though, with Brazilian holding player Douglas Luiz arriving from Man City.
Smith’s wide options and attack is also new. Anwar El Ghazi was on loan at Villa last term, but is joined by the Egypt international Trezeguet and Jota from local rivals Birmingham City.
Club Brugge forward Wesley is the biggest of Smith’s signings, costing over £20,000,000.
The Brazilian, like compatriot Joelinton at Newcastle, has to offer even more than he’s demonstrated in Europe already to be of use in the Premier League.
Smith will live and die by these signings. If they don’t gel, then even a boyhood Villa fan won’t last in the dugout.
The club has had three years out of the Premier League but, playing Spurs away first up apart, their early fixtures give them chances to start well.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: The poisoned chalice could tarnish his status
Man Utd caretaker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the job permanently now, but it’s been a relatively low key summer at Old Trafford.
As yet, the lengthy pursuit of Leicester City defender Harry Maguire hasn’t concluded with him moving to the Red Devils. United have just signed Wan-Bissaka from Palace and Wales winger Daniel James from Swansea.
These arrivals have potential, but need to make major strides in order to improve what is already available to Solskajer at the Theatre of Dreams. A Europa League campaign is both a blessing and a curse.
If Solskjaer and the players take it seriously as they did under predecessor Mourinho, it could offer the Red Devils a backdoor route into the Champions League if they don’t improve on last season’s sixth place Premier League finish.
However, it also means playing on Thursdays and Sundays all the time. December has the makings of a very difficult month for United.
Whatever Europa commitments they end up with, they have to play Spurs and Man City in the space of a few days.
The honeymoon of last season is well and truly over for Solskjaer, meanwhile. Whether midfielder Paul Pogba leaves Old Trafford, Maguire joins, or both stay where they are, the same problems exist.
Stability hasn’t been United’s suit since the Sir Alex Ferguson era ended. They are struggling with culture within the club, as pundit and Red Devils legend Gary Neville so often says.
Chelsea at home and Wolves away first up for Solskjaer means the players need to be on it from the start. If they aren’t, then he’s going to come under pressure and could be the next Premier League manager to go.
Chris Wilder: Upward curve could come to a crashing halt
Sheffield United are back in the top flight after 12 years away, and hometown boy Chris Wilder is very much the catalyst for their revival. He’s taken the Blades from League One to the Premier League.
Wilder has done a terrific job, but the Steel City side are favourites for the drop. This will sound harsh, but their recruitment since promotion almost looks like it’s been made with one eye on the Championship next season.
Phil Jagielka’s return to Bramall Lane is heartwarming and the veteran will add experience to the Blades defence. Ben Osborn, meanwhile, looks a solid option for left wingback from Nottingham Forest.
Ravel Morrison is the only gamble signing made by Wilder. The former Man Utd playmaker is a mercurial talent but attitude and consistency are the issues.
Other attacking additions include Preston North End top scorer Callum Robinson and the versatile Luke Freeman.
These are all unproven players in the Premier League – as are French forward Lys Mousset from Bournemouth and potential £20,000,000 record signing Ollie McBurnie from Swansea.
Sheffield United aren’t doomed to fail by any means, but nor is it a stretch to imagine these acquisitions remaining on the books if – as expected – they go straight back down.
Wilder could be a victim of his own success as a result. He wouldn’t be the first boss to suffer that.
The next Premier League manager to go market is one where Wilder is always likely to be prominent, but at least there are winnable games at the start of Sheffield United’s adventure.
Bournemouth at home, then Palace away is relatively kind. There will be darker days ahead for the Blades though, it’s inevitable as the relegation battle really does look like a tough ceiling to break.