Ranking all 20 Premier League managers by how safe their job looks

Date published: Saturday 9th July 2022 7:04 - Dave Tickner

Man Utd manager questioned

Another Premier League season is almost upon us so let’s have a quick look at how safe in their jobs we think all 20 managers might be.

Two reasons for this being a bit trickier than it might otherwise be. One, there’s no Watford this year so who the first manager out of a job will be is anyone’s guess. Two, that winter World Cup looms on the horizon, potentially making all managers safer in the short term than they might otherwise be in a normal season. But you’re not going to want to be a struggling manager of a struggling team in November when owners and chairmen will be thinking about how neat and tidy it would be to get rid of this absolute clown (that they hired, but that always seems to be forgotten for some reason) and get someone better without it all having to be a total rush-job.

Still, these factors affect everyone else more or less equally, so let’s crack on. We’re not particularly looking to identify the Sack Race winner here; this isn’t about pin-pointing the first manager to go, but rather a temperature check on what we reckon is each manager’s chances of at least making it to that post-World Cup resumption at Christmas. Rankings go from most imperilled to safest, but you could probably have worked that out for yourselves.


20. Jesse Marsch (Leeds)
DANGER, DANGER! It’s barely July and already you fear for Marsch, you really do. It’s probably very harsh indeed, but Leeds’ survival last season by the skin of their arse never really felt like it had a great deal to do with the amiable American (which whether we like it or not is another factor that counts against him in this country). He now has plenty of new players that are very much his signings – which can absolutely cut both ways depending on how things go – yet right now faces starting the season with a demonstrably weaker squad than that which barely avoided the drop last year. Kalvin Phillips and (in all likelihood) Raphinha are not easily replaced. A kindly start to the season from the fixture computer is potentially helpful, but that can itself work both ways and also means a sting in the tail. Leeds face Liverpool and Spurs (who did for Bielsa in the end) right before the November manager sacking window (there’s also some tournament or other being played in this break, apparently). If Marsch even makes it that far.


19. Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)
Arguably the manager with least credit in the bank of anyone after that shonky end to last season in which the Saints managed to win just one of their last 12 games. He’s a strange one is Hasenhuttl, because there are also lots of times when Southampton look really very good indeed, but as a manager who has already survived not one but two 9-0 league defeats as well as that current horrible run he could really do with another of those good spells quite quickly. Southampton play Spurs, Man United and Chelsea before August is out. Looks in grave danger, which means they will probably end the opening month of the season top of the table with a 100 per cent record and a shiny manager of the month award sat on Ralph’s desk.


18. Marco Silva (Fulham)
You get about as much credit for a Fulham promotion as you do a Norwich promotion (i.e. almost none) so Silva is potentially highly vulnerable to a bad start. His three previous cracks at Premier League management have brought a combined total of 108 games and we would not be remotely surprised to see that games-per-club number fall from its current surprisingly lofty 36.


17. Brendan Rodgers (Leicester)
Improved form at the back end of last season makes him a touch safer than might have been the case, but a Leicester reign that for the longest time looked certain to end with Rodgers moving up in the world to a Big Six job or similar now looks far more likely to end with a P45 and a thanks for the memories. Of which there will be several, and not all of them daft grandiloquent press conference quotes. All in all, feels like the manager who can least afford a slow start to the season that adds more evidence to the pile suggesting the best is already firmly in the past.


16. Bruno Lage (Wolves)
Wolves are a sensible club and the reaction to those early defeats at the start of Lage’s first season was admirably calm, with a serene sense from both club and manager that the performances were exceeding the results and that the latter would come in time. Which they duly did, and Lage’s side spent much of the season looking every inch contenders for European qualification. They ended the season appallingly, though, meaning Lage has far less credit in the bank than might otherwise have been the case. Early fixtures aren’t too bad this year, but Lage will be keen to have put a good few points on the board against your Leedses, your Fulhams and the Bournemouths of this world in August before a nightmarish run of games against Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham and Chelsea either side of the September international break. In a normal season, that break would come too early for a managerial change at any club that isn’t a total basketcase, but this year it is the only break that exists before November for a chairman who can’t see any reasons to expect improvement. If anyone can be sensible about having to face Liverpool and City back-to-back before that break it’s Wolves, but it’s a pair of fixtures whose timing in this particular season would make any manager nervous.


15. Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa)
Absolutely nowhere in the Sack Race market, but Villa were really quite bad for really quite a long time at the end of last season and it’s not that hard to see how Gerrard might come under some scrutiny pretty quickly if there’s a sense that relegation could become a real threat. And they ended last season very much in that kind of form, their only wins in the last 11 games of the season coming against Norwich and Burnley who are no longer with us. In the plus column, Gerrard remains an impressive and authoritative figure – perhaps why that dodgy run hasn’t started any serious chat – who is still being lined up by the media at least to take his rightful place as next manager of Liverpool when the time comes. Bournemouth, Everton, West Ham, Palace is a pretty tame start to the season as well, which helps.


14. Frank Lampard (Everton)
Everton appear to be absolutely fully committed and all in on Frank Lampard after avoiding relegation, so that probably means he’ll be out of a job by October! No, in all seriousness, he and they will have to do much better this time around.


13. David Moyes (West Ham)
We’ve all enjoyed the Moyes Renaissance over the last couple of years, but there’s a nagging feeling that this could be the year he and the Hammers stop defying gravity. In a weird way, selling Declan Rice might buy him a touch more time because it would reduce expectations and the managerial pressure that goes with that. But it would also probably make West Ham quite sh*t, so he might be done for either way. Perhaps our boldest/most idiotic prediction of this whole caper is this: Moyes won’t see out the season.


12. Scott Parker (Bournemouth)
August looks horrible – City, Arsenal and Liverpool within the first four games – but in a way that can work for a promoted manager. Any results from those games are a bonus, while the feelgood momentum of promotion can sometimes propel a team through those early games. There’s also a general if unproven sense that you might just have a bigger chance of catching a big team cold early in the season before they’ve fully rumbled up to top speed. And you’re at least hitting those tough games with credit in the bank from promotion. Credit which really doesn’t last as long as you sort of think it should. On this flimsy fixture-list basis, we say Parker is fine. Well not fine, but probably safer than other managers in similar boats.


11. Thomas Frank (Brentford)
No manager is ever truly safe from a Victim of Their Own Successing. Frank should be as safe as anyone has ever been on that front after what he’s done for Brentford but if they’re anywhere near that bottom three come November, he’s in as much crap as anyone else. And Victim of Their Own Success is an easy bedfellow of Second Season Syndrome. Frank and Brentford could be ripe contenders for both.


10. Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace)
Plenty of goodwill after the eye-catching football of last season and as long as there doesn’t appear to be any really significant material threat to Palace’s top-flight status – and there really shouldn’t be, they are a good and capable mid-table team – then Vieira has little to worry about.


9. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
There are at least three trips round the Arteta managerial rollercoaster before the World Cup comes along, the highs will see him portrayed as an alchemist genius turning this squad of callow youngsters and loose cannons into world-beaters whose decade-long era of Premier League domination is surely just around the corner, while during the lows he will be a Lego-haired fraud who is way out of his depth at a club of Arsenal’s size. What’s important, though, is this. They won’t get rid of him no matter how many times #ArtetaOut is trending on Twitter. Probably.


8. Erik Ten Hag (Manchester United)
You wouldn’t want to be backing him in the Sack Race necessarily, because he’s only just got here and even Manchester United’s ongoing banter era probably won’t be enough to get him out before someone else gets the old Spanish archer. But also not sure you’d be lumping on him seeing out that three-year contract either.  Really, his relative safety is based on how mortifying it would be for United to have to move quickly to get rid of another manager rather than any confidence that it’s all going to be brilliant.


7. Eddie Howe (Newcastle)
Inevitably has the feel of a sensible stopgap to tick off the formalities of a few staging posts on Newcastle’s route map to world domination. A man to get them out of the foothills, but not necessarily to the summit. All depends on what kind of timeline Newcastle’s owners are working to, really. Because nothing about that squad yet screams TOP FOUR IS A MUST THIS SEASON, AND THEN IT MUST BE THE LEAGUE TITLE. If they are happy enough with, say, top eight this year and tangible progress than Howe should be fine. We’ll plonk him towards the top of mid-table, because that’s nice and neat given that’s where we think Newcastle should be aiming. But we certainly don’t expect Newcastle to find things quite so easy as they did on that carefree, freewheeling waltz up the table once the pressure was off in the final third of last season.


6. Steve Cooper (Nottingham Forest)
The “victim of his own success” trope is a classic of the managerial downfall genre, but it’ll take a while to kick in at Forest this season if indeed it ever does. Newcastle away is a lovely first fixture because Newcastle are a side likely to improve as the campaign wears on. It’s a tricky enough game where defeat is just a shrug but the chance of a statement victory is very real. After that it’s West Ham (same) and Everton (also same). Then it’s Spurs and Man City, but don’t worry about that. Point is, Forest aren’t going to do anything silly at some ridiculously early stage of the season, surely, and we’d be enormously confident they win at least one of those three opening games to get a bit of buzz going anyway.


5. Antonio Conte (Tottenham)
As safe from the sack as anyone outside the Big Two, but the biggest threat to Conte at Tottenham has never really been the sack but the constant possibility bubbling never too far from the surface that something could set him off and have him huffing off into the sunset complaining darkly about some grave insult or broken promise or other. It could be as simple as a better job becoming available, or playing as badly again as they did in that 1-0 defeat at Burnley last season that seemed to really push him close to the edge, or it could just simply be that he wakes up one day, has a moment of clarity and thinks to himself, “Hang on, why the juddering f*** am I at f***ing Spurs for f*** sake?” Those are some pretty sweary hypothetical thoughts, Antonio, but they raise a valid question. In summary, then: fifth.


4. Graham Potter (Brighton)
Obviously not getting sacked by Brighton unless something absolutely mental goes off. But what if a certain very high-profile job for which Potter appears absolutely ideally suited should become available at the end of the World Cup?


3. Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)
Under the rules of Old Chelsea, Tuchel would potentially be in a fair bit of strife after a trophyless season. Plenty of talented managers have been shown the door for less at Stamford Bridge. All indications are, though, that the whole “new manager every couple of years come what may” strategy that, to be fair, served Chelsea really quite well may now a thing of the past under the new regime. He’s a very good manager at a club that doesn’t really need any more drama right now. Should be absolutely fine, you’d think.


2. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
We’re trying to conceive of a universe in which City are doing badly enough for Guardiola to get the sack, and we can’t do it. We can just about conceive of one where they bollocks up the Champions League again and he walks at the end of the season out of sheer frustration at it all, but that’s ages away. There’s a whole World Cup before then, for goodness’ sake. He’s really very safe indeed unless something ludicrous occurs.


1. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
As safe as the safest thing in safetown. A brilliant manager who bought into the Liverpool ethos instantly and has a mutual affection with the fans that runs real deep. Could declare his intention to run in the Tory leadership contest and still retain his support in Liverpool.

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