The return of the Premier League is here but a few managers could be forgiven for entering the 2020-21 season with a little trepidation. A shortened pre-season has arguably made preparing for the new season harder than ever before, while financial pressures wrought by the coronavirus crisis will make the prospect of relegation even more frightening for many clubs. Here are the leading contenders for the Premier League sack race in the 2020/21 season.
Premier League sack race – who could go?
Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)
Even though Crystal Palace handed Hodgson a new deal in March, he is among the bookies’ favourites to lose the Premier League sack race.
That is partly due to Palace’s appalling end to the last campaign, when the Eagles plummeted down the table having gone into the lockdown period on the back of three straight wins.
They lost seven games in a row in the league to increase the pressure on Hodgson, who can rightly point to an old squad affected by a lack of serious investment over recent years.
Signing QPR hotshot Eberechi Eze and Michy Batshuayi should add flair and firepower to Palace’s attack but, as Frank de Boer found out a few years ago, the club is not afraid to pull the trigger early.
David Moyes (West Ham)
Despite twice leading West Ham to safety after taking over in difficult situations, the club’s fans are yet to take a shine to Moyes and he starts the new campaign under some pressure.
The sale of Grady Diangana to West Brom – potentially relegation rivals – led Hammers captain Mark Noble to speak out on social media recently. All is not well at London Stadium.
For now Moyes may avoid the lion’s share of supporter unrest, which is instead directed towards the club’s owners, but a poor start on the pitch could be bad news for the Scot.
Michail Antonio’s goals fired West Ham away from the drop zone last season but it is asking a lot for the Londoner to maintain that form and, if he does not, Moyes’ men look to lack goals and could well struggle.
Dean Smith (Aston Villa)
The scenes of jubilation when Aston Villa survived last season could soon be forgotten if they start the new campaign badly, with Dean Smith potentially on the way out despite being a fan of the club, although probably not because of this quiz.
Johan Lange has been appointed Villa’s new sporting director after Jesus Garcia Pitarch carried the can for poor recruitment last summer, which might give Smith time to turn things around.
But Villa’s super-rich owners, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, are very ambitious and, if another relegation battle looks on the cards, they might be tempted to turn to a more exotic name, though the extremely non-exotic Sean Dyche has long been linked with a switch to Villa Park.
The future of club captain Jack Grealish is also likely to be key, with the Villa talisman continuing to be linked with a move away, though an £80 million price tag appears to be putting his suitors off.
Steve Bruce (Newcastle United)
Bruce seemed certain to lose the Premier League sack race if the Newcastle takeover went through but, with that deal sensationally collapsing a few weeks ago, he is set to lead the Magpies into another season.
He might not finish the campaign in charge, though, with Newcastle fans refusing to take to what is perceived to be a negative style of football, even if it yielded eye-catching results including wins over Chelsea and Manchester United last term.
Pre-season results mean little but a 5-1 loss to Middlesbrough alarmed supporters who were expecting bigger names to be signed this summer than Jeff Hendrick on a free from Burnley.
Callum Wilson’s move from Bournemouth should boost a side that struggled for goals last season after Joelinton flopped following his arrival from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.
Scott Parker (Fulham)
Of the three managers in charge of promoted clubs, Scott Parker is seemingly the most vulnerable after Fulham arguably underachieved by requiring the play-offs to seal promotion.
The last time Fulham came up they spent a huge amount on players who failed to make an impact and, this time around, they have been more circumspect in the market.
Parker will therefore be reliant mostly on the squad he led to promotion, with Aleksandar Mitrovic again the man man – he scored 26 league goals for the Cottagers last term.
Defence looks likely to be an issue for Fulham with a similar set of players who badly struggled two years ago likely to be fielded again, but Parker will hope for patience from his board.
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