As the Premier League turns to its tenth game of the season, how have all the pre-season expectations unravelled? Whilst Arsenal fans have temporarily turned their finger away from Arsene Wenger, there has been plenty of heckling from disgruntled fans elsewhere. With Leicester, Crystal Palace and now Everton having already sacked their managers due to their dwindling form, it is rapidly approaching the make or break point in the season to which end each club will finish.
Koeman was the latest to the chopping block, after an exciting transfer window of incomings the air of positivity soon dissipated with the key outgoing of Romelu Lukaku proving a predictably heavy loss. Elsewhere, Slavan Bilic at West Ham is feeling the heat of the spotlight, but many warning signs are flashing elsewhere, with Jürgen Klopp still struggling to establish a consistent grasp on the intensity of Premier League football.
“The manager’s brilliant debut season there was always going to be critics of this drop in form and quality”
Another manager who is all but too close to the exit is West Ham manager Bilic. After an impressive first season at the club, finishing 7th in 2016, it seemed Bilic was engineering a new era at the Hammers, with Dimitri Payet starring in a prosperous season at the club, gaining Europa League football. However, Payet’s decision to leave the club a season later caused turmoil that the club doesn’t seem to have recovered from. After a poor first half to the season the club managed to climb and finish in 11th place in the table, which isn’t a particularly devastating position, yet after the manager’s brilliant debut season there was always going to be critics of this drop in form and quality.
Sadly for the Hammers, it seems this lacklustre form has followed them into the new season. Whilst Bilic remains determined to try and upturn this negative spell, a 3-0 defeat to newly promoted Brighton will most certainly have sparked further fury within the club. The club sit 16th in the table but have been far from inspiring, with it seeming like the Hammers are facing another bottom half finish in the league table.
The clubs desperate need for a continual winning run continues, with the manager cutting an uncomfortable figure on the touchline, which is far from surprising with the club having lost their last four games in the league, conceding 13 goals and only conjuring up 2 in response. Whilst some sources believe the manager has been given a two game deadline to save his job, it’s probable that another equally disappointing result next weekend could spell the end of his time in charge of the Hammers.
Despite being tipped for the England job only a year ago, Howe is struggling this season at Bournemouth. The club find themselves sitting second from bottom with only seven points in the league, having lost six of their nine games played so far. Howe’s amiable but fierce personality seems to have worked to keep the club achieving ever since their terrific ascendency from League 1 to the Premier League.
The sudden change in form this season therefore comes as a surprise and whilst his position is currently not being attacked, a few more defeats could easily sway the opinions of the directors. Howe spoke out before their 2-1 win over Stoke at the weekend, urging his players not to panic which coincidentally appeared to work, yet their victory wasn’t convincing and far from solid with Stoke dominating the second half.
Howe’s position therefore remains intact with few deterring him as the right man for the job considering his history in the Bournemouth record books. His exploits as a manager and a player at the club have stabilised his position, yet how long can his pedigree keep his job safe before a more radical option has to be taken, to prevent a disappointing return to the Championship?
The game between Bournemouth and Stoke City was a fiercely competitive match considering the two side’s league positions at the foot of the table. Whilst Stoke still remain two places above Bournemouth, the defeat has sparked further interrogation over Mark Hughes’ job to whether he remains the appropriate figure to move a talented squad forward. With players such as ex-Bayern Munich forward Shaqiri and PSG forward Jesé, the lack of quality cannot be an excuse for the Potters, but with four defeats in their last five league games, including a 7-2 thrashing at Manchester City, it does not look hopeful for the side.
Nonetheless, their arguably tough run of games at the start of the season is perhaps why their form looks poor. Having played Chelsea, Arsenal and both Manchester clubs in their first nine games, Stoke have had an unfortunately challenging start to the season. Additionally, they achieved a 1-0 victory over Arsenal, emphasising their potential quality.
In an interview Hughes has told his side to ‘show their mettle’ after their defeat to Bournemouth, and whilst defeats to Newcastle and Bournemouth will be disappointing, their difficult fixture list over their first nine games was always going to be challenging for them.
“The challenge that lies at Klopp’s feet is a big one, to rouse the spirits of the Anfield crowd and instil fear back into the opposition”
Klopp differs from the other managers under pressure, considering his side are in the top half of the Premier League table, yet unconvincingly. Liverpool are a club with one of the most successful football heritages in the English game, yet their struggle over the last six or seven years has seen them rarely break into the top four, albeit their Luis Suarez infused second place finish in the 2013-2014 season.
However, over the past few seasons under Jürgen Klopp there has seemed a growing improvement in the side, epitomised through them gaining Champions League football last season for the first time in three years. Yet the current season has spelled out big problems defensively for Liverpool, who have conceded the most away goals in the Premier League this season. Klopp appears to have the support of the fans, but a 5-0 thumping by Manchester City and a 4-1 defeat at Tottenham at the weekend will not help augment this praise; the Reds look incredibly frail and lacking any confidence.
The challenge that lies at Klopp’s feet is a big one, to rouse the spirits of the Anfield crowd and instil fear back into the opposition with his counter attacking football. Liverpool have shown some impressive glimpses over the last few seasons, but whether they can grasp some consistency and hearten their defence will ultimately decide whether Klopp still manages the club next season.