DEBUTANT contributor Ryan Wilson (@ryanjameswillo) has studied the Next Manager To Leave market, sharing his findings and picking out the value as The Sack Race commences.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | Premier League: Sack Race
With the Premier League season on the horizon once again, I've taken the time to study the market for Next Manager to Leave, or commonly refereed to as, The Sack Race. In a bid to make it easier to narrow down my picks, I studied the first manager to leave their post in the last 10 Premier League seasons.
A familiar trend showed as sides expected to finish in the bottom 10 – according to pre-season odds – were the first to part ways with their boss on eight occasions. Of the 10, Sunderland pulled the trigger first most often with three dismissals and Crystal Palace were second with two sackings, including Frank de Boer's controversial early exit last season.
Interestingly, six of the last 10 clubs finished higher in the table than they were when they sacked their manager, including each of the last five. Four of those five clubs were in the bottom three when their manager left with all five surviving come May.
Rules to abide by
I'd find it hard to make a case for any of the big seven clubs causing the first managerial casualty. Just once in 10 seasons has that occurred – when Roberto di Matteo was unceremoniously dismissed in 2012, despite leading Chelsea to an FA Cup and Champions League double several months earlier.
The rule of thumb is that newly-promoted teams remain loyal to the coach who took them to the top-tier for as long as possible, too. Only once has a newly-promoted side sacked their manager first in 10 seasons – Newcastle's unusual dismissal of Chris Hughton in 2010. With that in mind, I can't see Wolves, Cardiff or Fulham moving first.
Given their respective successes for small clubs, you'd expect Huddersfield, Burnley and Brighton would afford more time to David Wagner, Sean Dyche and Hughton.
The same is expected for Mark Hughes at Southampton, who took their time to wash their hands of the lacklustre Mauricio Pellegrino.
I'd also expect trigger-happy Crystal Palace to keep faith in Roy Hodgson should the going get tough, given that Eagles owner Steve Parish is a close friend and the former England boss performed miracles in Croydon last term.
The final five
I've effectively ruled out 15 possibilities, so we are left with a final five.
Although Bournemouth dropped from 9th to 12th last term, the Cherries were only two points worse off. Eddie Howe appears to have money to spend this summer after flogging several bit-part players and Jeff Mostyn seems keen to back him.
Given Howe has a reputation as one of England's most exciting young managers, it would take a drastic failure for Bournemouth to part with their well-respected coach.
Newly-hired West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini has already spent transfer fees in excess of £80m since his appointment in May and that's a red flag right off the bat.
Two of his biggest signings Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko are undoubtedly talented, but both have had frequent hot and cold spells. Young centre-back Issa Diop arrived for a whopping £22m and while his ceiling is huge, it could be difficult for him to settle and lock down a starting berth.
The Hammers were rarely in danger after dismissing Slaven Bilic last term, but their difficult opening fixtures could put the Chilean under immediate pressure. The price is certainly worthy with 20/1 (SkyBet) available, though I'm not convinced David Gold or David Sullivan would be brazen enough to part with Pellegrini easily.
Javi Gracia has been well-backed to leave Watford, but the Spaniard's work to revive Watford has been disregarded too easily, for me. The Hornets had taken five points from a possible 33 when he arrived in January 2018. Gracia guided a downbeat side to comfortable survival despite tough away trips to Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Man United.
Watford acquired 14 of their 15 points under Gracia at Vicarage Road and four of their opening five games are on home soil. While the sale of Richarlison can't be deemed a positive, the Brazilian struggled to make an impact under the Spaniard's gameplan. The returns of Gerard Deulofeu and Nathaniel Chalobah can make a bigger impact on results and I can see the Hornets steering clear of initial danger, despite a reputation for lacking faith in managers.
Claude Puel (6/1 Boylesports)
I'm of the belief that Riyad Mahrez's exit from Leicester weakens them more than it strengthens Man City. The Algerian had 12 goals and 10 assists last season and the Foxes took 34 of their 47 points in games where he achieved one of those.
Leicester have had success in bringing in long-term targets Ricardo Pereira and young James Maddison in key areas, but the latter is expected to replace such a key influence immediately.
While their opening fixtures aren't daunting, potential banana skins at Southampton, Bournemouth and Newcastle are sandwiched between tough contests against Man United and Liverpool as Leicester embark on a new era.
Claude Puel was said to be on the verge of sack throughout the conclusion of last season with rumours that owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha wasn't keen. Despite a public vote of confidence, I've no doubt that these ill-feelings will flare up again given the opportunity. For that reason, the odds of 6/1 (Boylesports) are worth considering.
Rafael Benitez (6/1 BetVictor)
My best bet, however, is to back Rafa Benitez at 6/1 (BetVictor).
It astounded me that Newcastle managed to hold onto Benitez after relegation in 2016, but the current situation is arguably more baffling.
The Spaniard inspired his troops to a superb 10th place finish in their Premier League return, against all odds. Yet owner Mike Ashley, after refusing to invest last summer, appears to be remaining stubborn once more.
Though four players have been brought in, Newcastle have spent less than they've recouped. Even when Aleksandar Mitrovic's likely exit is confirmed, it's hard to see the former Real Madrid boss getting properly backed.
To make matters worse, the fixture list has been extremely cruel. In their opening eight matches, they face Spurs, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Man United, alongside difficult trips to Cardiff and Crystal Palace.
Ashley is prepared to play hardball with Benitez, who refuses to sign a new contract, while Rafa believes he's in the right to request real backing. While Rafa got an incredible amount out of an average squad last term, it looks even more difficult to replicate with a constant cloud hanging over him.
Sooner or later, this relationship is going to explode and I'd rather keep the 6/1 onside given most would understand if Rafa walked from his job.
2018/19 Premier League – Rafael Benitez to be Next Manager To Leave (6/1 BetVictor)