TOM LOVE (@TomLove_18) has scoured the dozens of Premier League specials markets and shared his best bets ahead of the 2019/20 big kick-off.
Roy Hodgson to be the first Premier League Manager to leave (8/1 SkyBet)
It’s a market I don’t usually go to, but the ‘Sack Race’ is one that intrigues me this time around, mainly because a lot of the managers in situ look relatively safe in their jobs.
There are three brand new bosses at Premier League clubs in Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Graham Potter (Brighton) and Steve Bruce (Newcastle) so the chances of them being dismissed first are very slim, especially given the contracts handed to them.
I think we can safely rule out Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino from the running too. Not only because the trio are doing good jobs at their current sides but the chances of getting an able replacement at this time would be slim.
Then you have the likes of Ralph Hassenhuttl and Brendan Rodgers who came in last season and impressed at both Southampton and Leicester respectively. They’ve now had a summer to further implement their ideologies and imprint on the squad. They won’t be sacked this season barring a miracle, the owners of the two sides seem to have a mid to long-term vision.
Javi Gracia has provided much needed stability in the Watford managerial ranks and has done one of the most underrated jobs in the league. Bournemouth have gone through tough spells in the past and stuck with Eddie Howe and his philosophy, rightfully so. Manuel Pellegrini has made some big additions to his West Ham squad, each transfer window they’re becoming more moulded into his team, and they’re fancied to do well.
Sean Dyche has done a great job at Burnley and they’ll do everything to keep him even through possible choppy waters. The same can be said for Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves. Chris Wilder, Daniel Farke and Dean Smith will surely be given leeway after the fantastic jobs they’ve done in getting their sides into the division.
That leaves us with three that could be in potential danger of facing pressure this season, in my eyes. The first is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United. The hierarchy gave him the gig after an impressive few months at Old Trafford but results and performances wained after that deal was finalised. However, there seems to be a shift in focus to integrate more youth into the side and fans may therefore be more understanding if results don’t all go their own way.
Throw in the fact that Olé is a well liked figure from his playing days in the red half of Manchester and he could be given ample time should it be going difficultly.
Marco Silva is a manager that not many can make their mind up on. He got Everton performing well, especially defensively, in the second half of the season. Their were question marks earlier on in the campaign though and Farid Moshiri gave him time. The only worry could be a possible fracas in the way the club operates, now with a sporting director in tow, whether Silva is a fan of that or not we don’t quite know.
That leaves us with Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace and I personally think he is in the most vulnerable position. I’m aware that he’s a Croydon lad and the fans at Selhurst Park have a lot of respect for him but Palace are a team I think could struggle early on and with his contract up at the end of the season, a possibly pay off would be minimal in the grand scheme of things.
I think he has done a decent job thus far but nothing to set the world alight. My issue is also with Palace’s playing squad and overall mindset. One of their top performers last season Aaron Wan-Bissaka has departed, Wilfred Zaha has seemingly been angling for a move away which is looking less and less likely due to the Eagles’ high valuation of him. That could affect him mentally and possibly hamper performances, he was their go-to man last season and was a reason Palace were awarded so many penalties which went a long way to keeping them out of relegation trouble.
All in all, I’m surprised therefore that Roy isn’t the favourite in the Sack Race. I do think the short time he has left on his contract is a key factor here with the rest of the Premier League clubs tying their managers down to longer term deals, the financial factor has to be thrown into the equation.
Whilst other teams have seemingly to a step forward, Palace have stood still, which in this day and age means they’re moving backwards. I do worry for them and the former England gaffer, who is 6/1 to be the first to go with the majority of bookmakers, but there’s real mileage in the 8/1 available at SkyBet.
Leicester to win the Premier League without the Big Six (7/2 Bet365)
Leicester are a popular fancy to go well this season and possibly nudge their way into the European places, and I have to say that I am party to that way of thinking.
The Foxes were revived when Brendan Rodgers came in to replace Claude Puel last season, a change in tact to a more attacking approach suited the players in that squad and it’s no real surprise when you look at the level of threats they have going forward. Jamie Vardy started banging them in and they’ve brought in Youri Tielemans on a permanent deal after seriously impressing on-loan last season – he gives added thrust, quality and goal threat from midfield.
James Maddison created the most chances in the entire league last term and is dangerous on set pieces. Demarai Gray, Rachid Ghezzal, Harvey Barnes, Fousseni Diabate, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ayoze Perez can all make serious contributions in a side that’s stacked with attacking potential.
Defensively there could be a few question marks if Harry Maguire’s impending transfer to Manchester United goes through. Rodgers has said that contingency plans have been made however they do have highly rated duo Caglar Soyuncu and Filip Benkovic who could step up to partner the experienced Johnny Evans. Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell at full-back have bounds of energy and we’re strong on the data side of things last year, James Justin is a great pick up from Luton too as a back up for now.
It’s a superb squad and I’d say a good six or seven could easily get into a top-six side. I personally think they could gatecrash that group but in case they don’t we can still get them at 7/2 (Bet365) to finish top when you exclude the Big Six and that makes appeal.
There are obvious challengers, namely Wolves and Everton. The former are involved in Europe this season though and the Sunday-Thursday schedule could strain their relatively thin squad. Everton are a threat but Idrissa Gueye And Kurt Zouma are no longer there and they were a big reason they had a decent 2019.
There’s ambition at Leicester, no Europe to contend with so they’ll be fresh. They always compete well with the big boys and have the quality to dispense the lesser lights. My faith is in them to really kick on again this season.
Southampton to finish in the top half (5/2 Bet365)
Another team I fancy to go well are Southampton. They’ve been a breath of fresh air since Ralph Hassenhuttl replaced Mark Hughes and the former Leipzig and Ingolstadt gaffer is someone I’m a big fan of.
Hassenhuttl made a few tactical tweaks that saw the Saints improve in the second half of the campaign – if he was in situ from the get go they’d have been a top half thing. One that caught my eye was moving Nathan Redmond into a more central role and getting their midfielders to thread through balls to him, especially against high lines – it gave defences a different problem.
Redmond thrived from then on and popped up with plenty of goals to go with his dangerous performances. He’s my wildcard in fantasy football this year, he’ll be desperate to play himself into England contention with Euro 2020 on the horizon.
Moussa Djnepo has being drafted in from Standard Liege and he’s a player that’s been likened to Sadio Mane when he first came to the South coast, raw but full of pace and skill. Che Adams has come in from Birmingham and he can fill that void up front that was quite obvious for most of the season. Powerful in running and strike, decent movement and a strong goal record, he looks like the right fit for Southampton.
At the back, Jan Bednarek was one of the most underrated defenders in the league last season. He can be rash but he’s very competitive and coped with all kind of strikers.
There’s a nice balance in the squad now but the Hassenhuttl factor gives me the most hope they can outperform their odds and bother the top half where they're an attractive 5/2 (Bet365) to finish.