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In the firing line: Which managers are in danger of losing their jobs early on?

In the firing line: Mikel Arteta is under pressure.
In the firing line: Mikel Arteta is under pressure.

Few jobs compare to that of a football manager when it comes to staff turnover. The shelf-life of a club’s head coach often lasts no longer than two or three seasons, with the beginning of a new campaign often bringing with it an array of different challenges. 

Football is, in the end, a results-driven business, and while the 2021/22 season is only three weeks old, there are a number of managers who currently find themselves in a precarious position as we head into the year’s final quarter.

Today, we take a closer look at the four candidates currently leading the Sack Race.  

Mikel Arteta - Arsenal

I think most people would agree that Mikel Arteta is the closest to losing his job in the Premier League. The Spaniard was among the favourites to be sacked first before a ball was even kicked, and Arsenal’s meagre performances against Brentford and Chelsea - where they have lost 2-0 on both occasions and offered little in return - has only strengthened the case against him, and he's now favourite to be first for the chop at Evens (Paddy Power).

Questionable recruitment over the summer has seen the Gunners spend £140m on Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard, and while these players could prove to be shrewd investments in the long term, right now it looks as though the north London side are miles behind their rivals for a top-four (or even top-six) finish. 

Up next for Arterta & Co is a daunting trip to Manchester City, a match they are an astounding 12/1 to win - their highest ever price against the Cityzens. Then there is an ill-timed international break separating the Gunners’ next game at home to Norwich, which would provide the club with a perfect opportunity to let their former midfielder go, should they lose convincingly to City this weekend as many predict. 

If he survives, however, then the club's upcoming fixtures against the Canaries, Burnley and rivals Tottenham will surely be make or break.

Chris Hughton - Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest have had a complete shocker of a start this season. The East Midlands side have lost all four of their opening league games and were thrashed 4-0 at home to Wolves in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. 

Last season Forest finished 17th in the Championship and were the third-lowest scorers in the EFL. Hughton’s position in the hot seat was already under massive scrutiny and a start like this reaffirms the belief that his days at the City Ground are indeed numbered. A defeat this weekend against rivals Derby - whose issues have been well-documented this summer - would almost certainly see the former Newcastle manager sacked.

Today's football tips

Paul Cook - Ipswich

Ipswich spent big during the transfer window and as such began the campaign as second-favourites for promotion to the Championship, but a poor start has left the East Anglian outfit stagnating on the cusp of the drop zone. The Tractor Boys are 20th as things stand having taken just two points from their opening four league matches, while they were also dumped out of the Carabao Cup in the first round at the hands of League Two side Newport County. 

Things couldn’t really be going much worse for Paul Cook, especially considering his £2m recruitment drive during the summer, and this weekend’s clash against AFC Wimbledon will be vital for his chances of remaining in the job. Games against Wycombe and Bolton - two teams who have both started brightly - follow for Ipswich, making things even tougher for the former Wigan boss at Portman Road.

Gary Bowyer - Salford

Salford have made a habit of hiring and firing since their promotion to the Football League. With such heavy expectation due to the club’s well-known ambition, anything but near perfection is frowned upon at Moor Lane and will be punished with a P45 personally delivered by Gary Neville (or his PA). 

Gary Bowyer was the club’s sixth managerial appointment in just seven years when he took charge of Salford in March of this year, and after a respectable eighth-place finish in 2020/21, was handed a two-year contract in May. However, following two draws and two defeats in the Ammies’ opening four league games - which has left them third-bottom of League Two - the 50-year-old could well be the next casualty should vast improvement not be made in the coming weeks.

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