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Premier League Manager Preview: Odds on title winner, top-four, relegation, and first sacked

Pep Guardiola is looking for his fourth Premier League crown
Pep Guardiola is looking for his fourth Premier League crown

A chaotic, topsy-turvy, and at times bemusing managerial summer like no other has seen four Premier League clubs change face in the dugout, three of whom fluffed their lines on multiple occasions before eventually finding replacements. You know who you are.

Two of those appointments have Premier League experience under their belts - veteran Rafa Benitez and ex-wolf Nuno Santo - while the other two - Patrick Vieira and Bruno Lage - will grace the touchline for the first time over on these shores.

With a ridiculous amount of silverware between them Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, and Thomas Tuchel will take centre stage, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue on his quest to bring trophies back to Old Trafford.

Daniel Farke returns after bagging another promotion with Norwich City, Thomas Frank makes his Premier League bow with new boys Brentford, and Xisco Munoz will hope to change the narrative when it comes to the lifespan of Watford managers. 

The Hornets hierarchy could learn a thing or two from Burnley whose gaffer Sean Dyche - an ex-Watford manager - enters into his tenth season at the helm.

Below we take a look at what the betting is saying when it comes to the title challengers, the top-four hopefuls, and those clubs with outside European hopes. Then there’s the tussle for mid-table supremacy, the battle for survival, and the frantic fight to avoid becoming the first managerial casualty of the campaign.

Here we go…

2021/22 Premier League Odds
Liverpool appeal at 11/2 to regain the title
Liverpool appeal at 11/2 to regain the title

The Title Challengers

The race for the Premier League title actually promises to be a genuine contest this season, as opposed to Man City’s stroll to glory in the second-half of 20/21.

We could well see a riveting four-way duel featuring two titans of the managerial game - Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp - who have lifted the last four crowns between them. Then there’s the current Champions League holder, Thomas Tuchel, plus last season's runner-up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who will hope to give his critics the ultimate slap in the face by bringing home the spoils.

Pep Guardiola has nine league titles in 12 seasons as a manager, three of which are Premier League crowns. 

The Man City boss is the bookies’ favourite (4/6) to add a fourth English honour to his collection next term; should he do so he’ll move ahead of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger (both on three) in the all-time list.

Guardiola’s expensively assembled squad, which needs absolutely no introduction, could even boast the talents of Englishmen Jack Grealish and Harry Kane next season. If so, the title race could be over before it’s even begun.

Since joining the cream of the managerial crop over in the Premier League, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel (5/1) has won the Champions League, reached an FA Cup final, and secured a top-four spot in the space of five months.

The German has beaten some of the world’s best managers in 2021, now he’ll be tasked with showcasing his tactical acumen, game intelligence, and man-management over the course of a whole season at the Blues.

Premier League Title Odds

Jurgen Klopp (11/2) is the only other manager to win the Premier League title in the last four years, and given that the German is now well stocked in the centre of defence, he’s primed to mount a serious challenge in 21/22.

From 6th, to 3rd, to 2nd, to...1st? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (9/1) has enjoyed three seasons of gradual progression and now the time is right to orchestrate a concrete and sustained push for the top gong, something which has eluded every Man Utd manager since Fergie in 2013. 

Solskjaer, who hasn’t been beaten away since January 2020, was the only boss who got anywhere near Guardiola’s City juggernaut last term. He’s just added Jadon Sancho to his ranks and there are more new faces to come: potentially defender Raphaël Varane and midfield talent Eduardo Camavinga.

Top-tip for the title: In truth it’s hard to look past Man City, but with their defence patched back-up confidence and form should flood back to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool who represent an attractive price at 11/2.

Third time lucky for top-four chasing Brendan Rodgers?
Third time lucky for top-four chasing Brendan Rodgers?

The Top-Four Hopefuls

The aforementioned quartet of managers have every chance of securing the prized Champions League slots, but as always they’ll be other gaffers banging on the top-four door.

Brendan Rodgers continues to bolster his reputation at Leicester City, who have agonisingly missed out on the top-four on the final day of each of the last two seasons. The Foxes can be backed at 9/2 to make it third time lucky next season.

Tottenham’s rollercoaster manager search ended after a staggering 72 days with the appointment of Nuno Santo (6/1), the former Wolves boss. After four consecutive top-four finishes, Spurs have since had to settle for 6th and 7th but if they can keep Harry Kane, and Nuno hits the ground running, then smiles should soon return to the Tottenham faithful.

Top-Four Odds

Mikel Arteta (6/1) will be determined to improve upon a very underwhelming 8th place last season; which mirrored the club’s standing in 2020. He’s still learning the managerial ropes and needs to iron out a number of creases if he’s going to get the Gunners challenging for the top-four again.

Arteta has a talented cluster of youngsters in his ranks, including Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang needs to raise his game and new signings are a must.

Top-tip for the top-four: Nuno Santo (6/1) may not be the glamorous name fans craved, but providing he keeps Harry Kane and shores up a wobbly defence, there’s every chance he can get Spurs challenging for the Champions League places.

The European Places

David Moyes was crowned The Sack Race’s Premier League Manager of the Season after propelling West Ham to a superb 6th-place finish. The Hammers have never finished in the top-six in successive seasons, and despite their progress under the Scot it may be a difficult task to achieve this feat (6/1) given the likes of Spurs and Arsenal will be looking to bounce back. However, you should never write off Moyesy.

Marcelo Bielsa and Dean Smith both enjoyed decent 20/21 seasons and will each be hoping to continue to climb the league ladder. 

Bielsa’s Leeds are always a must-watch and given that they have improved in each of the three seasons under their iconic boss, expect them to target the European places this time around, with a top-six standing priced at 5/1.

Villa’s Smith has already recruited the quite brilliant Emiliano Buendía from Norwich, and more signings are expected from the ambitious club with Smith Rowe a reported target. If they can cling onto Jack Grealish then a stunning season could be on the cards. Villa are available at 6/1 to finish in the top-six and 20/1 to claim a top-four spot.

New Everton boss Rafa Benitez (4/1) has returned to the Premier League for the fourth time. He’s the first manager to oversee both Merseyside clubs since William Edward Barclay all the way back in the 1890s. He has buckets of experience and know-how but only time will tell if his more solid-than-spectacular approach will inspire a frustrated Everton fanbase.

Top-tip for the top-six: If Aston Villa can keep Jack Grealish and continue to splash the cash on high-quality recruits then their odds of 6/1 certainly appeal.

Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is now in charge of Everton
Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is now in charge of Everton

The Top-10 tussle

The managers we’ve listed in the above category will obviously each be looking to secure a top-10 standing at the very least, but if you’re looking for an outsider then Brighton could be the way to go at 7/4.

Graham Potter was the subject of relentless rumour in conjunction with the Tottenham and Everton jobs, yet the highly-rated Englishman remains at Brighton. The Seagulls have finished 15th and 16th under his watch, but he’s overseen a complete transformation in the club’s style of play. The defence was excellent after Christmas and the next step will be to get his troops firing in front of goal.

If Benfica’s Bruno Lage can inject some impetus into Wolves, then expect a much improved season for the club who have two top-seven finishes in three seasons back in the big time.

Meanwhile, there’s a cluster of other managers who will set their sights on the top-10, although they also have to swat away the threat of relegation...

Top-tip for the top-10: Convert chances into goals and draws into wins, and Graham Potter’s Brighton could break into the top-half.

Bidding To Avoid The Drop

Daniel Farke returns to the top table bidding to retain his seat. Norwich City, odds-on to go down, were simply scintillating en route to winning the Championship last season, and while the departure of star man Emiliano Buendía is a big blow, they will hope to prove that they have learnt from the painful lessons from 2019/20.

Thomas Frank made history by becoming the first ever Brentford boss to deliver Premier League football. The Dane continues to enhance his reputation and will now be eager to test himself against some of the best bosses in the business. One of the bookies’ favourites to go straight back down, but Frank has a talented and hungry squad who will be gunning to upset the odds.

Xisco Munoz and Watford are also in the bottom-three when it comes to relegation odds, but more on him in a moment.

Top-tip for survival: Brentford to avoid the dreaded drop at 4/6.

Relegation Odds

With Sean Dyche at the helm Burnley should be safe, as should Newcastle under the much-chastised Steve Bruce, while it will be intriguing to see how Patrick Vieira gets on at Crystal Palace who are priced at 2/1 to go down.

Southampton topped the league in November and were hovering in the European places in the New Year, only to endure a shambolic end to the season in which they lost 15 of their final 21 games. They also conceded a whopping 68 goals. The Saints may now even lose goal-machine Danny Ings who has rejected a new contract offer. 

When they do hit their collective peak, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s hard-working team can be incredibly tough to play against. The problem is they have worrying moments of vulnerability, which have plagued them for the majority of 2021. It could therefore be a testing season for the Saints who are 5/1 to suffer the dreaded drop.

Xisco Munoz is the early favourite for the sack
Xisco Munoz is the early favourite for the sack

First Manager To Leave

The poor bloke has yet to even manage a single Premier League game, yet Watford’s Xisco Munoz has been installed as the early 4/1 favourite to be the first boss sacked.

Ralph Hasenhuttl, 6/1, desperately needs to elevate the Saints back to their 2020 form, otherwise he could be in big trouble.

Steve Bruce is third in the running at 8/1. He’s still to convince the Newcastle faithful - and probably never will - but five wins from his last eight games last term resulted in begrudging respect. 

First Manager To Leave Odds

It’s difficult to see Sean Dyche or Daniel Farke being in any real danger when it comes to losing their jobs, despite both being priced at 10/1.

Mikel Arteta is definitely one to watch at 12/1. He appeared to come close to losing his job last season but held on. Now is the time to step up and prove his managerial credentials. Those two trophies seem a long time ago now. 

New Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, 14/1, will hope to avoid the same fate as Frank De Boer who the Eagles infamous axed in the early stages of the 2017/18 season.

A stuttering start could pile the pressure on 20/1-shot Rafa Benitez following his controversial appointment at Everton.

Top-tip for the chop: A slow start could see Arsenal pull the trigger on 12/1 shot Mikel Arteta.

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