Ahead of the return of Premier League action, Joe Townsend looks for value in the sack race market with 25/1 Chris Wilder his standout tip.
Without Watford, the unwanted accolade of being the first Premier League boss to leave their post was wide open heading into this season. The Pozzi family's well-earned reputation for impatience was further enhanced by a trigger happy 2019/20, which began with the sacking of Javi Gracia after four league games - the stage of the current campaign we've now reached.
We're now entering a month where we traditionally see our first casualty. The next international break arrives on November 8, so there is a month for under-pressure managers to save their skin; in the subsequent period, silly season commences.
Last term's second departure was Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino on November 18. Unai Emery got the boot from Arsenal not long after and Quique Sanchez Flores, who lasted only 10 top-flight matches in his second Watford spell, wasn't far behind.
Marco Silva exited Everton five days later and after three more weeks Manuel Pellegrini was sacked by West Ham in time for New Year's Eve.
And that was it until Watford reared their head again with the bizarre sacking of Nigel Pearson two games from the end of the campaign, with the club outside the bottom three.
November to December really is a manic period of sackings, making the sack race betting tricky to predict.
All the more reason to use the current point in the season to zero in on candidates who could potentially deliver us some value.
Premier League sack race odds
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - evens
- Scott Parker - 9/4
- Sean Dyche - 6/1
- Slaven Bilic - 8/1
- Chris Wilder, Frank Lampard - 16/1
- David Moyes - 18/1
- Roy Hodgson, Steve Bruce - 20/1
Personally I don't consider any of the managers above the 20/1 line as worthy of consideration.
I add Roy Hodgson to that list. Having won their opening two matches of the season, and then been unlucky to fall to a narrow defeat at home against Everton, I know they were beaten 4-0 at Chelsea last time out, Crystal Palace have shown more than enough to be encouraged. While they haven't splashed the cash, Hodgson has been backed enough in the transfer market to avoid him calling it a day, which was always far more likely than him getting sacked.
Steve Bruce is there with him on 20/1, and quite simply Newcastle's seven points from four games buys him enough time. The Magpies have four very tricky fixtures coming up, but even if they lose them all Bruce isn't going to be on the verge of the sack.
It's a similar story for David Moyes. The West Ham boss began the season as sack race favourite because of the Hammers' incredibly difficult start - which continues with Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool next up - and lack of strengthening.
But after defeat by Newcastle on opening day saw Moyes' price shorten further; just how his side have responded. They deserved to win at Arsenal, but shrugged off that loss to thrash Wolves 4-0 and Leicester 3-0. Moyes has built a team that plays to its strengths and even if West Ham have a bad run, David Sullivan and David Gold will support him.
At the other end of the scale there is no value in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Scott Parker at best prices of 2/1 and 3/1 respectively. The time to back Solskjaer has passed, with the Manchester United boss 20/1 before their 6-1 thrashing by Tottenham.
Parker could lose his job but at those odds it isn't worth a bet, especially when he was rewarded with a new deal in the summer as Fulham look to avoid repeating their sacking errors of 2018/19. The Cottagers have also just brought in plenty of reinforcements, played well in a 1-0 defeat at Wolves before the break and have decent upcoming fixtures.
There are some big prices that I like though.
Chris Wilder - 25/1
As a big fan of Chris Wilder it pains me to write this, but this is the smart play.
Bet Victor are offering 25/1 and those odds simply do not stack up - the Blades have lost their opening four league games and scored just once, while stretching back to last season it's much worse. A significant drop in form post-lockdown has culminated in seven straight Premier League defeats.
Wilder's team were rightly being praised for their phenomenal performances after being promoted from the Sky Bet Championship in 2018/19, and sat seventh on 43 points from 28 games when the pandemic hit. Had they won their game in hand at the beginning of Project Restart, Sheffield United would've been fifth with just nine fixtures left.
But since football returned the Blades have collected only 10 points from 14 matches, a decrease from 1.54 points per game to 0.71.
The recent club-record capture of Rhian Brewster from Liverpool has taken their summer spending beyond £50m, and with that comes pressure to deliver. Wilder undoubtedly has credit in the bank following four hugely successful years at Bramall Lane, arriving in 2016 with the club mired in Sky Bet League One, and is loved by the fans as one of their own.
But he was appointed by long-time owner Kevin McCabe, ousted by Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, last season following a messy court battle.
How patient Prince Abdullah will be with his millions at stake is anyone's guess.
Matters on the field will dictate things, and the Blades have a huge fixture next up as they seek to arrest the decline. They host Fulham, the only other side to have lost all four games.
Only a win will do, because Liverpool (A), Manchester City (H), Chelsea (A) follow before the next break.
Even with victory over the Cottagers, Sheffield United would be expected to lose those next three fixtures and have three points from seven games. That is a terrible start, without even considering the long-term poor form stretching back to last season.
Wilder's price is unlikely to get bigger, and he faces a very difficult task to turn things around. Take that 25/1.
Frank Lampard - 16/1
I'll keep this one brief. I wasn't as impressed by Chelsea's 4-0 win over Crystal Palace as many others. Roy Hodgson said they "gifted" all four goals, while Palace winger Andros Townsend described it as a "false result"; I'd be inclined to agree.
Undoubtedly it has bought Lampard breathing space, and in all likelihood he won't be first to go. But value-wise, 16/1 across the board looks good. He was well backed for this market after their draw at West Brom.
The £250m Chelsea have spent this summer has piled the pressure on their club legend to narrow the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City. A slow start and I think he's gone; Roman Abramovich doesn't wait around, nor does he consider past glories in his decision making.
Jose Mourinho was sacked in September first time around, and December in his second stint. Roberto Di Matteo lasted until November after winning the Champions League six months prior.
At least Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas saw in the new year; congratulations to the other seven who reached the end of a season before parting ways.
Lampard was there for the majority of those casualties, so he knows the tale only too well.
Slaven Bilic - 11/1
The only thing separating Slaven Bilic's West Brom and Scott Parker's Fulham is a 45-minute performance against Chelsea.
But the former is 11/1 - with both 888Sport and Unibet - and Parker is 3/1. Explain that one.
Chelsea never got started in that opening half at The Hawthorns, with Thiago Silva making a catastrophic error and another goal coming from terrible set-piece defending. It helped give the Baggies a 3-0 half-time lead which they surrendered before clinging on for a draw.
That is West Brom's only point. They have conceded more goals (13) in their opening four games than Fulham's already appalling 11. Bilic's price is certainly worth taking.
Burnley (H), Brighton (A), Fulham (H), Tottenham (A) isn't exactly a frightening run of fixtures, but what would worry me if I was Bilic is the long-term decline of his team - one that has barely been strengthened, with the majority of their signings are loan players from 2019/20.
Albion scraped to promotion last season, winning just three of their final 12 matches. I suppose you could put that down to the pressure of the race, but the Sky Bet Championship table from December 10, which takes in 26 matches, had them ninth.
For very similar reasons, I'll be taking Bilic alongside Chris Wilder.
This is not simply a poor run of form.
Sean Dyche - 8/1
I do not see Sean Dyche being sacked by Burnley full stop, they're too tight to pay him off. Him resigning? I could see that.
It was some achievement to guide the Clarets to tenth last term in difficult circumstances. Dyche was frustrated with his board's inflexibility towards the end of the campaign as players' contracts weren't extended, and that frustration has continued.
He managed to churn out results with just 13 first-team players, but this season that ability has gone. Three defeats and no sign of any incomings aside from Dale Stephens' arrival from Brighton makes things look bleak.
I tipped Burnley for the drop in my ante-post relegation preview and I am standing by it. No incomings this week and I think Dyche will grin and bear it, but it could get to a stage where he may walk.
With Tottenham and Chelsea to come before the next international break Dyche could be pushed closer to the edge.
He doesn't strike me as one to abandon a battle unless he thinks he's been truly hard done by, so it's this week's domestic transfer business that could decide his fate.
I'd hang fire until Friday's deadline, but then jump on that 8/1 if it's still there.
Odds correct at 1300 BST (10/10/20)
Follow Sporting Life on social - find us on Facebook here or tweet @SportingLifeFC
Related football content
- Five best Premier League signings
- Transfer window: Winners & losers
- Every Premier League done deal
- Transfer Market: Latest updates
- Transfer Window: Done deals
- Latest football previews and tips
- Sporting Life App: Android & iOS
We are committed in our support of responsible gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133, or visit begambleaware.org.