‘Tis the season for managerial changes. As autumn turns into winter and everyone gets their big coats out, the decision-makers across football tend to get twitchy about the man in their dugout.
Ten games of the Premier League season have now elapsed, a little over a quarter of the campaign. In times past this might seem ludicrously early to be thinking of the sack, but these days when pressure is great and results must come quickly, this is regarded as a big enough sample size to make a decision. Managerial changes have to be proactive rather than reactive: clubs have to spot the decline before it becomes terminal, and see the signs that things aren’t going to improve.
More often than not, dismissals are essentially confirmation of a preseason suspicion, rather than the formation of an opinion about a manager or a knee-jerk reaction: Of the last 30 managers to leave Premier League jobs before the turn of the year, 26 were in charge for at least a portion of the previous season.
Around now also feels like a reasonable time to make a change because it gives a new coach the chance to assess things before the January transfer window.
So what managerial changes might happen this November?
Who’s under threat?
The collapse of Tottenham Hotspur this season has been pretty alarming: in a few months they have gone from the Champions League final to a shambling mess. While there are various theories about why the club are so bad, most surround Mauricio Pochettino and a gradual erosion of his authority.
So could he go? There’s a strong chance. At this stage it feels like if he stays it represents a tacit recognition that he’ll be overseeing the rebuilding of Tottenham, which will take years. Do Spurs want that? Does he want that? His reputation is taking a hit with every defeat and he might want to get out now.
Likewise, Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is desperately clinging to every bit of credit from last season. It’s easier for him to excuse a poor campaign by pointing to a substandard squad, rather than one that has gone stale, but he’s still in charge of a giant club who are playing abysmally. The board might eventually recognise they made a mistake in giving him the permanent job last March, and that could come sooner rather than later.
Things seem to be turning at Arsenal, too. Fans have broadly maintained at least a facade of patience with Unai Emery, but some of the performances this season have been so achingly poor that the mask is slipping, meaning more fans are keen for a change.
Marco Silva‘s position seems in constant jeopardy too. Everton are a curious side, who can look terrific one week and desperate the next, but the basic facts are that they sit two points and two places above the relegation zone at the time of writing. That just isn’t anywhere near good enough.
Across Europe, the big two in Spain could potentially make changes. Zinedine Zidane‘s reluctance to blood Real Madrid’s summer signings and profoundly average performances mean that speculation is a constant. Meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde‘s grip on the Barcelona job gets weaker with every contemptuous Lionel Messi glance, meaning he could be the first to leave Camp Nou in the middle of a season since Louis van Gaal in 2003.
In Germany, Bundesliga title hopefuls Borussia Dortmund already look off the pace, so Lucien Favre‘s position could be in doubt. While moves have already been made in Italy, even freshly-appointed men like Claudio Ranieri (Sampdoria) and Stefano Pioli (AC Milan) won’t feel entirely safe.
Finally, to France. Results have picked up for Monaco but at one stage Leonardo Jardim was in serious strife, while Nice have lost four of their last five and are only two points outside the relegation zone. If results don’t turn around, could Patrick Vieira be a high-profile casualty?
The looming spectre above the managers of all big clubs is, of course, Jose Mourinho. Despite torching his last two clubs to the point that he was sacked about six months after coming first with Chelsea then second with Manchester United, he is still held in high esteem by plenty. Leading that group is Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who, despite having witnessed the scorched earth left by a Mourinho tenure firsthand, still has him on speed dial. If Zidane’s second stint comes to a close, most people know his first call will be to the Portuguese.
Slightly less malevolent a presence is Arsene Wenger, out of work since leaving his beloved Arsenal 18 months ago. The Frenchman has vaguely hinted at technical roles in various places, but you get the sense that he is hankering for management again. Where though? He might try to sell himself as a safe pair of hands, but a man who has only worked in one place since 1996 and was widely acknowledged to be past his best would actually be a significant gamble.
Pochettino is an interesting one. The sensible move was probably to have left at the end of last season, aware that the end of an era was coming and to go while his stock was high. That stock remains relatively lofty, but it won’t for much longer if results continue as they are and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Pochettino left to preserve his own career prospects. If one of the big jobs is offered to him, he should really jump at the chance.
The other out-of-work big dog is Massimiliano Allegri, who for the time being seems perfectly happy to have some time off after five years at Juventus. But if a significant gig comes available, he surely won’t be able to resist cutting his sabbatical short.
Some other potential figures to take a big job include Rafa Benitez, who purports to be happy in China but you suspect would return to Europe for the right job; Laurent Blanc, who has been out of work since 2016 but is supposedly in the market for a managerial post somewhere; and highly-rated Erik ten Hag, who could be tempted to leave Ajax for the right job.
Finally, there’s the possibility of a promotion for a promising young coach, particularly if the Arsenal job comes available, in which case the likes of Mikel Arteta and Freddie Ljungberg will be firmly in the frame.
November tends to be moving month for managers, and with several big clubs — both in England and beyond — struggling at the moment, this year figures to be no different.