It is widely known that the Premier League is one of the toughest professional football leagues in the world as well as being the most popular. With an audience of over 3 billion, the job as manager of a Premier League football club is one of the most high-pressure roles in sports and it is truly all eyes on you. Most recently, Ralph Hasenhuttl received his marching orders as Southampton FC manager after nearly four years in the role. A string of poor results saw them sitting in the relegation zone after 14 games played with eight losses.
He was not the first to go this season. In fact, by the time Hasenhuttl had been sacked there had already been four of his contemporaries let go by their clubs. Scott Parker, Thomas Tuchel, Bruno Lage and Steven Gerrard had all been sacked by Bournemouth, Chelsea, Wolves and Aston Villa respectively. So many departures at such an early point in the season has become relatively commonplace in recent times, further proving just how cutthroat a business football is in 2023.
West Ham manager David Moyes is the current favourite for the next premier league manager to be sacked. The Hammers fell into the drop zone following their loss to fellow relegation candidates Wolves and the pressure is building on the Scotsman to save their season or face the boot as soon as the next match.
The reality of the job
So why has the role of a Premier League manager become increasingly high pressure? One of the main reasons is the sheer level of competition in the league. Whilst the dominance of Man City and to a slightly lesser extent Liverpool at the top of the league seems to point towards the division losing some of its competitive lustre, the opposite may in fact be true especially when looking at the lower end of the table.
Whilst the old adage of ‘there are no easy games in this league’ has become somewhat of a cliché, there is plenty of truth behind it. Statistics indicate that the teams that are finishing at the foot of the table are competing with those at the top better than they have in previous seasons. In the three seasons between 2016 and 2019 (16/17, 17/18, 18/19), there was an average gap of around 40.6 points between the team that finished 18th, the first spot in the relegation zone, and the team that finished fourth, the first spot in qualification to the Champions League. In the three seasons that followed, up to the most recent full campaign in 21/22, that gap narrowed by five points to around 35.6. Whilst these may seem like fine margins, a short run of bad results can see you slide down the league in a hurry, further adding to the pressures of the job for coaches.
Furthermore, these teams are more successful when competing against sides that finished in the top six. Between 16-19, the teams that finished 18th took an average of 4.6 points from top six sides whilst between 19-22 that number increased to 8.3. In fact, Bournemouth, who finished 18th and were subsequently relegated in 2019/20, took 11 points from their 12 games against the teams that finished in the top six that year.
Another reason for the instability of a Premier League manager’s job security is the amount of money that is involved in the division paired with the power that owners have over decisions in the backroom. The most commercialised league in the world, the prize pool in the Premier League is ever growing and last season around £2.6 billion was shared amongst the 20 competing teams.
Of course, the higher up the ladder you finish the more money you win, and owners are privy to this. For example, it is estimated that the difference between finishing 20th and 10th in last year’s campaign was around £30 million. With player wages out of control and £30/40 million+ transfer fees becoming the norm, any further perceived threat to club finances can be met with knee jerk reactions from owners. Former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich became infamous for this practice, with the likes of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte winning the Premier League and Thomas Tuchel winning the Champions League before being unceremoniously sacked the following season.
Whilst their bank account may be enough to justify it, it would be hard to envy the role of a Premier League manager. With five already let go just half way into the season, the likes of Moyes and Frank Lampard could likely be up on the chopping block next and it is possible that by the end of the campaign nearly half of the managers who entered the season are removed from their position. The role is as unstable as it ever has been and it is clear to see why.