The 2018-19 Premier League relegation battle is one of the most difficult to predict in the league’s 26-year history.
At the start of November, Newcastle and Huddersfield had three points from 10 matches, while newly promoted Cardiff and Fulham were hovering just above them on five points.
Having won three matches between them, it looked as though those four teams would be fighting to escape the drop zone all throughout the season.
However, a drastic change of form in November has seen Newcastle climb to 13th and Huddersfield climb to 15th, while Fulham are back to winning ways after making the bold decision to replace Slavisa Jokanovic with Claudio Ranieri.
West Ham, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Southampton have all been dragged into the relegation battle over the last month, yet Jokanovic remains the only manager to have lost his job so far in the Premier League this season.
By comparison, last season saw five managers sacked by this time of year: Frank de Boer (September 11), Craig Shakespeare (October 17), Ronald Koeman (October 23), Slaven Bilic (November 6) and Tony Pulis (November 20).
Another three managers — Paul Clement (December 20), Mark Hughes (January 6) and Marco Silva (January 21) — were gone by the end of January.
So, who is most likely to face the axe next as we approach the busy festive schedule?
Mark Hughes is the overwhelming favourite to lose his job. The Southampton boss is as low as 1/10 with some bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked. Despite his side containing proven top-flight strikers Charlie Austin and Danny Ings, they have scored just 10 goals and won one of their 13 games, leaving them in the relegation zone.
Huddersfield’s David Wagner and Burnley’s Sean Dyche have worked too many miracles at their clubs to be in serious danger of losing their jobs, even if they remain around the drop zone for much of the season, while Cardiff are unlikely to replace Neil Warnock unless they go on a lengthy winless run.
Further up the table, Manuel Pellegrini is yet to get the best out of his new-look West Ham team but, like Cardiff and Warnock, it’s difficult to see the Hammers getting rid of their high-profile boss unless they have a disastrous run of form.
As for resurgent Newcastle, there has been turmoil behind the scenes for far too long at St James’ Park but the only way Rafa Benitez leaves the club before January is if he decides to walk.
The only other relegation-threatened team whose manager could be in trouble is Crystal Palace’s Roy Hodgson. The former England boss led Palace to a great escape last season but they find themselves in 16th place with just nine points and eight goals from 13 games.
Aside from Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho in the top half of the table, no other managers seem to be under pressure right now, which is interesting given that more clubs have underperformed at the start of 2018-19 than any season in recent memory.
That said, a lot changed in the Premier League in November, so we will have to revisit this at the end of December to see which managers survived the festive firings that seem to have become an annual event in England’s top flight.
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