If there wasn’t speculation about a Premier League manager’s position in the media then it wouldn’t be English football, would it? The way the tabloids and gutter press have targeted Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United has been nothing short of insulting. This is a man’s livelihood after all, and you’d imagine that if these ‘journalists’ had the tables turned on them then their approach would change somewhat.
That said, we’re in the betting game and thus have to speculate about these matters. As far as the Next Manager To Leave Their Post market goes, it’s hard to shake the feeling that if the Manchester United board were to sack Van Gaal, surely they would have done it already? The much improved performance against Chelsea on Monday evening – where they hit the woodwork twice and were denied a winner by a world class save from Thibaut Courtois – hardly strengthens the case against the Dutchman.
What was most telling about the Red Devils’ performance against the Blues was the adventurous nature of their play; they really went for it with some vibrant attacking football. If Van Gaal can oversee a sea-change in strategy then he might just regain some support.
The Dutchman is priced as short as 1/33 to be the next Premier League manager to lose his post, so maybe the bookies know something we don’t. But like we say, if he was going to get the bullet – especially with Jose Mourinho’s sacking and Pep Guardiola’s long resignation announced recently – then he would have done so already.
So who are the other contenders for the market? Well, there is, realistically, only two.
Remi Garde (20/1)
It would seem unfathomable for a manager to be sacked after he was appointed a matter of months ago, but incredibly the pressure is mounting on Remi Garde at Aston Villa already.
They have shown no improvement under the Frenchman’s leadership, and while he can’t be blamed for the fact that Tim Sherwood spent £55 million on a bunch of players who simply aren’t up to scratch, he has to be able to cajole better performances out of him than these.
Will the Villa board decide to cut their losses, given that the likes of Nigel Pearson and Garry Monk are available? It’s unlikely, but football is a fickle mistress and stranger things have happened.
Steve McClaren (20/1)
There is traction here in backing McClaren to be next manager out, particularly when you look at Newcastle’s upcoming fixtures: Arsenal (away), Manchester United (home), West Ham (home), Watford (away) and Everton (away).
What would happen if the Magpies picked up, say, just four points from those games? They’d be firmly ensconced in the relegation zone, that’s for sure. The Newcastle fans booed their side off after defeat at West Brom, and owner Mike Ashley is not known for his patience with managers.
McClaren has spent £52 million on new players in his short tenure at St James’ Park thus far….but has the side improved? Not a jot of it. If they were to be relegated it would be a catastrophe for the club, and a real danger to their long-term future.
A small stakes wager on McClaren – right now before his price tumbles – is a smart investment.
Meanwhile in Swansea….
It hasn’t been spectacular progress by any means, but an unbeaten run has given Swansea some clearance from the dreaded dropzone, and a three match unbeaten streak – which follows a spirited 1-2 defeat at Manchester City – has seen caretaker manager Alan Curtis’ stock rise considerably.
Okay, so it’s been pretty turgid stuff and quite un-Swansea like in its defensive rigidity. But three clean sheets on the bounce has renewed hope at the Liberty Stadium, and it would surprise nobody if Curtis is handed the reins until the end of the season. His price has tumbled to be Swansea’s next manager, but you can still find 5/1 out there. That looks superb value.
There simply doesn’t look any logical other contenders out there, with Gus Poyet still heading the market but seemingly having no chance given that he hasn’t been contacted about the role after five weeks of speculation. The other possibilities – a cavalcade of European gaffers with no experience in England’s top flight – don’t look particularly appetising in a relegation battle.