Nervous times for underfire managers in English top 4 divisions

Nervous times for underfire managers in English top 4 divisions

The January international break is traditionally a perilous period for football managers whose teams have not been performing well.

It's just past midway in the season and a time when owners of struggling clubs in the top four English divisions reflect on the pros and cons of disposing of the gaffer.

The mindset of the owners is invariably on the lines of whether to sack the manager immediately and have a fresh start before it's too late, or give the fellow a few more games in which to turn things around.

So it hardly came as a surprise when Claudio Ranieri was axed by Watford earlier this week after just 114 days.

He became the eighth managerial casualty from the Premier League this season and the second from Watford.

In October, Ranieri replaced Xisco Munoz despite the Spaniard having led the Hornets to promotion the previous season.

Under the ownership of Gino Pozzo, the Vicarage Road club is notoriously ruthless at disposing of managers.

Munoz was dismissed just seven games into the season with the team in a respectable 14th place.

The club cited "a negative trend at a time when team cohesion should be visibly improving."

Unfortunately, things did not improve after his departure and in fact got a lot worse.

Under Ranieri, Watford earned only seven points in 13 games, losing seven of the last eight matches.

Ranieri's departure is the 14th change of manager in 10 years under Pozzo's regime.

There's no doubt Ranieri is an amiable fellow, but perhaps it's time for him to sit back and reflect on that wonderful season when against all odds he took Leicester City to the title.

Definitely not ready for the rocking chair is 74-year-old Roy Hodgson who has taken over the hot seat at Vicarage Road.

It is an unenviable task but Hodgson, with his emphasis on solid defence which is what Watford so desperately need, has as good a chance as anyone.

Back in 2017, Hodgson replaced Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace with the Eagles in trouble at the bottom of the league having lost their four opening games without scoring a single goal.

Although Hodgson lost his first three games, he managed to turn things around and Palace amazingly finished in 11th place.

Whether he can perform a similar miracle at Watford is another matter.

Munoz had been the first gaffer to go this season.

Other Premier League managers to bite the dust are Steve Bruce (Newcastle United), Nuno Santo (Tottenham), Daniel Farke (Norwich City), Dean Smith (Aston Villa), Ole Solskjaer (Manchester United) and Rafa Benitez (Everton).

To be fair to the club owners, most of the sackings have been justified, although some think Dean Smith was a trifle unlucky.

However, now they have Steven Gerrard at the helm, you won't find many Villa fans complaining.

The sackings are of course not confined to the Premier League.

A total of 28 managers have moved on including Championship (7), League One (6) and League Two (7).

Although there are no Premier League games this weekend, there is plenty of action in the other three divisions.

In the Championship, free-scoring Fulham appear to be on course for yet another promotion to the Premier League after banging in 22 goals in their last four games.

There is a real battle brewing for the other two promotion places with Blackburn Rovers enjoying a fine run to move into the second automatic spot while the play-off spots are currently occupied by Bournemouth, QPR, West Brom and Huddersfield.

As regards the relegation scrap, all eyes are on former England and Man U striker Wayne Rooney to see if he can achieve the Great Escape with Derby County who began the season with minus 21 points.

The Rams have already hauled themselves out of bottom place which is now occupied by Barnsley.

There is another tussle in League One with Wigan leading Sunderland on goal difference and enjoying four games in hand of the Black Cats.

Leading the chasing pack are Rotherham with Wycombe, MK Dons and Oxford United in the play-off spots.

In League Two the first-ever vegan football club Forest Green Rovers are seven points clear of Tranmere while Newport currently occupy the third automatic promotion slot.

In fourth place are Sutton United, clearly enjoying their first season in the Football League, playing at the wonderfully-named Gander Green Lane.

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