3 teams start their life under the direction of new managers when the EPL takes over


FILE – Rangers manager Steven Gerrard sits on the bench during the Round of 16 Europa League first leg between Rangers and Bayer Leverkusen at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland on March 12, 2020. The Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was hired as Aston Manager at the Villa on Thursday 11 November 2021. Gerrard has left Rangers, whom he led to the Scottish title last season. (AP Photo / Scott Heppell, file)


The goodwill of the board towards English Premier League managers during the pandemic appears to have run out.

Only four lost their league jobs last season, a small number by modern standards.

Perhaps it was due to a lack of overt criticism from fans as matches were played in empty stadiums. Or perhaps the economic implications of firing a manager as the club’s finances were hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

Those days seem long gone.

A string of sackings – five in just over a month – means three teams will play their first games under the guidance of a new manager when the Premier League resumes this weekend after the last international break.

Steven Gerrard, a big league player with Liverpool, is back as manager of Aston Villa. Eddie Howe returns after 18 months out of management, having been chosen as the man to lead the Saudi-backed era in Newcastle. And then there’s Dean Smith, who was fired by Villa only to take a job six days later in Norwich, last place.

Antonio Conte will only support his second Premier League game at Tottenham. Another Italian, Claudio Ranieri, is only four games away from his tenure at Watford.

Meanwhile, the manager who has had the most pressure on him in recent weeks – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – is still in his post at Manchester United, although a loss at Watford on Saturday could leave the club’s hierarchy with little to spare. no choice but to act.

Former United and England striker Michael Owen sees a downside, however.

“The only problem is all the best (managers) are currently in jobs, so good luck finding replacements,” Owen wrote on Twitter. “I can see another couple going this side of Christmas too…”

One thing Solskjaer and the five recently hired managers have in common is their teams’ defensive records, which are among the worst in the league.

Norwich, Newcastle, Villa and Watford – in that order – have conceded the most goals this season, unsurprisingly leaving them in the bottom five of the table alongside 18th Burnley, whose manager Sean Dyche does not appear to be in danger to be fired as he signed a new contract in September until 2025.

That won’t stop Howe from attacking at Newcastle, continuing the philosophy he favored at Bournemouth and the style of play adopted by the so-called ‘animators’ Kevin Keegan at St. James Park in the 1990s.

“I would love to emulate some of their amazing attacking football,” Howe said, words that would have immediately endeared him to Newcastle fans. “It was a great team to watch. I would love to give the crowd such special memories.

“My teams at Bournemouth have always tried to be at the forefront. And I’m not going to come here and be another manager. It’s going to be done gradually but my training will definitely be very different and ultimately I want to see the kind of football that entertains. I think that’s what Newcastle fans want too.

They will also want to win football. After all, Newcastle are the only side without a win after 11 rounds, leaving them tied with Norwich on five points – five from safety.

Howe’s first game will be at home against Brentford, while Gerrard will also start his tenure with a home game as Brighton travel to Villa Park.

His ties with Liverpool will follow him forever and he has been widely tipped as the future manager of the club for which he has made 710 appearances. But Gerrard was keen to stress on Thursday, during his presentation as Villa manager, that he was only focusing on his new team.

“Everyone in the world knows what Liverpool means to me,” he said, “but the focus and my commitment is very focused on Aston Villa. I said I’m all in and I promise to supporters that this is the case.

Smith has struggled to get Villa – the club he has supported his entire life – this season after a squad reorganization following the sale of its captain and star player, Jack Grealish. This is Gerrard’s immediate task.

As for Smith, he finds himself at a club whose situation is even worse than Villa, even though they just got their first win of the season just before the international break when Norwich beat Brentford 2-1.

“Yeah, it hasn’t been the best of starts, that’s why I’m sitting here,” Smith said this week, fresh off a trip to New York between two job shifts, “but if you watch the teams we had playing early, it was tough.

“The win over Brentford was a big deal for the players. It should give them confidence to continue now. “

And unlike Howe, Smith’s priority is fixing his new team’s defense, starting against Southampton on Saturday.

“We want to strengthen the organization and the defensive structure,” he said. “I think there is enough quality. … We won’t give up the type of football the club are known for, but fans should expect to see an organized and hardworking team that leaves nothing behind on the pitch. “


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