It’s the most wonderful time of the year, they say. Well, probably not if you are (or were) the manager of a struggling Premier League team.
Since Mauricio Pochettino got the sack two weeks ago, two more managers have been handed their walking papers.
Unai Emery was sacked after the Gunners blew yet another lead last week, losing at home in Europa League play to Frankfurt. Then, Watford canned Quique Sanchez Flores after losing to fellow relegation-battler Southampton.
It’s hard to be surprised by either move, really. Arsenal had just gone its eighth straight game without a win, it’s longest such streak since 1992 – which was only extended on Sunday with a draw against Norwich. Watford is now six points behind 17th-place Everton and hopes of digging itself out of this hole are fading fast.
Emery is gone after 18 months, supposedly the heir to Arsene Wenger. But the only things that the Spaniard was an heir to were a squad that never really came together, an always-lengthy injury list, and the weight of the past on his shoulders.
His record during his time charge was similar, if not a bit worse than Wenger’s final stand, which simply wasn’t good enough. Even with time and money to build the time in his image, it failed.
Club legend Freddie Ljungberg will run things as a caretaker manager, but we should see a permanent choice installed before the January transfer window. You have to wonder if the Gunners regret not making this move earlier and going for Mourinho.
In North London, there is actually talk about trying to bring in Pochettino, which will be a hard sell to a fan base that has hated the man for leading rival Spurs to consistently better results for a few seasons now. You also would have to think that the Argentine would have enough self-respect to not make the move either.
It’s not like there are other options out there for Pochettino, either. German giants Bayern Munich are reportedly interested, and PSG could make a move for him. We’re sure he much rather would be piloting a European giant rather than a team that is more in line with Europa League competition these days.
As for QSF, his second stint with the club was far less successful than the first. In the Hornets’ first season back in the Premier League in a decade, they settled comfortably into the midtable and even went on a run to the FA Cup semifinals.
Watford will now be onto its third manager this season, after Javi Gracia was dismissed after picking up just one point in four games. With just one win in 14 games and a goal differential of minus-19, the next man up has his work cut out for him. And it starts with Leicester City on Wednesday, then Liverpool and Manchester United later this month.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
With just two clean sheets, Liverpool’s defenders have been earning their keep more on the other side of the field this season.
This week, it was Virgil van Dijk chipping in. The Dutch monster scored two headers on set pieces to put the Reds out in front of Brighton before the half-hour mark.
While you can’t deny that VVD is certainly adept at slipping his markers, you have to do better than the effort that the Seagulls put in.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
The look on Marco Silva’s face at the end of the Everton-Leicester game was priceless. After Kelechi Iheanacho’s late winner was held up by VAR, the Toffees manager looked just about as hopeless as you can, with a thousand-yard stare out onto the field. Now in 17th place, surely Silva’s time is nearing its end on Merseyside … The Foxes are actually off to a better start to this season than their title-winning campaign in 2015-16. Through 14 games, Leicester City has 32 points, compared to 29 during their miracle run. It’s just too bad, that Liverpool already has opened up an eight-point lead … After its draw on Saturday, Manchester City has now dropped 13 points in 14 games this season. Over its entire 2018-19 campaign, it dropped only 16 points … Interesting fact to keep in mind when the transfer window opens: Mourinho has spent more money during his spells in England than Daniel Levy has since taking charge of Spurs in Oct. 2001. The Special One has spent $1.6 billion in fees during his time at United and two stints at Chelsea at an average of $30 million per player while Levy has spent $1.5 billion over 18 years at an average of $13.5 per player … Sheffield United has not lost by more than a goal in more than 61 matches now … Is it just us, or is it distractingly weird seeing Mourinho play the nice guy, overly complimenting his players and inviting ball boys to have lunch with the team? … So, what the hell was Alisson doing? That had to be one of the dumbest red cards we’ve seen in a while, absent-mindedly handling the ball outside of the box on a Brighton long ball. And, of course, Adrian came up short during his 15 minutes between the sticks. Although, you have to praise Lewis Dunk for his cheeky, quick-and-low free kick. It totally caught everyone off guard.
THE LAST WORD
There is a Group of Death in almost every soccer tournament, but you have to pay your respects for Group F in Euro 2022.
The draw on Saturday somehow put together the two finalists from Euro 2016 and the past two World Cup champions. Between France, Portugal, and Germany, we’re going to get some blockbuster group-stage matches.
It seems like the past few major tournaments now Germany has gotten the short end of the stick. At least this time, it will have home-field advantage, playing its games in Munich as part of this multi-host tournament.
If anything, you have to feel terrible for the poor country that wins its playoff and gets stuck in this group.