Stoke manager Mark Hughes favourite for the sackby Jack Kitson / 04 August 2017, 12:56Tweet
Stoke’s frustrating lack of transfer activity, the loss of Marko Arnautovic, and the desperately daunting nature of their opening cluster of league fixtures has resulted in punters piling the pounds on Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who has subsequently been installed as the new favourite in the 2017/18 Premier League Sack Race.
When the popular market first opened up a month ago it was Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez who emerged as the early favourite to be the first top-flight gaffer to lose his job. The Spaniard may have led the Toon to the Championship title last season, but disagreements over summer transfers has led many to predict that the Champions League winning gaffer could be forced to walk away from his post at St James’ Park. Which would be a hammer blow to the newly promoted club.
But, Benitez (4/1) has been replaced at the summit by Hughes (7/2), who is currently the fourth longest-serving gaffer in the Premier League...but for how much longer?
Stoke’s opening fixtures make for worrying reading for even the most optimistic of supporters. Eight of their first nine matches come against teams who finished in the top-10 last season, including Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal, while the only anomaly in that nine team group is Newcastle, with Stoke only recording one win at St James’ Park since 1976.
It’s worth remembering that last season 13th-placed Stoke only beat one team that finished above them (home and away), and that was against an on-the-beach and goal shy Southampton side on the final day of the campaign. On top of that the Potters failed to claim three home points off any of the top-13 teams.
With only a week to go until the new campaign kicks-off many are predicting that Stoke’s soon-to-be 10-year spell in the top-flight could be coming to an end. In their previous nine seasons the club has always finished between 8th and 14th (three 9th standings, then last season’s 13th under Hughes), but at the time of writing there’s little sign of excitement or promise for the Potters, who look a tempting bet at 7/1 to sink down to the Championship.
Other managers under early pressure, according to the Sack Race odds anyway, include last season’s title winning gaffer Antonio Conte (6/1), West Ham’s Slaven Bilic (8/1), and Craig Shakespeare of Leicester (9/1).