November’s international break is often viewed as a potential minefield when it comes to the job security of a Premier League manager.
After all, it’s the final pause in play of the year, and to twitchy owners it could therefore be viewed as an ideal opportunity to make a change should results not be going their way.
But, is this simply a managerial myth?
Or, is there evidence to suggest that the two-week hiatus should in fact provoke an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread in under-fire top-flight gaffers?
We take a look…
What does recent history tell us?
Between the 2010/11 and 2016/17 seasons not a single Premier League manager vacated their post during a November international break.
This tranquility was shattered in November 2017 when West Ham sacked Slaven Bilic, because the club wanted to “appoint a quality manager to the position to inject fresh ideas, organisation and enthusiasm into a very talented squad.” So, in came David Moyes, who the Hammers got shot of the following summer, only to re-appoint him in December 2019.
West Brom followed suit one game after the 2017/18 November break came to a close, with Tony Pulis the unfortunate victim.
The 2018/19 season saw Fulham axe Slavisa Jokanovic. The club appointed Claudio Ranieri, only to sack him 103 days later, before ending the season with Scott Parker at the helm. Again, not long after November’s break came to an end, the Premier League saw another sacking as Southampton gave Mark Hughes the boot.
Last season (2019/20) Mauricio Pochettino was cast aside by Tottenham in the second week of November’s break. “The timing is very strange," Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports News at the time. "I always think it’s a tough time for a manager if they’re not doing well before an international break, it gives the club time to make a decision, a week or so to settle everything down and bring someone in.
"But to make it late shows that there’s probably been a lot of discussions going on in the 10 days since the Sheffield United game. I’m shocked that it’s a sacking and I thought it may have been when I first heard the news a mutual agreement. The fact he’s been sacked I find that really, really strange and also I think it’s a bit out of order really considering the job he’s done."
Then, while it didn’t occur within the actual international timeframe, shortly after Pochettino’s exit Tottenham’s North London rivals Arsenal showed Unai Emery the door.
Fulham Manager: Scott Parker
Who is currently in trouble?
There are currently four different managers with single digit odds in the first Premier League manager to leave market, and the favourite for the chop depends on which bookmaker you use.
However, whichever way you look at it there’s no getting away from the fact that Slaven Bilic is feeling the heat at the moment. The West Brom boss has yet to win upon his return to the Premier League, while no team has leaked in more goals (17) than his 18th-placed side. As mentioned in the above section, Bilic has of course previously lost his job in a November break, so he has every right to be anxious.
A defeat to Everton could well have spelled the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Man Utd, but the Norwegian once again plucked out a pivotal win when he needed it the most.
He’s therefore safe for now, but a failure to beat winless West Brom in his next outing would once again trigger the whole - admittedly tiring - process.
A surprise name in the frame is Chris Wilder, who has just seen his odds slashed to just 3/1. Sheffield United have endured a poor start to the season, one point from a possible 24 means they are looking up at the other 19 teams. But you’d like to think that the Englishman has plenty of lives left in the job tank given his stupendous work with the club. A sacking would come as a huge shock.
The same can be said of Sean Dyche at Burnley - also without a win - while Scott Parker is gradually showing signs of progress at Fulham, although we all know the trigger-happy history of his employers, which means he’s never really safe.
Safe for now?
As we’ve pointed out, there’s been a growing trend over the last three seasons for Premier League clubs to pull the plug on a manager’s tenure during November’s international break, with a boss suffering the sack at this particular in each of the last three years.
So, yes managers should be fearful.
Worryingly for those under-fire managers who survived the hiatus, history shows that hazards lurk just around the corner with the last three seasons also seeing three managers lose their jobs in the aftermath of the two-week resting point.
So, even if the likes of Bilic, Solskjaer and Parker ride out the current two-week break, another poor result or two could prove to be very costly. However, on a more positive note Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl survived the sack during last year’s international break, and he’s not fared so badly since then.
In case you’re wondering what the managers make of all this, we’ll leave you with this 2019 quote from Newcastle boss Steve Bruce...
"The result before the break is always that bit bigger. I think some of us [managers] look at October, November and think we have gone past that hurdle of getting the sack.
"I shouldn't say that, but a lot of managers think we have to get to the breaks, then we have to get past the next break. So, all of us, say, 'Let's get through that first one in September'. You usually get away with that one.
"October is a bad month, and this flaming one at the end of November is awful! This time last year I was on a beach [having been sacked by Aston Villa]."