This season, it really does feel like anything can happen.
Dean Smith orchestrating a 7-2 win over Jurgen Klopp...done.
David Moyes mounting a stunning three-goal comeback in the last eight minutes against Jose Mourinho...done.
The two Manchester clubs down in 13th (Man City) and 15th (Man Utd)...you get the drift.
In fact, only one of the ‘Big Six’ clubs is currently located in the top-six - Liverpool are 2nd - with Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham in 9th, 10th and 11th respectively.
It’s early days of course, but on current evidence this season could be the most open in years.
In terms of job security, it's Scott Parker who currently tops the first Premier League manager to leave market (13/8) following a winless start to life back in the Premier League, during which rock-bottom Fulham have only recorded one point from 18 available.
Could a ‘Big-Six’ manager be in trouble?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (6/1) is seemingly always under pressure, club legends Mikel Arteta (50/1) and Frank Lampard (10/1) will be given time to build, Mourinho (25/1) is enjoying an upward - and very attack-minded albeit defensively wobbly - trajectory at Tottenham, while there’s no chance of Jurgen Klopp (66/1) exiting Liverpool anytime soon.
But, what about the 25/1-priced Pep Guardiola?
While we don’t think that the Spaniard will leave his post during the season, there’s growing speculation that this could be his fifth and final campaign at Man City, given that his contract expires next summer and he’s yet to pen a new deal.
So, will he sign the thing or not? We take a look...
Will he stay or will he go?
Man City may have endured their worst start to a season since Manuel Pellegrini’s middle campaign (2014/15), but surely there’s no need to panic just yet, there are still 33 matches to go and if City win their game in hand then they cannonball from 13th to 5th, two points off the summit.
Guardiola has been ravaged by injuries. Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Benjamin Mendy are all out, Aymeric Laporte has featured in just the one league game, Sergio Aguero is facing yet another spell on the sidelines, Kevin De Bruyne isn’t yet fully fit, while a groin injury meant that Nathan Ake was forced to miss the West Ham game.
A minuscule pre-season certainly didn’t help. However, this term was always going to be both strange and unpredictable. We’re unlikely to see a runaway leader - or duo - but you’d be absolutely nuts to dismiss Guardiola’s chances of winning a third Premier League title in five years; the Spaniard has never gone consecutive seasons without a title.
On the plus side, Ruben Dias is a brilliant signing, and fans will be excited to see what they hope develops into a dominant defensive partnership with Laporte.
Jesus will reportedly be back in a couple of games, while De Bruyne and Phil Foden both impressed off the bench against West Ham; in a game which City had 70% of possession and 14 shots, but failed to return to Manchester with all three points.
“Every season is a challenge, every game is,” Guardiola said after the game. “The world is different right now - not just for us: for everyone. Now, the players recover for Tuesday and we continue.”
Once key players return, expect Man City to find their rhythm and goalscoring touch. November’s back-to-back clashes against Liverpool and Tottenham represent an ideal opportunity for Guardiola to put his critics in their place.
Only Guardiola and his close confidants will know how likely he actually is to sign a new contract. We know what the club’s stance is: “Pep is the best manager in the world and we want him to stay,” City's chief operating officer, Omar Berrada, said earlier this month. Fans will hope this is the case.
While it’s not known if there’s any truth that Guardiola has already opened up negotiations with the club, he did say this in September:
“I would love to stay longer here. It is a place I love to be but I have to deserve. This club achieved standards in the last decade but we have to maintain that and I have to deserve it. I am going to see if I deserve it this season in terms of how the club goes forward and improves.”
Both promising, and rather ambiguous.
One key factor in Guardiola’s decision to stay or go is Lionel Messi. City appear to be leading the line to snap up the Argentine next summer, so should Guardiola receive assurances that this will happen, it could prompt him to sign on the dotted line.
Man City are reportedly eyeing up two managerial targets should Pep Guardiola decide not sign a new deal...— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) October 26, 2020
- Mauricio Pochettino: 6/4
- Julian Nagelsmann: 10/1 🇩🇪
Odds subject to change | BeGambleAware | 18+#MCFC
Man City’s failure to beat West Ham means that Pep Guardiola has now failed to reach double figures in points (eight) after five league games for the first time in his 12 seasons as a manager.
The fact that City dropped seven points already is a concern - even if the season is a bit weird at the moment - while goals haven’t been as easy to come by as usual.
Guardiola is currently in uncharted managerial territory, having ventured into a fifth season at the same club for the first time in his career.
Back in 2012, the Spaniard took a sabbatical after four hugely successful yet extremely intense and demanding years at Barcelona. His hesitation over signing a new deal with Man City could mean that he's considering a second break next summer in order to recharge and restock. Being a manager is a tad stressful after all.
Who knows, he could be eyeing up another job. Paddy Power have Guardiola at 6/5 to become the next Juventus manager, 15/8 to re-join Barcelona and 10/1 to take charge of PSG.
"I'd get Arteta back at Man City in a heartbeat. I'd get rid of Pep Guardiola, I think he's a fake."— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) October 26, 2020
We know Man City haven't enjoyed the best of starts but this fan has lost his head! 🤯
📹 @5liveSport #MCFC pic.twitter.com/04QDqMdAWM
With the 2022 World Cup two years away, how about a move into the international arena? Guardiola is 20/1 to become the next manager of the Spanish national team, 50/1 to oversee Qatar at their home World Cup, while he can be backed out at 55/1 to replace Gareth Southgate at England.
Should Guardiola reveal that he does want to leave at the end of the summer, it’s Mauricio Pochettino who can be found as the favourite in the next Man City manager market, ahead of Nuno Santo, Patrick Vieira and Brendan Rodgers.
RB Leipzig coach Julian Nageslmann can be backed at 10/1, and assistant-turned-Arsenal-manager Mikel Arteta is available at 16/1.
There’s absolutely no question that Man City want Guardiola to stay.
While he’s not, yet, realised Man City’s Champions League dream, he has lifted two Premier League crowns, the FA Cup, three League Cups and a couple of Community Shields. He’s accumulated a record-breaking 100 points, conjured up a ‘Formidable’ season, and orchestrated some of the best football this country has ever seen.
The decision is purely Guardiola’s, yet while he holds the power Man City will want a definite answer soon so they can make plans for the future.
Put simply, it could all come down to the movements of Lionel Messi.