Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka the early favourite in the 2016/17 Premier League Sack Race

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 02 August 2016, 13:29

The eagerly anticipated 2016/17 Premier League season is rapidly approaching and we can’t wait, with the English top-flight thundering into action on Saturday 13 August.

Currently 19 of the 20 clubs have a manager in place - get a move on Hull City - but the burning question on everyone’s mind is which gaffer will buckle under pressure first?

Below we take look at how the 2015/16 top-flight Sack Race unfolded, before scouting ahead to the upcoming campaign, where we assess the early contenders in the Premier League Sack Race.

You can get involved in the action by casting your vote in the poll below:

The Stats

Before we get going why not sink your teeth into a few juicy managerial statistics:

  • 8 of the 20 Premier League clubs are starting the season with a new manager.
  • Arsene Wenger has been in charge of Arsenal for nearly 20 years.
  • This is more than the accumulated spells of the other 19 managers at their current clubs.
  • To put the length of Wenger’s titanic tenure into perspective…next on the list is Eddie Howe who has been charge of Bournemouth for less than four years.
  • The first top-flight casualty of the 2015/16 took place on 4 October 2015.
  • During the normal 2015/16 season (14 August 2015 - 17 May 2016) there were eight managerial departures.
  • Sunderland are responsible for 3 of the last 5 first PL departures of the season.
  • Peter Reid is the only manager to twice suffer the sack first - with Man City and Sunderland.
  • In 24 years of the PL the most popular month for first sackings is September with 6.

How the 2015/16 Premier League Sack Race panned out

An eventful campaign saw eight Premier League managers leave their positions during the actual 2015/16 season, while a further a seven gaffers have departed since the campaign came to an end, some of which were pre-planned, whereas others came completely out of the blue.

The market exploded into life on 4 October when both Dick Advocaat and Brendan Rodgers left their respective posts at Sunderland and Liverpool, then at the end of the month Tim Sherwood joined the duo in the job market after suffering the sack at Aston Villa.

December produced a brace of sackings, in Garry Monk (Swansea) and Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), while there was a lull until March when Steve McClaren left Newcastle and Remi Garde parted ways with Aston Villa. Roberto Martinez then became the eighth and final casualty in mid-May after he was shown the door at Everton.

Since the season came to an end Quique Sanchez Flores left Watford, Man Utd axed Louis van Gaal, Guus Hiddink’s short-term contract came to an end at Chelsea, Ronald Koeman switched Southampton for Everton, while Manuel Pellegrini made way for Pep Guardiola at Man City.

It was then plain sailing until 22 July when two managerial departures occurred in the space of a couple of hours. Firstly, as expected, Sam Allardyce left Sunderland in order to take charge of Sunderland - who appointed David Moyes the next day - while Steve Bruce unexpectedly quit his post at Hull…who remain on the hunt for a new boss.

The 2016/17 Sack Race Favourite: Aitor Karanka

On the final day of the 2015/16 Championship season Middlesbrough ended their seven-year absence from the Premier League after snapping up 2nd spot. The likes of Gordon Strachan and Tony Mowbray had tried and failed to lead Boro back up to the big time, but in the end it was Aitor Karanka - earlier in the season he came extremely close to losing his job on Riverside - who delivered on his promise of promotion.

But, Karanka (9/2) now finds himself lingering dangerously at the summit of the Premier League Sack Race…before a ball has even been kicked! The top-flight news boys aren’t even the favourites for the dreaded drop (Hull) but Karanka knows that a dodgy start will quickly thrust his future under the scorching gaze of the Sack Race spotlight.

Francesco Guidolin leads the chasing pack

Next in the running is Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin. The Italian was a surprise replacement for Garry Monk back in January on a deal originally running until the end of the season. The 60-year-old kept the Swans (12th) in the top-flight and then signed a new two-deal with the Welsh outfit, but has been handed odds of 5/1 to be the first casualty of the new campaign

Earlier in the summer Walter Mazzarri (5/1) became Watford’s eighth head coach since the Pozza family took over in 2012. This will be the fourth consecutive season that the Hornets have started the campaign with a different manager at the helm, while they infamously stormed through four gaffers during what actually turned out to be an extremely successful 2014/15 season - they won promotion to the Premier League.

Keep an eye on…

Crystal Palace endured a nightmare 2016, winning just two of their 19 Premier League games, losing a dozen. If the club start the new term like they ended the last then Alan Pardew (10/1) could well become the first managerial casualty. Two years ago Tony Pardew left the Eagles just 48 hours before their opening game, with his replacement Neil Warnock then subsequently becoming the first official departure four months later.

Two years after helplessly watching Mauricio Pochettino dart of to Tottenham, Southampton supporters were left with a serious case of déjà vu in July after Ronald Koeman left the south coast club in order to take charge of Everton last month. It’s now up to new boss Claude Puel to steady the ship - the club have already sold star men Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle - but after three fantastic seasons (8th, 7th, then 6th last term) are the Saints set for a wobble…

Watch out David Moyes (16/1)…in three of the last five seasons Sunderland have been the first club to make a change in the dugout: Dick Advocaat last term, Paolo di Canio in 2013/14, and Steve Bruce back in 2011/12. Moyes has only just taken charge of the Mackems, but will be desperate to impress after two disappointing spells in charge of Man Utd and Real Sociedad.

Unsurprisingly new boys Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho (both 33/1), along with Pep Guardiola (40/1) are all long shots to be sacked first, however expect these odds to plummet should any of the above trio stumble out of the blocks.

For the extremely optimistic among you, Sky Bet are offering odds of just 66/1 for no manager to leave during the whole season…

When will the first departure take place?

In the 24 years that the Premier League has been running it’s the month of September that has proved to be the most popular month for the first managerial departure with six, with the most recent being Paolo Di Canio in 2013.

August and November have both been home to five manager movements apiece, while October has four. Meanwhile, December has two, with January and February both on a single sacking. Table August 5 September 6 October 4 November 5 December 2 January 1 February 1

Betting Odds Tips

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Mark Cooper
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