Heart-warming news for fans of Norwich City, Sunderland and Crystal Palace: despite your team's position in the bottom three of the Premier League, recent statistics suggest their chances of avoiding the drop are marginally better than even money. Of the past 15 Premier League teams to be relegated, seven were in the bottom three on this day of the season in question. In the past five seasons, the bottom three teams on 31 October have never all gone down, while the 2008-09 season stands alone as the only one in which all three – Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur – stayed up.
But winter is coming and Opta stats suggest the likelihood of managerial changes at top-flight clubs are particularly likely at this time of year. With the obvious exception of the period of the close season between mid-May and mid-August, when comings and goings are to be expected, more managers leave their clubs in November than at any other time of year. Although managerial changes in November remain rare, they are more likely than at any other time during the season.
According to Opta, there have been 30 managerial departures during November in 21 Premier League seasons, compared to 20 in December, 16 in each of October and September, 15 in each of January and March, 11 in February and 10 in April.
It is not difficult to understand why a manager is more likely to be handed his P45 during November. With a quarter of the season gone, chairmen of struggling or underachieving clubs can assess the damage and if they see fit to do so, usher their current gaffer towards the exit door and appoint a new man in plenty of time to turn things around. But while replacing your manager in November might seem a good idea in theory, recent trends suggest it tends not to work in practice.
QPR sacked Mark Hughes last November and were relegated. Portsmouth sacked Paul Hart in November 2009 and were relegated. Derby County sacked Billy Davies in November 2007 and were relegated. Tottenham stayed up, despite an appalling start to the 2008-09 season, but at least had the foresight to sack Juande Ramos in late October rather than wait until after Halloween to give him the gate.
Of the 20 teams in the Premier League this season, the bottom two, Crystal Palace and Sunderland, have either replaced or are trying to replace the managers with whom they began the campaign. Of the 12 other top-flight teams to sack managers to make way for those currently in the hotseat (or a deeply unpopular interim manager), only Chelsea swung the axe in November, when they sacked Roberto Di Matteo a little under 12 months ago. With nine games of the season and two managers already gone, the likelihood of at least one more Premier League manager losing his job between now and the end of November seems high, with some bookies pricing up four managers at odds of 4-1 or worse against being the next to go.
Contenders for the sack
Martin Jol (Fulham) 7-4
Defeat at the hands of Leicester City in the Capital One Cup means Martin Jol remains the short-priced favourite to win the latest stage of the sack race, not least after some fairly uninspiring Premier League performances in which his players seemed to have been sleepwalking towards inevitable defeat. Working for an owner who did not hire him and with league matches against Manchester United and Liverpool looming, it is no surprise the smart money is on the Dutchman to be the next top-flight manager to be dismissed.
Chris Hughton (Norwich City) 4-1
The only manager of the Premier League's bottom three teams not to have been replaced this season, Hughton's defensive tactics mixed with fairly mediocre results have prompted much grumbling among the Carrow Road faithful. However, if you replace relegated Reading and Wigan Athletic with promoted Hull City and Cardiff City respectively, with eight points Norwich have already notched double their tally of points from their corresponding nine fixtures last season. It is a state of affairs that suggests Hughton's situation, while serious, is far from dire.
Alan Pardew (Newcastle United) 9-2
Supporter dissatisfaction, mixed results, a second consecutive derby defeat at the hands of Sunderland and an apparent falling out with his employer, who appears to have saddled him with a comedy director of football, all point to Alan Pardew as a reasonable bet to be the next Premier League manager to find himself out of work. Having signed an eight-year deal last September, sacking could be expensive for Mike Ashley, a man of few public utterances and one whose next move has long been impossible to predict.
Malky Mackay (Cardiff City) 4-1
Averaging a point a game and with victories over Manchester City and Fulham to their name already this season, Cardiff are doing well for a newly promoted side attempting to find their feet in the top tier after an absence of over half a century and it is off-field matters that have led to Mackay's presence on the shortlist. His decision to side with his players in a row with Cardiff City's owner Vincent Tan over money is believed to have upset his employer, who has since sacked the head of recruitment Iain Moody and replaced him with a 23-year-old Kazakh with no experience in the role. Stories of Tan's unwelcome interference in team matters on matchdays mean Mackay's position is indeed precarious, although the Scot might well leave before he is shown the door.