Why Have So Few Managers Been Sacked In The Premier League This Season?

Published on 6 December 2023 at 20:00

Sheffield United's Paul Heckingbottom has become the first managerial casualty in the 2023/24 Premier League season, following on from the Blades' 5-0 loss to Burnley at Turf Moor. With the first sacking of the season coming an unusually late 14 weeks into the campaign, just why has there been so few dismissals in the English top flight this season?


13 days. Since the start of last season in the EFL Championship, there's been a change in managers on average once every 13 days. Applying the same logic to the Premier League, we could have expected 9 sackings so far this campaign, and there's certainly been performances from teams and their managers to warrant it.


The aforementioned Heckingbottom and Sheffield United were ran ragged by Newcastle 0-8 at Bramall Lane. Saturday's victor Vincent Kompany sat rock bottom of the league with Burnley even after Everton's point deduction and Sheffield United's torrid time. The press reported that Andoni Iraola was set to be sacked at the end of October, but he managed to string together some big points for Bournemouth to keep his job safe.


At this stage in last season's Premier League campaign, there had already been five sackings from up and down the league table, perhaps most notably Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. This season it would seem unheard of that a perceived 'big' club would do something so drastic as replacing their manager midway through the campaign and particularly in times of trouble. So what's changed between last season and this season where clubs and their owners are being more composed and less temperamental regarding the men they put in charge?


Lack Of Options

It's perhaps evident that Chris Wilder, Heckingbottom's own predecessor, has been recalled to the Sheffield United dugout instead of someone else that there is a dire amount of available, Premier League standard coaches around in 2023.


Aside from footballing elite like Zidane and Conte, as well as recent Premier League managerial alumni like Lopetegui, the footballing world isn't in surplus of managers who would be readily available to assume control of a Premier League squad and not produce steady or immediate results.


The Summer may bring about new potential candidates, with the likes of Gareth Southgate, Julian Nagelsmann, and Didier Deschamps' respective futures within international football being uncertain, a move to club football and the Premier League cannot be ruled out. But until then, the vast majority of Premier League clubs wouldn't risk sacking their managers to make a move for them. 


Fan Patience and Vitriol

For a Premier League owner, no matter how beloved or appreciated they are, there's no more surefire way for them to attract negativity from a club's fanbase than by sacking the manager and taking the time to announce a replacement.


Partial credit should be given to Sheffield United's owners, even when the whole country and media knew that Heckingbottom's days were numbered, a club being in such a precarious situation in the league, and coming off the back of such a humbling defeat away from home, could not afford to go through the crunch Christmas period with a caretaker manager, lest fans begin to think that the club has accepted defeat and is moving forward with no plan in mind on a collision course with relegation. 


Read More: Five Premier League Talents Who Should Move In The January Transfer Window


The 'Free Hit' Season.

The Premier League in 2023 currently boasts a formidable selection of teams vying for European football: ten or fewer teams competing for seven spots. It also features perhaps three of the worst performing teams of the PL era and a side who have just endured a points deduction. 


These two concurrent features leave teams like Brentford, Fulham and Wolves in a state of limbo: no chance of relegation, and no chance of breaking into Europe, so why run the risk of sacking a comfortable, respected manager like Thomas Frank, Marco Silva or Gary O'Neil for the smaller chance of breaking into the elite when the possibility of relegation if sacking the manager proves to be a poor decision. For these clubs in limbo, sacking their manager when they're in such a solid position in this uber competitive era of the Premier League would be high up on the list of terrible decisions, in spite of bad results and potentially winless droughts.


Image Credit: Mark Hawksworth on Wikipedia


By Jaspar Shepherdson

(@jasparshepmedia on X/Twitter and Instagram)


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