Are Managers Sacked Too Quickly in the Premier League?

Manager Being FiredThe 2022/23 season still has a long way to run and yet already, with around 40% of the campaign remaining, a number of clubs have dismissed at least one manager. Indeed, by the time you read this, Southampton could be on their fourth or even fifth manager of the season (including caretakers)!

The average tenure of a football manager seems to be getting shorter and shorter, especially in the English Premier League. Are bosses being given a fair crack of the whip or are they being sacked far too quickly? For how long can a manager expect to be in their job these days, is this period really reducing and, if so, what are the reasons for this?

PL Managers Sacked in 2022/23

To give you an idea of just how rapid the churn is, below we can see all the top-flight bosses to have been sacked (including any by “mutual consent” or similar) so far this term. Note that this list is correct as of 14th February 2023.

  • Scott Parker – sacked by Bournemouth on the 30th August 2022
  • Thomas Tuchel – sacked by Chelsea on the 7th September 2022
  • Bruno Lage – sacked by Wolverhampton Wanderers on the 2nd October 2022
  • Steven Gerrard – sacked by Aston Villa on the 21st October 2022
  • Ralp Hasenhuttl – sacked by Southampton on the 6th November 2022
  • Frank Lampard – sacked by Everton on the 23rd January 2023
  • Jesse Marsch – sacked by Leeds United on the 6th February 2023
  • Nathan Jones – sacked by Southampton on the 12th February 2023

Thus far we have seen eight managers dismissed and perhaps the craziest thing of all is that this is not particularly uncommon. We saw 10 managers sacked last term, with that record number also being achieved in 2017/18, 2013/14 and 2008/09. There can be some dispute over these figures as “managerial changes” can include (or not include) temporary bosses, as well as individuals leaving to take other jobs but we believe 10 legitimate dismissals remains the PL record… for now.

How long can a manager expect to last?

Ticking Clock on Football Pitch

Of the PL managers sacked this season, Saints’ Hasenhuttl had been in his post longest, surviving 1,432 days, or not far shy of four years. Tuchel, Lage and Parker all lasted over a year but less than two years, whilst none of the rest even got to see their first anniversary. Lampard, Marsch and Gerrard were all in charge for just under a year (357 days, 343 days and 343 days respectively), whilst Jones didn’t even make it to triple figures, being sacked after just 94 days in charge!

Looking at the 20 current PL managers (including caretakers), only six have been in charge for two years or more. Five have been in their current position for between a year and two and the other nine are first-year newbies. Looking at the top four tiers of English football there are just three bosses who have been at the helm longer than Jurgen Klopp’s seven years and 128 days as Liverpool supremo. The longest-serving manager in English football, Simon Weaver, has been at Harrogate Town for almost 14 years… but then his father does own the club!

In 2020 a study showed that job security among managers in the Premier League and Football League had never been worse. In 2019/20, 75 managers failed to see out the season and the average time in charge was just 423 days. Back when the PL began, in the early 1990s, that figure was far closer to three years.

Are managers given a chance?

The classic example of a great manager who took time to effect change is Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. He was a high-profile appointment who came to the Red Devils with a great reputation after a successful spell in charge at Aberdeen. However, things did not begin brilliantly for the Scot, who was installed at Old Trafford on 6th November 1986.

They finished 11th that season but in Fergie’s first full season they were second. However, they slipped to 11th and 13th in the following two years and the manager could easily have been sacked. Indeed, in September 1989 they were battered 5-1 by Man City and around this time, having embarked on a run of six losses and two draws, many fans and journalists believed Ferguson had to go.

An Old Trafford banner read “Three years of excuses and it’s still crap … ta-ra Fergie.” In 1990/91 they finished sixth … and then did not finish outside the top two for a decade, claiming seven titles along the way! The former Aberdeen boss would go on to add countless more trophies but there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that none of this would have happened in the modern era. He would have been sacked and who knows how history would have panned out?

Football is a game of opinions and whilst many may disagree, we feel judging a manager after less than a year, let alone just 94 days, is crazy. Any new boss needs a couple of transfer windows to start shaping the squad, plus a full season after that to really get their ideas across. Sacking the manager is a quick and easy answer but it is often the wrong one.

Why are managers being sacked so readily?

It seems fairly obvious that the huge financial imperative of Premier League survival is behind the ever-decreasing lifespan of the PL boss. The riches on offer in the EPL allow owners to pay huge transfer fees and massive wages but they know that relegation could see it all come crashing down.

A manager may be backed in the summer window, with tens or even hundreds of millions invested in new players. But if the board do not see rapid improvement, they very quickly get impatient. What’s more, should a side be at the wrong end of the table, they fear the worst and, knowing that survival in the top flight is worth over £100m, not changing manager becomes seen as too big a risk to take.

There is a lot of research that shows that clubs with new managers generally enjoy a brief “bounce”, or upturn in results. However, this is often short-lived, with results and the points-per-game figures usually returning to a similar level as before. And then clubs are left with a new manager wanting new players and not being given the time to make the changes they want to make.

Sacking the manager should be a last resort, but all too often in the modern, money-dominated world of the Premier League it is the first one. And it rarely pays dividends in the long term.