Premier League - Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer walks off the pitch at half time of the Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool.

Inside Edge: Can Solskjaer avoid tripping in the Premier League sack race?

The international break gives us time to reflect on how the Premier League season has panned out so far, writes Nick Haynes from Form Labs, but it also shines a light on those managers which may not be living up to expectations.

While the rate of goals has dropped sharply after the early season surge, penalties have remained high and we’re currently on course for 200 this campaign, over double the tally of 2019/20. Defenders, particularly full-backs and wing-backs have got their goalscoring boots on and provide a lot of value in the goalscorer market, while teams that have had a good early season run have, for the most part, maintained their good form and we see some surprising names up toward the top of the table.

It’s all well and good us getting the chance to reflect on what has been an unorthodox season so far, not least due to the absence of crowds, but owners and directors also have the opportunity to assess how their clubs have been performing, and some may use this international break to make a change in management if they feel their current coach is not up to scratch.

Between 2010/11 and 2016/17, not one manager left his post during this November international break, though Slaven Bilic (West Ham), Slavisa Jokanovic (Fulham) and Mauricio Pochettino (Spurs) have all left in this window over the last three seasons.

Since the 2004/05 season, there has been a grand total of 122 sackings in the Premier League at a rate of 7.63 per season, not including those managers who resigned or who saw out the rest of their contract and opted out of renewing. While that has risen to 9.5 over the past six seasons, last year seemed to revert to the norm with just the seven casualties. 

We’ve managed to make it through to Gameweek 8 before a manager has been hoisted from the dugout, though with players off on international duty this is the perfect opportunity for boards to assess the situation at their clubs, and the market leaders for the next manager to leave his post are as follows:

  • 13/5 – Slaven Bilic
  • 7/2 – Chris Wilder
  • 4/1 – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
  • 7/1 – Scott Parker
  • 11/1 – Sean Dyche
  • 20/1 – Steve Bruce
  • 25/1 –David Moyes
  • 33/1 – Marcelo Bielsa, Frank Lampard and Roy Hodgson

Crucially when seeking out the next casualty, form is a definitive factor. Of the 94 total managers sacked within the nine months of the season (ignoring summer months of May, June & July up until 2019/20) since 2004/05, only three have been sacked off the back of a victory as boards tend to view three points as a saving grace, at least until the next fixture, while 82% of such sackings have come following a defeat. Of course, form is all relative, so we’ve decided to separate the ‘Big Six’ and the rest.

Indeed, the average amount of points a ‘Big Six’ manager earns in their five fixtures before their mid-season departure is a quite reasonable 5.7, which lowers to a miserly 2.9 for the remaining clubs. It seemed as though last season, owners were getting less patient down the bottom, seeing an average of 4.5 ppg in their five matches before the sack while ‘Big Six’ managers Pochettino and Unai Emery both left after just three points in five winless matches in the league.

Of the candidates above, David Moyes (8pts), Steve Bruce (7pts), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (7pts) and Scott Parker (4pts) are above their thresholds. West Ham haven’t dropped below last season’s standards in any match so far, either equalling or bettering their result from their corresponding fixtures last season and there is little reason for Moyes not to be given more time, and Steve Bruce is in a similar position being just five points off the top four after eight matches.

Scott Parker signed a new three-year deal at the beginning of the season, which may indicate Tony Khan will give him a little more time than he did with Slavisa Jokanovic just two years ago, and with Fulham getting relegated that year Parker may be saved from lessons being learned.

That leaves Chris Wilder (1pt), Sean Dyche (2pts) and Slaven Bilic (2pts) as the three most likely candidates for the sack in regard to recent form, while the Solskjaer saga is always ready to rear it’s ugly head as soon as a result doesn’t go their way.

2020 ATP Finals

The 51st edition of the ATP Finals looks set to go ahead at O2 Arena in London and it’s no surprise to see Novak Djokovic (13/8) at the head of the market. A record of W39-L2 from his 41 completed main tour matches in 2020 tells you all you need to know and it’ll take a serious challenge to stop him from lifting his sixth ATP Finals title. 

Slightly different to previous years and similarly to the US Open, there’ll be no spectators due to the current Covid-19 outbreak, while players will be coming here off the back of the French Open last month, which could make for a few upsets as players adjust from the slower clay to the faster indoor hard courts.

Interestingly, 27 of the 30 Tour Finals winners had previously won a Masters event since 1990, with 19 of those having won one that year. That certainly supports the case for Djokovic (two) and Daniil Medvedev (6/1), who claimed the Masters’ titles this year, while they’ve split the last six such events between them. Furthermore, 22 of the last 25 winners have come from the top five seeds dating back to 1995 and those two certainly look worth keeping an eye on. 

Flash Stat: Since 1990, 27/30 winners had competed at the Tour Finals before.

Masters: How do champions fair on the final round?

Having given a taste of our outright candidates in last week’s column, we look a little closer at the final day of the Masters and how winners tend to fair on a hole by hole basis. Some holes will have very little effect on the outcome, though the ‘critical holes’ is where the Green Jacket can be won or lost. These holes tend to change over time as strategy and conditions differ, though the critical holes this weekend are expected to be the opening three, 8, 13, 14, and 15.

Over the past five seasons, winners have gained 0.55 strokes per round on the 15th hole which is, in that regard, by far the most pivotal hole on the course, with the 14th coming in second with 0.27 strokes gained per hole. Those teeing off at the tenth will have a real battle on their hands in the opening few, with Amen Corner leading into those decisive critical holes. 

Opening Three Holes – Only three of the last 39 winners have been over par after the opening three holes in their final round. 

Hole 8 – A Par 5 eminently reachable for the modern golfer but since Tiger Woods’ first win in 1997, there have been only nine birdies, though anything worse than par could spell disaster. Only Trevor Immelman of the last 39 winners has dropped a shot on this hole and he is the only winner to shoot over-par in his final round.

Hole 13 – This is a hole the winner has to attack. Only six of the last 25 have failed to pick up a shot on the Par 5 but be wary of an eagle, only Bernhard Langer in 34 years has done so when he won in 1993. For anyone who bogeys this hole, that normally spells disaster. Ian Woosnam in 1991 is the only winner to do so in the Bentgrass era.

Hole 14 – This is another hole where the winner doesn’t drop a shot. Only Larry Mize in 1987 and Craig Stadler in 1982 have done so, but it doesn’t yield many birdies – only nine since 1981, though that includes three of the last four.

Hole 15 – This is often seen as a similar opportunity to 13 for making some headway. However, 10 of the last 25 have failed to pick up a shot on 15; there have been three eagles – Garcia in 2017, Olazabal in 1994 and Nicklas in 1986. Only one bogey – Larry Mize again.

It’s unclear yet how the change of timing, lack of patrons or delayed start to the masters will affect the players this weekend, though it promises to be one of the most hotly contested in recent memory, and it all could rest on how the leaders fair on those critical holes come Sunday. 

Stat of the day

Since the ATP Tour Finals in 1995, 22 of the 25 winners have been one of the top five seeds.

Form Labs delivers bespoke editorial covering a variety of sports to a number of sportsbooks. Click here for more information or contact Nick Haynes on [email protected].

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