By Ian Katan
After sacking Jesse Marsch in early February, Leeds United finally picked up their first win since November by beating Southampton 1-0 this weekend. Marsch’s replacement was Javi Gracia, whose appointment last week was able to inspire his new side to a much needed win and temporarily pull Leeds out of the bottom three. But has this quick turnaround from a new coach been a trend throughout the rest of this season’s managerial switches? Let’s take a look.
Scott Parker took control of the Cherries in June 2021, and got them promoted to the Premier League in his first year at the Vitality Stadium. Only four games into this season, Bournemouth sacked Parker after a 9-0 defeat to Liverpool. While they were 17th in the table at the time of his sacking, they had lost three of their four games to Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, a string of games that a newly promoted side would not be expected to take any points from.
Bournemouth owner Maxim Demin took issue with the coach’s post-match comments that his squad was not equipped to compete at the highest level. It’s hard not to sympathize with Parker, since the club had spent just $32 million on two players during the summer. Given his promotion success, Parker was right to expect more investment if Bournemouth were to compete with established giants of the top flight.
Gary O’Neil was brought in as interim manager and instantly led Bournemouth on a six-game unbeaten run, climbing all the way to eighth. But that run was Bournemouth’s best of the year. They’ve now slipped to 18th, and look in danger of returning to the Championship after a single season. While the owners certainly did not like Parker’s comments, they are not faring much worse than they would have if he stayed. Parker’s assessment that Bournemouth needed much more investment to stay up has proved correct, and the club very well might pay the ultimate price for not listening to his warning.
Thomas Tuchel took over an average Chelsea squad in January 2021 and won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in seven months. American businessman Todd Boehly bought Chelsea a year later, and decided to put his own mark on the team by replacing Tuchel with Brighton coach Graham Potter.
Potter was a promising recruit and had performed very well at Brighton over the previous three seasons. Following his appointment, Chelsea quickly won three games on a five-game unbeaten run before Brighton ended the streak with a 4-1 hammering. This crunching defeat was a morbid sign of what was to come.
At each of his three previous positions, Potter has been known for getting the best out of his limited budget, from earning three promotions in the Swedish league to guiding an overperforming Brighton to fourth in the Premier League. Learning to deal with Boehly’s astronomical bank accounts was a new challenge for Potter.
Chelsea have absolutely fallen off from that original stretch of form, now sitting closer to the relegation zone than the top four. It’s an incredible ask for the relatively young coach to incorporate and manage the countless signings Boehly threw at him, and Potter is under serious pressure every time Chelsea play. It’s hard to say if he will even last long enough to sort out his squad in the summer, but since Boehly needs results to justify his spending, Potter too may be out the door before long.
Former manager Bruno Lage worked hard to revitalize Wolves over his 16 months in charge. He brought in a number of young players and tried to establish a new look for the side that used a more attacking formation. Unfortunately, the tactics didn’t work as well as Lage hoped, and a significant list of injuries also made it difficult to implement his system. Injuries among the front line were especially brutal, affecting attackers Raul Jimenez, Sasa Kalajdzic, Pedro Neto and Hwang Hee-chan who all missed significant time.
Lage was replaced in November by Julen Lopetegui, a highly experienced Spanish manager. Lopetegui’s first league game in charge saw Wolves, who were dead last at the time, score a last-minute winner to defeat Everton 2-1. This hot start was not as long-lasting as Bournemouth’s or Chelsea’s, though Lopetegui did manage to pick up three mediocre wins from their next six.
The new coach’s influence has not had quite the desired effect, and Wolves still have not managed to break free from the relegation race. Only climbing as high as 15th, Lopetegui is not doing significantly better than Lage. However, as more players return to fitness and give him more attacking options to work with, there is still a chance Lopetegui’s appointment could be a success if Wolves are able to avoid the drop this season.
Steven Gerrard’s return to England was expected to be full of success after he led Scottish club Rangers to an undefeated season. Unfortunately, he was unable to get consistency out of his Aston Villa players, despite having a talented squad that was capable of much more than their 14th place finish last year. Gerrard was sacked after picking up only six points by late October.
His replacement was former Arsenal coach Unai Emery. Since he left England, Emery had great success with Villareal, winning the Europa League and leading his team to the Champions League semifinals. Aston Villa took down Manchester United 3-1 in Emery’s first game in charge, and then went on to win four of their next six games.
Emery’s appointment is one of the better examples of the “new manager bounce.” While Villa are still not hitting the highs expected of a team with talents like Phillipe Coutinho, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia, Emery has them comfortable in midtable. Pulling them out of the danger zone was Emery’s primary goal, and he accomplished it in only a few months. With that done, he can turn his attention to molding Villa into the competitive team they are capable of being.
After four years in charge, Southampton parted ways with Ralph Hasenhuttl in November. Hasenhuttl had suffered two 9-0 defeats during his time as Saints manager, though they were not what ultimately cost him his job. 12 points from 14 games this season was not enough for the Southampton higher-ups, who have been in the top flight for over a decade and expected to be seeing much better performances from their team.
Nathan Jones was brought in to revitalize the Saints after his recent success at Championship side Luton Town. His first game did not see the desired boost of a new coach, as Southampton fell to Liverpool 3-1. Jones’ bad luck continued, and he won only one of his first eight games and took Southampton from 19th to 20th.
After failing to impress at his former club Chelsea, Frank Lampard joined only his third managerial role when he arrived at Everton in January 2022. He took over the struggling club midway through last season, and a comeback win against Crystal Palace saved the club from relegation with one game to go. After such a close call, the owners were not interested in risking it again. Lampard started the season well, but a run of one win in 12 games saw them drop into another race for survival.
Longtime Burnley manager Sean Dyche replaced Lampard in January of this year, promising defensive stability and the grit needed to keep the Toffees up. In his first game, Dyche’s hard-work mindset inspired Everton to a shocking 1-0 upset of league leaders Arsenal. It was hard to believe the Everton team that outplayed and outworked Arsenal were the same that had been floundering for so much of the season.
Dyche’s following games have not gone quite as well as that stunning win, and Everton still sit just inside the relegation zone. Though the results are not yet fully there, his hiring is bringing Everton newfound pride and resolve that just might keep them afloat. It’s a promising start to Dyche’s reign, but time will tell whether it’s enough or if their poor early season form is too much to overcome.
Nathan Jones’s rough start to life at Southampton did not last long, as he lost his job after only eight games in charge and one win. For a team struggling as much as Southampton, it’s hard to blame Jones for not making the needed impact in a team so low on confidence.
Even so, their new manager Ruben Selles saw an immediate performance improvement, as Southampton pulled off a 1-0 victory over Chelsea. Selles still has time to make the improvements Jones couldn’t, but faces one of the biggest challenges in the league to turn their season around and rescue his team from a nearly inevitable relegation.
After club legend Marcelo Bielsa left in February 2022, American Jesse Marsch took over Leeds from RB Leipzig in Germany. His energetic pressing style seemed a perfect fit for the West Yorkshire club, and he narrowly saved them from relegation on the final day of the 2021/22 season. Similar to Everton, the Leeds board were unwilling to deal with another relegation fight. Marsch was sacked after seven games without a win, which caused them to fall to within a point of the bottom three. The American’s successor is Javi Gracia, joining from Al Sadd in the Saudi Pro League.
Gracia, similar to many of these managers who join partway through the season, has the monumental task of adjusting to a new club while fighting to stay clear of the drop. The bottom of the league is so tight, with seven teams competing within the six points that separate Southampton at the bottom from Leicester in 14th.
This brings us back to this week’s game, which was Gracia’s first game in charge of Leeds. His players took on Southampton in a massively important clash, which was only Ruben Selles’ second game in charge as well. Leeds managed to take down the Saints thanks to a lucky late finish from Junior Firpo and claw themselves up to 17th, for now.
Only one coach this season has lost their first game in charge, and Gracia will be grateful he has avoided adding himself to that list. Every point is priceless at the bottom of the table, and as various teams surely continue to struggle, it will be interesting to see whether they hang their hopes of survival on the effects of the “new manager bounce.”