It was never a relationship that was designed for longevity. But if Watford and Marco Silva was a marriage of convenience, they were nonetheless soulmates of sorts. Not in the conventional way, admittedly. But Watford show little loyalty to managers. Silva shows little to clubs. The Portuguese had tried to orchestrate a break-up when Everton made advances towards him. Instead, Watford dissolved their union, coupling with Javi Gracia with such speed to make it apparent they had been talking to him behind Silva’s back.
There may be little sympathy for Silva, who suffered from a surfeit of ambition and whose talent means he will probably be back in management soon, if not perhaps at the stratospheric level he evidently hopes to reach. His may be a case study of the dangers of treating clubs as stepping stones, but in other respects, he is no anomaly.
He was the eighth Premier League manager to lose his job this season. By way of comparison, only six were sacked during the whole of last season. It means that, 60 per cent into the campaign, 40 per cent of the men who began the season in the dugouts are gone. A certain type of manager is more imperilled: because the top six have kept faith with their coaches, more than half the other clubs have sacked someone. Take out the constants, in the 2012 appointments Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche, and two thirds of the lesser lights have fired.
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There is a common denominator. While Silva was sacked with Watford in 10th place, they were seemingly in freefall, after taking five points from a possible 33. Others’ fears of relegation looked more immediate: six clubs dispensed of managers when in the bottom three while West Bromwich Albion were 17th when they axed Tony Pulis.
The day before Silva’s departure, Stoke City marked their first league game under Paul Lambert by beating Huddersfield Town to jump out of the drop zone. It conformed to a trend: new managers have often had an early impact. Only Alan Pardew at Albion has a lower points-per-game average than his predecessor, and then only fractionally.
The unlikely poster boys – ageing and unfashionable and scarcely coming off glorious triumphs in their last jobs – for the strategy of change are David Moyes, Roy Hodgson and Claude Puel. The Scot has taken West Ham United from 18th to 11th. The Englishman inherited a Crystal Palace team with neither a point nor a goal but has reached the comparative safety of 13th position rather quicker than anticipated. There were only two teams below Leicester City when they sacked Craig Shakespeare. Now there are only six ahead of Puel’s team.
It suggests that the lower half of the Premier League is moving towards a quick-fix culture, where managers are recruited on short-term assignments, charged with delivering straight away, knowing one slump is a sackable offence and in a climate where a fear of a costly drop in the Championship means any thoughts of loyalty are outweighed by concerns about the consequences if it backfires.
Watford may be deemed pioneers in that respect. Their hire-and-fire policy jars with those who believe managers deserve time to build their team and implement a style of play. Yet Silva, like Quique Sanchez Flores and Walter Mazzarri before him, made a flying start. For each, the problem was sustaining it.
Unlike Stoke and Everton, Watford had a replacement lined up when they sacked their manager. Indeed Stoke, who had only had three managers in 15 years, arguably persisted with Mark Hughes for too long whereas Watford have never seemed clouded by sentimentality. Neither, for that matter, has Silva. Perhaps they are the ultimate modern manager and club respectively.
Table (note: excludes Swansea City v Liverpool and games under caretaker managers)
- Under Shakespeare – 6 points from 8 games, 0.75 points per game.
- Under Puel – 25 points from 15 games, 1.67 points per game.
- Under Koeman – 8 points from 9 games, 0.89 points per game.
- Under Allardyce – 13 points from 10 games, 1.30 points per game.
West Ham United
- Under Bilic – 9 points from 11 games, 0.82 points per game.
- Under Moyes – 17 points from 13 games, 1.31 points per game.
- Under De Boer – 0 points from 4 games, 0.0 points per game.
- Under Hodgson – 25 points from 20 games, 1.25 points per game.
- Under Hughes – 20 points from 22 games, 0.91 points per game.
- Under Lambert – 3 points from 1 game, 3.0 points per game.
West Bromwich Albion
- Under Pulis – 10 points from 12 games, 0.84 points per game.
- Under Pardew – 8 points from 10 games, 0.80 points per game.
- Under Clement – 12 from 18 games, 0.67 points per game.
- Under Carvalhal – 4 points from 3 games, 1.33 points per game.