The clocks have not even gone back in Europe yet, but time is already ticking down on the reigns of several high-profile managers across the continent.
At the other end of spectrum, there are certain bosses who are so far away from the heat that it’d take an ice pick to chisel them out of the job.
As such, we’ve taken a look at the temperature of some of the most high-profile jobs in Europe – from hot seat to cool throne.
Ernesto Valverde (Barcelona), Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)
Managers presiding over under-performing clubs are usually not long for this world – and there aren’t three bigger clubs in world football than this lot.
While all are struggling in different scenarios, each of this trio are getting toasted in the hot seat right now.
At Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde is feeling the heat despite consecutive La Liga titles. That’s because two good domestic seasons do not replace the 180 minutes of terrible football that led to Barcelona being on the embarrassing end of Champions League comebacks in consecutive years.
One point gained from fixtures against Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and Granada suggest they have shed their cloak of La Liga invincibility and struggling to a draw at Borussia Dortmund does not bode well for their desperate European ambitions.
Further still, investing in Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann has not looked like taking the club forwards a single step, while 32-year-old Lionel Messi is suffering from a worrying spate of injuries. Therefore, right now, it’s incredibly hard to see Valverde lasting the season.
Over to Madrid and there have been rumblings over the fractious relationship between Real president Florentino Perez and Zinedine Zidane almost ever since his reappointment in March.
Los Blancos invested around €250m into their squad after last year’s dismal campaign but they have barely been used, while marquee signing Eden Hazard is still finding both his feet and fitness.
Tactical naivety has often been a criticism levelled at Zidane and while that narrative was hard to push during his heady three-on-the-trot UCL run, his relative ineffectiveness without Cristiano Ronaldo was only underlined in the meek defeat in Paris against a PSG side shorn of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani.
To Old Trafford now and while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have more excuses, the results have been the worst of all three. United have won just five games in 19 since the Norwegian’s appointment in March, a record that smacks more of relegation than rehabilitation.
48 - Ole Gunnar Solskjær has won 48 points from his 27 league games as Manchester United manager so far (W14 D6 L7); the exact same record & points tally that Jose Mourinho oversaw in his final 27 Premier League games in charge of the club. Mirror. #mufc #reddevils pic.twitter.com/YFER4I9Jb1— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 24, 2019
While Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have all been good signings, his decision to let both Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez go is looking ill-judged given their injuries up front. And while ‘winning with kids’ worked two decades ago, the Premier League is a different beast now.
How long before hapless chief executive Ed Woodward caves into pressure and says enough is enough? Solskjaer’s certainly not the only one to blame for this now six-year malaise.
FEELING THE HEAT
Unai Emery (Arsenal), Marco Silva (Everton), Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)
Are you sitting comfortably, guys? probably not.
The Kroenkes decided to prise open the purse strings and bring in Nicolas Pepe from Lille to form a mouth-watering triumvirate with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. The shrewd signings (at least at the time) of centre-back David Luiz and Real Madrid playmaker Dani Ceballos, on loan, followed.
With Unai Emery, however, it’s still same old Arsenal. The same flakiness, the same perseverance with Granit Xhaka when he has Lucas Torreira sitting on the bench. Yes, they are fourth for now, but every result has seemingly come through 90 minutes of pure stress.
Marco Silva always starts in hot form before turning up the heat on himself. Just like at Watford, the Portuguese is in danger of implosion as he wrestles with the attacking balance of his squad and trying to replace last season loanee Kurt Zouma – yes, the same one having a nightmare back at Chelsea – in his defence.
Marco Silva on the Everton fans booing the team at full-time— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 21, 2019
🗣"I understand their reaction" pic.twitter.com/YxHZfcaFZK
The Toffees’ starting fixtures were ostensibly generous, but they’ve already lost twice to promoted teams in Aston Villa and Sheffield United. Gylfi Sigurdsson has lost every ounce of his creativity and they don’t have an out-and-out goalscorer with Alex Iwobi, Bernard and Richarlison all doing their best work on the left. Where to go from here?
While second season syndrome is indeed a thing, few would have expected Nuno Espirito Santo to struggle to this extent with Wolves in the Premier League. Europa League fixtures have added complications but this was reflected in the market, having made seven new signings without counting the permanent transfer of 2018/19 revelation Raul Jimenez.
They are one of just two teams without a Premier League victory this season and shipping five against Chelsea at Molineux earlier this month would have sent alarm bells blaring. Santo has built up favour but after a dreadful start, how much has he burnt through already?
Thomas Tuchel (PSG), Niko Kovac (Bayern Munich)
These two aren’t sweating for now, but one bad result has the potential to crank up the thermostat.
Thomas Tuchel is required to win the Ligue 1 title by default, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting or no Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. He’ll live and die by his record in the Champions League, where a semi-final is surely the bare minimum. Beating Real Madrid so impressively in the opening Champions League game, however, is one way to gain an extra life.
Was Neymar’s absence from that game a blessing? Pablo Sarabia and Angel Di Maria were superb in the forward line while the high energy of Idrissa Gueye in an advanced midfield position was crucial. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Brazilian’s ego precipitates another downfall.
🗣️ Tuchel on Neymar:— Goal Singapore (@Goal_SG) September 23, 2019
"He has a contract so of course he is 100 per cent with us. I can even confirm that he is 100 per cent involved with us on the field and 100 per cent in the group.
"He laughs a lot with his team-mates, it's normal for him and it's good for the team." pic.twitter.com/Mdbc1IzDqX
Roughly the same goes for Niko Kovac, though the threat of a reinforced Borussia Dortmund means securing yet another Bundesliga title would still be a commendable achievement with Bayern Munich.
Extra pressure exists from the big-money moves for Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez to buttress the defence, as well as Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona. A round-of-16 defeat like last year’s to Liverpool, even though their opponents went on to lift Ol’ Big Ears, would fall on deaf ears where Kovac’s Bayern bosses are concerned.
Carlo Ancelotti (Napoli), Lucien Favre (Borussia Dortmund), Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)
The winds of change are never far away in football, but this quartet are feeling the breeze with a chill factor.
Carlo Ancelotti swept aside Liverpool at the Stadio San Paolo to open up the Champions League campaign and it was no fluke, given he and Napoli also dispatched the eventual champions last year.
Defeat to perennial champions Juventus in the helter-skelter 4-3 in Turin has set them back in Serie A and they also have Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan to contend with. As long as they’re still in the race in March and they make it out of the UCL group stage, Ancelotti won’t be perspiring.
Dortmund won’t just be settling for second spot in their own league behind Bayern with Julian Brandt, the returning Mats Hummels and Thorgan Hazard among the high-profile additions. But Lucien Favre has bought plenty of time, with his high-octane style of play true to Dortmund traditions.
The surrender to Tottenham in last year’s Champions League knockouts will have left a bitter taste in the mouth – but they have every chance of topping their group this season given Barcelona’s shortcomings and Inter’s shock draw with Slavia Prague.
Diego Simeone is the highest-paid manager in the world, which shows how highly thought of he remains at Atletico Madrid, where he has been in charge since 2011. A radical overhaul over the summer hasn’t changed El Cholo, however, who is safety first, second and third.
Given Real and Barca’s problems, this term represents a golden opportunity for Simeone to clinch his second La Liga title as boss. But Atleti have not been without their own issues – recently beaten at Real Sociedad – and his grinding style suggests a slight chance of a ‘conscious uncoupling’ in the future, particularly if he can’t unlock Portugal wonderkid Joao Felix’s potential.
No manager in this bracket has had anywhere near as tumultuous a start in 2019/20 as Mauricio Pochettino. However, Tottenham would have to plummet a long way before they remove the man who guided them to a first-ever Champions League final, though a trophy has remained elusive.
There has been some thinly-veiled needle aimed towards chairman Daniel Levy where the transfer market is concerned – so tensions clearly exist. An outright sacking is very unlikely, but a ‘mutual decision’ next summer wouldn’t be surprising.
Pep Guardiola (Man City), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
These two are as cold as ice and with very good reason.
Pep Guardiola is the man who has set and re-set records for brilliance in the Premier League, topping the 100-point mark in 2017/18 and somehow fending off arguably the second-greatest Premier League team ever, Liverpool, a year later.
Manchester City desperately crave a maiden Champions League gong, but given the huge slice of luck it takes to win any competition, they know Guardiola represents their best chance – even if the Spaniard’s detractors continue to revel in his failed quests since leaving Barcelona.
Some scoffed over his lack of signings over the summer and apparently misplaced faith in ‘the boys’ to do the job that Liverpool want to complete above all else – the Premier League. Yet, they’ve started like a turbo-powered express train with six wins out of six.
When Klopp leaves Anfield, it’ll be wholly his decision.
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