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.
Quincy Promes hit a hat-trick as Ajax maintained their unbeaten start to the Eredivisie season with a 5-0 win over winless Fortuna Sittard.
Ajax went ahead five minutes after half-time when Dusan Tadic’s cross from the left picked out Promes at the far post and he poked home from eight yards.
The second came three minutes later when David Neres tucked home from barely a yard out.
Pomes then made it 3-0 after 68 minutes as he reacted quickest after Razvan Marin’s initial shot was saved by Alexei Koselev before Cian Harries, on loan from Swansea, turned the ball into his own net 13 minutes from the end.
Promes wrapped it up with his third of the evening after latching onto Tadic’s through ball.
PSV Eindhoven kept pace with Ajax after a 3-1 win over FC Groningen.
They went ahead after 12 minutes when Pablo Rosario rifled home from 20 yards via the inside of the post and doubled the advantage seven minutes before the break as full-back Denzel Dumfries got on the end of a cross from Donyell Malen to slot home.
Ramon Lundqvist struck the post before pulling one back with 19 minutes remaining but the hosts wrapped it up in stoppage time through Bruma.
The weekend is decorated with some mouthwatering clashes in Europe’s top-five leagues. The presence of Champions League fixtures next week adds more flavour to the ones this weekend, with top teams attempting to balance their squads between the two games.
We look at the top fixtures from each of the five leagues and help you sort your viewing schedule for the weekend.
Fixture: Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid
Venue: Wanda Metropolitano
Date: September 29th, Saturday
Time: 11pm, GST
One of the fiercest derbies on the continent promises to be the biggest game of the week when Atletico host Real in the Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano. Both teams began their La Liga season in contrasting fashion but are equally hungry for the three points.
Los Blancos drew against Real Valladolid, Villarreal and were humiliated by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League before they earned an important away win against Sevilla last time out.
Atletico won their first three games but tasted victory in none of their next three games across all competitions. Diego Simeone’s men will look to earn the bragging rights and create momentum before they fly to Moscow for their Champions League clash with Lokomotiv on Tuesday, with Real hosting Club Brugge the same night.
Los Rojiblancos have won just once at home in their last five attempts across all competitions against their arch rivals.
Key-players: Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Fixture: Manchester United v Arsenal
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: September 30th, Monday
Time: 11pm, GST
The weekend’s Monday night Premier League fixture will see a struggling Manchester United take on a limping Arsenal. Both teams have suffered heavily already this season and are desperate to avoid defeat at all costs.
The Red Devils have lost to Crystal Palace and West Ham since defeating Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day and Arsenal were on a three-game winless streak before edging past Aston Villa at the weekend. It’s imperative for both teams that they come out on top in a game against an opponent in a similar rut.
Both teams have won twice in the last five encounters with each other in the Premier League and both have scored at least one goal in each of the last five fixtures at Old Trafford.
Key-players: Daniel James (Manchester United), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Fixture: RB Leipzig v Schalke
Venue: Red Bull Arena
Date: September 28th, Saturday
Time: 5.30pm, GST
A top-of-the-table clash is in store for the fans in Germany, with RB Leipzig clashing with Schalke at the Red Bull Arena.
The hosts have enjoyed a commanding start to the season, winning four games and drawing only against reigning champions Bayern Munich.
Schalke are just three points behind and unbeaten in their last three games. They edged Mainz 2-1 after thumping Paderborn 5-1 and Hertha Berlin 3-0.
Although Leipzig will be favourites, this encounter promises to be an evenly contested affair that could be decided by fine margins.
Schalke have never won at the Red Bull Arena since Leipzig were promoted in the 2016/17 season.
Key-players: Marcel Sabitzer (Leipzig), Amine Harit (Schalke)
Fixture: Marseille v Rennes
Venue: Stade Velodrome
Date: September 29th, Sunday
Time: 11pm, GST
Marseille hosting Rennes features as our Ligue 1 game of the week. Both teams started well and picked up three wins but stuttered along the way and are now desperate for a win.
The hosts drew their last two games against Montpellier and Dijon and face a tough task to shake off the slump.
Les Rouge et Noir (the Red and Blacks) famously defeated PSG earlier this season but lost against Nice and later dropped points against Brest and Lille as well.
The last two ties involving the two teams both ended in draws. Will there be more of the same or will one side walk away with all three points?
Key-players: Dimitri Payet (Marseille), M’Baye Niang (Rennes)
Fixture: AC Milan v Fiorentina
Venue: San Siro
Date: September 29th, Sunday
Time: 10.45pm, GST
Two big names will tussle for three points at the San Siro on Sunday night. However, both sides experienced a harsh start to their Serie A campaigns and need the springboard that a win on Sunday could provide.
Milan recorded 1-0 wins over Brescia and Verona but succumbed to a shattering 2-0 defeat to Milan rivals Inter in the derby last week.
La Viola are yet to win a game this season and have collected just two points in four games. But they will take pride in the fact that they took points off defending champions Juventus as they look for their first win.
The visitors won at San Siro last season but that was their only win in the last five games at this venue.
Key-players: Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan), Franck Ribery (Fiorentina)