English football’s sacking culture has been taken to new levels this season. No fewer than eight clubs have replaced the respective managers who began the 2017/18 in their home stadium’s dugout.
Sacking a manager has always been quite rightly frowned upon. Many owners and chairpersons seem trigger-happy, willing to go through three managers each season just to meet their club’s minimum expectation.
Many departures turn out to be knee-jerk and incorrect. But some managerial changes do eventually have a positive impact. Take West Ham United and Crystal Palace, for example, who meet tonight in the Premier League. In November, the Hammers sacked Slaven Bilic following a poor start to the season and controversially replaced the Croatian with David Moyes, whose two previous roles at Real Sociedad and Sunderland were hardly filled with vast success. The appointment was ridiculed – mocked to the complete extreme.
West Ham were in the relegation zone when Moyes first took charge but they are now 11th. The former Everton boss has done an excellent job and recently completed the signing of Joao Mario on-loan from Porto who will add much welcomed depth to a slightly weak midfield.
Like their hosts, Palace sacked Frank de Boer after just four Premier League games – two-and-a-half months after the Dutchman was appointed at Selhurst Park. Further comparisons were yet to be drawn between the two clubs; Roy Hodgson was appointed, and the decision to do so was roundly ridiculed with many pointing to his age and tenure with England as reason to suggest the Eagles might as well just be relegated there and then.
Palace were bottom when Hodgson replaced de Boer, and they remained so for a further two months, but a remarkable run of form sees them placed in a healthy thirteenth with 25 points from 24 games. It is a stunning turnaround of a sizeable magnitude given the Eagles managed just one win from their opening 12 league games.
Both sides now go into tonight’s game with genuine confidence, although West Ham’s lengthy list of absentees gives the visitors a slight advantage. Their form since making managerial changes only gives credence to those owners who seek to install a revolving door.
The Hammers’ injury crisis was extended in their FA Cup defeat at Wigan Athletic when Pedro Obiang was withdrawn on a stretcher. The midfielder joins Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic, Andre Ayew, Cheikhou Kouyate, Winston Reid, Edimilson Fernandes, Declan Rice and former Palace man Jose Fonte in being absent from Moyes’ squad. Left-back Arthur Masuaku begins the first of his six-match ban for being sent off for spitting at Wigan’s Nick Powell at the weekend.
However, there is some good news for Moyes. Mark Noble is expected to return from his foot injury and will most likely start alongside new signing Mario. Michail Antonio, criticised for his involvement for Wilfried Zaha’s 97th minute equaliser when the two sides met in October, has also recovered from a calf injury.
For Palace, Hodgson confirmed that Mamadou Sakho, Yohan Cabaye and Joel Ward have all recovered sooner than expected from their respective injuries. New additions Erdal Rakip and Jaroslaw Jach are both available but Hodgson has claimed it is too soon for either to be involved at the London Stadium.
Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon, Jeffrey Schlupp, Connor Wickham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all long-term absentees.