The managerial revolving door has spun faster than ever in the Premier League this season with five clubs having already replaced their coaches.
This weekend three clubs mired in relegation trouble play their first games with new coaches at the helm – Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, Dean Smith at Norwich City and Eddie Howe at Newcastle United.
We look at the challenges the trio face.
ASTON VILLA – STEVEN GERRARD
League position – 16th
Dean Smith’s sacking was something of a surprise despite a run of five successive league defeats but it paved the way for the return of a true Premier League great in former Liverpool and England skipper Gerrard.
Gerrard re-established Rangers as top dogs in Scotland after taking his first coaching role in 2018, earning 2.25 points per league game, but the Premier League will be a massive step-up.
The ambitious 41-year-old will bring an attacking brand of football and will be backed in the transfer market but first he will need to stop the rot and cure a leaky defence that has conceded 13 goals in the last five league games.
Villa looks a good fit for Gerrard but it is a gamble. Establishing them as a top-eight side would enhance his prospects, but relegation would dent his reputation. His first test is at home to Brighton, whose manager Graham Potter has already established his top-flight credentials.
NEWCASTLE UNITED – EDDIE HOWE
League position: 19th
When a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium took over, joy was uncontained at St James’ Park with the promise of Newcastle becoming a major European force.
Steve Bruce was duly dismissed and, after a short spell with Graeme Jones as caretaker the club turned to former Bournemouth manager Howe, after Unai Emery turned them down.
Fans expected a big name replacement but the reality is that Newcastle don’t have that luxury and are in danger of becoming a super-rich second-tier club.
So the appointment of Howe seems sensible. In taking Bournemouth into the Premier League for the first time in 2015 and establishing them as a top-flight club, Howe was tipped for some of England’s top jobs. Things went stale though and after relegation in 2020 Howe left.
Expectation levels have risen massively at Newcastle, but Howe’s brief will be simply to ensure Premier League survival.
Newcastle are winless in 11 league games and cannot spend on reinforcements until January, so Howe must soldier on with what he has got if they are not to be cut adrift.
He will have some familiar faces to work with in the shape of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Matt Ritchie – who were all with him at Bournemouth. He starts at home to Brentford.
NORWICH CITY – DEAN SMITH
League position – 20th
Smith was quickly back in the fray after his sacking by Villa but the appointment is a curious one.
Despite winning for the first time this season in Farke’s final game, Norwich remain bottom and look odds-on to get relegated for the second time in three seasons.
It is not a foregone conclusion though and the Norwich hierarchy decided that in Smith they have covered their bases.
With Villa he fought a successful relegation battle and the hope will be he can inspire a Norwich escape. But if they do go down, Smith will be viewed as the ideal man to secure a quick return, having returned Villa to the top flight. Bizarrely Smith’s first game will be at home to Southampton, whose defeat of Villa earlier this month prompted his sacking.