We are now into December and there has only just been our first Premier League managerial casualty of the season with Sheffield United axing Paul Heckingbottom. Chris Wilder could return to Bramall Lane to lead the survival bid having left the Blades back in 2021. With that in mind, the EPL's bottom club do not top our panic rankings as we speed towards Christmas and the madness of English soccer's festive period. The chances of a second managerial change or more in the coming weeks are high and we go through each topflight English club and explain why there is or is not growing pressure and tension in the air.
20. Aston Villa
Unai Emery is a contender for manager of the year given the phenomenal turnaround that he has overseen at Villa Park. This week is huge for Villa in that they play both Manchester City and Arsenal. They have the chance to really secure themselves an impressive spot in the thick of the UEFA Champions League qualification battle. The Villans are fighting on multiple fronts right now with UEFA Europa Conference League action too but not even the occasional dropped points against the likes of Bournemouth can dent the undeniable feelgood factor around the Birmingham giants right now.
Premier League leaders by two points ahead of Liverpool, Mikel Arteta has the Gunners where he wants them without the Londoners truly hitting high gear just yet. There have been signs of that recently such as the demolition of RC Lens in the Champions League, but there is a feeling that there is more to come from the Spaniard and his side who already sit top of the pile. Little wonder then that there is an air of total serenity around Emirates Stadium with regards to this season so far.
Jurgen Klopp has his team back in title contention and this week could see the Reds gain further ground on City and Arsenal if Villa pick up points from those two games. The German has had his critics in recent campaigns and Liverpool were way off the pace last season which explains why they are in the UEFA Europa League this term, but so far the Merseyside giants are in fine fettle and feeling good about their chances of going all the way.
17. Manchester City
Being defending European and domestic champions is always tricky and it has proved to be so for Pep Guardiola who is currently experiencing his team's first winless run of three Premier League games or more since his 2016 arrival. The chances are that this barren run will end very soon and City are only three points off of top spot anyway despite dropping points of late, but it is true that this term's relatively patchy form has raised a few minor -- for now -- questions.
16. Tottenham Hotspur
Ange Postecoglou's fast start to life with Spurs has slowed down a little but there is no doubt about it that there is greater positivity around the club than there has been for a long time. Fifth in the table and not exactly adrift of the Champions League places, Tottenham will be happy with where they are now and where they could still be in a few months' time.
15. Brighton and Hove Albion
Although not quite at the same level of hype as this time last year, Roberto De Zerbi's men are doing their best to stay in touch with the European places despite a tricky run of form. The Italian has had to adapt to a number of changes since last season which will always be the case with the Seagulls' model, so there will be little to no real concern in Brighton that the team is currently five points off a European place -- especially while a first continental foray is being enjoyed in the Europa League.
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14. Newcastle United
The Magpies have had it tough of late with a number of injuries and unavailable players which has seen Eddie Howe produce some impressive results all things considered. Three points off a Champions League place and still in with a shout of reaching the knockout phase in the current edition is not a bad place to be and there is a feeling that things could be better at St. James' Park had there not been so many injuries. With that in mind, there will be little to no real panic on Tyneside.
13 - Manchester United haven’t won a Premier League away game against a team starting the day in the top eight of the table since October 2021 against Tottenham under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Since then, the Red Devils have drawn three and lost 10 of their 13 such games. Unlucky. pic.twitter.com/YUfoYDVgkA— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2023
Thomas Frank has worked wonders for years now with the Bees to keep them competitive and often above midtable Premier League quality. The Danish tactician has his team in and around that same marker once more and without the services of top striker Ivan Toney who is currently suspended. It is of little surprise that Frank has started to be linked with other positions at different clubs and that will likely continue to be the case. His future rather than the team's 11th position in the EPL rankings is arguably of greatest concern around Brentford right now.
Given Marco Silva's recent contract extension, there is no obvious reason to suspect that panic is setting in at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers will probably feel that they should be closer to midtable than they are at present in 14th but a few points in quick succession could bring them back to 10th. On the whole, there is no real danger for Fulham -- especially since Everton dropped down from above them and into the relegation zone.
11. West Ham United
David Moyes is one of the managers who seems to be constantly fighting for survival based on current results yet equally safe in his job because of previous achievements. European success and silverware has counted for a lot while being within six points of Europe while looking fairly solid in the Europa League means there is no greater sense of panic than usual around London Stadium.
Mauricio Pochettino is not having things all his own way as he fights to turn the Blues' fortunes around to return them to European competition. Eight points off the UEFA places but with seven points from a challenging 12, Chelsea could be about to start moving upwards in the rankings. A new arrival this summer, the Argentinian is unlikely to be under serious threat if the team continues to progress.
9. Luton Town
Anything better than bottom spot and relegation will have been the aim for Rob Edwards and the Hatters' current position two points above the drop zone is bettering that. Keeping Luton in the Premier League would be a massive achievement and although there may well be tougher times ahead, things are going reasonably well for now. That said, without Everton's points deduction, it would be a bottom three position -- possibly closer to the reality of this season on the field so far.
8. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Expected to face the drop having been left by Julen Lopetegui just days before the season started, Wolves are actually defying expectations to not only be out of the relegation zone but relatively close to midtable and above the likes of Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth. Gary O'Neil is carving out something of a specialist reputation for himself in these sorts of situations having kept the Cherries up in similar circumstances last year.
7. Nottingham Forest
Steve Cooper has had close calls since returning the Tricky Trees to the Premier League but is keeping his head above water for now. Forest probably expected to be closer to midtable than they are right now but are equally only six points away from it. Little need for panic immediately at the City Ground but Everton's 10-point deduction has massively aided that.
5-0 - Burnley’s 5-0 win against Sheffield United represents the joint-largest margin of victory in Premier League history by a team starting the day bottom of the table, and the biggest since Sheffield Wednesday’s 5-0 win against Bolton in November 1997. Propulsion. pic.twitter.com/vkSHucLmXi— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2023
Vincent Kompany had a lot of credit in the bank given how the Clarets returned to the Premier League at the first time of asking. That confidence has remained intact and will have been boosted by the recent thrashing of Sheffield United. Pick up another few points to move out of the relegation zone and the Belgian will have allayed any creeping doubts in a season when survival was the only aim.
5. Crystal Palace
Things are starting to take a turn for the worse for Roy Hodgson with Palace suffering a similar dip in form to the one exhibited under Patrick Vieira. It might not show in the table just yet, but losses to both Everton and Luton will have raised concern. The Eagles could be an outside bet to change manager after Sheffield United unless results pick up given the interim nature of veteran Hodgson's return to Selhurst Park.
Wins over Newcastle United and Sheffield United as well as a point at home to Villa have been encouraging for Andoni Iraola. However, there were major questions before that which could have seen the Basque tactician dismissed. Should Bournemouth's form continue on its recent upwards curve, then any lingering panic should dissipate.
Had the Toffees not been hit with a 10-point deduction, Sean Dyche would have them in a fairly comfortable lower midtable position. Instead, Everton are scrapping away in the relegation zone despite boasting some of the more impressive metrics in the bottom half of the Premier League table. If that form can continue, then Dyche should be able to lead his team away from the drop zone in the coming weeks and months. That said, a poor turn for results would heap the pressure on massively given the club's financial struggles.
2. Sheffield United
Evidently the panic is so severe that Wilder is expected to replace the dismissed Heckingbottom before the end of this week so it is little surprise that the Blades are close to the top of our ranking. One win all season and four points adrift of safety, Sheffield United can be grateful for Everton's punishment as the gap to safety without it would be eight points already.
1. Manchester United
Nowhere else in the Premier League is the panic as acute as it is at Old Trafford, though. Seventh in the Premier League and three points off the European places is not so bad when you consider how the Red Devils' Champions League hopes hang by a thread. Factor in six EPL losses on top of the disastrous showing in Europe and Erik ten Hag can feel fortunate that he has been shown extended patience. That leniency arguably owes much to the protracted arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe with a proposed minority stake of around 25% so it could be that the panic bells are set to ring louder in the coming weeks -- especially if United drop out of the UCL.