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Early-Season EPL Sackings: Do the Numbers Justify Managerial Moves?

We are less than a month into the Premier League season but we already have our first managerial firing, as Bournemouth manager Scott Parker received his pink slip on Tuesday after just four league matches.

The season started promisingly for the team with an opening day win against Aston Villa, then went downhill with three massive defeats against Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool (by a combined score of 16-0). Even with the poor results against the trio of title contenders, the Cherries are in 17th place, one point above the relegation zone. 

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There were reports that Parker was feuding with the Bournemouth board (as seems to be the case whenever a manager is fired), with both sides holding different visions for the club's future. These differences, combined with a 9-0 loss against Liverpool, were enough for the Bournemouth board to seek another first-team leader.

This is the earliest an EPL manager has been sacked since 2019/20 when Watford boss Javi Garcia was also sacked after four matches. Thanks to the premature start to the season, Parker is the first EPL manager since Southampton's Paul Sturrock in 2004/05 to be fired in August.

Early-Season Sackings: Do the Numbers Justify the Move?

In the Premier League era, 14 managers have been sacked before the end of September, with none having overseen more than six matches to begin the season (there were a few other managerial changes during this period, but they were either one-side resignations or a manager leaving for another club). For our purposes, six matches will act as the cutoff to be considered "early-season."

The 14 clubs that fired their manager early in the season saw an average improvement of 1.8 places in the league table by the end of the season. 10 of these clubs improved their final league position after firing their manager while only three finished lower in the table (1998/99 Newcastle saw no change).

Furthermore, of the six clubs that were in the relegation zone at the time of firing their manager, only one of them — 19/20 Watford — ended the season in the bottom three. Two clubs were also relegated despite not being in the relegation zone at the time of firing their manager.

The quickest hook was just two matches — an embarrassment experienced by Newcastle's Kenny Daglish in 1998/99 and Southampton's Paul Sturrock in 2004/05. 

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Outlook for Bournemouth

Bournemouth would have been lucky to get even a single draw from the three matches against Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool, and while the 9-0 result against Liverpool is humiliating, it is still just one defeat in a 38-match season and it only dropped the Cherries to 17th.

The club will probably pick up a few points in its upcoming fixtures against Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Brighton, and people will say that firing Parker was the correct decision. But the Cherries can't play any worse than they did at Anfield — the only direction to go is up.

Soccer teams usually perform better after their manager is fired — regardless of timing — simply because the move comes when the club's form has bottomed out.

Bournemouth's form will improve, but history suggests it might not necessarily be from Scott Parker's sacking. 

The In-Depth Stats

Premier League Managers Fired Early in the Season (Before Oct & < 7 matches in)

Season Manager Club Date Fired

Matches Played

League Position Final League Position Change in League Position
22/23 Scott Parker Bournemouth Aug 30 4 17 ? ?
19/20 Javi Garcia Watford Sep 7 4 20 19 (R) +1
17/18 Frank de Boer Crystal Palace Sep 11 4 19 11 +8
13/14 Paolo De Canio Sunderland Sep 22 5 20 14 +6
08/09 Kevin Keegan Newcastle Sep 4 3 11 18 (R) -7
07/08 Jose Mourinho Chelsea Sep 20 6 5 2 +3
04/05 Paul Sturrock Southampton Aug 23 2 10 20 (R) -10
04/05 Bobby Robson Newcastle Aug 30 4 17 14 +3
03/04 Glenn Hoddle Tottenham Sep 22 6 18 14 +4
00/01 Gianluca Vialli Chelsea Sep 12 5 10 6 +6
99/00 Ruud Gullit Newcastle Aug 28 5 19 11 +8
98/99 Kenny Daglish Newcastle Aug 27 2 13 13 0
98/99 Christian Gross Tottenham Sep 5 3 14 11 +3
96/97 Howard Wilkinson Leeds Sep 10 5 9 11 -2
93/94 Peter Reid Man City Aug 26 4 20 16 +4

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