Ronald Koeman and Slaven Bilic leading Premier League sack race
An international break can be a nervous fortnight for club managers.
Not only are players out of their care, twitchy club chairmen and owners have often used the extra breathing space in between matches to make big decisions. It now looks as if Premier League bosses have escaped the axe this time around, with Frank de Boer, sacked by Crystal Palace after four matches, remaining the sole dismissal of the season.
That is not to say there are no managers under pressure. ESPN FC makes it that five return to action this weekend with questions hanging over their immediate future.
Ronald Koeman (Everton)
Losing 1-0 to Burnley at home last time out made for a poisonous atmosphere at Goodison Park. Everton have won just two league games all season, and beating Bournemouth 2-1 on Sep. 23 was the first victory since a 1-0 opening day defeat of Stoke.
"It is always about the money," said Koeman after Burnley, forced into talking of "net spend" in the face of £140 million of investment in the team to defend a record of five defeats in eight matches. It is true to say that £75m came Everton's way for Romelu Lukaku, but failure to adequately replace him has depth charged Everton's season.
The return of prodigal son Wayne Rooney has not been serene, with attendant off-field problems being followed by Koeman dropping him to the substitutes' bench, due to Rooney not fitting alongside £45m Gylfi Sigurdsson. Koeman has received public backing from majority owner Farhad Moshiri, with the caveat that fans "deserve better". A defeat at Brighton on Sunday would cause the pressure and dissent to be ramped right back up again.
Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)
Hodgson was dealt a bad hand at Selhurst Park. Not only did he take over a squad suffering the confusion of De Boer's regime, in which Palace personnel were wholly unsuitable for a slowed-down version of "Total Football", but the former England manager was also greeted with an unforgiving fixture list.
Once his first match had been lost 1-0 to Southampton, then defeats to Manchester City (5-0) and Manchester United (4-0) embraced the inevitable, though some of the body language at Old Trafford in particular was worrisome as defeat was sealed; Andros Townsend threw up his arms in submission after being nutmegged by Anthony Martial.
More of the same at Chelsea on Saturday, and a continuing absence of goals, already a record-breaking drought, might soon put pressure on Hodgson. As De Boer found out, Palace's owners are not afraid to be hasty in their decision-making. Results are desperately required in Palace's two matches that follow Saturday, away at Newcastle and at home vs. West Ham.
Slaven Bilic (West Ham United)
Bilic has made a habit of pulling off recoveries when it appears the Hammers' owners must reluctantly take a decision. When 3-0 down to Tottenham on Sep. 23, two late goals muted the boos that had rained down at the London Stadium.
The next week, West Ham were dreadful against Swansea, yet stole a last-gasp 1-0 win through Diafra Sakho in injury time. Predictions of Bilic's demise will ratchet up if the Hammers falter against Burnley or Brighton, as questions continue to be asked of his tactics, the motivational impact he made during the 2015-16 season having ebbed away.
Mauricio Pellegrino (Southampton)
Southampton are 12th and in no particular danger, but Pellegrino faces the same doubt that eventually damned predecessor Claude Puel. The Saints have a playing staff that would be the envy of much of those beyond the Premier League's top six, and yet they have won just two matches so far, and those were against Palace and West Ham.
A comparison of Pellegrino with other predecessors is also damning. He possesses the charisma of neither Koeman nor Mauricio Pochettino, and his team struggles for goals. Only in August's 3-2 defeat of West Ham in August have his team scored more than once. It may well be that he limps on to the end of season, shrouded in dissatisfaction like Puel, but improvement is required to last much longer. The presence of a new owner is often dangerous for incumbent managers, and Gao Jisheng's takeover in August may prove a factor.
Craig Shakespeare (Leicester City)
Leicester are another team whose talent base is not being supported by results. Shakespeare's closeness to the club's Thai owners helped him land the job when Claudio Ranieri was removed in March, but may not be enough to protect him if results stay on the same trajectory.
One win all season -- and that coming against Brighton in August -- has been a poor return for a squad still chock-full of 2015-16 champions. This week, Shakespeare has been talking of amending his tactics, an admission that very little has gone to plan in his first senior management position.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.