If various reports were to be believed, three Premier League managers jobs were hanging by a thread going into this weekends action. Southampton's Nigel Adkins, QPR's Mark Hughes and Manchester City's Roberto Mancini have all faced public and boardroom flak for failures to hit club targets and were aware of the need for victory to relieve pressure.
Roberto Mancini's City, league champions of course- won their game against Swansea 1-0, easing any pressure on him after their Champions League disaster in midweek. The other two were not so lucky.
Mark Hughes and QPR still without a win
QPR's season got off to the worst possible start when Swansea City humiliated the Hoops at the Liberty Stadium in a 5-0 thrashing, and a winless run of eight games has ensued, with only the relief of taking a point from local rivals Chelsea worth celebration.
Much of the blame for QPR's poor start to the season must be centred on the dealings of the summer transfer window. Whilst the likes of Park Ji-Sung, Julio Cesar and Jose Bosingwa arrived for a nominal combined fee, the cost in wages alone all topple the £80k a week mark.
At such a premium expense you expect quality in abundance, something that has not been evident so far. Whilst the above three have disappointed, the recruitment of Rob Green and Andrew Johnson have left many baffled as both already appear surplus to requirements and a waste of valuable money, with just five appearances between the pair.
In fairness to Hughes the arrival of Esteban Granero has already proven a strong piece of business, with the Spanish midfielder already establishing himself as one of the leagues most exciting playmakers. However Granero can't do it all on his own and an ageing squad surrounding him won't keep a player of his quality content for long.
Whilst last season's disciplinary record left Hughes with ample excuse to shift the blame when his job was questioned, this season has seen improved attitude - ignoring Samba Diakite's mind blowingly pathetic cameo against West Ham - and as a result Hughes now has to stand up and be counted. Recent figures show that QPR charge higher ticket rates than 65% of Premier League clubs, including last years champions Man City. Watching a side languishing at the bottom of the table for such a high expenditure is to attract the expected frustration and anger on the terraces of Loftus Road.
The Hoops came close to snatching a point against Arsenal, and there were perhaps legitimate offside complaints about the winning goal, but nine games without victory speaks for itself. Calls are being made for Harry Redknapp to take over. Owner Tony Fernandes is resisting them. For how long?
Nigel Adkins and Southampton suffer another home defeat
Southampton boss Nigel Adkins who has recently been installed as the favourite for the sack according to certain bookmakers. Following a colossal rise from League One to the top tier after back to back promotions, you would think that Adkins would be afforded time in his debut season in the Premier League. Sadly not.
As the Saints lie in the relegation zone with just four points from nine games, surprising levels of pressure appear to have been applied on the former physio. To only look at the points column would be unfair and a mistake though, as fixtures have included the visit of Manchester United and trips to Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton a tough baptism of fire for many players never to have applied their trade at this level.
Nevertheless against the two Manchester clubs they were unlucky to lose, on both occasions leading before late goals saw the points slip away. A point against the rapidly improving Everton was also a promising signal.
However in their last away game at West Ham's Boleyn Ground, Adkins men were comprehensively beaten 4-1, and doubts over Adkins abilities soon began to rapidly creep in. Let's not forget that Southampton finished above the Hammers last season, picking up four points on their head to head record. Perception is that West Ham have now overtaken them and the league table does not lie.
The four goals conceded last week were yet another reminder of the defensive frailty that has rocked Southampton's season. Despite trialling three separate goalkeepers, the team have failed to keep a clean sheet in the opening games, conceding an alarming 26 goals in total, 16 away from home.
In attack questions have been raised over Adkins reluctance to start star striker Rickie Lambert on a regular basis. Last weeks visit to East London saw Lambert confined to a second half substitute appearance, despite being the clubs top scorer for this season and the Championships sharpest hitman last year. There is no reason why Southampton can't find a way to fit Lambert and new signing Jay Rodriguez into the same side and have it work effectively.
Unfortunately for Adkins, record signing Gaston Ramirez may not be on hand to save his job after the club announced the Uruguayans injury would take him out of action until mid-November at the earliest.
The Southampton board have allegedly informed Adkins that he has their backing according to the man himself. The fans of the club also appear fairly united in their support of the manager, something which Adkins appeared extremely grateful for during Fridays press conference. Whether this level of support will prove enough, only time will tell.
It is usually around late October that the sack race begins to hot up and it appears this season is no different. Waiting in the wings are top candidates such as Harry Redknapp and Rafael Benitez whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to be linked with every English club managerial vacancy. Tempting choices for trigger happy chairmen.
Of all three candidates, most peoples money - despite Adkins favourite tag - would be put on Hughes to go first, such is the investment owner Tony Fernandes has made into the club. Nevertheless Mancini has always been expendable, as all City managers are, as the club can go out and pay top dollar for whoever they want as a replacement whilst Adkins needs to drastically amend his players decision making towards basic defensive and attacking duties if he wants to retain his position.
Both will be looking over their shoulders especially so after this weekend in fear of the ruthless relinquishment of their duties.
Who is your favourite to be sacked first? Hughes or Adkins? Can either survive?
image: © simonw92