Football: Sorry six lead sack race

Football: Sorry six lead sack race
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

With the English Premier League on an international break, shortlists are being drawn up.

It's the countdown to the annual sack race and here are six contenders limbering up in the starting blocks.

1. Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)

Daniel Levy is infallible. The Tottenham chief hires and fires with impunity. Managers cannot function independently when their judge, jury and executioner is the same incorrigible individual.

Levy hired director of football Franco Baldini to take Tottenham to the next level. The move failed.

He fired Harry Redknapp after two top-four finishes and hired Andre Villas-Boas. The move failed.

He brought in Tim Sherwood to repair the fractured dressing room. The move failed.

He played a direct role in the transfers of Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches. They all failed.

He appoints managers but then orders them to manage with their hands tied. Rumours are rife that Pochettino couldn't sign the players he wanted in the transfer window.

It's Levy's club, Levy's rules. His grubby fingerprints are on everything at White Hart Lane, including the guillotine rope. It's only a matter of time before Levy lets go of Pochettino.

Coaching score: 4/10

Chances of being sacked: 8/10

2. Manuel Pellegrini (Man City)

Since taking over City in 2008, the Abu Dhabi owners have cultivated a sly hiring and firing strategy.

They play a waiting game. There is no bloody, feeding frenzy. They are more crocodiles than sharks.

Mark Hughes was given a chance to bat with the heavy hitters. He struck himself out.

Roberto Mancini lost more plots than a blindfolded scriptwriter, but he was initially given the benefit of the doubt.

Both managers were removed only when it became clear that they could take the club no further.

Manuel Pellegrini is in a similar position now. Like Mancini, he won the league title but seems equally incapable of keeping it.

City's reputation remains flaky and the Champions League campaign has been disastrous.

The Abu Dhabi bankrollers expect more for their two billion bucks.

If Pep Guardiola suddenly made himself available, Pellegrini would be paid off immediately.

But he's still on borrowed time with the billionaires.

Coaching score: 4/10

Chances of being sacked: 7/10

3. Paul Lambert (Aston Villa)

Lambert fooled no one at Upton Park. The 0-0 was not a turning point.

History has long shown that if a side need to end a losing streak or a goal drought, the haphazard Hammers are always on hand to oblige. And even then, Villa required a stupendous save from Brad Guzan to pinch a point.

The assistant manager's release of his explosive autobiography went some way in obscuring Villa's muddled malaise but even Roy Keane's bushy beard couldn't hide six consecutive defeats.

Despite a forward line including Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, Villa have found the net only five times - the lowest tally in English professional football.

Lambert's downbeat interviews betray a disaffected coach. If he fails to pick up enough points in a kinder run of fixtures in the coming weeks, Randy Lerner's patience may run out.

The frustrated American owner is already looking to cut his losses and sell the club at a discount.

A Christmas spent flirting with the bottom three is hardly a sales pitch for potential bidders.

Coaching score: 5/10

Chances of being sacked: 6/10

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