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Leeds look to emulate rivals with new-manager bounce

Ben Pearce 7 Feb 2023
Manager composite Emery Lopetegui and Emery

Whites hunt for Jesse Marsch replacement who can match impact of Unai Emery, Julen Lopetegui and Sean Dyche

After dismissing Jesse Marsch on Monday, Leeds United will hope for the new-manager bounce that a number of their relegation rivals have enjoyed this term.

Indeed, their decision may have been partly influenced by the worrying improvement from the teams around them.

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Leeds are the sixth bottom-half club to change their manager this season. And of the previous five teams, four have seen an improvement.

While Leeds' Under-21 coach Michael Skubala stands in for Wednesday's trip to Manchester United, the search is on for a head coach who can give the Whites their own boost in the relegation fight.

Bottom-half manager changes 22/23
Club Manager Matches Points/ match
BOU Scott Parker 4 0.75
Gary O'Neil 17 0.82
AVL Steven Gerrard 11 0.82
Unai Emery 8 2.00
SOU Ralph Hasenhuttl 14 0.86
Nathan Jones 7 0.43
WOL Bruno Lage 8 0.75
Julen Lopetegui 6 1.67
EVE Frank Lampard 20 0.75
Sean Dyche 1 3.00

When Aston Villa ousted Steven Gerrard, they were only outside the relegation zone on goals scored, level with Leeds on nine points, from 11 matches.

But his replacement Unai Emery masterminded a victory over Manchester United in his first match and now has five wins from eight league fixtures, leaving Villa 11th with a 10-point gap over Leeds.

When Wolverhampton Wanderers dismissed Bruno Lage, they were in the relegation zone, with six points from eight matches, three points behind Leeds.

But Julen Lopetegui oversaw a crucial 2-1 victory at Everton on his league debut, and among their last three league matches Wolves have beaten relegation rivals West Ham United and won 3-0 against Liverpool.

Those results have taken Lopetegui’s side out of the bottom three, two points ahead of Leeds.

Now Everton are suddenly looking similarly rejuvenated under Sean Dyche, who halted a three-match losing run, winning his first match in charge on Saturday.

Beating leaders Arsenal 1-0, the Toffees moved level with Leeds on 18 points, leaving the Whites outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone and perhaps precipitating their own move for a new boss.

AFC Bournemouth also saw immediate benefits after making an early change in August.

When Scott Parker lost three of his opening four matches and left the club, Gary O’Neil immediately managed a six-match unbeaten run, taking the Cherries as high as eighth.

But O’Neil has since struggled to maintain that run of form, with his side having dropped into the relegation zone.

The bottom half

Pos Team Pl GD Pts
11 AVL 21 -6 28
12 CRY 21 -10 24
13 NFO 21 -18 24
14 LEI 21 -5 21
15 WOL 21 -15 20
16 WHU 21 -8 19
17 LEE 20 -8 18
18 EVE 21 -12 18
19 BOU 21 -24 17
20 SOU 21 -21 15
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While O’Neil still has a better points-per-match average than Parker this season, Parker could point out  his three defeats came against Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, while he won his other match against Villa.

AFC Bournemouth’s time under O’Neil will serve as a cautionary tale for Villa, Wolves and Everton - that early gains with a new manager can quickly be lost.

Meanwhile, Southampton have so far fared worse under Nathan Jones than under his predecessor Ralph Hasenhuttl this season.

Saints were 18th when they made the change in November, with 12 points from 14 matches. They have now dropped to the foot of the table, with 15 points from 21 matches.

Jones is averaging exactly half as many points per match as Hasenhuttl was this season.

Forest rewarded for keeping faith

By contrast, Nottingham Forest have kept faith with Steve Cooper and have been rewarded.

In early October Forest lost a fifth straight match, a 4-0 loss in a bottom-of-the-table duel with Leicester City, and Cooper looked under pressure.

But the club backed their manager with a new contract and are now the form team in the relegation fight, with four wins from seven matches.

Indeed their tally of 11 points from their last five matches is better than title challengers Arsenal and Man City have managed over the same period, and has taken them up to 13th.

West Ham and Leicester will hope their decisions to stick with David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers are similarly rewarded, and that they will be safe at the end of the season.

But after opting for a change this week, Leeds are looking for their own Emery, Lopetegui or Dyche.

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