End game? Results leave managers under pressure

Hodgson stares into abyss, while Ancelotti, Houllier and Grant also facing uncertain futures after disappointing defeats

Ian Herbert
Thursday 06 January 2011 01:00

Another extraordinary evening of Premier League upsets left four managers staring at dismissal last night, with pressure mounting on Carlo Ancelotti, Gérard Houllier and Avram Grant. It was Liverpool's Roy Hodgson, though, who was hanging on to his job by the thinnest margin.

Though Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Wolves was the surprise of the night, leaving Ancelotti effectively conceding that the title is lost, Liverpool's 3-1 loss at Ewood Park is the most likely to bring the axe down. Hodgson was favourite at 4-7 on last night to become the next manager to be dismissed, and though he insisted he would fight on and prepare for Sunday's FA Cup third round tie at Old Trafford, the club's American owners are actively considering a caretaker to see them through to May.

The sack race may be the only one he wins but Sam Allardyce, the man who Blackburn dismissed last month, could find himself in demand. West Ham, or even Villa, may ultimately value an individual with a track record of keeping clubs up.

Liverpool officials curtailed Hodgson's press conference to a minute and 57 seconds last night, though the 63-year-old – whose 31 games as Anfield manager have brought 13 wins, nine draws and nine defeats, and who has seen his side lose three of their last four games – said: "I am not prepared to talk about my future. At this moment I am depressed enough with the performance and the result. I am not hear to talk about that. I have no comments to make and I don't intend to answer any questions on the subject."

Ancelotti, like Hodgson a week earlier, found himself explaining how his side had lost to a Wolves side who went into the night bottom of the table. "Obviously it is going to be difficult to come back in the league, but there is still the Champions League and the FA Cup," he said. "We have to keep fighting but the gap is not so good." His side remain nine points adrift of Manchester United, with a game more played.

Ancelotti declared on Tuesday that he was "lucky" Chelsea had not sacked him but he said last night he would be surprised if Roman Abramovich removed him now. "I don't have [that] fear," he said after Jose Bosingwa's fifth-minute own-goal divided the sides. "But it's not my decision. I hope I can continue in the job. I have a good relationship with the players and they have the skill and character to move on. They are working hard, with a good spirit. But they could have done better with the little details and that's what decided this match."

Meanwhile, West Ham United collapsed to a 5-0 defeat to Newcastle United to put more pressure on manager Avram Grant while Houllier's Aston Villa find themselves only a point better off than Grant's club – and in the relegation zone for the first time since 2002 – after a 1-0 defeat at home to Sunderland.

The prestige match of the night was the least significant, as Arsenal outplayed Manchester City at The Emirates but could not find a way past their obdurate visitors in a goalless draw that boiled over in the final minutes when Arsenal's Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City were both sent off for a clash of heads.

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