With Leeds cutting ties with Marcelo Bielsa, and Newcastle continuing their fantastic run under Eddie Howe, we’re looking at this week’s Market Movers.
There are few managers who could oversee a run of just one point from six games, which included losses to a relegation-threatened Newcastle at home, as well as drubbings by Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham and arch-rivals Manchester United, and there still be no palpable dissent from the stands.
Many managerial exits can come at the end of weeks and months of bitterness and ill-feeling. Despite how things have been this season at Elland Road, there’s been absolutely no bitterness or ill-feeling.
The love between Bielsa and the Leeds United faithful will always be there, but as with many relationships, it simply came to its natural conclusion.
Yes, there were calls in some quarters for Marcelo Bielsa to go, but they’ve been without last season’s top scorer Patrick Bamford since September, as well as Euro 2020 star Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper since November. And of course Bielsa was the man who returned them to the Promised Land for the first time in 16 years, not spending a single week in the bottom three.
However, despite the injuries, and despite what he had achieved with the club, their form was alarming, and with rivals Newcastle and Burnley picking up points, the club have cut ties with ‘El Loco’.
So good were they on their return to the Premier League, they were 12/1 to be relegated in pre-season. That was cut to 9/1 after their 5-1 hammering at Old Trafford on the opening day.
After failing to win any of their opening six, a 1-0 win over Watford at the seventh attempt saw them back out to 8/1. After two more one-goal victories over Norwich and Crystal Palace, a draw with Brentford saw them as short as 9/2 for the drop, ahead of games with Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal in the run-up to Christmas. No points and 14 goals conceded saw them cut further, to 9/4 for relegation.
With rivals at the bottom faltering, two wins over Burnley and West Ham saw them drift back out to 9/1 with safety seemingly secured.
But things started to unravel quickly with a loss at home to Newcastle, when a win would’ve all-but-guaranteed Premier League football next season. A thrilling 3-3 draw at Villa Park had them six points above the drop zone, but results couldn’t have gone worse from a Leeds perspective recently.
Everton were made to look very good in their 3-0 win, Manchester United put them to the sword once again, before Liverpool and Tottenham combined for 10 goals across their two games.
Leeds are now 13/8 to be relegated.
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You can’t help but feel part of the reason for Bielsa’s sacking is the form of Newcastle. Not two months ago the relegation battle looked like a four-horse race, and it was anyone’s guess which three would go down. Leeds, while not safe by any means, weren’t quite part of the conversation.
The Toon were 5/2 to go down in the summer with Steve Bruce in charge and reinforcements lacking, and were Evens by the time Eddie Howe arrived through the door.
The former Bournemouth boss was unable to stop the rot though, and they were 8/13 having managed just two points from home games with Brentford and Newcastle with a trip to Arsenal sandwiched between.
Three straight losses to Leicester, Liverpool and Newcastle – scoring one and conceding 11 – saw them slightly shorter still at 4/7. An unlikely top-half finish, 6/1 in pre-season, was now 40/1.
Then came the turnaround. Barring the embarrassing defeat at home to Cambridge – now a distant memories to Newcastle fans – they’ve drawn with Manchester United, Watford and West Ham, while recording wins over Leeds, Everton, Aston Villa and most recently Brenford.
Their Premier League status now surely secured, they’re 7/1 for relegation, and 14/1 to finish in the top half.
Taking over from Diego Martinez – the man who got Granada back to La Liga and even led them to Europe in his first season – was never going to be an easy task for Robert Moreno, and with no wins in his first seven (despite a point which was so nearly three at Barcelona), he was under real pressure. They were 9/4 for relegation in the summer, cut to 5/4 after the loss to Celta Vigo which made it seven without a win to start the season.
However from there, they turned a corner. Certainly not lacking in belief or team spirit, Granada found a knack of scoring late goals, and lost just two of their next 13, sitting comfortably in mid-table.
The run included a 2-1 win against Atletico Madrid, and finished with them getting revenge on Barcelona with a late equaliser of their own as they were pushed out .
But with five consecutive losses, they’re 3/1 for the drop, and should they lose on Monday night to struggling Cadiz, they’ll be even shorter still.
After just three months and three games in charge, Verona cut ties with Eusebio Di Francesco, with them 10/3 for relegation before the visit of Jose Mourinho’s Roma, a side that had won six from six in all competitions under the serial-winning coach.
A fourth successive Serie A defeat was very much on the cards when 1-0 down at half-time. However, a peach of a strike from Davide Faraoni saw the hosts claim a 3-2 victory.
They threw away a 2-0 lead at Milan (which saw bet365’s Early Payout Offer activated) before suffering a 3-2 reversal with new manager Igor Tudor suffering his first defeat thanks to a late own goal by Koray Gunter, but the signs of a revival were good for the 6/1 shots.
By the time of their next defeat, 3-1 at Sampdoria, their relegation worries were seemingly over at 25/1 and then 33/1 when coming back from 3-0 down to beat Venezia 4-3.
Their five wins since Christmas sees them at 750/1 thanks to Giovanni Simeone ending his drought in style when bagging his second hat-trick of the season this weekend, taking his tally to 15.
By Steve Freeth
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