London – With the new Premier League season set to get underway on Saturday, AFP Sports takes a closer look at five managers under pressure to deliver success over the next nine months:
JOSE MOURINHO (Chelsea)
When Roman Abramovich buried the hatchet with Mourinho and agreed to end the Portuguese coach's six-year exile from Stamford Bridge, he did so on the proviso that his old sparring partner would swiftly restore Chelsea to the summit of English football.
Instead, the first season of Mourinho's second coming was something of a damp squib, with the Blues finishing third in the Premier League and failing to win any of the cup competitions.
That made it two consecutive seasons without a major trophy for Mourinho, including his time at Real Madrid, and the demanding Abramovich is unlikely to take kindly to another season of failure.
RONALD KOEMAN (Southampton)
Still lauded as one of the finest players of his generation, the Dutchman arrives at St Mary's facing the biggest challenge of his managerial career.
The former Barcelona star has struggled to replicate his playing success as a coach, but even his steep learning curve at Feyenoord, Ajax and Benfica amongst others is unlikely to have prepared him for the chaos of his first weeks in England.
Southampton have been ripped apart by the departures of Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and Rickie Lambert – a £92 million fire sale that leaves morale at the club at an all-time low and Koeman is charged with somehow picking up the pieces in time to avoid relegation.
SAM ALLARDYCE (West Ham)
Already installed as the favourite for the sack with the bookmakers, Allardyce is fighting a rearguard action to save his job as last season's troubled campaign threatens to spill over into the new season.
Subjected to vicious abuse last term from Hammers fans angry with Allardyce's route one tactics, the former Newcastle boss has already had to cope with yet another injury to star striker Andy Carroll and a dismal run of friendly performances that featured just one victory.
Co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold have both publicly questioned his tactics and signings, and they even appointed Teddy Sheringham as a 'attacking coach' to offer more entertainment, adding to the feeling that Allardyce is on borrowed time in east London.
MAURICIO POCHETTINO (Tottenham)
Any manager willing to sit in the White Hart Lane hot seat must accept that longevity isn't part of the job description.
Since becoming Spurs chairman in 2001, Daniel Levy has parted company with nine managers and he showed his ruthless side once more at the end of last season when he sacked Tim Sherwood, a long-time servant of the club in various roles, just six months after ushering Andre Villas-Boas to the exit door.
Against that background, Pochettino knows he must hit the ground running to avoid becoming Levy's latest victim, a task which hasn't been made any easier by the club's lack of transfer activity to date, with Eric Dier, Michel Vorm and Ben Davies the only new signings.
ALAN PARDEW (Newcastle)
With fan unrest a major problem for Pardew last season, the Magpies chief desperately needs his raft of new signings to produce quickly to avoid another season in the stocks at St James' Park.
Even taking part in the club's end-of-season lap of honour was deemed a bad idea for Pardew at the conclusion of a turbulent campaign that saw Newcastle once again fail to live up to their supporters' lofty ambitions.
Hope comes in the form of fresh faces however. The sale of France right-back Mathieu Debuchy to Arsenal and the return to QPR of loan striker Loic Remy has sparked a major rebuilding programme, with Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella, Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback and Emmanuel Riviere among those Pardew hopes can steer the ship into calmer waters. – Sapa-AFP