May 13 (Reuters) - Premier League clubs are set to face a summer of unprecedented upheaval with only a handful of managers likely to still be in position next season as the fight to maintain a competitive edge in the top-flight becomes ever more frenetic.
As the season concluded on Sunday, there was no surprise that, as normal, the relegated sides were considering change. More remarkable was the uncertainty surrounding the big job at so many clubs that finished comfortably mid-table and above.
While Arsene Wenger talked fondly about his Arsenal farewell after 22 years, the final-day post-match press conferences were largely notable for the number of managers who were asked about, and declined to say much on, their future.
Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, Leicester City’s Claude Puel, Southampton’s Mark Hughes and Carlos Carvalhal, manager of relegated Swansea City, all stonewalled about what the summer will bring.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle insisted, perhaps a little hopefully, that their sought-after manager David Wagner would not be part of any managerial merry-go-round despite reports of interest from Leicester.
Asked if the German would be there next season, he said: “I see absolutely no reason why not.”
There is also uncertainty about Watford’s Javi Gracia, Stoke City’s Paul Lambert, whose deal includes a break clause which can be triggered by their relegation, Rafa Benitez, who is unhappy about the lack of investment in Newcastle United, and Sam Allardyce, unpopular among fans at Everton.
Roy Hodgson may decide at 70 his feat in keeping Crystal Palace up could be a fitting end to his managerial career while even Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino has occasionally hinted this season that his future might lie elsewhere.
It was left to Wenger to sound the one note of positivity about his intentions as he signed off.
“I will stay in football for sure,” he said after the 1-0 win at Huddersfield. “Whether that is managing or not... I am addicted and I don’t think that can be cured.”
After a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle ended Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League fare next season, Conte refused pointedly to say where he will be after next week’s FA Cup final against Manchester United, despite having a year left on his contract.
“I have a contract and I am committed to this club,” he said while Puel, who is under pressure despite taking Leicester to ninth, echoed the sentiments. “I make no comments about speculation around me,” he shrugged.
Southampton’s Hughes, whose short-term deal is up, adopted a similar line. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said after celebrating the Saints’ top-flight safety despite their 1-0 defeat at home to Manchester City.
Allardyce was booed by some of his own fans in Everton’s 3-1 defeat at West Ham United but gave no indication that he intends to depart.
The former England manager has faced a week of turbulence with possible boardroom changes and Wayne Rooney, who missed the final game with a knee injury, reportedly near to a move to MLS side DC United.
“Whenever the board tell me what they want to do then I’ll know. What will be will be,” he said, adding that he intends to see out the remaining year on his deal.
West Bromwich Albion’s caretaker manager Darren Moore was another to address his future after suffering the first defeat of his tenure — 2-0 at Crystal Palace — which left them bottom of the table.
“It’s for me now to get over this game and then we’ll look in the week and pick it up from there,” he said. “It would be unfair to speak about my future now but I will be part of any process going forward.”
British media say Brentford’s Dean Smith is a leading candidate to replace him, despite Moore’s sterling efforts to rescue Albion from an impossible position.
Swansea are also relegated with Carvalhal expected to depart after six months. “I will think about Swansea and myself,” he said. “I must talk with my family.” (Reporting by Neil Robinson Editing by Ian Chadband)