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Owen Coyle fired as Wigan Athletic manager, sacking season in full flow

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After less than six months in the job, Owen Coyle left Wigan Athletic by ‘mutual agreement’on Monday as the Championship club struggle to mount a promotion charge back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Coyle took charge of just 23 games for Wigan since replacing Roberto Martinez in the summer and becomes the seventh manager in the last eight days to lost his job in the English leagues, as owners and chairman display their ruthless streaks.

According to a statement on their website, Wigan said that the agreement to terminate Coyle’s deal was mutual and that both parties felt things weren’t working out. Coyle was particularly disappointed that the FA Cup holders were struggling with life in England’s second-tier after being relegated from the PL last season.

“It is with great sadness that we have made this decision,” Coyle said. “I would like to thank all my football staff and the staff at the club, who have been very supportive of me in my time here. I am confident that with this set of players, the team can keep moving in the right direction.”

What next for the Latics? Well, they have a strong squad that still has a chance or progressing to the knockout stages of the Europa League, sit six points off the playoffs in the Championship with a game in hand and have a solid financial grounding thanks to Dave Whelan’s shrewd business model.

Coyle wasn’t doing a bad job but it wasn’t that great either. Whoever comes in at Wigan next will likely reap the benefits of a rejuvenated squad ready to prove they can make it back to the PL. Replacing Martinez was always going to be a tough task and Coyle couldn’t live up to the expectations.

Who will the new boss be?

Ian Holloway is the 5/4 favorite to be the next Wigan manager, Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant Mike Phelan is at 3/1, former Wigan manager Paul Jewell 10-1, while some interesting names such as Roberto Di Matteo, 14-1, and Paolo Di Canio, 25-1, suggest the race to become the Latics new managers is wide open.

This trend of firing managers has heated up in the last week or so, as seven managers have lost their job in the last eight days.

With the intense festive period coming up and teams eager to give themselves a change of staying up, going up or consolidating, directors across the English Football League are getting trigger happy and have cut the chords with plenty of managers.

Fulham got rid of Martin Jol on Sunday after the Cottagers were hammered 3-0 by West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday fired Dave Jones after a poor run of form in the Championship, David Flitcroft was fired by Championship strugglers Barnsley on Saturday, Sean O’Driscoll left League One Bristol City and Guy Whittingham was fired by League Two Portsmouth.

Most of these clubs have gone through plenty of managers in an extremely short space of time, when will they learn that good results will likely come from continuity? Too often, especially in English soccer, the need to ‘freshen things up’ stunts the growth of teams and throws them backwards as they aim to move forward.

The ruthless and cold world of soccer management is not for the faint-hearted. Job security, especially at this time of year, is at a premium.

So, who is next on the chopping block?

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET