London - Before the scramble to sign players in the January transfer window, there's a rush to fill managerial vacancies.
Three clubs are making changes in the midst of the Premier League season's busiest period, with all 20 teams in action on Thursday for the third time in a week.
It had been a rare period of stability — the Premier League reached Christmas without a managerial casualty for the first time since 1995 — until Neil Warnock was fired by Crystal Palace on Saturday.
With Palace in the relegation zone, that dismissal seemed to be only a matter of time. Perhaps more surprising is Alan Pardew swapping mid-table mediocrity at Newcastle for a relegation scrap at Palace, with the manager in negotiations on Tuesday to rejoin the club he played for in the 1980s.
It is likely to create an unexpected vacancy at Newcastle. And the northeast club is searching for a candidate in the same managerial talent pool as West Bromwich Albion, which fired Alan Irvine on Monday after only six months in charge.
"If you don't get results, then clubs change managers now more regularly than they did before," said West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, whose team hosts West Brom on New Year's Day. "When it comes up to a transfer window as well, it looks like it has a major affect on owners.
"The manager may have proposed some players to bring in during the window and they may have taken the opinion that they would rather give that opportunity to a new manager. It seems that might be the case."
Like Pardew at St. James' Park, Allardyce faced calls from his own fans in the last year to quit. Not only could Newcastle fans see the back of Pardew, but the club could also receive more than $3 million in compensation from Palace if a deal can be done. Although owner Mike Ashley seems unlikely to spend on reinforcements in January for the 10th-place team.
Allardyce would succeed Pardew as the Premier League's second longest-serving current manager. The determination by West Ham's owners to stick by the manger they appointed in 2011 has been rewarded by Allardyce taking the team into the second half of the season in sixth place.
Stability doesn't necessarily equal success. There is weariness among some Arsenal fans over the durability of Arsene Wenger, the league's longest-serving current manager at 16 years-plus, over his failure to deliver the title since 2004. Wenger, though, will restore Arsenal to its accustomed place in the top four at Southampton's expense by beating the surprisingly high-flying south-coast club on Thursday.
Here are some other things to watch:
Chelsea has Manchester City's implosion against Burnley to thank for maintaining its three-point lead. City's surprise draw came after Chelsea was held by Southampton on Sunday, providing a reminder that the destination of the trophy is far from certain.
Chelsea is reunited with Tottenham at White Hart Lane less than month after sweeping to a 3-0 victory at home. Since then, Tottenham has gone five games unbeaten domestically, including Sunday's 0-0 draw against Manchester United.
"We had some bad games last season and we had the feeling that we gave up a bit," Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. "We are improving. Defensively, we are stronger."
Manchester City's players must be more ruthless against Sunderland after squandering a 2-0 lead against Burnley to draw 2-2, a collapse which raised doubts about their ability to defend the title.
"We just have to be more clinical up front," City midfielder Samir Nasri said. "We have to score. We have to kill the game sometimes."
Another slip-up would give Manchester United an opportunity to make up some of the seven-point gap on its neighbors by winning at Stoke.
IN THE DROP ZONE
The three bottom teams all avoided losing on Sunday.
For Leicester, there was a first win since September against Hull, but the last-place team next faces a resurgent Liverpool. Burnley follows up its unexpected draw at City with a trip to Newcastle, while Palace plays Aston Villa.