ASSESSING THE PREMIER LEAGUE’S TOP BOSSES SO FAR THIS SEASON
This year’s Premier League season is only 11 matches old, but already major managerial storylines are being concocted. The most noticeable threads are being woven by those in charge of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool; three teams who rarely exit the spotlight. How can we expect the situation at each club to develop?
Jose Mourinho is an obvious starting point. His 3-year cycle is taking effect once more; he heads to a club amid a wave of positivity, wins trophies and then leaves after continued speculation and controversy. Jose wasn’t particularly revered by the Spanish press during his time with Real Madrid, and he’s currently the main target of those in Britain, just like the first time he left the Blues.
Newspapers and journalists will continue to suggest Mourinho is on his way out. While Chelsea have started the season extremely poorly, surely Roman Abramovich doesn’t have the heart to cut his leading man at a time when his character is being challenged?
A combination of losses, bans and the Eva Carneiro situation means Mourinho needs greater support than ever to ensure his side don’t miss out on a place in the Champions League. That goal can be considered both the maximum and minimum achievement for the west London side this season. Jose’s future rests on returning key players to their best, namely Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. Alienating them with sporadic stints on the bench will only continue make things more difficult.
And yet, many Manchester United fans would love for Louis van Gaal to be as ruthless. ‘Leading’ striker Wayne Rooney may have netted the winner against CSKA Moscow in midweek, but he remains well behind the pace. Unfortunately for United supporters, Anthony Martial showed glimmers of fatigue during the win and may need to be rested in the coming weeks.
Van Gaal shows no sign of dropping Rooney. He may well be hoping the constant speculation over the player’s form blows over during the international break. The only definite way of this happening is if Rooney rips through Spain and Belgium in England’s upcoming friendlies.
As unlikely as that seems, Rooney remains the Three Lions’ most important player and someone Roy Hodgson isn’t going to stop relying on. He’s a manager’s dream—hard-working, fiery and willing to dish out orders—but in recent weeks has overshadowed his natural qualities by forgetting the basics of the game. Rooney doesn’t evoke enjoyment for many onlookers any more. He’s become regimented and predictable, following in his manager’s footsteps.
As Brendan Rodgers found out at Liverpool, becoming complacent can conjure up huge consequences. However, his sacking and Jurgen Klopp’s introduction already has the Merseysiders improving, highlighted by the win over Chelsea and over-the-top headlines whenever the German underlines he is a nice man.
The Reds are working hard for their new manager and can be expected to continue growing in confidence as the run to Christmas gathers pace. Klopp is an example of how a fresh approach can improve morale simply by existing.
He’s a much-needed antidote to the ultra-serious personalities of Mourinho and Van Gaal, although an extended tenure in England could soon chip away at his jovial way of doing things. For now, he is thriving in the limelight of ‘new manager syndrome,’ a phenomenon which looks at three wins and three draws as an unbeaten start, not at vital points dropped. Rodgers wouldn’t have been afforded the same leeway.
Quietly, away from the spotlight, sits Arsene Wenger. However, should Arsenal follow Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich with less than three points against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, the Frenchman will once again see his name cast among those on the media’s hit-list. If Mourinho doesn’t do something spectacular in his Stoke-based hotel, that is.