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Premier League Managers – 2019/20 Preview

Following our predictions about where every Premier League side will finish season, resident sport expert Yaroslav Pavlenko has rated the managers who will lead their clubs into battle this year as well as rating their efforts from the previous campaign. Here is our preview of this season’s Premier League Managers.

 

Arsenal – Unai Emery (Last Season: 7/10)

Last season was a difficult one for the former PSG and Sevilla manager, who had to follow outgoing manager Arsene Wenger’s long and iconic reign, though with a definite decline in results at the Emirates it was time for a fresh start.

In lots of ways, Emery’s first season could be seen as positive. There were periods of excellent form, albeit at home, and the players were slowly but surely beginning to buy into his philosophy. With his renowned Europa League expertise, Arsenal reached the final in Baku and had an excellent opportunity to win a European title.

That match carried a lot of pressure due to a late collapse from the Gunners leaving them outside the Champions League places. Their defending, especially away from home, was abysmal. Ultimately, it was no better in Baku and the London side once again missed out on Champions League qualification after a 4-1 loss to Chelsea.

Emery will have bittersweet feelings about their conclusion to the season but there were definitely signs of promise and the Spaniard has put emphasis on helping the young talent coming through.

Overall, his first season was acceptable but he will need to build on the foundations to be seen as a success and to get Arsenal back to the top. A top four finish will likely be seen as a must, along with some cup success.

 

Aston Villa – Dean Smith (Last Season: 8.5/10)

After a late surge, Aston Villa returned to the big time at the second attempt, following play-off final defeat to Fulham a year ago, this time beating Derby in the Wembley showpiece. Dean Smith did a fantastic job, bouncing back from their mediocre start to the season.

Managing his boyhood club is clearly a point of pride for Smith who will hope to re-establish the club as a mainstay of the Premier League. Along with former player and Chelsea legend John Terry as his assistant, the Villa manager will be confident of continued success.

After being very busy in the transfer market, spending over £100 million, Villa could be a surprise package this season and will hope for a solid mid-table finish. As long as Smith can gel the players he has at his disposal with the new signings, he can secure the club’s Premier League status and exceed his managerial rating of last year. There is a lot of potential here.

 

Bournemouth – Eddie Howe (Last Season: 7/10)

After finishing 11 points clear of the drop zone, Eddie Howe’s reputation as one of the most promising young managers continues to grow. Operating on a relatively small budget compared to much of the league, Howe has achieved an impressive level of solidity for a club like Bournemouth. For most, they were initially seen as clear relegation candidates but Howe has enhanced their status and his own with several solid seasons.

2018-19 was rocky at times but Howe managed to earn a respectable points tally as well as producing some memorable wins, namely THAT crazy match against Spurs. This season Howe will be hoping for more of the same and further improvement. His team are always exciting to watch as they score plenty but their defence will concern him. However, expect Howe to have another solid season and further establish himself as one of the best young managers in the land.

 

Brighton – Graham Potter (Last Season: n/a)

After Chris Hughton’s harsh sacking, Brighton appointed a left-field candidate in Graham Potter who made his name at Swedish side Östersunds. After a series of promotions with the minnows, along with notable progress in Europe, Potter was lauded for establishing an attractive playing style with a low budget.

Brighton barely stayed up last season and, for Potter, managing a struggling Premier League side will be totally different challenge. However, it is refreshing to see a young, English manager proving himself abroad before taking on a challenge at home. Potter’s first campaign will be a success if he can implement his passing style on Brighton and, ultimately, keep them up again.

 

Burnley – Sean Dyche (Last Season: 6.5/10)

A manager often lauded for his work in continually improving his Burnley side, their last campaign was somewhat rocky. A poor middle of their season put the Clarets in serious risk of becoming embroiled in a relegation scrap. However, some strong performances, especially at home, they survived with a degree of comfort but Dyche will be only mildly satisfied overall.

Although he’s a pragmatic manager who emphasises the importance of survival, Dyche will want to try to creep up the table if possible. With a fresh start, he will try to rally his troops and have a better, more consistent, campaign.

 

Chelsea – Frank Lampard (Last Season: n/a)

Another new entry and, arguably, the most high-profile is Chelsea legend Frank Lampard who succeeds Maurizio Sarri. After an impressive campaign with Derby, narrowly missing promotion, Lampard has been rewarded with the task of rebuilding a Chelsea side that has lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and currently has a transfer ban.

Lampard will be given more time than most, given his status, but the job will be tough. The Chelsea hotseat is one of the most dangerous managerial jobs in world football, given Roman Abramovich’s propensity to dispose of managers at the first sign of trouble. However, Lampard will be afforded more leeway and it will be interesting to see how the former midfielder makes use of Chelsea’s multitude of young talents.

Chelsea kick off their campaign with a massive test against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United at Old Trafford and that match may indicate what to expect this season from Chelsea and ‘Super Frank’.

 

Crystal Palace – Roy Hodgson (Last Season: 7.5/10)

Last season was a solid one for the hugely experienced Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace team. Finishing with a respectable points tally of 49, Hodgson successfully developed Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has now moved to Manchester United, and built a solid side who finished within touching distance of the top ten.

It is difficult to see how massive improvements could be made and, if Wilfried Zaha leaves, it could be a tough campaign for the Eagles. However, Hodgson is certainly a man who is able to weather a storm and the former-England boss will have another successful season if he is able to replicate the performances of last term.

 

Everton – Marco Silva (Last Season: 6.5/10)

For Marco Silva, the 2018/19 campaign was an inconsistent one. After much promise and investment, the Toffees had too many dips to achieve notable success. Ultimately, they failed to secure European football, although that may be a blessing in disguise in helping them making an impact domestically.

Silva is a forward-thinking manager and there have been more than a few glimpses of the future Everton may have under his tutelage but there need to be many improvements, especially defending set pieces, if this campaign is to be successful.

With a determined recruitment drive ongoing and more signings likely to come, this campaign will be critical for Silva to mould Everton into genuine top 6 challengers. It will be difficult but he will be confident of improvemens across the pitch and, consequently, in the table. His position might depend on it.

 

Leicester – Brendan Rodgers (Last Season: n/a)

Brendan Rodgers left Celtic quite late in the season and, therefore, does not get a managerial rating for the campaign. However, since his return to the Premier League, the Northern Irishman has demonstrated why his reputation is so good. After a solid end to the season, Rodgers led the Foxes to a respectable ninth place finish. His methods are being bought into by the players and Rodgers will be confident of pushing on this campaign.

With several incoming transfers, it remains to be seen what the loss of Harry Maguire will have. Nevertheless, Rodgers will be confident of implementing his philosophy on his players and will be aiming for a European place as well as success in the cups.

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Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp (Last Season: 9.5/10)

One of managers of last season, alongside Pep Guardiola, Liverpool had a fantastic season and narrowly missing out in the league but winning the Champions League. In truth, there wasn’t much more he could have done. The season was remarkable in terms of the consistency Liverpool showed and the steady improvement made under the German.

It had many highlights, though the biggest must be the incredible comeback in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, and Klopp will be hoping to topple Manchester City in the Premier League this year. Certainly, he has set a high bar to beat but there are definite signs that Liverpool could be a dominant force again under Klopp’s stewardship.

 

Man City – Pep Guardiola (Last Season: 9.5/10)

Arguably the greatest manager in the world and at least in the top two last season, Guardiola led Man City to an unprecedented treble-winning season, defending their Premier League crown by a point and adding the Carabao Cup and FA Cup to the ever-growing trophy cabinet. However, he was unable once again to lead the club to win that elusive Champions League.

Guardiola has found it very difficult to replicate domestic success in Europe since his days at Barcelona, his time at Bayern also blighted by near misses. For Guardiola to truly be classed as the greatest manager, he needs to regain those past Barcelona glories.

It’s harsh to overly criticise Guardiola for last season’s work as it was still a record-breaking season for City which underpinned just how good the Spaniard is as a tactician and motivator. There are certainly signs that a dynasty is being built.

City are favourites to retain their title and who knows what other records might be broken. With a relatively young team, Guardiola is successfully transitioning the club by bringing in and growing young players who are taking over the mantle set by the veterans such former captain Vincent Kompany, Spanish playmaker David Silva and record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

This season is likely to be another one full of success but Guardiola’s job will be harder in terms of matching and surpassing his own lofty standards.

 

Man Utd – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Last Season: 6/10)

After taking over from Jose Mourinho in December, initially as a caretaker, former player Solskjaer was tasked with an unenviable job. United were in dire form and declining rapidly, which cost Mourinho his job. Nevertheless, there was potential in the United squad, with enough talent and experience to attain success. With players like Pogba, Rashford, Lukaku, de Gea, Sanchez and Martial, United were vastly underperforming and it needed a change of leadership to alter that.

As is often the case, the new manager bounce effect helped Solskjaer to a 5-1 victory against Cardiff which kicked off an 11 match winning run, and only one defeat in 16, including beating Arsenal at the Emirates and THAT Champions League night against PSG. Unfortunately, that high in Paris was followed by a catastrophic run of form in which United exited the Champions League, were dumped out of the FA Cup by Wolves and, most crucially, missed out on the top four.

After such a promising start which earned him the full time position, the Norwegian’s suitability for the job was doubted in some quarters by the time United played a wretched final two matches against already-relegated Huddersfield and Cardiff, claiming just one point. After a summer with the squad and having acquiring Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, and potentially more to come, the acid test will come this season.

If he can find his best line-up, implement his own style of play and revive the squad morale of his early matches, it could be a successful season for the Red Devils. If they return to the bad habits and loss of focus that stifled them, it could be a short tenure for Solskjaer, regardless of his standing as a club legend.

Newcastle – Steve Bruce (Last Season: n/a)

Another newly-appointed manager, Steve Bruce is a veteran of Premier League management, having led Birmingham, Hull, Wigan, and Newcastle’s arch-rivals Sunderland. That fact has not made him a popular appointment among the Toon fans, especially considering the affection and former successes/pedigree that former manager Rafael Benitez had.

The breakdown in negotiations to keep the Spaniard on Tyneside has led to further dismay and anger towards beleaguered owner Mike Ashley and Bruce is viewed as a manager who has never achieved at the top of the game and is not the man to lead an ambitious team.

Bruce has had underwhelming and inconsistent results in last jobs but will be quietly confident of finally achieving some success with his self-confessed boyhood club – one he was originally linked with joining over a decade ago. While it cannot be denied that Bruce has a lesser managerial standing than the likes of Benitez, there may be some hope for both him and the Newcastle fans. After some decent business so far with the likes of record-signing Brazilian striker Joelinton joining from Hoffenheim, Newcastle certainly have a squad which should comfortably continue to secure their Premier League status, if not challenge towards the top half.

If, however, Bruce cannot implement his methods quickly with his group of players, it will not take long for the Geordie faithful to start agitating for his exit, and a potential toxic relationship would have potentially dire ramifications for the club’s status in the Premier League and any ambitions to finally establish the club nearer the top of English football.

 

Norwich – Daniel Farke (Last Season: 9/10)

German manager Farke achieved fantastic things with his Norwich side in the Championship last season, storming through to win the title and secure automatic promotion with 94 points, in turn achieving a return to the top-flight for the first time since 2015-16. The Canaries were not necessarily tipped as one of the favourites for promotion at the start of the season, but a solid squad led by Farke and spearheaded by in-form Finnish striker Teemu Pukki led the side to the fantastic achievement as league champions.

Farke himself had a very limited managerial career up to the point of taking charge at Norwich, with his only significant appointment prior being the Borussia Dortmund reserves team. Even in the German’s first season in England, Norwich finished in a very average 14th place, and there were certainly no clear signs of what would follow just a season later. With a side clearly buying into the manager’s ideas and playing an attacking style of football – scoring a league high of 93 goals – Norwich and Farke will be confident of making a splash at the highest level.

Although the transfer market has been fairly quiet for the Canaries, the nucleus of the side has remained – with top scorer Pukki crucially signing a new deal. Farke will be hoping that more of the same will be forthcoming this season, and if he manages to get his side performing like last season – and manages to secure Norwich’s top-flight status for a second year – he will definitely be in contention for an even higher rating for this campaign.

 

 

Sheffield United – Chris Wilder (Last Season: 9/10)

Another manager to achieve big things amongst low levels of expectation has been life-long Sheffield United fan Chris Wilder. After having played for them on two separate occasions in his own playing career, Wilder took charge of the Blades in 2016. What happened next was remarkable; overcoming a poor start, the team won the League One title and automatic promotion to the Championship with a record tally of 100 points. While the priority was to retain their status in the second flight, Wilder and his side performed another miracle, this time achieving automatic promotion to the Premier League with a second-place finish behind champions Norwich.

United’s rise was certainly unpredictable, and all the more impressive considering the shoe-string transfer budget that Wilder has had at his disposal, mainly making use of shrewd free acquisitions to build a solid and compact team that have played – often – beyond themselves. With Wilder achieving his second promotion in just three years at the club, he also won the LMA Manager of the Year award. Boasting an impressive 81 victories and only 38 defeats from 158 games in charge of the Blades, any success this season should be seen as a bonus, with Wilder already establishing himself as a hero in Yorkshire.

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Their first Premier League campaign in over a decade will certainly be a far more difficult challenge than what has come before, but it would almost be unwise to bet against them – or Wilder. With several shrewd acquisitions in this window, the Blades should be confident of remaining a solid outfit, but if Wilder can keep them up, his status should be secured in the club’s folklore.

 

Southampton – Ralph Hasenhüttl (Last Season: 7/10)

After replacing outgoing manager Mark Hughes in December with Southampton struggling, Hasenhüttl himself had a fairly slow start. Opening with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Cardiff, the Austrian former RB Leipzig boss managed to get his first win in exciting and dramatic circumstances, leading his side to a 3-2 victory over Arsenal at St. Marys, ending the Gunners’ then-unbeaten run of 22 matches.

That proved to be a sign of things to come, with a fluctuating run for the Saints leading them to finally secure safety in April and ending the season in 16th place. Although this won’t have been particularly pleasing to the fans, the key objective of survival was achieved, and Hasenhüttl will be hopeful of having a stronger season this year, of course now having the benefit of a full season with his players and an opportunity to fully implement his own tactical identity.

With the £15 million signing of Che Adams from Birmingham, Hasenhüttl will hope his side will have a more successful campaign in front of goal this year and will be looking to produce a more positive and consistent season all round – and most importantly secure top-flight status. If he manages that, he would certainly improve on his rating from last season.

 

Tottenham – Mauricio Pochettino (Last Season: 9/10)

Argentine custodian Mauricio Pochettino’s standing in the game is rising with each passing year, especially focused on his ability to achieve fantastic results with an almost non-existent transfer backing. With a squad that had no additions from the previous campaign, Pochettino somehow managed to lead his Spurs side to a finish in the top four, and a first trip to the Champions League final, in which his side fell short to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

There has been a clear and growing identity at Spurs in the years under Pochettino’s stewardship, and it is seen as vital for the North London side to keep him at the helm in order to continue the aims of establishing themselves as a leading side in England and Europe. After finally delving into the transfer market with the record £65 million acquisition of French midfielder Ndombele Tanguy from Lyon, there is certainly optimism that Pochettino can continue leading Spurs to success in their first full season at their recently built new stadium.

However, regardless of Pochettino’s excellent job thus far, there comes a point when there needs to be tangible evidence of success. Silverware is of course always the aim, and Spurs will look to challenge on all fronts this season, hoping to finally achieve a reward for their recent progress as a team and as a club. For Pochettino, success brings its own pressures and problems, because he will need to go one better than before if he is to achieve the same plaudits as he did last season.

 

Watford – Javi Gracia (Last Season: 7.5/10)

Watford had a moderately successful league campaign, finishing in a respectable 11th place with 50 points, but had the most success in the FA Cup, in which Gracia led his charges to the final, unfortunately for them meeting the unstoppable force that was Manchester City, losing by a massive scoreline of 6-0. Disappointing though it was, reaching a major final was a great achievement for the Hornets, and Gracia will have been proud of his troops regardless.

The manager’s performance in general has been solid since his arrival, achieving a level of stability with decent performances in the league, coupled with such cup exploits. The fans are generally happy with the Spaniard’s stewardship, and the team will be looking to have more of the same – and ultimately look to build and improve.

Due to the aforementioned stability, Gracia certainly deserved a solid managerial rating. However, as for other managers in the league, when a high level is set, expectations grow more and more, and it will be a challenge for Gracia and his side to tackle in order to keep improving and achieve similar success this season. If he continues his level of work, he will retain his standing as one of the league’s more underrated coaches.

 

West Ham – Manuel Pellegrini (Last Season: 6.5/10)

After substantial investment last summer, amid the arrival of the Chilean former Man City boss, West Ham had ambitious hopes for the season. Ultimately, a relatively poor start to the season put paid to any hopes of challenging at the top of the division or for European places, but once the Hammers began to gel, there was encouraging signs that Pellegrini’s methods will eventually bear some fruit. The veteran Chilean certainly has an atmosphere and infrastructure with plenty of potential, but it will again be a challenge to find an adequate level of consistency amongst a talented but often mercurial set of players, as well as the lingering issues of re-occurring injuries to potentially key players such as Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko.

In terms of Pellegrini’s individual performance as manager, he is certainly one that brings a lot of experience and know-how to any Premier League side, and the West Ham hierarchy will hope that his second season can produce more promising results and a step closer to the success that the ambition of the club correlates with.

With Pellegrini bringing in several important signings, such as Spanish midfielder Pedro Fornals, and French striker Sebastian Haller, along with the return of injured stars such as Yarmolenko, Pellegrini will be confident that his second season will be a big improvement on the first, and that he can strive for success more akin to his time at Manchester City. Regardless, he will have to improve on last season’s inconsistency, and will attain a higher managerial rating if he manages that to start with.

 

Wolves – Nuno Espirito Santo (Last Season: 9/10)

Arguably, many a fan’s ‘neutral side’, Wolves brought their title winning Championship form to the Premier League in a major way last season, with Portuguese boss Nuno Espirito Santo producing a phenomenal season in charge, leading his side to a 7th placed finish and a European place. Using his Portuguese connections, Espirito Santo has made some fantastic acquisitions in the transfer market, including the likes of Portugal’s Euro 2016-winning goalkeeper Rui Patricio and midfielder Joao Moutinho, young talent Diego Jota, and former Benfica striker Raul Jimenez.

Former Anderlecht prospect Leander Dendocker was another shrewd loan addition who has now been signed permanently, and the side have managed to take Real Madrid’s young Spanish centre-back Jesus Vallejo on loan, as well as signing on AC Milan striker Patrick Cutrone. Excitement is at an all time high amongst Wolves fans, and Espirito Santo deserves much of the praise.

Assembling an exciting side full of attacking threat, Wolves had a fantastic record against big sides last season, notably beating Manchester United on more than one occasion, as well as several other huge results against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs. Although the side were disappointingly knocked out of the FA Cup semi-finals after leading Watford, the season was a huge success, and Espirito Santo was a definite Manager of the Season candidate for many. If he will manage to maintain the levels set last season, he will certainly be up for similar awards once again this campaign.

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