? RANK THE GAFFERS!
Merson: 1) Pep 2) Poch 3) Jose 4) Conte 5) Klopp 6) Wenger
Le Tiss: 1) Pep 2) Jose 3) Conte 4) Poch 5) Klopp 6) Wenger
— Sky Sports PL (@SkySportsPL) February 23, 2018
Ranking the top 6 managers? Don’t mind if I do!
1. Pep Guardiola
It’s unanimous. Pep is Premier League’s best manager. Who could even argue after this season? Sure, he has spent a whole lot of money to build his squad, but let’s go down the list of his best players and stop when we get to a Pep signing…
1. Kevin de Bruyne
2. Sergio Aguero
3. David Silva
4. Raheem Sterling
5. Leroy Sané
Other notable players who have been with Man City since before he took over: Fernandinho, Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany.
Remember where Man City finished the season before Pep came in? 4th. In the season every team struggled and Leicester won the league.
Guys like Sané, Ederson, Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker help, obviously, but any good manager can recognize a weakness and spend money to make it into a strength.
The help hasn’t just come from outside sources however. How much improved has guys like Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi looked after Pep took over. Everyone talks about how Pep has had stars like Messi, Iniesta, Neuer, Lewandowski and Lahm. What people don’t talk about enough is how he helped players like Pedro, Busquets, Alaba and Thiago grow into stars.
Many had Mourinho listed above Pep when the latter arrived in the Premier League, but now that he is “proven in the Premier League” and has done it at Britannia, hardly anyone doubts that Pep is the best manager in the world.
2. Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham Hotspurs have been the best team in the Premier League the last 3 years. I know they don’t give out a trophy for that, which is always the criticism that comes up with Pochettino, but it should account for something. This is the same team that had 9 managers over 12 years before Pochettino became the 10th in May 2014.
He had already shown what he could do with Southampton, helping them to their best ever Premier League point total, but a lot of Spurs fans were skeptical. Who wouldn’t be after going through that many managers? Pochettino has proved everyone of those doubters wrong.
Firstly, he gives young players a chance. Kane and Alli have blossomed under his watch. The previous regime had tried to fill the holes with Roberto Soldado and Paulinho. Pochettino knew that if Spurs were to challenge the biggest teams in the Premier League, he couldn’t continue to spend money on players that were proven to be average. He had to recognize talent and grow them from within, like they did with Gareth Bale a few years prior.
Secondly, he has made smart signings. Sure, he has blown a couple of signings as well, with Clinton N’Jie, Vincent Janssen and Moussa Sissoko as the standout busts, but when you buy players based on potential, that’s the risk you take. On the flip side, it also means you get to reap rewards like Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld and Heung-Min Son for a total of £46 million.
Lastly, he has made Tottenham unite as a team. How often do you hear about Tottenham players on the end of their contracts? When has their players flirted with bigger teams or tried to force a move amid a whole lot of interest? Apart from the Danny Rose fiasco at the start of the season, which was dealt with quickly and has made Ben Davies the main man at left-back, there hasn’t been anything. If they can keep Pochettino here for a bit longer, I’m sure the trophies will come eventually.
3. Antonio Conte
When looking for the brilliance of Antonio Conte, you just need to look to the year he had from Summer 2016 to Summer 2017. The way his Italy squad completely outclassed a much more talented Spain squad. How he made the shit-show Chelsea was with Mourinho in charge into a clear and deserved Premier League winner.
He brought a mini-revolution to the Premier League and football as a whole. After a demolishing 3-0 loss against London rival Arsenal in September of 2016, Chelsea didn’t fold like they did a year prior. Conte course corrected, went with a 3 man backline like he had done with Italy and went on to win 13 straight games and had a firm grasp on 1st place. Chelsea never let go and were deserved Champions.
Tactically, there might be no one better. Many would point to Mourinho, but for me the difference is that Conte employs tactics based on his players, rather than getting players for his tactics. With Italy, he played with 2 strikers, Eder and Pelle – a perfect fit – but Batshuayi couldn’t complement Diego Costa the same way. Besides, Italy didn’t have a winger like Eden Hazard, who was back to his usual self again under Conte.
David Luiz worked better in a back 3, where two other central defenders could mask his deficiencies. Marcos Alonso is by far the best as a wing-back and Victor Moses got new life as a wing-back of his own. Moses wasn’t (still isn’t) good enough defensively for a side back role, and was too limited and speed-dependent to be an out and out winger.
Still, Conte is intense and it remains to be seen how long he keeps his job. He gets into altercations with players for seemingly no reason and isn’t afraid to bench them and tell them like it is. That makes him a perfect manager for Roman Abramovich, who is likely already looking for candidates. That last sentence just about sums up Chelsea and managers.
4. Jürgen Klopp
If Antonio Conte is the perfect Chelsea manager, then surely Jürgen Klopp is the perfect Liverpool manager.
While he’s not “The Normal One” by any means, the German from Stuttgart is surely charismatic. His energy and at times complete madness is a God-send for a fan base as passionate as The Kop. Finally a manager who cares as much as they do.
It’s not just his antics off the pitch that has made him into a crowd favorite, it’s also what his teams tend to produce on the pitch. Heavy metal football, Gegenpress and quick counter attacks. Klopp is perfect for the Premier League.
He’s not a perfect manager unfortunately and it’s his struggles defensively that makes me put him 4th on this list. His ultra-aggressive style of pressing leaves his teams vulnerable in defence and when he doesn’t have Mats Hummels back there, his teams concede a lot of goals. Liverpool have steadily increased their goals scored under Klopp, from 63 to 78 to a projected 86 goals this season. Goals against however, they are currently projected to concede 44 goals, which would be 2 more than last season and about 12-15 more than a PL winner normally has.
With a star defender in Virgil van Dijk finally close to settled and hopefully a new GK and left-back for next season, both Premier League titles and a higher ranking could happen. For now though, I’ll rank Klopp 4th. In our table prediction I almost put Liverpool above Chelsea and I was close to doing the same with Klopp over Conte. I expect both of those to change come next season.
5. Jose Mourinho
In a way, it has worked out exactly how Mourinho wanted it. Long gone are the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes steadily managing the same team for decades. Now, a manager’s shelf life is about 3 seasons, which is perfect for Mourinho who has thrived for a maximum of 3 years at a time with the same team.
That has always been my main qualm with Mourinho as a manager. It’s always the same with him. First season he complains about his squad not being good enough, but his rigid, defensive system does the job well enough to get a respectable position. The second year he gets to sign his favorite players for record fees and his team’s newfound confidence often results in a trophy. Then it all unravels in the 3rd season with his players tired of him throwing them under the bus he lines up with in big matches.
I’d much rather have the 3 years of constant growth that Pochettino and Klopp have given Spurs and Liverpool. At least there is hope in the end. Pep has settled the rivalry between him and Mourinho once and for all this season. Like I mentioned in the Conte section, I prefer the Italian’s versatility where he’s likely a better fit for whatever team he takes over. For Mourinho it’s either his way or the highway, but usually it’s “The Special One” who has to leave. That’s not how Ferguson did it.
By all means, Mourinho is a fantastic manager. He can feasibly win any game and get the absolute best out of his squads as he shown with both Porto and Inter. Tactically, he can shut down the most dominant teams. When he wants to, often at the start of the season, his teams can play outstanding offensive football as well.
I predicted his Man Utd reign about a year before it happened and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jose Mourinho is a National Team manager in the not so distant future. England manager for the 2020 Euros perhaps? He might be better suited for a National Team anyway. He can’t complain about needing better players, he can still be a tactical genius and his players don’t have to see him every day of the season.
6. Arsène Wenger
It’s sad to say it, but just like Arsenal, Wenger will have to settle with being 6th. I’ve been a huge fan of Wenger and I’ve defended him until the bitter end. I think that bitter end with Arsenal at least, needs to happen soon.
The environment is just too toxic right now. The “Wenger Out” crowd have been too loud for too long. I felt it was undeserved criticism up until about the 2015/2016 season, but that’s when Arsenal finally should have won. Leicester did and the Premier League title was there for the taking, with all the other candidates failing.
His inability to recognize flaws with his teams did him in once again. Not getting a central defender to pair with Laurent Koscielny proved costly. Gabriel Paulista and Per Mertesacker just couldn’t cut it. His stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to others crying out for upgrades has hurt him time and time again. A goalkeeper after Lehmann, defensive midfielder after Vieira, central defender after Kolo Touré and striker after Van Persie. All holes in his squad that weren’t properly filled.
Wenger is loyal to his team and his philosophy, sometimes to a fault. It worked when most teams were on a level playing field financially, but after Chelsea got Russian rubles in 2003 it all changed. The cost of moving from Highbury to Emirates certainly didn’t help. Arsenal had to sell for, I repeat, sell for £40,1 million between moving to Emirates in 2006 until they signed Özil in 2013.
How Wenger managed to keep delivering top 4 results I will never know. It’s one of the most underrated achievements in modern football. Instead of earning him praise, he was mocked for not winning trophies. When he finally started to dominate in the FA Cup again, it was too little too late.
Unlike his rivalry with Pep, Mourinho won this one. His “specialist in failure” remark stuck and the negative aura was too much to bear for Wenger’s Arsenal. Had he bowed out gracefully and made way for someone like Pep or Klopp, I think the latter stages of Wenger’s Arsenal career would be viewed more favorably. Unfortunately, by sticking to the job in order to win and prove everyone wrong, he proved them right.