The Premier League’s return is fast approaching, and it feels as if we have barely had time to blink. Three new teams have arrived from the Championship to see if they can survive England’s top flight, and given the truncated nature of pre-season, it has put an added spotlight on the managers.
Their tactical nous will be tested like never before, with little time to waste. With that in mind here are the Premier League manager power rankings ahead of the first game of the new season.
20. Steve Bruce
The boyhood Newcastle fan arrived at St James’ Park as Rafa Benitez’s replacement, and it’s fair to say most fans were underwhelmed. He did a solid job keeping the club up, but a 5-1 demolition by near-neighbours Middlesbrough has fans worried that relegation could be approaching. The Magpies are in desperate need of a striker, with Bruce unable to get goals from club-record signing Joelinton.
All in all, it’s a sharp contrast from talk of the takeover and Mauricio Pochettino becoming the club’s new manager.
19. Slaven Bilic
There is no doubting that Bilic has the hardest task of the three newly-promoted managers.
His side played some beautiful football last season, largely thanks to Matheus Pereira, but their budget is small this summer. The decision to sign Grady Diangana is very smart, but their striking options are far from proven at Premier League level. As with any promoted side, the question is how the style that earned them promotion translate to the top flight? For that reason, West Brom, and Bilic, could be in for a long season.
18. David Moyes
The return of Moyes to West Ham was surprising.
He may have decreed himself a winner, but it didn’t feel like it for long periods of his first West Ham stint. Tomáš Souček was a surprising goal-threat, and Moyes biggest test is getting the best out of Sebastian Haller. If he can build an expansive style of play with this Hammers side he may survive, but don’t be shocked if he’s gone by Christmas.
17. Scott Parker
The Fulham boss managed to get the club up at the first time of asking, but given the talent at his disposal, he made it look like hard work.
There are understandably concerns about Parker’s tactical approach, but that may change with the fact his team are expected to be less proactive in games in the Premier League. The club look like avoiding the busy transfer window from their last Premier League spell, and that continuity could be key.
16. Dean Smith
Smith was the feel-good story of last season - a local lad done good.
His team seemed dead and buried at one-stage, but he appeared to use the time off well and came back a sharper manager. Their survival means they can start to build themselves back up, but the compilation of FFP means they will need to be smart with their money. Matt Cash is a shrewd signing from Nottingham Forest, but the key will be whether Smith can inject more goals into this team.
15. Roy Hodgson
There is a similarity between Roy Hodgson and Sean Dyche in the sense that both seem stuck in a continuous loop of a season.
Hodgson’s squad is trending on the older side and the need for an injection of youth is imperative. The fact Wilfried Zaha was so desperate to go won’t have helped matters, but the signing of Ebecheri Eze feels like a big win for the club. They should be safe again because of the talent they have, but it’s fair to ask if Hodgson is the man to transition this squad long-term.
14. Graham Potter
The former Southampton midfielder had a tough first job in the Premier League.
He was tasked with transitioning Brighton away from Chris Hughton’s style of play to a more possession focused one, and that can sometimes lead to disaster. To his credit, he did it fairly well and kept them up with games to spare. That foundation will need to be built on this summer, but it’s imperative they sign a striker this summer. Get that deal done and they could aspire to the top-half.
13. Sean Dyche
Burnley have established themselves as a Premier League club, but it’s hard to see what the next step is for Dyche.
There was a clear frustration towards the back end of last season as the club struggled to agree extensions with several players, and the fact he has lost Jeff Hendrick on a free will only have annoyed him further. It’s hard to imagine Burnley going down, but they also feel like they’re trapped in stasis.
12. Brendan Rodgers
A lull has followed a bright start in form for Rodgers, and he will be keen to turn that around.
The sale of Ben Chilwell was understandable given the suggested fee, but signing Timothy Castagne - a player that plays predominantly as a right-back- from Atalanta was less so. That could mean Luke Thomas is set to start in that role, and it’s not wrong to suggest Rodgers needs further defensive recruits this summer. Rodgers faced accusations last season that the team couldn’t handle the pressure, now is the chance to show that was wrong.
11. Carlo Ancelotti
The Italian brings an impressive list of former clubs and trophies with him to Goodison Park, and now he has had a chance to spend a considerable amount fixing up the squad.
James Rodriguez, Allan, and Abdoulaye Doucoure will drastically overhaul the spine of this team, and Ancelotti will have to deliver. The Italian is known more for short stints at top clubs, and Everton represents a different prospect entirely. Their transfer business would suggest a more short-term approach, with success - be it a trophy or a top-six spot - the desired outcome.
10. Marcelo Bielsa
He might be 10th on our list, but he’s number one in the hearts of Leeds fans.
The man that ended their spell in the second tier has made some bold moves already with the signing of Rodrigo and Robin Koch. Leeds have every right to be bullish about their chances this season. Bielsa’s style translates well to the top-flight, and his pedigree as a coach has seen him thrive at this level before.
Of the three promoted teams, it would seem Leeds are the best placed to hit the ground running, and Bielsa is a large reason why.
9. Nuno Espirito Santo
The Wolves boss had a great chance to win the Europa League last season before falling to eventual champions Sevilla. The club haven’t done too much in the transfer market in terms of new faces. Matt Doherty’s departure was a surprise, but that could be a sign the club are trying to move up a gear.
The test for Nuno this season is maintaining the momentum at this club. Wolves are ambitious, and after back to back 7th place finishes, they will feel the time is right for them to place higher. Can Nuno do that? Only time will tell.
8. Jose Mourinho
The Portuguese was thrust into the spotlight recently with the release of Tottenham’s documentary All or Nothing.
People have questioned his tactics and his man-management, with his stellar list of trophies feeling like more of a historical achievement than an indicator of future glory. The arrival of Pierre Emil-Hojbjerg feels like an important first step in Mourinho imprinting his ideas on the team, but the departure of Jan Vertonghen still feels sizable. It’s hard to predict how Spurs season will go, and that’s not a strong position to be in.
7. Ralph Hasenhuttl
The German had quite an intriguing season in charge of Southampton. They conceded nine goals to Leicester in a single game, but also played some brilliant football toward the back end of the campaign.
Hassenhuttl has a clearly defined style, and the transfer window allows him to sign players that compliment that. Shifting the deadwood is a big challenge for him, but Saints fans have every reason to feel confident and excited heading into the new campaign.
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6. Chris Wilder
You could forgive Wilder for resting on his laurels this season after guiding Sheffield United to 9th last time around. There were very few pundits that predicted anything other than relegation for the Blades, and now Wilder is entering a difficult next phase of his tenure. The sophomore slump is a real thing, and Wilder made the bold decision to bring Aaron Ramsdale back to the club as Dean Henderson’s replacement.
The overlapping centre-backs that defined his start to life in the top flight may continue, they may not, but Wilder will need to show some progression if he’s to keep the Blades in the top half.
5. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
The former Manchester United favourite has had a rollercoaster time in the dugout. His bright start in temporary charge was eclipsed by a dramatic dip in form after being given the job on a permanent basis, but he appears to have wrestled that back to forge an impressive front line capable of breaking through almost any defence.
Jadon Sancho is the man supporters want, Donny van de Beek is who they will welcome. There are still some question marks surrounding this team’s defensive quality, but that could be more of a balance issue than individual ability.
4. Frank Lampard
Lampard was dealt a tough hand during his first season due to Chelsea’s transfer ban.
He helped introduce several promising youngsters and secured the Blues a spot in the Champions League, and that success has been rewarded with a mini-spending spree. Chelsea’s attack is by far their greatest strength heading into the new season, and Lampard’s season will be defined by how well he strikes a balance between attack and defence.
3. Mikel Arteta
The Spaniard is proof of the impact a good manager can have on a team.
His FA Cup success was the culmination of his early work, and Arsenal fans are considerably more optimistic than they were under Unai Emery. The Gunners will be blessed with a new centre-back pairing this season in William Saliba and Gabriel, and that should help Arteta move into the next phase of his plan.
2. Pep Guardiola
It would not shock me if Guardiola hadn’t slept a wink since watching Liverpool lift the Premier League title.
The Spaniard’s intensity and attention to detail have been defining factors behind his record-breaking Manchester City side. Last season was a blip in their eyes, and they’ve responded by targeting Lionel Messi. The pressure is on him to deliver, and say what you want about his spending habits, but you know he’s spent the whole summer thinking about how to improve this side.
1. Jurgen Klopp
The German has tapped into Liverpool like he was born there, and the connection he has with the club is impressive.
From the moment he arrived at Anfield, he has managed expectations well, but this is a different kind of pressure. Everyone will be out to get Liverpool, and this will be a real test of Klopp’s man-management but also his tactical acumen. Right now he’s top of the power rankings, but it would be very easy for him to slip -- and he knows it.