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How Are the New Batch of Premiership Managers Faring So Far?

DATE: 01.02.2016 - SOCCERVOICE - NEWS - SEASON 2016-17

 

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We’re just about to reach the halfway point in this year’s Premier League, one of the most hotly anticipated seasons in recent memory. With Leicester out to protect their unlikely crown, it was always going to be an interesting couple of months, especially as most of the bigger clubs reinforced their squad in the summer transfer window to meet the challenge head on.
 

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Funnily enough though, despite the big-name transfers of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, N’Golo Kante and Sadio Mane, 2016/17 must be the only Premier League season so far where our focus has been drawn more towards the dugout than the pitch.

Why? Simply put, the EPL now boasts the best array of football managers to be found anywhere in the world – there is absolutely no doubt about it. Even if you look beyond the recent appointments of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, or the return of ‘The Special One’, there’s also the undeniable talent of Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool or, dare we say, Arsene Wenger.
 

With unique tactical forces pitted against each other week after week, it’s no surprise that the opening three months of this season have lived up to all expectation. Each clash of footballing philosophies has been a gripping affair, with every big team jockeying for a leg up on each other at every turn.
 

Now that the January transfer window is upon us, let’s take this opportunity for a quick look at just how well each new manager is faring so far, and what we can expect as we head towards the business end of the season.
 

Antonio Conte, Chelsea
 

With Chelsea recently coasting to 12 straight league wins on the trot, it’s probably no surprise that they are many bookmakers’ favourites for the title. As always around this time of year, there are plenty of online bookies offering free bets, so it might be worth a punt in that respect.

That said, there’s still a while to go just yet and some excellent contenders still in the race.
 

Following on from a fairly successful Euro 2016 run with Italy in the summer, Antonio Conte really didn’t take long to get into the swing of things at Stamford Bridge. Despite an inauspicious start, he has gone on to pick up the Premier League ‘Manager of the Month’ award for two consecutive months in October and November (and most likely December too).
 

What’s even more impressive about the job that Conte has done is when you consider how woeful Chelsea were last season. This time last year, they sat a meagre 14th position in the table and had only won four games. There is no doubt that his presence has turned a hugely under-performing squad into the strongest contenders for top spot come May, which is also boosted by the fact that Chelsea don’t have to devote any energy to the Champions League.
 

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Pep Guardiola, Manchester City
 

The very thought of tika-taka football at the Etihad Stadium got Manchester City fans salivating as soon as they heard Pep Guardiola would be taking the reins from Manuel Pellegrini this year. In fact, Guardiola’s managerial prowess started showing earlier than many had expected, with City winning their first six games of the new season.
 

However, a tough run of results followed, starting with a 2-0 loss to Tottenham at White Hart Lane and quickly followed by a couple of drab score draws at home. That’s not counting the miserable 4-0 defeat that Guardiola suffered on his return to the Camp Nou.
 

In many people's eyes, this sticky patch has left a considerable dent in City’s chances for the Premier League title. We shouldn’t forget that they have since come away with a couple of notable scalps themselves – namely when they exacted revenge on Barcelona in their second group tie.
 

The attacking potential of Guardiola’s side is beyond question; it’s just the defensive mishaps that need to be ironed out. Even still, if City kept firing on all cylinders (as they did in that 3-1 victory over Barcelona) then they would likely have the title wrapped up long before May.
 

The potential is there, but the trouble is that level of performance is incredibly difficult to sustain, nigh on impossible. It might take another year for Guardiola to reach the kind of consistency he had at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but there are certainly promising signs in his first three months in England.

Jose Mourinho, Manchester United
 

Even though he's no stranger to EPL football, you'd have to say that Mourinho's appointment at Manchester United is a certainly a fresh start. And after his dismal season with Chelsea last year, it’s probably no surprise that as soon as United started dropping points this year the critics would reappear.
 

To be honest, some of that criticism was definitely warranted, but the problem is when people start jumping to the conclusion that a poor run of results (or even a poor year of results) means that any manager, or indeed any player, has completely lost their touch and will never be able to regain it. That’s often when the quality starts shining through once again.
 

Although Mourinho’s brand of football isn’t as appealing to the senses as the likes of Klopp, Conte or Guardiola, it is starting to pull Manchester United above the level they reached with Louis Van Gaal last season. With Ibrahimovic and Pogba starting to return to their best form, you’d be surprised if Mourinho & Co don’t secure a Champions League spot by the end of the year, even if a genuine title challenge is out of their reach.

All in all, you'd have to say that the latest batch of Premier League superstar managers are performing quite well, and way better than expected in some cases. It remains to be see how they will fare when the pressure starts mounting as we head towards February and March but, if one thing is certain, it's that these managers will ultimately be responsible for the evolution of the league as we know it.


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