On the first weekend of the new EPL football season, Alan Shearer made the prediction on BBC Match of the day, that Chelsea would most likely win the league again this season because they had the best manager in Jose Mourinho.
Of course, this wasn’t a particularly serious suggestion, but it wasn’t without merit either given “The Special One’s” remarkable managerial career.
But success as the manager of a football team can be measured in a number of different ways, not just in titles won and silverware acquired.
For the managers of newly promoted Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford – Eddie Howe, Alex Neil and Quique Flores respectively – just staying up in arguably the world’s most demanding league will be a major achievement.
However, Eddie Howe deserves a special mention for having secured promotion for Bournemouth on three separate occasions: from league 2 to league 1 in 2010; from league 1 to The Championship in 2013; and to the Premier league this season.
Winner of the Football League Manager of the Decade Award: 2005-15, LMA Manager of the Year: 2015, and LMA Championship Manager of the Year: 2014-15, 37 year old Howe will be one to watch with interest this season.
The Premier league has always had its share of survivors and chief amongst these is Tony Pulis.
Never relegated as a manager, Pulis is known for achieving positive results on a small budget.
His January appointment as head coach at West Bromwich Albion began their climb out of relegation danger to finish the season in comfortable 13th position, whilst the similarly late appointments of Tim Sherwood to Aston Villa and Dick Advocaat to Sunderland was enough to narrowly save both clubs from the drop.
Staying up or achieving mid table security may realistically be enough for most managers, but others face far greater pressure from owners and fans.
Without a league title in 25 years or a major trophy in 6, Liverpool fans have every reason to feel frustrated, so this is likely to be a make or break season for manager Brendan Rodgers who, after a positive start at Anfield, faced a disappointing second season, due in part to some ill-considered player signings.
But if the team he has been cautiously building can finish in the top four and achieve a return to Champions League football, Rodgers’ celebrity on Merseyside will be ensured.
The longest serving EPL manager, and one of the most respected, is Arsene Wenger. Since 1996, Wenger has guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles, including an unbeaten 2003-04 season, and six FA Cup victories, two of them league/cup doubles.
Champions League successes has so far eluded Wenger, though the Gunners have consistently qualified for the competition and were runners up in 2006. Yet it is the league title that Gunners fans most covet, so the dominance of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City over the past decade has been a hard pill to swallow.
Despite criticisms of his frugal approach to the transfer market, and of his occasionally dubious tactical decisions, Wenger remains one of the most capable managers in the league.
A New Broom
After Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager of Manchester United, the club endured a miserable 2013-14 season under David Moyes before bringing in Dutchman, Louis van Gaal.
This hugely successful manager has won the Dutch league with Ajax and AZ Alkmaar, won La Liga twice with Barcelona, and the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, as well as the Champions League with Ajax.
Prior to joining United, he steered the Dutch national squad to 3rd place in the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
In his first season in charge at Old Trafford, van Gaal took United to a respectable 4th place finish with a team still smarting from the Moyes era.
Already this season, van Gaal’s ‘work in progress’ United team is beginning to look more balanced with the addition of key summer signings like Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
An Old Fox
Still in Manchester, City boss, Manuel Pellegrini steered the club to the league title and league cup in his first season with a squad mostly inherited from the tenure of his predecessor, Roberto Mancini.
Pellegrini, a Chilean, had a long managerial history in South America before a successful stint at Villarreal in Spain. Then came a season at Real Madrid, followed by a successful period with Malaga.
He joined Manchester City in 2014, quickly establishing himself as a calm and tactically astute coach able to get the very best out of his players. A dip in form mid-way through last season, coupled with the runaway successes of Mourinho’s Chelsea, meant City would have to settle for 2nd place.
But many feel that City under Pellegrini is the team most likely to take the title this season.
A Golden Boy
Which brings us back to “The Special One”? Since 2002, Jose Mourinho has won a total of 8 league titles with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and, again, Chelsea. He’s won the Champions League with Porto and with Inter, and the English League Cup three times with Chelsea, including last season.
A master manipulator and man-manager, Mourinho’s style is one to either love or hate, but his tactical acumen is at times undeniably sublime.
Yet ‘grinding out’ results that might not be all that entertaining is something Mourinho can also do when necessary, often drawing chants of “boring boring Chelsea” from frustrated opposing fans.
Expect to hear a lot of the same this season as he tries to retain the title!
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