Managerial Musical Chairs

So, the Premier League is going to have a bunch of fresh faces this season, and I think it’s important to take a look at these managers now, while we wait for transfers to continue playing out, before we start making our speculation on the season as a whole. Because honestly, if you don’t know what you’ve got in hand, it’s tough to know how well you can do.

These are in no particular order.

Sean Dyche

I confess to not knowing much about Burnley, nor about Dyche in particular, but as freshly up, they’re also quite likely to pop right back down again, no matter how good of manager Dyche might be. I will say, the man is impressively ginger.

Tony Pulis

You know, West Brom didn’t do half bad last season, and in a season full of incredible chaos on both ends of the table, it was astonishing how often I would just forget they even existed. I would go through the list of times for the weekend and say, “OH, yeah, them.” Not encouraging, but perhaps they can slide under the radar again under his leadership. There is definitely something to be said for keeping a low profile, the whole no news is good news, especially in a world where every little negative is plastered all over social media and erupted into something massive.

David Moyes

Okay, so it’s official. Big Sam has left the league for the England job, and his replacement has been named as David Moyes. This could be a very good appointment, if he can carry on where Big Sam left off and inject a bit of caring and confidence into the Sunderland side. It’s early days yet, but he’s already witnessed a win in their pre-season period.

Eddie Howe

Alright, I’ll admit it. I love this guy, just like everybody else does. And what’s not to love? Intense club loyalty, building up a Cinderella story of a club from scrapping the bottom of the barrel all the way up to the top league, and then SURVIVING the last mad season. If he got offers from “bigger” clubs, he didn’t budge, which appeals to me big-time (we’ll talk more on that later). And he’s well-spoken, positive, composed, attractive, and well-dressed without being pretentious about it. He’s a good figure of what a young, vigorous manager ought to be, and in my opinion, one day he’ll be a supreme manager of the England team.

Steve Bruce

Hull City is going to be attempting security, which is one of the toughest things when popping up. I remember watching them go down, so Steve Bruce is definitely going to want to solidify safety quickly, but whatever means necessary (legally, of course).

Francisco Guidolin

He was late to the game last season, swooping in toward the end to pull Swansea City out of hot water and into the mid-table positions. Once he came in I promptly forgot about him, right along with West Brom, so not only do I not have much to say, but I feel that if he can have an equally uneventful season this year, it’ll be something for Swansea to celebrate and build upon for future successes.

Claude Puel

Puel has spent most of his career in Ligue 1, which is great. I’m sure he’s enjoyed that immensely, except the no-one-but-PSG-winning thing. Southampton is where he’s settled, and they had a promising and steady season, one where you constantly looked at the league tables and went, “Wow, that good, eh?” I mean, don’t get me wrong. They benefited hugely from the down season a lot of the traditionally top clubs had, but this fresh blood could come in this season and show us all that it was no fluke that they did well last season. How? Don’t ask me – I know nothing of his tactics, but he looks like a friendly enough person in the one still picture I’ve seen, and he doesn’t inspire me to laugh at him. Good start, all told.

Mark Hughes

Alright, for those who don’t know, I support Stoke (more accurately, I support Jack Butland rabidly), and thus I sincerely hope  Hughes has the season of his life. Expectations won’t be any heavier on him than they’ve been on the rest of the seasons for Stoke, just expecting mid-table, hoping for the top half of the results, and at the outset hoping to poke a toe higher than the season before (so maybe eighth?). And that’s great, and definitely feasible, but what I love about Mark his his ability to quietly and unobtrusively building a better Stoke. He’s making very conscious and organized efforts to put together the greatest side Stoke has ever seen. And it’s not been in vain. If not for injuries putting a stab through consistency, Stoke would have proved to have had an amazingly impressive season. But if they couldn’t make headway when the chips were down for others, I struggle to believe we’ll make great strides forward this year. But if we just move in a positive direction, I’ll be pleased enough.

Walter Mazzarri

I don’t know anything about Mazzarri, and I’ll be a petulant child on this one and say I really don’t want to. I’m still upset over the sacking of Quique, and he doesn’t look like all the things I liked about Quique (hate his taste in shades for one), and so while I enjoy having Watford around, barring some signing that I can’t ignore, I’m putting them on my shortlist for relegation this year because I’m still bitter. The only reason I wanted them to stay up this year was to keep Quique’s scarf on my screen, so I feel like I’ve gotten a bait and switch. *whistles and looks back at notes for the next manager*

Aitor Karanka

I know nothing about him as a person or a manager, but Middlesbrough has done beautifully in the last season, grinding out of a tough league and really being the class team in the northeast of England. Just for that, I already like him, but the pressure is going to be higher on him, as their last season of excellence does make them the favorite for NOT going right back down. Would be shame if he couldn’t manage that pressure and funnel it into a better season this year.

Alan Pardew

This is one where I hate to say it, but Crystal Palace’s performances were so patchy and sub-par. The whole thing was a bit sad, and I feel that if Pardew can’t put together a seriously better, more consistent performance of his side, he’s potentially going to be among the first with his neck on the chopping block. I certainly wasn’t inspired with confidence from his performance.

Ronald Koeman

Everton’s hole was filled by the former manager of Southampton, who had a really impressive performance last season. I’m not convinced that it’s the best appointment in history, but I think it’s definitely got potential. It could be that he and the team click and he gets the best out of them and they pull out a top-six finish, but I think somewhere in the top half is realistic, maybe even top eight. Still, he can’t afford to do a repeat of last season. They’ve got way more talent in hand than that.

Claudio Ranieri

This is easily one of the most wonderful football managers EVER. Cuddly, sweet, grandfatherly, and with such passion tempered with reasonable expectations and honesty. Honesty goes a long way with me, and he’s got an honest face, and honest manner, and has proven himself to be forthright with the press in the best way. Watching his press conferences is like the opposite to watching a Mourinho conference. Those are like watching a perfect storm or a train wreck, but this is like watching a Fireside Chat or something. You just feel so secure, and he’s so tactically sound, and he sets clear, achievable goals and tackles them in order, keeping the team moving forward together as a unit. Yes, he won’t have exactly the same beautiful team as last season, but a truly great manager doesn’t need the perfect set of circumstances every year to be successful.

Mauricio Pochettino

I think the biggest issue with Spurs last season was their crumbling, coming third in a two-horse race. Yes, it was a young group, but it was their manager’s job to find a way to hold them together and get it done. With the big dogs getting big managers, it will be interesting to see if Pochettino can rally, move forward from the disappointment of that finish, and find a way to equal or better last year’s results. If he can pull off another top-four finish, I’ll consider the speculation that he could skipper a massive club valid. Also, he earns serious points for staying put and being loyal to Spurs instead of potentially going for another big spot.

Arsene Wenger

The romantic in me that dubbed Leicester as the winners last winter is a troubled and torn soul at heart. While I would love a Leicester repeat, there’s a big part of me that would want Arsenal to get the title this year, and then have Wenger take a role somewhere…upwards in the organization so that he can have gone out on a bang, maybe pick his successor. I’m an Arsene believer, and since they stormed the two-horse race when all thought it was lost, that steadiness under pressure and his experience with his club and league should serve him well in the battle of the bigshots.

Slaven Bilic

Obviously good at his job, Bilic led West Ham through a lovely season to herald their move to Olympic Stadium. I’m not sure he or his side will be able to hold that momentum, given the Europa League mess of games they’ll have to deal with, plus the promise of a much more typical top end this year. Top Six is possible, Top Eight likely, but I’m not sure Bilic will pull off two years of European football in a row. There’s bound to be a hefty bit of weight on his shoulders.

Antonio Conte

For all the reasons I hated Chelsea last season, Conte is making me love them this season. He’s inspired confidence in players who had lost their confidence in their last big skipper (*cough* more on him later *cough*). He got Terry to stay, which was critical for me. He’s made good signings thus far, which was something I feel they really struggled with last summer (Stones, anyone?). Most importantly, while he’s obviously great tactically and showed that with what he did in the Euros, Conte’s reaction to their big win over Spain was what really made me love him. His child-like glee, the way he jumped up on the top of the thing that covers the bench…. He was someone I wanted to know, which is something I respect and appreciate in managers. It was like watching Klopp get his glasses broken. You remember those moments forever. Doesn’t hurt that he’s a friend of Ranieri, either.

Jurgen Klopp

This is another one of those infinitely likable guys, as mentioned above. You just really want the best for him, like with Ranieri and Conte. They can’t all win, but maybe they could all be Top Four? Anyway, he’s a fabulous manager who had maybe a bit of bad luck and a dash of growing pains into the league. On the whole, he did well, and I really think that with some of the good business he’s been doing this summer, he’s going to be right up there, being an ordinary guy who always makes me think of a graphic design major who happened into a job in football and is somehow brilliant at it (maybe it’s because he makes me think of Alan Rickman…)

Jose Mourinho

If you are a fan of Man U or Mourinho, scroll past this section now because you’ve got a 90% of walking away mad at me. I’m not holding back.

That being said, I don’t like Man U, and they had a terrible season last year. I don’t like Mourinho and what season he had last year was terrible. And somehow this seemed like a good match? Zlatan and his ego, Jose and his ego, Rooney and his legacy…. Is there any more space on the pitch? Probably not. Maybe they’ll clear a corner for Rashford? Although, probably not with Mourinho in charge. No room for youngsters.

Pep Guardiola

I think I would dub Pep to round out my imaginary top five, somewhere in that mix with Arsene and the Nice Guys (my new band name for my top four), mostly because I think he could make a smashing team out of those starry players who haven’t managed to come together as a team. But mostly, I really want him to well out-do his cross-town counterpart. Brutally.




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