As the Premiership season nears its conclusion, it's time for a look at which managers have exceeded expectations and which have fallen short.
The 2011/12 Premiership season is drawing to a close before it disappears for yet another summer (at least we have the Euros to keep us busy this year). With the races for the title, the final Champions League spot and the relegation places set to go down to the final day, plenty of clubs still have a huge amount to play for. However, regardless of how the final two weeks of the season pan out, the league’s managers have done enough to let us judge exactly how good this year has been for them. And so, here is a club-by-club assessment of how the men in charge have led their teams during the campaign:
Arsene Wenger – The season did not start well for English top flight’s second longest serving manager. Fabregas had left and the team took a while to get going without the Spaniard. RVP to the rescue. Wenger’s goal machine lifted the side and carried them on his back for a while, with noble assistance from Alex Song and Mikel Arteta behind him. The season has, in fact, been a decent one and, with Jack Wilshere fit for any of it, it could have been much better indeed.
Alex McLeish – The Scotsman was hardly a welcome addition at Villa Park after relegating rivals Birmingham (surely they should have liked him then?) His negative style of play has been criticised and, although their end of season slump is thanks largely to the absence of Darren Bent, the fact McLeish has failed so miserably without one player hardly speaks volumes of his managerial ability. Poor.
Steve Kean has struggled with supporter demonstrations for long parts of the season at Ewood Park
Steve Kean – Poor old Steve Kean. Blackburn’s horrible early season form whipped their fans into a frenzy, and Kean was the target. Never have I seen a manager so hated by the fans but apparently so trusted by the owners. Either way, it looked as though their faith, and the manager’s defiance (he is always in a defiant mood, isn’t he?) had paid off, until the slump hit them again a few weeks back. And after a miserable display at White Hart Lane on Sunday, the king of defiance can hardly say he’s had a good year.
Owen Coyle – One of Britain’s brightest young prospects in the management game, Coyle earned a lot of respect during his time at Burnley and for the style of football he got an ‘ugly’ Bolton team playing last year. However, this season has not been so good. The loss of Johan Elmander and the perpetual injury of the useful Chung-Yong Lee have hit the Trotters badly and they have languished near the bottom for most of the year. Less David N’Gog, more Kevin Davies please Owen!
Andre Vilas-Boas – What can be said about AVB’s time at Stamford Bridge? He arrived as the “next Mourinho” but never managed to replicate the great one’s record of results. And, once he’d “lost the dressing room” (translation: fell out with the club’s biggest egos) he was doomed. You have to feel a bit of sympathy for the impatience he was shown, but by no means an impressive tenure.
Roberto Di Matteo – Not bad for a man sacked by West Brom just over a year ago. Robby has ridden to the rescue for Roman, reaching the FA Cup and Champions League finals, as well as pushing his side back into contention for the top four AND getting Fernando Torres scoring again. Who said men can’t multi-task?
David Moyes – Another season at Goodison for the wily Scot and yet more respect thrown his way. Moyes continues to impress in the blue half of Liverpool and is repeatedly liked with the United job, once old Fergie hangs his coat up. The return of Steven Pienaar and the arrival of Nikica Jelavic in January were a combined masterstroke and, with a bit more cash, who knows what the former Preston man could achieve on Merseyside?
Martin Jol – Aside from the press attention on the goal scoring exploits of Clint Dempsey, Fulham have slipped into relative obscurity this season. However, don’t let that fool you, because Jol has done an excellent job at the cottage. Inside the top half and equal on points with Liverpool, Fulham have impressed and are all set to kick on next season, provided they can hold on to their American talisman. Not bad, Martin.
Kenny Dalglish – A real mixed bag for Liverpool this season. Despite how angry ‘King Kenny’ makes you in press conferences and post-match interviews, he has led the reds to two cup finals. However, the league is where the real money is and Liverpool should be looking at a top four finish with their financial muscle. Plenty of Dalglish’s signings are still not showing their worth and, despite the cup runs, they’re still as far from Champions League qualification as they are from the bottom three. Not good enough.
Roberto Mancini – Big things were expected of Manchester City this season and, to an extent, their Italian boss has stepped up. A tough Champions League group saw them exit the competition early but, at times, they’ve looked the best side in the Premier League by some distance. Inconsistency has let them down and Mancini’s side almost threw away a shot at the title, but they’re back in the hunt now. Money doesn’t always bring instant success and Mancini deserves some credit.
Alex Ferguson– It’s tricky to appraise Alex Ferguson, as he’s just so consistently good at what he does. However, after an embarrassing Champions League exit and no cup success, the title is now a must. A draw on Monday night would have put United in prime position, but they were thoroughly out-classed and don’t look so confident anymore. Fergie would have wanted to keep the noisy neighbours at an arm’s length for longer than he has, and a trophy-less season for the red devils would be a disaster.
Pardew has turned Newcastle into Champions League contenders within a short space of time
Alan Pardew – What a season it has been for the Toon army. Alan Pardew has been tactically astute, ruthlessly efficient in the transfer windows and has drawn the best out of some quality players, possibly none more than Hatem Ben-Arfa. Not a huge amount needs to be said about this man. Superb.
Paul Lambert – Another impressive, young Scottish manager, Lambert has made a strong start to his Premiership career. Despite a squad with minimal top-flight experience, Norwich have never looked in danger of facing the drop. Lambert should be wary of “second season syndrome’ but a few useful signings this summer should prevent that. Commendable start.
Neil Warnock – After winning promotion for the R’s last season, Warnock made it to the halfway point of this campaign before getting the sack. He left them one point above the relegation zone after 20 games, not an inspiring performance but his side were newly promoted and he could perhaps feel a little aggrieved.
Mark Hughes – Since taking over from Warnock, Hughes hasn’t exactly had the desired effect at Loftus Road. Some ambitious signings in January, including AC Milan’s Taye Taiwo and Bobby Zamora, reportedly on a huge contract, have done little to push the West Londoners clear of the bottom three. Hughes now faces a late relegation battle, which could be a real test of his abilities. Uninspiring.
Tony Pulis – Stoke are another side to have not caught many headlines this year (unless they’re fans are booing Aaron Ramsey for having his leg broken by their captain). As perpetual mid-table dwellers, Pulis’ side have done OK this year, currently sitting in 13th, but just 5 points behind Liverpool in 8th. Peter Crouch has been an excellent addition up front but the Potters seem to be stuck in a bit of a rut.
Steve Bruce – Bruce was an early managerial casualty this season, after winning just two of Sunderland’s 13 opening games. Not a huge amount of time on which to base an assessment but, when compared to the achievements of his successor, Bruce’s tenure doesn’t look too overwhelming.
Martin O’Neill – Everyone’s favourite Northern Irishman (sorry Brendan Rodgers), O’Neill came back to English football in December of last year and has shown us once again what a class act he is. Sunderland went shooting up the table following his appointment, as O’Neill got the likes of Sessegnon, Larsson and even Bendtner playing like a top-half team. He has even found time to discover an exciting talent in James McLean.
Brendan Rodgers – A very similar story to Paul Lambert. Following last year’s playoff win, Rodgers made some astute acquisitions over the summer, including Danny Graham, to add to his impressive side already. Rodgers’ passing philosophy has put Joe Allen and Leon Britton in the record books as two of the most accurate passers in world football. Finally, the loan signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson was an excellent one and if he manages, against all odds, to make that signing permanent, the future will look very bright indeed for the Swans.
Harry Redknapp – It was all going so well for Redknapp until Fabio Capello resigned. Spurs looked all set to finish third unchallenged, with the Champions League to look forward to and no risk of losing the likes of Bale and Modric. However, constant media attention due to the England vacancy and his high profile court case have caused problems for Harry, and it has shown in Tottenham’s form. This season may well end up as a case of what could have been for Spurs.
Roy Hodgson – As the recently appointed new manager of England, one might imagine Hogdson has had a good season, and the truth is that he has. On a limited budget and a decent-at-best squad, the Baggies are on course for a top half finish. I’m sure their fans wish Roy all the best in his new job but they won’t be too happy to see him go.
Roberto Martinez – After what has been a long, hard season for Martinez, Wigan have hit an incredible run of form. The Latics entered what looked like a nightmare run-in with confidence at an all time low, but have since recorded wins against Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Newcastle, and were only denied a result against Chelsea by a horrid offside decision. It’s looking as though Martinez’s side will be here for another year and, considering the distinct lack of individual talent in the Wigan squad, that’s quite an achievement.
Mick McCarthy – McCarthy was dismissed from Molineux in February, after a torrid run of form, leaving his side in the relegation zone on goal difference. However, the boardroom’s lack of foresight became woefully apparent when they called for an experienced successor to McCarthy, before hiring Terry Connor, a man with no managerial experience whatsoever. What has happened since then makes McCarthy’s achievements look a little better.
Terry Connor – It’s been an awful few months for Terry Connor, failing to record a win since taking over and condemning Wolves to relegation weeks before the end of the season. However, I don’t blame the guy at all. The job was thrust upon him with the team in a dodgy position and fans already unhappy with the situation. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s done a good job.