Ten Hag bottom, Big Sam and Smith swerve City shame: Every Prem manager’s first game in charge ranked

Ian Watson
Jurgen Klopp, Erik Ten Hag and Pep Guardiola during their first games in charge of Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City respectively.

Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United reign could hardly have got off to a worse start. Big Sam and Dean Smith both lost at Man City – but both might have been worse…

Here’s how we’ve ranked every manager’s first match in charge of their current club…


20) Erik ten Hag: Man Utd 1-2 Brighton
August 7, 2022
If Ten Hag needed an illustration of the size of task before him, this was it. A miserable home defeat, with Christian Eriksen starting as a false nine, was followed by an even more wretched embarrassment at Brentford before United belatedly got their sh*t together.


19) Thomas Frank: Brentford 0-1 Bristol City
October 20, 2018
Frank’s first game as Bees head coach was an 89th-minute defeat to Bristol City after the hosts had played more than half an hour with 10 men after Chris Mepham was sent off.


18) Ruben Selles: Leeds 1-0 Southampton
February 25, 2023
The Spaniard’s first game in charge of Saints was a 1-0 victory at Chelsea but Selles was a caretaker manager at that point. The three points convinced the Premier League’s bottom-placed side to appoint him on deal until the end of the season, a day before they went to Leeds and barely laid a glove on the Yorkshiremen, who also had a new manager, in the battle of the bottom two.


17) Dean Smith: Man City 3-1 Leicester
April 15, 2023 
Smith took over from Brendan Rodgers at Leicester ahead of a trip to Manchester City. Similar to Sam Allardyce, he watched his side concede early goals – three in the opening 25 minutes – but City took their foot off the gas and allowed Kelechi Ihaenacho to score against his old side. And the Foxes really could have had two more.


16) Frank Lampard: Real Madrid 2-0 Chelsea
April 12, 2023
Lampard was due at the Bernabeu as a pundit but Chelsea’s plea to return as their manager after Graham Potter’s dismissal saw him take charge of the Blues for the Champions League quarter-final first leg. They lost, and again by the same scoreline in the second leg, but at least they showed some fight before going another six games under Lampard before picking up their first points under the caretaker boss.


15) Sam Allardyce: Man City 2-1 Leeds
May 6, 2023
Like Smith at Leicester, Big Sam was back in the game in time to take Leeds to the Etihad – the first of his four-game reign – and when Ilkay Gundogan scored an early brace, the battering they feared looked set to become a reality. But Allardyce caught Erling Haaland on an off day and Gundogan missed a penalty for his hat-trick immediately before Rodrigo pulled one back, giving Leeds something to build on for the remaining three games.

Sam Allardyce during his time as Leeds manager

14) Eddie Howe: Newcastle 3-3 Brentford
November 20, 2021
It wasn’t a terrible result, especially when 3-2 down with 15 minutes remaining, when Howe presided over his first game in charge, but Wor Eddie had to do so from his hotel room after catching a dose of the ‘rona.


13) Marco Silva: Fulham 1-1 Middlesbrough
August 8, 2021
The Cottagers were frustrated in Silva’s first game when Neil Warnock’s Boro struck a late leveller to punish the hosts for wasting serval second-half opportunities to kill the game. They made up for it in the next match by smashing five past Huddersfield.


12) Mikel Arteta: Bournemouth 1-1 Arsenal
December 26, 2019
“It was raining and I got very wet,” said Arteta when asked earlier this year to reflect on his first Gunners game as boss, which saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bag a second-half equaliser to earn Arsenal a point on Boxing Day.


11) Steve Cooper: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Millwall
September 25, 2021
Though there was little sign of what was to come, a point apiece was a fair result in Cooper’s first game as Forest boss, with Max Lowe’s lucky equaliser cancelling out Matt Smith’s first-half opener for the Lions.


10) Jurgen Klopp: Tottenham 0-0 Liverpool
October 17, 2015
“I am completely satisfied,” said Klopp after watching his new side, featuring Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne, hold Mauricio Pochettino’s men to a goalless draw at White Hart Lane.


9) Gary O’Neil: Bournemouth 0-0 Wolves
August 31, 2022
O’Neil was placed in caretaker charge after Scott Parker was sacked in the wake of a 9-0 annihilation at Anfield. A clean sheet in his first game made for a positive start.


8) Ryan Mason: Tottenham 2-2 Manchester United
April 27, 2023
Mason stepped in again to replace the original interm manager, Cristian Stellini, following a 6-1 humping at Newcastle. Against United, they started poorly again, going 2-0 by half-time. But Spurs rallied and, helped by the Red Devils’ wilting, Pedro Porro and Heung-min Son secured a point against their top-four rivals.


7) Julen Lopetegui: Wolves 2-0 Gillingham
December 20, 2022
“It has been a very special day for me,” said Lopetegui after Wolves scored a couple of late goals to progress in the Carabao Cup in their first game after the World Cup break. His first Premier League game was even more special – an injury-time win at relegation rivals Everton.


6) Pep Guardiola: Man City 2-1 Sunderland
August 13, 2016
Pep was one of two managerial debutants that day, with David Moyes taking charge of Sunderland for the first time. City won thanks to a scabby 87th-minute own goal off the bonce of Paddy McNair.


5) Roberto De Zerbi: Liverpool 3-3 Brighton
October 1, 2022
First games don’t come much more daunting than Liverpool away but Brighton were brilliant and should probably have won after going 2-0 up. Even upon caving in, they found an equaliser, with Leandro Trossard becoming only the third visiting player to score a hat-trick at Anfield. Who were the other two? Answer at the bottom…


4) David Moyes: West Ham 4-0 Bournemouth
January 1, 2020
Moyes’ second first game in charge of the Hammers went rather better than the first game of his first spell – a 2-0 defeat at Watford in November 2017. Beating Howe’s Cherries gave West Ham their biggest Premier League win in over 12 years.


3) Roy Hodgson: Crystal Palace 2-1 Leicester
April 1, 2023
Hodgson’s shock return to Palace prompted 20 first-half shots – the most in a Premier League half by any team since 2015 – and a late, come-from-behind victory over Leicester on, with Jean-Philippe Mateta scoring a 94th-minute winner to earn a first win in 2023.


2) Unai Emery: Aston Villa 3-1 Man Utd
November 6, 2022
“I am so happy… it was a special day today,” said the new Villa boss after taking charge for the first time, when they made United look very much second-best. Villa fans almost universally welcomed Emery’s appointment after a year of Steven Gerrard and the players buzzed off it too, racing into a two-goal lead inside 11 minutes. Even when United pulled one back courtesy of a lucky deflection, Villa still kept their visitors at arm’s length and ran out comfortable winners.

1) Sean Dyche: Everton 1-0 Arsenal
February 4, 2022
‘The worst run club in the country hosts the Premier League’s slickest operation’ was how we billed second-bottom Everton versus leaders Arsenal. So for Dyche to claim Everton’s first victory since October 22 with a goal made in Burnley – corner from Dwight McNeil headed in by James Tarkowski – was a dream debut. The Toffees were everything they should be: dogged, determined and never did they let Arsenal settle into their groove. Dyche, that.


*Peter Ndlovu and Andrey Arshavin