Ranking all 32 Premier League managers this season so far

Dave Tickner
Eddie Howe Rafa Benitez David Moyes Premier League manager rankings

The last time we did this was December and… things have changed a bit. We had Rafa Benitez above Mikel Arteta which is probably as much an error on our part as a reflection of changing fortunes, but still.

There are also four new entries, which is exciting isn’t it?

December’s in-some-cases-identical rankings can be found here, with the numbers in the brackets below reflecting those rankings.

Read on to find out where we’ve wrongly placed your manager this time because we’re biased…


32. Steve Bruce (Newcastle, August-October, 28)
Already firmly on the fans’ sh*tlist long before a horrible, grim start to the season. Inexplicably if briefly kept on by the new owners to rack up his 1,000th game and donate three goals and three points to Spurs at a time when the north Londoners couldn’t find their arsehole with both hands. Was taking Newcastle down before the takeover and under Bruce it’s hard to see how any amount of money would have saved them. Their improvement under Eddie Howe has been vast and swift and not even Bruce’s own family would honestly argue that was entirely down to the admittedly helpful multi-million-pound January investment in the squad. Hilariously touted by some high-profile characters for the Manchester United job, showing that some people will simply never, ever learn.


31. Duncan Ferguson (Everton, January, NE)
A second brief caretaker stint was less successful than the first when he whipped Everton into a frenzy that produced a 3-1 win over Chelsea and far more importantly prompted a textbook Lampardian Transition when the new Everton boss explained why Ferguson was staying as part of his coaching staff: “I’m delighted to work alongside Duncan. I’ve seen him from afar – well, actually close up a couple of years ago when Everton beat Chelsea! He’s a club legend, a person the players respect, the club respect, the fans respect.” A master at work.


30. Frank Lampard (Everton, January onwards, NE)
We all enjoyed that Venn diagram of Lampard’s future and he’s ended up at the wrong club. Lampard currently carries the haunted look of a man clever enough to realise he’s made a mistake but not clever enough to find a blameless way out. Gets to play the media game on the default Tory easy mode (the praise heaped on him after Everton lost 5-0 at Spurs was surely unprecedented) which helps but has already resorted to testicular fortitude or lack thereof as an explanation for Everton’s current predicament. It is true that the club’s problems both predate and exceed Lampard but they are very bad, there is no evidence either in this job or previous ones that suggests Lampard can do anything about that and, given a nightmarish run-in, avoiding relegation may have more to do with what happens at Burnley or Leeds.


29. Rafa Benitez (Everton, August-January, 14)
How on earth did we have him as high as 14th in December? That win over Arsenal really hoodwinked us – twice really when you find out where we put Arteta. Back to Rafa. He took a squad designed for upward mobility to the fringes of a relegation scrap it was both wildly unsuited for and in which it has now become firmly embroiled. As with all Everton managers, he gets the “not entirely his fault” caveat but he played a weak hand very badly.


28. Nuno Espirito Santo (Tottenham, August-November, 27)
Wrong man, wrong time, wrong job. You do feel for the bloke – he seems decent enough and you can see why it was an opportunity that seemed impossible to turn down. But after a mighty impressive opening-weekend win over Manchester City, they were simply awful. Even in the follow-up victories over Wolves and Watford there was no sense of something tangible and, while he managed to eke out another couple of narrow wins along the way, the defeats soon came. And when they did they were heavy. A 3-0 stomping off a woefully out-of-form Manchester United combined with the sudden and inexplicable keenness of Antonio Conte was enough for Spurs to act. Will always have the August Manager of the Month gong, though.


27. Dean Smith (Aston Villa, August-November, 26)
Done in by the loss of a talismanic star player and failed attempts to reconfigure the side around a phalanx of new signings purchased with the windfall. He isn’t the first and won’t be the last. Hard not to feel some sympathy for a man who loves the club dearly and saw three years of mainly excellent work unravel in the space of five games. But those five games really were sh*tbone awful. It was the right decision. Brutal, but right.


26. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United, August-November, 25)
It should never have taken so long. Those three weeks he stayed in the job after Spurs had snaffled Conte still look absurd even if Conte is showing his full range of good and bad qualities in north London. United aren’t getting back where they want to be with a pliant yes man at the helm – they need a sh*thouse.


25. Xisco Munoz (Watford, August-October, 24)
Watford manager. Foreign. Sacked in October. A tale as old as time.


24. Daniel Farke (Norwich, August-November, 23)
Finally got his P45 and first win of the season on the same weekend. Cruel business, but he can’t say he wasn’t warned. There was only so long the whole ‘Far too good for the Championship, far too bad for the Premier League’ schtick could last.

Daniel Farke celebrates


23. Claudio Ranieri (Watford, October-January, 17)
We have a proud record of never being correct about anything (see Benitez above) so it says something about the sheer unerring predictability of the Watford managerial lifecycle that we said this in the previous edition of this feature: “Doesn’t seem to quite fit the profile for a Watford manager somehow but will still probably last about as long as all the others. Has already had a couple of grand days out with the whompings of Everton and Manchester United, but we all know that will count for nothing once he goes three games without a win in January.”


22. Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds, August-February, 22)
Gah, what a shame. There was a lot of chortling at the mutual affection between Leeds and Bielsa but when something like that happens at your club it is a beautiful thing and the genuine, heartfelt grief among Leeds fans at his departure should not be mocked. Not too much, anyway. But there’s no denying the evidence of your own eyes this season, however hard it is to accept. Yes the injury list was grievously debilitating but the football was dire at both ends. Something had to give.


21. Graeme Jones (Newcastle, October-November, 21)
There was no disgrace to his three-game caretaker interregnum, with 1-1 draws at Palace and Brighton perfectly serviceable results and a thrashing off Chelsea also pretty much par for the course at the time. Better than his predecessor, not as good as his successor; can’t really ask or indeed want any more than that of a caretaker boss.


20. Roy Hodgson (Watford, January onwards, NE)
Watford’s third manager of the year – at any other club this would be a lot rather than just a bog-standard season – and the old Warhammer enthusiast has at least given them the appearance of being a tiny bit less doomed. They’ve won two of their last six Premier League games which doesn’t sound much until you realise they’d only won one of the previous 14.


19. Sean Dyche (Burnley, 20)
Wandered around a snow-covered Turf Moor without a jacket but with a huge smile in the single most on-brand moment of the entire season. Hard to see that being topped. On the downside, managed to lose a game to Newcastle at a time when that appeared literally impossible. Has done his usual number on some big beasts and Spurs but the Premier League’s most enduringly perfect club-manager union doesn’t look like it’ll save the Clarets this season.


18. Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton, 19)
In many ways the league’s most interesting manager. Is he a potential elite coach who could do wonders at a seriously big club, or is he a fraud? It’s genuinely impossible to tell. There are times in seasons and in games where his Southampton side look really bloody excellent. And there are times when they look an absolute joke. We’re still waiting for this year’s 9-0 but everything else has been in place. Spaffed points from winning positions, streaks of great form and streaks of relegation form. Their all-competition form over the last 10 games is peak Hasenhuttl and peak Saints. Starting with the most recent: LLLLWWWDWW. Daft.


17. Jesse Marsch (Leeds, February onwards, NE)
A fascinating late-season gamble from Leeds, binning the beloved but increasingly doomed Marcelo Bielsa for the American idealist from the Red Bull production line. A move that has wrongfooted the PFM-dominated punditocracy who grew weary and suspicious of the affection for oddball foreigner Bielsa but, given they are still suspicious of whether a Spaniard or Italian can ever really Know Our League are certainly not about to get the red carpet out for a bloody Yank. Especially one who likes to talk about process and thinks improving his players is more important than results. Marsch at least is self-aware enough to make the Ted Lasso connection for himself and tone that stuff down in the middle of a relegation scrap while also avoiding any Bob Bradley-shaped “PK” problems. Most importantly – if surely unsustainably – has currently pulled off the spectacular trick of improving Leeds’ results without taking away any of the crazy.

Leeds boss Jesse Marsch


16. Dean Smith (Norwich, November onwards, 15)
Rebounded into the Norwich job with alarming and arguably unwise haste after getting the boot from his beloved Aston Villa. Hasn’t made Norwich any worse is pretty much all that can be said. Had a dead-cat bounce with five points in his first three games and another little moment with back-to-back wins over Everton and Watford that briefly raised the absurd prospect of the Canaries not being relegated. Now fully reverted to the standard Norwich “focus on getting back here next season” end-of-year form with six straight defeats.


15. Ralf Rangnick (Manchester United, December onwards, 12)
They’re still not great, are they? There have been good moments along the way but there were for Solskjaer and as ever the high floor at Manchester United means that will always be the case. What Solskjaer could never do and Rangnick hasn’t managed either is to raise the ceiling. No trophy for a fifth successive season and most likely no top-four finish either. It’s not all on Rangnick by any means, but zero tangible improvement on Solskjaer isn’t a great look. Has to at least get the next manager appointment right when he moves into his cushy consultancy gig at the end of the season.


14. Michael Carrick (Manchester United, November-December, 11)
Apparently a much better caretaker manager than he was a first-team coach under Solskjaer. Once in charge, made the radical decision to have Some Sort Of Plan beyond “Our clever players will probably sort this out, for we are Manchester United Football Club”. It worked as well, with four points from games against Arsenal and Chelsea in the league and a Champions League win at Villarreal in his three matches in charge. Tidy.


13. Brendan Rodgers (Leicester, 18)
Victim of his own success to an extent as back-to-back fifth-place finishes (which could easily have been fourth-place finishes) and an FA Cup win give way to a slide back into the sort of solid mid-table drudgery which would have been a decent level for Leicester until five years ago. There are tentative signs of an injury-ravaged season ending rather better than it began, though, with home form sorted out – one (very silly) defeat in the last 12 at the King Power – and still the prospect of silverware in back-to-back seasons which is something Spurs or Manchester United can only dream of.


12. Thomas Frank (Brentford, 7)
The early season lustre has faded a bit but Brentford look set to survive with a bit to spare which will always have been the target. A key figure, obviously, in the Christian Eriksen story which has been a much-needed slice of pure feelgood loveliness in these troubled times. We all owe him for that.


11. Graham Potter (Brighton, 6)
Still clearly an excellent manager even as his Brighton side lean ever more heavily into their xG banter. They’ve lost their last six – scoring just one goal in the process – to put paid to any top-half hopes and while it hasn’t been the easiest run (Man United, Liverpool, Tottenham and a resurgent Newcastle all in there), you can have only so much sympathy for a team that loses 3-0 at home to Burnley. The sense very much persists that Potter is nowhere near the limits of his potential, but that to find those limits he is probably going to have to move on at some stage.


10. Antonio Conte (Tottenham, November onwards, 9)
A fascinating one. There are definite if sporadic signs of progress and occasional glimpses of the very good Spurs team Antonio Conte could build. He’s got the Kane-Son combo purring again, undoubtedly played a key role in some atypically shrewd January business and, slowly but surely, pieces are falling into place as Spurs’ square-peg players are mashed into round Conteball holes. If there was any prospect of Conte staying at White Hart Lane for three or four years then this would all be fine early progress. The near certainty that he will be off at the end of next season at the latest and could huff off at literally any moment in the meantime leaves the whole thing feeling desperately fragile and even a tiny bit pointless.


9. Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa, November onwards, 8)
A better manager than Frank Lampard, and that’s the real quiz. When Liverpool eventually give Gerrard the top job there it may not work out but it won’t be inexplicably absurd to think it might. It will, at least, be based on at least slightly more than “he was a really good player for us, wasn’t he?” Slightly spoiled things this week with a lot of sh*te about toughening up, which is a shame.


8. Eddie Howe (Newcastle, November onwards, 13)
It’s disappointing to see a manager who was previously happy to discuss wider issues with thoughtfulness and intelligence adopt a “I am but a simple football man” stance at Newcastle. Realistically, though, you can see why. On the simple football side, it’s also going very well. Made Newcastle significantly better before the January investment arrived, and wildly better once it did. Six of their seven league wins this season have come in the last nine games and they are now three points closer to the top half than the bottom three; even with the January reinforcements that’s some turnaround for a club that spent the first half of the season in such a desperate doom-spiral.


7. Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace, 10)
Yes. Very good. We hoped it would be and are glad all over that it is. Has got a tune out of Palace’s assorted exciting attacking players and at their best they are far more entertaining to watch than most of the mid-table plodders around them. An FA Cup semi-final is already a decent tangible reward for a season in which a top-half finish remains firmly in sight. Couldn’t reasonably ask for much more.


6. Bruno Lage (Wolves, 5)
Avoided any panic when early-season performances were not matched by results and if a run of four defeats in six matches has seen them drift out of European contention the more pertinent point is: Lage had Wolves in European contention. Will almost certainly finish eighth which, given the dramatic nature of West Ham’s recent improvement, certainly stands comparison with the seventh-place finishes under Nuno.


5. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal, 16)
Huge and significant climber from three months ago. Arsenal are on current form the third best team in the country and reaping the benefits of trusting in youth on the field as well as in the dugout. Aubameyang’s excellence at Barcelona is neither here nor there. In fact it’s a win-win because Arsenal are provably and demonstrably now better without him and it’s annoyed Piers Morgan. Arteta always looked like the least absurd of the “Hand massive club over to former player who has minimal managerial experience” trend and has now confirmed it decisively. Only negative currently is the fixture-list whinging from a manager with fewer fixtures than anyone else and who produced the most egregious playing of the Covid-postponement card.


4. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City, 4)
Favourites for all three legs of the Treble despite everyone being consumed by Liverpool’s concurrent bid for the Quadruple. Guardiola’s problem is that he’s normalised such relentless excellence that everyone takes it for granted, like we just have by putting him only fourth in our manager rankings. Guardiola has already won an unprecedented domestic treble at City to widespread shoulder-shrugging from elsewhere and we’re very excited for a Full Treble this year to be framed entirely in terms of United’s ’99 achievement and stopping Liverpool winning the Quad of Destiny.


3. Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea, 2)
Has dealt as well as anyone could expect with Chelsea’s current existential crisis, with the fact they’ve won their last six games in all competitions largely unremarked upon but genuinely impressive in the circumstances. Five league wins in a row have arrested a wobble that briefly threatened to drag them back into a top-four squabble with your Arsenals and your Tottenhams but now able to focus fully on this season’s Champions League without any distractions whatsoever. Ahem.


2. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool, 3)
Not many get this close to the Quadruple, with Liverpool now sure to reach April with everything very plausible. Currently lively second favourites in all three remaining pots they need to tick off and even for a squad as good as Liverpool’s that’s a delicate and difficult balancing act to pull off. Klopp’s side have currently developed a happy knack for having the inevitable off days when they can just about get away with it. A second leg against Inter with a 2-0 cushion, and FA Cup clash at Nottingham Forest. There aren’t too many more such opportunities if Klopp and co. are to make history rather than ending the season with only one or two trophies and thus be exposed as total frauds.


1. David Moyes (West Ham, 1)
We had him top in December and after much deliberation and in the full and certain knowledge that a Manchester City treble or heaven help us Liverpool Quadruple makes this look Very Silly Indeed, we reckon he’s still number one. It’s all relative, you see, and backing up last season’s unexpectedly excellent league season with another fine one while balancing that with a European campaign that could yet make this West Ham’s greatest season ever is hugely impressive from Moyes. They are most likely going to finish seventh in the league now, but to wheel out an old cliché, the fact that’s a bit disappointing is itself huge credit to the manager and his squad of players. But really it’s the trick of keeping the league form on track while competing in Europe that has been so impressive for West Ham and Moyes deserves huge credit for pulling it off. It would be a real shame if the injuries and fatigue that are now starting to kick in – they were understandably but alarmingly exhausted at Spurs on Sunday – saw it all unravel over the closing weeks but it’s been a hell of a ride and Moyes has achieved something quite rare in fully restoring his reputation as a manager having become an internet punchline.