Premier League manager rankings: Moyes clambers off the canvas, Ten Hag turns another corner

Dave Tickner
Premier League manager rankings
Premier League manager rankings

Well done, everyone. We’ve survived another international break. It’s been a tough one, but luckily there has been some very important and real news like Southgate-to-United, and flags, and pretending Man City might get punished to keep us all going. But now salvation is on the horizon. The Barclays is back, baby!

And that can mean only one thing. Well, it can mean several. But to us it means this. Manager rankings. Remember, your team’s manager is so low on this because we’re biased against your club. Unless your club is Aston Villa.

February’s manager rankings can be found here, and those placings are in brackets below.


24) Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United – August-December (23)
As late as November we were still willing to place plenty of stock in unfortunate narrow defeats to your Tottenhams, Citys and Uniteds than the thrashings against the Newcastles and Arsenals Of This World, but this was shown to be a wildly optimistic daftness by the unforgivable unpleasantness against Burnley, a result from which there really was no way back for Heckingbottom.

Especially given the presence of Chris Wilder by that point lurking not so much in the shadows as in the full glare of multiple spotlights and a big flashing neon sign saying THIS FELLA WANTS YOUR JOB with all arrows pointing at him.


23) Vincent Kompany, Burnley (24)
Going tits up, isn’t it? Didn’t expect it, did we? Probably, though…maybe we should have a little bit? Teams that play their way out of the Championship and into the Premier League with flowing, possession-based football are likely to be the ones in line for a culture shock when they get a taste of the Barclays, and doing all that under a rookie manager should have sounded more alarm bells than it did.

The widespread delusion – of which we must admit to being an enthusiastic contributor – was that Kompany knew Our League and thus Burnley would be fine. But he had no managerial experience of the Premier League and – this bit has turned out to be absolutely crucial – none of his extensive and impressive playing experience was in the relevant area of Barclays for a newly promoted team that likes to play its football The Right Way.

A team that rinsed the Championship sits five points from safety. Unlike their fellow promoted sides who currently make up the bottom three, Burnley were the ones for whom it wasn’t meant to be like this. Burnley are the ones who were meant to be better. And it all puts Kompany under serious pressure if he can’t crack the code soon.

We wrote all that in November. Reiterated it in January. And February. And every word of that still applies, except the last bit now has far greater urgency.

What’s interesting, though, is that despite Kompany’s continued spot atop the Sack Race betting, there is little appetite among Burnley fans for his removal. There is less surprise locally than nationally at their struggles, with the ‘promoted a year early’ narrative in full swing. Few think Kompany can save this season, but a great many still remain convinced he’s the man to bring them back again next season.

That’s fair enough, but we still think ‘being slightly better than this Sheffield United sh*tshow’ is a low, low bar and Luton’s competitiveness also casts Burnley’s campaign in a dim light.


22) Steve Cooper, Nottingham Forest August-December (22)
We still had him crazy high on the list as recently as November, barely a month before he was quite correctly if still upsettingly removed. What we like best about our November verdict beyond its air of general misplaced optimism is how close we came to getting it exactly right before getting it completely wrong. Look…

What’s good about Forest is that unlike some of the other clubs in the cavernous mid-table, it does retain an air of jeopardy. At Forest it really does feel like it could all fall apart and they could go 20 games without a win or something. They won’t, though. Because Cooper.

Ah! Well. Nevertheless, etc. Had to go because the life had gone alarmingly from Cooper’s side, and Nuno Espirito Santo did at the very, very least get a dead cat bounce out of them. Still all seems a bit of a shame, but the fans still love him and always will for bringing back some joy and having a rock-solid place in the managerial pantheon of a Brian Clough club isn’t a bad old legacy.


21) Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace – August-February (21)
It’s a cruel shame to see health issues force him out of his beloved position in the Selhurst Park dug-out, but we don’t think we’re being complete bastards in noting it’s a change that Palace really should have been making for purely footballing reasons anyway. Twenty-four points from 24 games with only 28 goals scored is a pretty miserable return for a team that on paper possesses some of the most beguiling attacking talent outside the gilded elite.

Hodgson’s Palace had once again become a beacon of nothingness, on course to once again survive in the Premier League but without truly living. He will always have a special place in Palace hearts, and this time last year they really did need saving from themselves. He put them back on an even keel and has left some kind of platform on which his successor can build. But one way or another it was building work Hodgson himself was never going to complete.


20) Chris Wilder, Sheffield United – December onwards (19)
Wilder has simultaneously offered undeniable improvement at the Blades, albeit from the very lowest of bases, while also somehow contriving a position where losing 6-0 at home to Arsenal could quite reasonably be framed as ‘only losing 6-0 at home to Arsenal’ given the previous two home games had ended in 5-0 defeats to Villa and Brighton, and Arsenal’s own free-scoring form.

It’s hard to place Wilder. The improvements are minuscule and cannot be said to have turned Sheffield United into anything more than a very bad Premier League side, but it’s equally true that nobody could probably have done anything to save them.

Next season will be the test. It will not be in the Barclays.


19) Paddy McCarthy, Crystal Palace – February (18)
A 1-1 draw at Everton is definitely better than a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal. His next caretaker stint in charge of Palace will surely be a win. Mainly, though, we’re just excited that McCarthy’s latest one-game reign to bookend Roy Hodgson’s return meant we didn’t suffer the unpleasantness of going an entire season without a single caretaker manager taking charge of a game. That would never do.


18) Eddie Howe, Newcastle (17)
With hopes of an FA Cup win riding to the rescue now gone after a pretty limp surrender to Manchester City, the verdict on Newcastle’s season is in and it is not kind. We really do feel quite strongly that Newcastle have got away with some pretty staggering underachievement this year given the ‘big seven’ noises emanating from them at the start of it.

It’s possible they could still scrape a European spot – especially if eighth does prove to be enough – but they are equally likely as things currently stand to finish in the bottom half.

They are 13 points behind fifth-placed Spurs, seven behind crisis club Manchester United and only a point ahead of national embarrassments Chelsea having played a game more. Not a single one of those clubs, nor their managers, would have been able to have a season like this one go under the radar. Newcastle are lucky not to get worse press, but Howe is off the charts fortunate to have escaped pretty much all scrutiny this season.

Yes there was credit in the bank, but managers with more of that have lost their jobs for less than this and in far less time. Do we want to see managers sacked? No, of course not. Famously, Nobody Wants That. At the same time, we are quite determined to manifest Howe’s sacking into being if it’s the last thing we do.

READ: Who will be the next manager of Newcastle if Eddie Howe is sacked?


17) Sean Dyche, Everton (16)
Mitigation out the wazoo for Dyche with all the off-field uncertainty creating the ludicrous situation where absolutely nobody can say with any certainty how many points Everton actually have with 10 games left of the Premier League season. That’s a headf*ck for even the most grounded, gravel-voiced, disc-bearded gaffer.

At the same time, given the state of the teams around them, it’s not unreasonable to suggest Everton could and should have Dycheballed their way into a position where further punishment this season should be irrelevant.

But no. Having brilliantly wiped out the original 10-point penalty in the space of four games, Everton now find themselves in the awkward position of having won very nearly as many points off the field (four cut from that penalty on appeal) as on it (five draws) since the turn of the year.

Not winning a single league game in 11 since the last success of that four-match winning run against Burnley is just very silly indeed.

If – and it is still at this stage unlikely – Everton do go down, Dyche will quite rightly sit some way from the top of any List of Blame. But deep down he will know that he and his team were good enough to get themselves clear of a pretty sorry looking relegation scrap even with the points penalties and uncertainties. It’s not been good enough for quite some time now.

READ: Ranking the relegation candidates by how much we want them to go down


16) Nuno Espirito Santo, Nottingham Forest – December onwards (11)
Dyche-like mitigation abounds for a manager who had the added hassle of stepping into a beloved manager’s seat midway through the season, but Forest have been very nearly as silly on the pitch in recent weeks as they are off it, and Nuno cannot escape criticism.

A series of 1-0 defeats to Man United, Liverpool and Brighton need not be season-defining for a relegation battler, but all were irritating in their own way. The lateness of United’s and Liverpool’s goals – especially Liverpool’s given the controversy around it – mean they managed pretty much the only way to make narrow defeats in those games deeply upsetting, but following it up by conceding another late goal to draw at Luton is a kick in the proverbial.

That Nuno repeated Cooper’s early-season mistake of withdrawing all his attackers and ceding control of the game to a team we all know loves a late equaliser was absolutely maddening.

Absolutely could go down and that would surely leave Nuno nursing another painfully short Barclays stay after all the Tottenham unpleasantness.

The fixture list is a choppy one, too. Their next two games look very important, at home to Palace and Fulham. Because after that it’s European contenders and fellow relegation battlers all the way. Very real chance that the only games Forest get against teams with their trotters up are actually the May trips to Sheffield United and Burnley who will surely be toast by then.


15) Thomas Frank, Brentford (15)
Victim of his own success? Definitely a bit of that here. The very fact it’s possible to say ‘Brentford have no business getting themselves dragged into a Premier League relegation fight’ with a straight face is in no small part due to Frank’s quietly brilliant management of the side during its ascent to and settling down in the Premier League.

But this season has been a mess. The Ivan Toney Situation hasn’t helped, but a quick look at the trials and tribulations of the five teams currently below them in the table is enough to tell you Frank shouldn’t have allowed his side to drift anywhere close to the choppy waters they currently occupy.

He and they should be fine – it’s not a bad season, all things considered, to throw in a bit of a dud – but his growing reputation has taken a bit of a hit. Twenty-six points from 29 games might have you on course to stay up in this particular season, but it’s not a record you’re putting front and centre on the ol’ CV.


14) Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea (14)
There are signs. There are glimpses. It might just be coming together. It’s taken too long and it’s still not enough for the most expensively assembled football team in history, but they have just started to have the look of a Pochettino team playing something approaching the football we associate with him.

They’ve lost only one of their last eight games, the ticklish thing being that game was the Carabao final. The Klopp’s Kids underdog narrative was extremely nauseating, of course, but it’s also true this was a pretty big opportunity missed for Pochettino to nab a first trophy in English football. An outside chance remains in the FA Cup, with the pair of league draws against City offering some hope that theirs is not as forlorn a semi-final quest as it might appear.

In the league, there is still time for the stagger to unwind in Chelsea’s favour. If games in hand go their way, they will be right in the European picture. But again, tussling with West Ham, Brighton, Wolves and Newcastle for minor European placings isn’t really good enough and still isn’t guaranteed.

They still currently sit forlornly in the bottom half of the table, and Pochettino remains almost entirely unloved by a fanbase that needs to see an awful lot more to get past his Tottenham leanings.


13) Oliver Glasner, Crystal Palace – February onwards (13)
We remain excited to see precisely what a coach as enterprising as Glasner does with the Premier League’s most drearily predictable football club in Palace.

What we’ve seen so far doesn’t tell us a great deal. The win over 10-man Burnley was ultimately comfortable but took a while to be so. They nearly smash-and-grabbed at Spurs but then definitely didn’t. They became just the latest side to rue a failure to kill off Luton.

It is, though, three weeks since that Luton game. It’s not quite like a pre-season, but Glasner has had an unusual opportunity afforded by the schedule to have some time to impress his ideas upon his new charges even allowing for the international break taking some away for an extended period.

After those three weeks off come back-to-back away games in the space of four days at Forest and Bournemouth that could give us a few more clues about what Glasner’s Palace might look like.


12) Andoni Iraola, Bournemouth (12)
We remain intrigued if not yet fully convinced by Iraola’s Bournemouth. He’s kept them up with plenty to spare, and that’s not to be sniffed at. It was certainly the primary target for the season, but there is now chance to have a pop at some of the stretch targets.

What’s fascinating, though, is that Bournemouth might just be the streakiest team we’ve ever seen in Our League. That’s enticing, because it means it’s impossible to get away from the idea that they might become really quite good or go fully catastrophically bad across a longer period. And either of those options will be entertaining to watch, so that’s lovely.

Iraola has only been Bournemouth manager for 28 games and in that time he’s delivered a nine-game run without a win, a six-game run without a win, and seven wins in nine games. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? That’s so much more fun than your teams who just muddle along and get themselves to 45 points via more conventional methods.

The other good news is that Bournemouth have two wins and a draw from their last three games and have upcoming games against some proper humdrum Barclays outfits in Everton, Palace, Luton and Manchester United, so there’s every chance another good run is already underway.


11) Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton (8)
De Zerbi’s status in English football is now such that even a frustrating, staccato kind of season for Brighton in which they’ve never really got going but also still remained firmly ensconced in the European places cannot diminish it. He will still be talked about for all the big jobs this summer, and there will be a lot of big jobs this summer.

That said, it does feel like a pretty important run-in for both club and manager. Another season in Europe would certainly make it a successful season no matter how stop-start it sometimes was, and sitting eighth, two points behind West Ham with a game in hand, means it’s very much on.

But De Zerbi must steer Brighton through a tough run-in that is also at risk of being consumed by narrative. They’ve got games still to play against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United where De Zerbi’s suitability or otherwise to replace those clubs’ current/departing managers is sure to be a talking point.

They’ve also, though, got to play Arsenal. And Manchester City. And Aston Villa. And Newcastle. There’s a very real danger that they slip off the European places and end up in mid-table anonymity. It’s not a terrible worst-case scenario for Brighton, but it’s certainly a disappointing one after last season’s highs and the lightning fast start they made to this campaign.

We also know that recency bias is very much a thing, and any lack of whelm in how Brighton’s season finishes could have significant meaning for De Zerbi’s upcoming career path.


10) Erik Ten Hag, Manchester United (10)
He’s turned the corner! Again! The frantic, brilliant FA Cup tie with Liverpool was certainly something and there’s no point pretending the semi-final draw didn’t go their way too. If United can arrive at that mid-April semi-final with the corner still acceptably turned after a trip to Chelsea and a rematch against Liverpool at Old Trafford then perhaps we can talk.

For now, though, Ten Hag remains overall a man doing at best the bare minimum with the tools at his disposal and one still likely to be job hunting come the summer. Even if it probably won’t be Gareth Southgate who replaces him at Old Trafford. Funny to look back on that now, isn’t it? The mad old sh*t we convince ourselves is important and real during international breaks before actual vital news stories come along like some right-wing snowflakes and grifters crying at colours or us pretending Man City might get punished.


9) David Moyes, West Ham (20)
On course for what might genuinely be the most hard-to-pin-down managerial season since, well, since David Moyes at West Ham in 2022/23. Remains entirely ill-suited to the fans’ idea of themselves, remains largely incapable of extracting performances of sufficient attacking verve out of a Bowen-Paqueta-Kudus axis that really wouldn’t look out of place in the Big Six, but remains on course for a top-eight finish and has safely steered the Hammers into yet another European quarter-final. That’s three in a row now, for a club that had reached the last eight of European competitions four times ever before this run.

And even if they don’t back up Conference glory with a Europa League title, they’re well on course for another tilt at continental competition next season via the league anyway.

The sadness for Moyes now is that even the games when that attacking line-up clicks as they did in the second leg against Freiburg count against him, prompting as they do the inevitable ‘Why can’t we play like this more often?’ complaint.

The summer probably does represent a time when it’s best for all concerned to move in a new direction, but it does feel mad to be saying that about a manager who could still deliver silverware in successive seasons at a club that had won nothing for 40 years before that.


8) Rob Edwards, Luton (6)
Luton may very well go down. Ultimately, all those late winners they concede might prove more significant than all those late equalisers they score. But what an addition to the Barclays Edwards and his team have been. Much like Liverpool have deserved praise even in the years where City have bested them for at least making life interesting, we should all be grateful to Luton for at least giving it a red hot crack.

With Sheffield United and Burnley waving the white flags sometime around October, had Luton been anywhere near as bad as everyone expected them to be the relegation battle would have been completely over by Christmas no matter how many points penalties were dished out.


7) Marco Silva, Fulham (9)
Yes, Marco. Very, very good. Fulham are a proper mid-table club and having an entirely proper mid-table season. Four points off Arsenal and one point off Burnley is entirely the correct way to go about things in mid-table. Keep everyone guessing.

There are your Crystal Palaces (we know we go on about them a lot, but seriously, check out their 10-year record and come back to us) who just bob along in mid-table and we’ve got absolutely no time for it. We want a team that can beat anyone and lose to anyone and can quite happily do so in the same week if need be.

Silva’s Fulham give us precisely that. Their complete and utter demolition job on Tottenham before the international break was p*ss-your-pants funny, right up there with winning back-to-games 5-0 for a laugh in December, but by far the best thing about it was the sure and certain knowledge that they will now saunter up to Sheffield at the weekend and get turned over. Heroic club, heroic manager.

And now they’ve also announced plans to put a swimming pool on their roof. Sure, lads. Why not. Crack on.


6) Ange Postecoglou, Tottenham (7)
Mate. Fun manager, fun team. We love them until we hate them because they are a resoundingly and unstoppably unserious football club utterly incapable of escaping their own history. Postecoglou has been great, though.

He’s done far more than anyone could reasonably have expected so soon from a new-look Spurs team that lost its greatest ever player on season’s eve, and he’s done it all without complaining about his lot, or about the officials, or about the fixtures. He’s already managed to annoy dull rival fans just by saying ‘mate’ quite a lot, but is objectively already the greatest “Spoke Well, I Thought” manager in Barclays history.

Whether pontificating on the vagaries of VAR, the sin-bin, or ‘plastics’, his views are thoughtful and considered and nearly always right. When he does leave Spurs, we hope his next job is running all of football because we can think of nobody better to sort it all out.

Also has the added bonus of being a far easier job than getting Spurs to stop being f***ing Spurs for five f***ing minutes.


5) Gary O’Neil, Wolves (5)
Getting Magic of the Cupped by Coventry will sting because Wolves had a genuine shot at something extraordinary there given what looked a plum draw and their now proven ability to on-their-day anyone in this league up to and including Manchester City.

Overall, though, O’Neil remains a clear leader in the ‘He’s My Manager Of The Year, Actually’ stakes and might even be the far less important Actual Manager Of They Year given where he and Wolves started it and where they might yet finish it.

Taking over what appeared to be an absolute rabble at the last possible moment before the season began, O’Neil has turned what looked a certain relegation fight into an unlikely European push and even if that comes up short he’s done remarkable things.

Wolves, though, must sack him the moment the season ends so he is free to firefight once more wherever he is needed next. O’Neil must never be allowed to see a project through. He must never get a Preseason Under His Belt. He must remain a wandering hero, saving clubs from themselves all over the land. Forest next, we reckon. Or Man Utd.


4) Pep Guardiola, Manchester City (4)
Such is life for Guardiola, such is the rarefied air in which he operates, that with less than two months to go it’s impossible to know one way or the other whether this is a season that confirms his generational greatness or one that exposes him as the very baldest of frauds.

City are in sight of a completing a double-treble, an achievement so absurdly ridiculous that nobody has even begun to think about how impressive a thing that actually is. Guardiola’s side are currently favourites for all three legs of it, and are legendarily good at powering to finish lines come this time of year.

And yet. There is fragility there. You do have to squint, because we’re talking about fragility in a team that has won 17 and drawn two of their last 19 games – again, this is the level at which Guardiola is measured.

They may be favourites for all three trophies, but not compellingly, overwhelmingly so for any of them. It’s very possible they end with none at all. What then? What of Guardiola then? Especially if this really is City’s last chance for more pots and pans before expulsion. (It isn’t.)


3) Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool (2)
There was some very silly nonsense around Liverpool’s Carabao victory over Chelsea, but at the same time there was a sense of two teams in the image of their manager. Klopp’s side refusing to accept defeat and forcing their way to victory through sheer force of will against a Pochettino side just found slightly short of the right stuff at the crunchiest moments.

That all-conquering Klopp façade was slightly dinted by the very fun but very silly quadruple-killing defeat at Manchester United in the FA Cup, but in truth something probably had to give. Can’t really be fair to judge any manager on a failure to win absolutely everything.

There was some powerful Klopping involved in the half-time turnaround against Manchester City. Liverpool were distinctly second best in the first half but stormed back at the champions in the second half and really should have ended up with all three points rather than just the one.

The Europa League should really be Liverpool’s to lose and he’s already ensured that his farewell season is going to give us a title fight for the ages.

The Premier League will be poorer for his departure, and in all Barclays history only David Moyes and Unai Emery have faced a more profound Tough Act To Follow than whoever ends up in the Anfield hotseat.


2) Mikel Arteta, Arsenal (3)
Is Arteta still actually a little bit underrated? Arsenal fans haven’t stopped banging on about him, because they’re Arsenal fans and you know what they’re like. They can be a little bit… Arsenal. We do think he might actually still be a little bit underrated, though.

He’s normalised Arsenal’s return as bona fide Premier League title contenders and might just have done it so quickly and so convincingly that nobody’s quite stopped long enough to consider how mental that actually is. They’ve been nowhere near that for absolutely ages now.

Arteta is only the second manager to have given Guardiola anything to think about at all in the Barclays, and he’s done it as a novice with a club that had won itself a reputation over the previous decade for being very nearly as stupid and self-defeating as its neighbour.

Even if he doesn’t actually win the Premier League title, he and his team have at least celebrated like they have a good few times in the last couple of seasons. And you know what? Quite right too.


1) Unai Emery, Aston Villa (1)
Just doing a brilliant job. Perhaps the most compelling part is how quickly he’s normalised Villa once again being this good. It’s true you don’t have to go all that far back into ancient Barclays folklore to find some very decent Villa teams, but it’s also true that they were quite sh*t for quite a long time since then and brought Emery in because Steven Gerrard was leading them directly and rapidly into a grim relegation battle. That, somehow, really was only last season.

Now they’re in a European quarter-final, which seems perfectly fine, and with almost three-quarters of the season gone are sitting snugly in the top four without anyone thinking this particularly odd or even noteworthy anymore.

It’s just a very good manager doing a very good job with what he has turned into a very good team. We should cherish it, really, because this sort of thing doesn’t happen all that often.

The concern on the horizon will inevitably be that Emery’s work at Villa means he’s lurking near the top of a lot of Next [Club X] Manager markets. But Emery has experienced Big Six Premier League life already; he’d have to be a crazy person to swap what he has going on at Villa right now for the big chair at the madhouses of Chelsea, United or even Newcastle should such opportunity arise in the summer.

And his previous experience of replacing a legacy manager at Arsenal might well put him off Liverpool even if he were the Spaniard they’re after, which he isn’t.