Ranking all 24 Premier League managers during 2020/21

Date published: Wednesday 26th May 2021 2:56 - Dave Tickner

We last did these rankings in March, which seems pretty recent but at the time Jose Mourinho was still in a job and Liverpool languished below West Ham and – more embarrassingly still – Spurs in the Premier League table.

Much changed over the closing weeks, and we’re delighted to confirm that top spot has indeed changed hands.

The March rankings are here.


24 (22) Sam Allardyce (West Brom, since December)
He came, he saw, he inexplicably spangled Chelsea 5-2 that one time, he (finally) got relegated. Ultimately, the understandable move to bring in Allardyce to sort out West Brom’s defensive shenanigans just never worked. He lands last on this list not because he couldn’t save them – they were probably too far gone by the time he got there – but because his utter inability to sort out the ‘goals conceded’ column meant they never really even put up a fight. Two points and 17 goals conceded in the last seven games saw them disappear with barely a whimper and with absolute none of the hallmarks of a Big Sam Relegation Firefight.


23 (21) Slaven Bilic (West Brom, September – December)
Allardyce’s predecessor was frankly no better.


22 (23) Paul Heckingbottom (Sheffield United, since March)
Oversaw a trio of most un-Blades-like thumpings against Leicester, Arsenal and Spurs but had inherited a side utterly doomed and did oversee three wins in the last six games of the season, which represents a better finishing straight than Manchester United, Leicester, Everton and seven other top-flight teams.


21 (20) Frank Lampard (Chelsea, September – January)
Whatever his adoring press pack fans may think, Lampard was objectively failing at Chelsea and pretty much everything that has happened at Stamford Bridge since he left only reinforces it. Either that, or a whole crop of expensive players and high-class squad all suddenly started playing properly at the same time by magic just after Bambi was humanely destroyed. In which case, fair play, that’s really bad luck, because it has really made it look like he was actually just bobbins.


20 (19) Chris Wilder (Sheffield United, September – March)
The breakdown in relationships that, damagingly for both Wilder and his beloved Blades, meant an end to a hugely successful reign and the needless sabotaging of United’s best chance of getting back into the Premier League is arguably a bigger failing than a run of disastrous form that left relegation inevitable and strained those relationships between Wilder and the higher-ups. Probably lucky to be above Lampard – Sheffield United really did lose a quite startling number of football matches this season – but it’s also definitely funnier this way.


19 (17) Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)
To quote ourselves from March: ‘We still really like him but f***ing hell.’ Yeah, that about sums it up for a very, very, very silly season. Six months ago he would have been a red-hot contender for the Spurs job; now he’s desperately clinging on at Southampton. Their early-season excellence allowed an abject collapse to slide under the radar but the facts are that having briefly topped the table in November, they fell away horrifically. After beating Liverpool in the first week of January, Southampton went on to lose 15 of their remaining 21 matches, which is just plain nutty. Start next season anything like as foolishly, and that much-admired Southampton patience with a man who loses 9-0 slightly too often will be severely stretched.


18 (16) Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)
Has done a wonderful job at Wolves over the last four years but this final season has been a massive disappointment. The change of approach to try and build on rather than simply replicate successive seventh-placed finishes was brave and commendable, but it carries inevitable risk and the only reason Nuno is this high in the table is others sh*tting the bed more conspicuously and without having tried something that, had it worked, would have been great fun. Hard to shake the idea they’ve lost the identity they carried over two highly impressive seasons and the fact they finished below Newcastle and closer to the cut-adrift bottom three than the top seven is wretched. The injury to Raul Jimenez has been a huge factor, so too the sale of Diogo Jota, leaving Wolves looking fairly toothless. But fundamentally they and Nuno finished precisely where they deserved on this season’s evidence. And that’s quite damning really.


17 (13) Scott Parker (Fulham)
Got lots of praise for the mid-season rally, but it never quite translated to actual points on the board: Fulham’s best football rarely came in the requisite 90-minute chunks. Ultimately hard to shake the notion that Parker’s results would’ve been admirable with the squad Fulham started the campaign with but rather underwhelming for the squad they ended up with. Looked set for a genuine tilt at survival after wins over Everton, Sheffield United and Liverpool in February and March. Then took two points from the last 10 games.


16 (14) Jose Mourinho (Tottenham, September – April)
Whatever your view on the miserable old dinosaur – and everyone has one – the fact is that his Spurs team was worse than that of a 29-year-old novice. A weight clearly lifted from Spurs once Mourinho had departed and, while they remained deeply flawed, they were often properly fun and keen to play on the front foot. Mourinho’s insistence on playing Joseball tactics despite having attacking talents the envy of the league and a defence that included Eric Dier was just wrongheadedly stubborn to the point of job-losing incompetence. Nobody at White Hart Lane will mourn his departure, with the possible exception of a still star-struck Harry Kane.


15 (12) Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Pros: inexplicably, mind-meltingly second in a Premier League table from Boxing Day onwards.
Cons: that run still only got them to eighth place, still below an imploding and often comically awful Tottenham and facing a season without any European football for the first time since Euro 96. However much the Europa Conference is a Spursy banter waiting to happen, no European football at all is quite something for a club of Arsenal’s stature. Arteta seems a decent cove and has lots of good ideas and has in the latter part of the campaign successfully reworked the team to put greater faith in its eye-catching array of young talent. But viewed as a whole, it’s still a bit of a mess. Next season could be very interesting, mind.


How we f***ed it: Re-visiting pre-season predictions


14 (7) Carlo Ancelotti (Everton)
We all got a bit giddy about that start, didn’t we? All the wins. DCL scoring all the goals. James Rodriguez doing all the nice things. Then they just started losing all their home games to some absolutely terrible football teams. Ancelotti is a great manager with a ridiculous CV, but he has spent an awful lot at Everton to end up 10th and, really, should probably be under slightly more scrutiny for it than he is. It certainly had its moments, but overall it’s a disappointing campaign for club and manager.


13 (NE) Ryan Mason (Tottenham, since April)
Delivered European football, albeit banter European football, and coped admirably and uncomplainingly with the pretty sh*tty hands he was dealt. Handled the media sh*tstorms over the ESL and Harry Kane with some aplomb for a 29-year-old rookie, and on-field results were at the very least good enough not to befoul his future managerial prospects. We think he’s going to end up being very, very good. Carabao defeat to Man City in his first week of management is hardly a huge black mark against his name and the naivety of selection and performance in defeats to Leeds and Villa was more than offset by the attacking verve Mason restored to Spurs’ play in wins against Southampton, Sheffield United, Wolves and Leicester. Putting Gareth Bale in the starting line-up and playing to Spurs’ obvious attacking strengths may seem like an obvious ploy unworthy of extravagant praise, but it was a scheme beyond his vastly more experienced and remunerated predecessor.

Harry Kane Spurs Ryan MasonHarry Kane Spurs Ryan Mason


12 (15) Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)
The quiet, consistent Premier League existence Palace have enjoyed under Roy Hodgson’s fatherly gaze may soon seem like a distant dream, and not in a good way.


11 (18) Steve Bruce (Newcastle)
The scientists and boffins have enough to get their heads around at the moment, but even if they were able to fully devote their collective energies to working out how Newcastle ended up in comfortable mid-table with a whopping great 45 points to their name, they would surely still fail. Until science comes up with something more compelling, we must against our better judgement conclude that Steve Bruce did something right. Fair play.


10 (9) Graham Potter (Brighton)
The next Spurs manager if we have any say in it, which bizarrely we do not. He’s good, though, and while we consider ourselves xG centrists, those underlying numbers are certainly eye-catching. We’d love to see what he could do with a really good squad or, failing that, Tottenham’s.


9 (10) Dean Smith (Aston Villa)
We’re not going to punish Smith too severely for the fact Villa were much, much less good without Jack Grealish. Kind of feels like there’s not a huge amount a manager can do about that one. A shame that a European push faded away in the absence of their talisman, but a hugely encouraging season nevertheless with considerable work done to build on the madcap survival during Project Restart. Finishing the season with fully deserved wins over Spurs and Chelsea with Grealish back in the starting XI bodes very well indeed.


8 (11) Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Were sat below West Ham and Spurs when we last updated this in March. However critical we were of the mire Klopp and Liverpool found themselves in – and we do think Klopp’s lack of trust in actual centre-backs when repeatedly insisting on the midfield-and-attack-ruining deployment of Fabinho as makeshift centre-back deserved greater attention – there must be praise for how they pulled themselves out of that dramatic tailspin so expertly over the closing weeks of the season. Easy to forget now they’ve finished third that plenty of people thought their likeliest route back to the Champions League at one stage was by winning the thing. That didn’t happen, of course, but 26 points from their last 10 league games did. Overall, though, let’s not pretend Klopp or Liverpool would have been happy with a distant third-place finish when the season began, whatever mitigation the season’s setbacks might offer.


7 (8) Sean Dyche (Burnley)
Once again kept Burnley up with frankly indecent ease. That this is now just fully expected every single year is testament to the great man’s outstanding body of work at Turf Moor. A gravel-voiced disc-bearded alchemist.


6 (5) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)
Bad runners-up are still runners-up. Nobody could really have asked or expected much more of Solskjaer or United across the season. We do enjoy his apparently firmly-held belief that the return of fans will sort out United’s dodgy home form while having no tangible impact on their extraordinary away form.


5 (6) Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds)
Whatever happened over the closing weeks of the season, this was already locked in as a fantastic return to the top flight for Leeds. The Premier League has undoubtedly been a better place for Bielsa’s presence and his players – old and new – have bought in to his methods entirely. The inevitable bumps in the road that such methods entail never caused any doubts to creep in, but most important for Leeds moving forward was the way they ended the season. They didn’t just maintain their season-long levels, they improved them. Finishing with four wins on the spin in a run-in that included draws with City and United and a thumping win over Spurs raises the tantalising prospect that Bielsa and Leeds are just getting started.


4 (3) Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea, since January)
FA Cup final defeat was a setback and there is no doubt a chink has been exposed in Tuchel’s armour whenever opposing teams are able to introduce chaos to matches the German has set up for quiet, icy-veined, rehearsed domination. It’s a weakness far harder to spot than to exploit, but it’s a weakness nonetheless. That said, Chelsea are a far better team in a far better position under Tuchel than they were under Lampard. They might have scrambled to an FA Cup final under Bambi, but they certainly weren’t finishing top four (Tottenham-assisted or otherwise) or reaching the Champions League final without January’s brutal, press-bothering course change.


3 (2) Brendan Rodgers (Leicester)
Missing out on the top four again having spent well over a million days in the Champions League spots across the season as a whole (subs please check) but the FA Cup win really does make up for that. Fact that Champions League qualification was in their (and specifically Kasper Schmeichel’s) hands with 20 minutes to go on the final day will make it harder to take missing out again, but overall Rodgers has been excellent and so has his team. We worried they might carry last season’s late collapse into this season, and the manager deserves great credit for the fact that didn’t happen and also for the fact we have far less concern about next year.


2 (1) Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
He’s probably going to end up with three-quarters of a Quadruple in the most challenging of all seasons and he’s apparently going to miss Sergio Aguero’s brooding brilliance even more than the rest of us, which is very much indeed. In any normal season, this would get you the top spot no matter what in-built advantages City may benefit from. But in any normal season, West Ham don’t finish in the top six.


1 (4) David Moyes (West Ham)
Yeah, we said it. Moyes is the manager of the year. There is a powerful case for every one of the top five in this list (and this one) to take top spot, but in terms of overachievement you can’t look further than the London Stadium. They were awful last year, had a horrible summer – the Grady Diangana looks a trifling piffle from this distance but certainly didn’t at the time – and started the season with a nightmarish performance against Newcastle. Moyes was sack-race favourite and we all thought ‘you know what, fair enough’. That West Ham not only ended up in the European spots but finished there so securely that by the end of the season it didn’t even seem that mad is remarkable. It really is hard to argue that any other top-flight manager has achieved a feat comparable to taking West Ham back into Europe this season. And while this is West Ham and it could therefore fall all the way entirely to sh*t at a moment’s notice, there is absolutely no sense of this being built on sand either. Heck, if they actually get a proper striker they might get even better.


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