Parker to Arteta: Ranking all 26 Premier League managers from the season so far

Dave Tickner

This is not a good season to be a manager under pressure. Not with a great big six-week hole in the schedule when apparently the only football going on will be something called the *checks notes* ‘World Cup’. Don’t know what that is, but clearly its greatest significance is placing many managers in Our League under severe pressure with the temptation to give a new boss plenty of time to bed in and even something approaching a mini pre-season with any players not at this ‘World Cup’ doodah surely set to prove irresistible to at least one under-fire chairman.

So which managers are under the pump? Which didn’t even make it this far, the big idiots? And who is safe as safe can be? You sure do ask a lot of questions, but luckily the answers are here, as we rank all 26 of this season’s assorted Premier League managers, head coaches, interims and caretakers.

September’s now often ludicrous rankings in brackets.


26) Scott Parker, Bournemouth (22)
Managed to pull off the exceedingly difficult task of being a promoted manager sacked outrageously early in the season yet elicited minimal sympathy. Clearly a load of stuff going on behind the scenes, but if you’re going to be issuing ‘back me or sack me’ ultimatums in the wake of 9-0 defeats you need to be really damn sure of your footing.

Blame-shifting, doom-laden predictions of further whompings to come (because what on earth could he or anyone else do with this squad of wretched inadequacy?) were rather undermined by his replacement Gary O’Neil promptly taking 10 points from six unbeaten games. He’s lost three in a row since then, but tits to that.


25) Brendan Rodgers, Leicester (23)
He’s still there, which is pretty damn incredible really and probably still owes more to the financial implications of sacking and replacing him than any lingering belief that this is going to work. But a six-game losing run concluding with 5-2 and 6-2 defeats right before the management-replacement window offered by the interlull would have done for most managers. Not Brodge, though, who has powered through it and, in fairness, results have picked up a bit since then. They did sort of have to, but Leicester have won three of their last six and could yet escape the bottom three before the World Cup rolls into view. That still represents the smallest possible win imaginable, mind. He is a good manager, but there’s no doubt he’s also a lucky boy to still have his job.


24) Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea (20)
We’re surprisingly sad he’s gone, because we were really, really enjoying his supervillain origin story. It was an unexpected highlight of those heady early August days but then Todd Boehly’s New Chelsea went all Old Chelsea and binned him off just because he’d had a few bad results and, to be completely fair, gone ever so slightly mad.

It was clearly premature and has had the knock-on effect of bollocksing Brighton about which is annoying, but it wasn’t a good start to the season by any reasonable measure. Chelsea had really only played truly convincingly well in one game, against Spurs, and they didn’t actually win. Defeats at Southampton, Leeds and Dinamo Zagreb are not the sort of thing to keep a manager at Chelsea for long.

Tuchel fans need not despair, though. He’ll be back before you know it, probably at Tottenham manager next season because it is almost sarcastically on brand for absolutely everyone involved.


23) Steven Gerrard, Aston Villa (14)
We genuinely thought he was going to be good because he was good at Rangers. We’re mainly disappointed in ourselves for falling for it. A lesson learned. The big problem, as well as just the general ropeyness, was that no matter how much he insisted otherwise, Gerrard clearly viewed Villa as a means to an end and loaded the squad with short-termist oldsters and quite a mess for Unai Emery to sort out.


22) Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool (19)
It’s… it’s not going well is it? Liverpool have turned so many corners this season they’ve left themselves dizzy, confused and deservedly losing at home to Leeds. The muscle memory of a champion team occasionally allows them to do things like go toe-to-toe with Manchester City and win but they look broken, their aura is gone and the once impregnable defence is starting to look distinctly brittle now the midfield is no longer controlling games as it once did.

Klopp’s failure to address that particular area of concern in the summer was a significant error and, while he doesn’t yet appear in imminent danger of the old tin tack, he couldn’t really complain if it happens. Four points from the last two games before the World Cup, against Spurs and Southampton, looks an absolute minimum. But Spurs – currently an absurd 10 points clear of Klopp’s side – will obviously not be easy, and if it’s Southampton on one of their ‘mugging off a big team’ days…

READ MORE: Eight of Jurgen Klopp’s biggest transfer regrets during his time at Liverpool: Mane, Keita and more…


21) Bruno Lage, Wolves (17)
Wolves’ awful run-in spilled over and became a terrible start to the new season. They’d won one in eight at the start of the season when the goodwill with Lage’s drab football finally ran out. They’d scored three goals in those eight games without ever managing more than one in a single game. They’ve scored three goals in five games since his departure, which is the most ‘technically’ improvement ever. Still haven’t got more than one in a game, though. And are still in the bottom three. Lage clearly wasn’t the only problem. But he was definitely part of it.


20) Steve Davis, Wolves (NE)
Wolves were drab and crap before Steve Davis (not that one) took temporary charge and have remained drab and crap under his tutelage. He hasn’t made them any worse, but the baffling commitment to never scoring more than a single goal in any game remains.


19) Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton (16)
Our favourite Premier League manager. He’s waistcoated his way through four years without getting the sack but also without ever really moving the team forward in any tangible way. It’s a fascinating effort. Hasenhuttl’s Southampton are, on a bad day, the most easily thrashable team in the Premier League. But on a good day, they can quite literally beat anyone. They’ve only won seven Premier League games since the start of February, but three of those have been against Big Six teams. And only the other week they drew with an Arsenal side that had been cheerfully whomping every team that moved. They’re still one place and one point above the relegation zone, though. How long can Hasenhuttl’s patented method of beating a big team once every three months keep him in the job? We genuinely hope the answer is forever.


18) David Moyes, West Ham (21)
Could yet get sucked right back into trouble because the bottom half of the Premier League is ferociously tight this season, but the darkest days of five defeats in the first seven games of the season do appear to be behind Moyes and his team. Their only defeats since then have been narrow ones at Old Trafford and Anfield, and the gloomiest season forecasts among the Hammers faithful appear to have been needlessly pessimistic. For now.


17) Steve Cooper, Nottingham Forest (15)
Seemed absolutely nailed on for the sack a few weeks back, but then got a new contract instead. The former would definitely have been harsh, but the latter was if anything a bit much. Beating Liverpool was at the very, very least one of those lovely days to cherish when you’re all back in the Championship and, in fairness, despite being conspicuously rubbish for an awful lot of the season, Forest are in no way adrift at the bottom. One win for Forest combined with one of Southampton’s famous 9-0 thrashings for goal difference swingage would currently be enough to get them out of the drop zone.


16) Jesse Marsch, Leeds (10)
Pleasantly surprised to see how high he was in the last rankings, but real talk: he would have got a lot lower had another update been done at any time in the last few weeks before Leeds went and pulled Liverpool’s pants down so magnificently at Anfield last weekend. Whatever ultimately happens – and we still alas find ourselves leaning towards ‘all turning to shit in the end’ – Marsch will forever be the man responsible for putting a stop to all the tweets telling us how many home games it has been without defeat for Virgil van Dijk, and for that he deserves our unending and heartfelt gratitude.


15) Unai Emery, Aston Villa (NE)
He was unfairly maligned at Arsenal, and this represents a bit of a coup for Villa. Important now for everyone that, as happened when Tuchel turned up at Chelsea to sort out Frank Lampard’s mess, Proper Manager replacing Famous Ex-Player produces significant improvement and hopefully hammers home the message to everyone. Including us.


14) Aaron Danks, Aston Villa (NE)
A genuinely magnificent two-game reign for the Villa caretaker, featuring a 4-0 win over Brentford and a 4-0 defeat at Newcastle. That might well be the entirety of his Premier League managerial career, and the effort to render it into a literal imagining of the Gennaro Gattuso ‘sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe shit’ meme should be applauded.


13) Graham Potter, Chelsea (12)
“I understand that whenever you do something and it doesn’t work you look a bit of a fool,” was Potter’s assessment of what was, let’s be real, a mortifying thrashing on his return to Brighton. We can argue all day about whether the fans who booed him and Marc Cucurella throughout should be more grateful or whatever, but there’s no denying the fact it’s piss-funny that Potter’s shiny new big club got so thoroughly worked over at his old one. Up to then it had in fairness been going largely quite well for Potter at Chelsea, even if there was no longer the visceral thrill of wondering precisely what the furious baseball-capped sentient coat-hanger Thomas Tuchel was going to do next on the Chelsea touchline.

Graham Potter during a training session

12) Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton (13)
Very unlucky not to get better results in his first few games but then got a narrative-heavy, neutral-delighting 4-1 win over Graham Potter’s Chelsea that was so delicious for Brighton fans that it simply has to be fattening. For Brighton and De Zerbi’s sake, though, we hope that the record it maintained of Graham Potter being in the dugout at every game Brighton have won this season proves shortlived.


11) Frank Lampard, Everton (11)
Is it because Super Frank is beloved by the nation’s media or is it that other managers have just been much, much worse? Either way, the prevailing notion that Everton are doing absolutely fine and that Lampard is proving his many critics wrong isn’t quite borne out by 14 points from 13 games is it? It’s not disastrous, but is lower mid-table scrapper really the limit of Evertonian ambition these days? Of course, the third option we didn’t mention at the start is that he is in fact doing fine and our own desire for the tabloids and Lampard to be wrong has clouded our judgement. But come on, it can’t be that.


10) Gary O’Neil, Bournemouth (5)
Three straight defeats to Southampton, West Ham and – most gallingly – Tottenham have slightly spoiled things, but given he was chucked into the job after a 9-0 defeat and a departing manager telling anyone who’d listen that this bunch of talentless wasters were probably going to lose a bunch more games like that he’s still doing really very well. The six-game unbeaten run that started O’Neil’s Premier League management career was an unlikely and joyous thing and even after the run of defeats (which conspicuously contains zero 9-0 thrashings) they’re still right there in the mass of lower mid-table clubs; only five points separates the top half from the bottom three, and the Cherries are right in the middle of that pack. They would definitely have taken that post-Anfield.


9) Thomas Frank, Brentford (9)
Are Frank’s Brentford starting to go just a little bit Hasenhuttl’s Southampton? We kind of hope so, because there’s definitely space for another team that can wildly demolish big teams but also get thrashed by Aston Villa.


8) Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace (8)
A number of clubs have explored appointing legendary Premier League players as their manager, where the greatness of the playing CV has meant the large gaps in the management section have been catastrophically overlooked. Well, did it work for those clubs? No, it never does. I mean, these clubs somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but… but it might work for Palace. Against all our better judgement, we’re convinced Vieira is the exception that proves the rule. After a horrible start to the season – Palace had Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle and Chelsea within their first seven games of the season – Vieira and his side are now much more where we expected and needed them to be for our own sanity and dignity. Ten points from five games since that unpleasant start is solid fare, and Vieira’s team remain perhaps the most watchable and formidable attacking side outside the elite.


7) Graham Potter, Brighton (6)
Excellent even if it has now all turned to ash. Took Brighton to fourth place having once again seemingly effortlessly repeated the absurdly difficult trick of having already replaced the absolutely crucial players sold for huge money in the summer. Then buggered off to Chelsea where he must deal with greater pressure, greater scrutiny, fewer neutral well-wishers and above all the constant attentions of walking stereotype and banter content king Todd Boehly.


6) Antonio Conte, Tottenham (4)
If you were to tell a Spurs fan in July that approaching the World Cup break their team would be third in the Premier League and win their Champions League group stage, that Spurs fan would have been delighted and imagine that their team must be playing really quite well. Oh, my sweet summer child. They are in fact shit. Bafflingly, successfully shit. We still expect Conte to sod off to Juventus at any moment and kinda think that might also be best for all concerned. Get Poch back. Make the inevitable move for Tuchel. Something that fits better. Something that doesn’t have this bizarre and wild disparity between perception and results. It’s not going to work. Is it? Or is it? Are they going to win the f***ing Champions League?!


5) Marco Silva, Fulham (3)
Even the most strident Soccer Saturday panellist must now surely accept that Silva knows our football. Fulham are rollicking good fun this season, Aleksandar Mitrovic has worked it all out and the signs are clear that they are going to go toe-to-toe with absolutely anyone and everyone this season. They’re seventh in the league, above Liverpool and just a couple of points behind Chelsea, and have been as fun to watch as anyone. But the two key words are these: Fulham. Seventh.


4) Erik Ten Hag, Manchester United (7)
Getting there, isn’t he? Slowly but surely the great big disaster-tanker that is Manchester United Football Club is being turned around. We’re working on a very clever if tortured theory that losing 4-0 to Brentford will end up being The Best Thing That Could Have Happened, Actually. It was so bad that it gave Ten Hag full licence to properly rip things up and start again, with so far highly impressive results. They’ve convincingly beaten Liverpool and Arsenal and Tottenham since those harrowing opening defeats and have left the Crisis Club Mantle behind them for now. Could well be inside the top four when the music stops for the World Cup. It’s been weeks since we’ve seen a Manchester United cracked badge, although we’re sure Cristiano Ronaldo + January Transfer Window can blow things up again.

Still, though. Weird that it’s halfway possible to make a case that the result which ruined United’s season last year was a 3-0 win at Spurs and the one that makes this season could be a 4-0 defeat at Brentford.


3) Eddie Howe, Newcastle (18)
The most significant and impressive mover since September. Our view then was that the more conspicuous bed-shittings going on elsewhere had allowed Howe and Newcastle to fly a bit under the radar despite spending vast amounts of money on drawing a load of games and sitting pointlessly in mid-table. They are now neither drawing a load of games nor sitting pointlessly in mid-table, and Howe has, with Jack Grealish’s assistance, turned Miguel Almiron into an absolute baller and Trippier, Burn, Botman and Schar into the league’s meanest defence. The Big Seven talk is very much up and running and Howe is now showing himself worthy of such a position.


2) Pep Guardiola, Manchester City (2)
The best manager of the best team has now been handed a great big Norwegian cheat code which doesn’t really seem very fair. We’re huge fans of Guardiola’s apparent tactics of sometimes going two goals down just to feel alive.


1) Mikel Arteta, Arsenal (1)
There remains an assumption that it will all end up going a bit Arsenal, but for now it remains spectacularly good. They’ve dropped just five points in 13 games and deservedly sit top of the table. Excellent summer recruitment obviously helps, but there were few if any guarantees it would all come together so well or so quickly – especially after the disappointing way last season ended. When we put him in top spot in September we introduced a rule whereby if a team other than Manchester City is top of the Actual League, then by definition their manager must be top of this one and we see no reason to change that six weeks on. The only possible cloud on the horizon is this pesky Barcelona talk, but on closer inspection even that turns out to be nothing more than tish and fipsy.