This was already unwieldy when we did it in January. There are four more new entries this time around and yet more words farted out on an arbitrary set of rankings based on absolutely nothing remotely scientific. It’s all vibes and feels, which is why Nathan Jones isn’t last.
It really does feel like this has been a uniquely, punishingly long season. The Tuchel-Conte handshakegate already feels like it could be part of a Peter Kay routine.
And through it all, David Moyes is somehow still in a job. Or at least he was when we wrote this bit. Subject to change.
January’s rankings in brackets, and their rambling. incoherent and often now debunked justifications can be found here.
32) Scott Parker, Bournemouth (28)
Managed to pull off the exceedingly difficult task of being a promoted manager sacked outrageously early in the season yet eliciting 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.
In a surprising twist, Parker then rocked up as manager of Champions League outfit Club Brugge, where he has taken his stellar Bournemouth form with him and won two games in 12. They are, alas, no longer a Champions League outfit after a bruising 7-1 aggregate spanking from Benfica. And Parker is no longer their manager.
31) Steven Gerrard, Aston Villa (27)
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 left quite a mess for Unai Emery to sort out. To make matters even worse for Gerrard, Emery has promptly gone and done precisely that. It’s a double whammy.
30) Frank Lampard, Everton (26)
He’s not the messiah, he’s a very average manager. Not the first manager who couldn’t prevent Everton being Everton and he won’t be the last, but he might be the only one feted to the very heavens themselves for taking a team that is 16th and steering them all the way to the giddy heights of 16th.
There were small yet undeniable signs of some progress earlier in the season. Some small hints that Lampard might be slightly prepared to take his medicine and try to build a team that was tough to beat first and worry about the rest later. That all went to shit, though, and by the time he lost El Sackico to David Moyes’ West Ham the end point of it all had become inevitable and not even a river of Henry Winter tears could wash away the inescapable mediocrity of Lampard the manager.
29) Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea (25)
We were and are 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, 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 it. Also, how on earth is the Conte-Tuchel handshake brouhaha this season? It was decades ago. Anyway. Defeats at Southampton, Leeds and Dinamo Zagreb are not the sort of thing to keep a manager at Chelsea for long, although Graham Potter is giving it a red-hot crack having already ticked the Saints off his list and survived to tell the tale. Just about.
Tuchel fans need not despair, though. He’ll be back before you know it, probably at Tottenham when Antonio Conte huffs off into the sunset because it is almost sarcastically on brand for absolutely everyone involved.
28) David Moyes, West Ham (18)
Victory over Frank Lampard’s Everton (oh how we shall miss them) in El Sackico bought him some time but it’s astonishing it still hasn’t run out. He is now the lowest ranked manager not to have lost his job, and it’s not particularly close.
Finished sixth two years ago. Almost did it again last year. Then spent a massive wedge. And they’re just awful. A point above the relegation zone with just 23 goals to their name in 25 games. Even when Moyes gets an unexpected boost in the shape of a 4-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest, he follows it with another piss-weak showing in a difficult away game and goes down 4-0 at Brighton.
Now fully leaning into that thing where he’s pinpointed the problem and that problem isn’t his dour and often outright cowardly selection and tactics but is instead that the fans are a bit hacked off with his dour and often outright cowardly selection and tactics.
At the time of writing he is odds-on to be next manager out but nobody actually believes West Ham will sack him.
27) Bruno Lage, Wolves (24)
Wolves’ awful run-in last season spilled over and became a terrible start to this one. They’d won one in eight at the start of the campaign 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 not been wildly better since, managing only nine goals in 12 games. But they’re out of the bottom three for now, though. That wasn’t happening with Lage in charge.
26) Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton (22)
We found ourselves sadder than we expected to be when Hasenhuttl finally ran out of lives at Southampton. He waistcoated his way through four years before finally getting the sack without ever really moving the team forward in any tangible way. It was a fascinating performance which in its best moments saw him look like a viable contender for a Big Six job but for the rest of the time like a jocular father of the bride who’d just put five grand behind the bar.
Hasenhuttl’s Southampton were, on their frequent bad days, the most easily thrashable team in the Premier League. But on a good day, they could quite literally beat anyone. He died as he lived, though. Southampton won just seven of their last 32 Premier League games under Hasenhuttl. Three of those were against Big Six opposition, another was against Leicester before we knew they were also shit now, while there was also a draw against Manchester City and a 1-1 against an Arsenal side that had been cheerfully whomping every other team that moved.
25) Jesse Marsch, Leeds (16)
We’ve spent the last couple of years studiously tuning them out but in hindsight we perhaps should have listened to our Leeds-supporting friends who told us quite some time ago it was going far more all to shit than 16th out of what was then 28 would suggest. Lasted little more than a week after the last rankings came out, with Leeds pulling the ultimate bed-shitting manager sacking by doing it just after the transfer window shuts. Again. Silly Leeds.
As for Marsch, it’s still a bit of a puzzlement to us. We don’t think he was that bad and there does look like a hint of panic to the whole thing but also he was very probably taking them down. So, you know, fair enough. But don’t sack the manager in the first week of February, lads. It’s such a clear admission of top-to-bottom failure. Leeds sunk a lot into the Marsch project and have a lot of Red Bull lads running about now for the new manager to try and make the best of.
24) Michael Skubala, Leeds (NE)
Playing Manchester United home and away in a three-game caretaker stint is harsh, and one point from those games is probably a passing grade all things considered.
It’s the other game that rankles, albeit with Skubala as very minor villain. Whatever happens to Leeds this season, we will never consider going to play six-point Dycheball at Goodison with a rookie caretaker manager anything other than a shameful dereliction of duty from the entire Elland Road hierarchy and while Skubala didn’t necessarily deserve to come away with defeat, the club did.
23) Gary O’Neil, Bournemouth (21)
Should really be two separate categories. Gary O’Neil, caretaker Bournemouth manager (excellent) and Gary O’Neil, permanent Bournemouth manager (mainly shit). His previous top-10 ranking back in November reflects that giddy caretaker spell when by sheer virtue of being Not Scott Parker he inspired his troops to a series of eye-catching results. Recent results have been equally eye-catching, but not in quite the same way.
It’s seven defeats in 10 Premier League games now since O’Neil was named permanent manager, as well as swift exits at the hands of Newcastle in the Carabao and Championship Burnley in the FA Cup. It remains probable that Bournemouth, who are now once again bottom of the table, would be going down regardless but handing a rookie the permanent reins on the back of a Not Scott Bounce appears to have been overly bold. Does score Classic Barclays points for taking his freefalling team to Molineux and emerging with a 1-0 win over a Wolves team whose home games either side of that were wins over Liverpool and Spurs.
22) Brendan Rodgers, Leicester (23)
He is obviously a good manager, but was probably a lucky boy to survive Leicester’s wretched start to the season. 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, and while that may have owed more to the financial implications for Leicester of sacking him than any continued belief in the long-term viability of The Project, results did pick up. A bit. For a while.
And yet despite being demonstrably better than all the other teams in the relegation shitfight – and undoubtedly possessing that scrap’s best player in James Maddison – Rodgers and Leicester remain inexplicably yet doggedly averse to dragging themselves out of trouble properly.
They’re only two points clear of the bottom three which is plain nutty. Leicester have now lost four games in a row since twatting Tottenham 4-1, which is just about the perfect encapsulation of two very silly football teams.
21) Nathan Jones, Southampton (11)
We will never ever forgive Southampton for getting rid of Jones just as he was warming to his Rodgers-Sherwood-Brent bit as a superficially confident manager who was actually so crippled by self doubt he second-guessed himself into inevitable oblivion. But the Saints should absolutely have stuck with him, because they’re almost certainly going down anyway and Jones’ weekly musings were very, very funny. Casting that aside for a fractionally improved chance of Premier League survival is a clear sign of all that’s wrong with the modern game.
This whole ranking list now essentially hinges on how high we can keep our hero without it looking too absurd. Despite being self-declared superfans, even we will have to concede that January’s placing – ahead of Lopetegui and Cooper and just one place behind Thomas Frank – can no longer really be justified. It couldn’t really be justified six weeks ago, either, in fairness.
20) Steven Davis, Wolves (20)
Wolves were drab and crap before Steve Davis (not that one) took temporary charge and remained drab and crap under his tutelage. Steve Davis (not that one) didn’t make them any worse, but the baffling commitment to never scoring more than a single goal in any game remained.
19) Graham Potter, Chelsea (17)
“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.
It remains the low point of Potter’s Chelsea reign, but it is also very much not the only setback for a team that is not just 10th in the league but also deservedly 10th in the league.
And the wildly exciting but esoteric and gaudy collection of players Todd Boehly is accumulating doesn’t feel in any way like it’s something that’s being done at Potter’s behest or, even more significantly, for his benefit. If it is meant for Potter, then there’s more than a hint of ‘killing with kindness’ about it.
Appointing Potter looked like quite a progressive move for Boehly’s New Chelsea, a sign that things might be done differently under the new regime. He’s demonstrably and provably a gifted coach and man-manager, but he doesn’t really seem like someone you’d necessarily gift this absurdly OTT array of shiny tools.
So the conclusion we must draw is that, even as Potter gamely tries to make the best of a job he now must realise just isn’t really his bag, all the expensive signings that will be used to sharpen the criticism and hasten his own departure are really being assemble for the next manager to exploit.
Got things right in the second leg against Dortmund, though. Which at least keeps Chelsea’s season – and very possibly Potter’s medium-term prospects – alive.
18) Aaron Danks, Aston Villa (15)
A genuinely magnificent two-game interregnum 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, physical manifestation of the Gennaro Gattuso ‘sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe shit’ meme should be heartily applauded. Also great that he remains the most recent Premier League manager to get the better of Thomas Frank’s Brentford.
17) Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace (14)
We like Patrick Vieira, we like his club and we like his team. But they never, ever seem to win any football matches and at some point – and it’s coming pretty soon we fear – that is going to start to be a bit of a problem.
Vieira is yet to taste victory in 2023 and the only mitigation for that is a conspiracy theory we’re fully paid up: for shadowy and unknown reasons Palace have to play about 68% of all their games against the Big Six. Sure, MSM so-called fixture lists will suggest they play the Big Six no more or less often than anyone else but that’s just cos they’re in on it. Go on, try and think of a Palace game that wasn’t against the Big Six. You can’t. No wonder they never win. They’ve already played Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United (twice) and Liverpool in 2023 and who have they got on Saturday? That’s right, Manchester City. And Arsenal eight days after that. Admittedly, in between those two they’ve got a rare game against theoretically ‘lesser’ opponents and… f*** me, it’s Brighton away. It’s going to be April before Palace even get a chance to win another game, and it really cannot now be guaranteed that Vieira will be in the dugout when the arrival of spring brings with it those theory-skewering opportunities against your Leicesters, your Leedses, your Southamptons.
16) Sean Dyche, Everton (NE)
Viewed through a narrow focus on the immediate and pressing need to avoid relegation, Everton appointing Sean Dyche made grim, uninspiring yet total sense. He may well keep them up. He absolutely should do. But thus far there is little evidence that he can do any more than that, little evidence that he can show the wider skillset his many supporters claim he has. We would genuinely love to see it, because he was never quite as stereotypically one-dimensional at Burnley as popular perception would have it. Everton presents an opportunity to show that to the world, but in the short term it’s needs must and thus pure medical-grade Dycheball is the way for now. If and when he keeps this shambles of a club in the top flight, we want to see more and must see more.
Otherwise Dyche will be just another in the ever-lengthening, ever more eclectic list of managers who couldn’t prevent Everton Evertoning themselves into purgatory. Still hilarious that the final decision came down to Dyche or Marcelo Bielsa, more incredible still that Bielsa’s interview ultimately amounted to “I will oversee this desperate, all-in, shit-or-bust five-month fight for the club’s very Premier League survival by first sorting out the academy sides” which made Dyche and his prosaic but broadly sane offering a fait accompli.
But there is no other club where its list of managers from the last decade or so more perfectly encapsulates the confusion and incoherence of strategy, if indeed there is a strategy at all. Seriously, just look at this f**king nonsense of a list: Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez, Frank Lampard, Sean Dyche. Make it make sense.
15) Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool (19)
It’s fair to say 7-0 wins over despised rivals will hide a multitude of sins. Which is just as well, really. Newcastle’s exhausted collapse and the fact Spurs are still Spurs means Liverpool may well yet fall over the line and pinch fourth, but it’s a significant fall from a manager and team who have defied gravity for so long.
Even Sunday’s absurd win over United still felt to us less like the start of something brilliant and new than a reflex, a muscle memory of the side Klopp built. They’ve done it before even in this trying season and will do so again. But they also lose and lose heavily alarmingly often now. Klopp has lost his aura and it will take more than one-off wins – however stunning – to rebuild it. In a way, it would serve Klopp and Liverpool better to have those seven goals spread over a four-game winning run than in one stupendous afternoon. It wouldn’t have been as funny, though, would it?
Klopp does look pretty tired and we are increasingly of the opinion that seven or eight years is the absolute outside limit for one manager at one club these days. Doing a Ferguson or a Wenger was never common but just feels entirely impossible now. It really might be time for a change at Liverpool, and at least a 7-0 win over United is a joyous parting gift.
14) Javi Gracia, Leeds (NE)
We managed to spread ‘better than better than nothing’ over about 800 words when he was appointed and absolutely nothing we’ve seen in a narrow win over a terrible Southampton side and a narrow defeat at a crap Chelsea shifts us from that view. Both games ended 1-0 and it seems to us that this sums up all three teams involved rather well.
We probably won’t have a definitive verdict on Gracia’s Leeds until a six-game April spell bookended by inevitably forlorn trips to Arsenal and Manchester City. In between they face Forest, Palace, Liverpool, Fulham, Leicester and Bournemouth.
13) Ruben Selles, Southampton (NE)
Giving a largely unknown caretaker the full-time job for a relegation battle is generally an act of wanton foolhardiness but Selles is doing just about okay. Keeping his head down and being very much not Nathan Jones is definitely helping as he attempts to 1-0 his team to what remains unlikely safety. Losing at home to Grimsby in the FA Cup was an interesting choice.
12) Antonio Conte, Tottenham (9)
Remains perplexingly hard to summarise Antonio Conte’s Spurs reign, but getting a manager of the month nomination for three wins he didn’t attend feels like it does a decent job. His constant belittling of the club and air of a man doing silly little Spurs a favour has long grated on supporters who also grow sick of his often dreary football.
The refusal to utilise the full squad is also now biting Spurs firmly on the arse, with injuries mounting and a very friendly route through the FA Cup thoughtlessly squandered. Little is certain in football, but we will eat all our hats if Antonio Conte is Tottenham manager next season. And we have many hats. That open secret (about Conte leaving, not our collection of headwear) has also given an air of impermanence to proceedings, where Spurs appear to be a club just treading water and waiting for next season. Which is never really acceptable, but especially in a year when the struggles of Liverpool and Chelsea have presented an unusually straightforward opportunity to nab fourth, an opportunity Conte and Spurs appear determined to spurn.
Spurs have made a couple of attempts at going down the supercoach route now, and both have led to recriminations, unhappiness and above all some terrible, unwatchable football. They need a Pochettino-type manager to make use of a squad that contains far more usable and decent working parts than Conte or his acolytes will acknowledge. Given that neither Levy nor Fabio Paratici can be remotely trusted to identify the next Pochettino-type manager, by far the safest – and most crowd-pleasing – course of action is to simply rehire actual Pochettino. We’re far from convinced it would work as well as last time, but we do think everyone involved would be slightly happier. For a bit. And really that’s all we’ve got to cling to in these troubled times, isn’t it?
11) Steve Cooper, Nottingham Forest (12)
Almost got the sack, then got a new contract, now being linked with the Spurs job. Entirely up to you how you use those pieces of information to assess Cooper’s work, but there’s no doubt plenty to admire in the way he has turned a disparate squad of newly-arrived individuals into a team at least as coherent as any other in that congested bottom nine.
Forest still just about look more likely to stay up than go down, and we reckon most fans – and probably Cooper himself – would have taken that as a mid-March state of affairs if offered it in August by some kind of mythical superbeing who is frankly making deeply mundane and trivially inconsequential use of such unimaginable power.
10) Julen Lopetegui, Wolves (13)
Yes, this is fine. Wolves remain in that bafflingly large cluster of clubs unable to fully extricate themselves from the relegation fight but they at least look like they know what they’re trying to achieve and eye-catching recent wins over Liverpool and Spurs have bolstered and garnished a record of competence under Lopetegui where Wolves had for the most part since his arrival won when they should and avoided disgrace where they shouldn’t.
It does look like this blend of quiet general competence and occasional pants-pulling should be more than enough to keep Wolves out of the very grimiest skirmishes of the relegation scrap. They will definitely be fine if his current 1.55 point-per-match record of 17 points from 11 games is maintained for the remaining 12. Then, like whoever else manages to emerge from the nine-team bunfight with Premier League status if not necessarily dignity intact, Lopetegui and Wolves will face decisions about what comes next. For now, though: crack on.
9) Graham Potter, Brighton (8)
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 is dealing with greater pressure, greater scrutiny, fewer neutral well-wishers and above all the constant attentions and absurd transfer-market stylings of walking stereotype and banter content king Todd Boehly. And Potter doesn’t look like he’s enjoying a single second of it.
The success of Roberto De Zerbi as his Brighton replacement can be taken two ways: one, the cruel way, which is to use it to play down what Potter achieved. The second, correct, way is to use it to highlight just what a good position he left the club in. The next Chelsea manager is unlikely to find things as shipshape as De Zerbi did.
8) Pep Guardiola, Manchester City (6)
We get the distinct impression that he’s just trying too hard this season. He’s always had the potential for unnecessary overcomplication or needlessly attention-seeking selection or tactic in his locker, but until this season they’ve generally been reserved for Champions League knockout games.
Seem to be happening a bit more often in the Premier League now, and our cod-philosophical theory is that he is trying to prove something to himself as much as anyone else. To prove that his success with an already absurd team now bolstered by the best striker in the world isn’t just something that anyone could do.
It would also explain why his team seems to now sometimes go 2-0 down for absolutely no reason other than to make life interesting for themselves. Maybe the whole season is a giant Guardiola experiment in giving himself a challenge in order to feel alive. Giving Arsenal Zinchenko and Jesus was one thing, but giving them an eight-point start as well might just be pushing things a bit f**king far. And even then, he reeled in that lead just to show he could, then drew with Nottingham Forest. He’s taking the piss and will probably end the season winning the treble to absolutely zero acclaim but a million think-pieces about whether City are even any good.
7) Unai Emery, Aston Villa (5)
There’s been a slight regression to the mean after a trampoline of a new-manager bounce but overall it’s still absolutely fine. Villa are the one and so far only team that has looked in any kind of trouble this season and managed to drag themselves fully and comfortably clear, to the extent that 11th place is now the very worst possible outcome and the extremely funny scenario of Emery’s team knocking Chelsea into the bottom half remains entirely plausible.
From where Steven Gerrard was taking them it’s all just now enormously stress-free, and there are nine clubs below looking on jealously at that. Those teams have shown this was not a straightforward relegation scrap from which to extricate oneself, so Emery deserves enormous credit for being the one manager thus far to make it happen.
6) Eddie Howe, Newcastle (2)
It’s just starting to go slightly wrong, isn’t it? Not disastrously so, but very annoyingly. The Carabao final was lost in fairly nondescript fashion, and the problem there is that Newcastle’s only wins since January are the two legs of the Carabao semi-final, which have now by definition lost some of their value.
In the Premier League it’s now no win in five and one win in eight since a six-game winning run. The World Cup came at a bad time for Newcastle, who were in rare form at the time. But it’s more simple than that: the players are knackered. Newcastle are still a very early work in very significant progress under Howe, but the depth below the very good first XI just isn’t there.
Howe is now in some danger of being a victim of that mid-season form. We don’t really thing top four was the target this season – challenging for Europe felt a far more realistic August stretch goal. Yet having got to where Newcastle were – third at one point and way clear of shambling fools like Spurs and Liverpool – it’s now inevitably a bit disappointing to see that top-four chance go up in smoke. Because there is no guarantee Newcastle get another open goal like this one, and even less guarantee that Howe will. Especially as Spurs and Liverpool haven’t even been that good in reeling them in.
5) Thomas Frank, Brentford (10)
The second longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League is five games, a number boasted by both Liverpool and Manchester City. Thomas Frank’s Brentford are unbeaten in 12 games.
We genuinely don’t know what’s more absurd: that Brentford haven’t lost a Premier League match since October, or that when they did it was a 4-0 humping from Aaron Danks’ Aston Villa.
Their next three Premier League games are against Everton, Southampton and Leicester so that really ought to be a 15-game unbeaten run before it next comes under threat from a proper team (Brighton).
4) Erik Ten Hag, Manchester United (4)
Lucky we didn’t do this last week. Clearly, we can’t allow one defeat to entirely change everything, but that one defeat was judderingly bad and one that he and his players are going to have to live with. Given Ten Hag’s most impressive trait all season has been his ability to read and alter games on the fly, we do have to wonder what precisely was said at half-time at Anfield that turned an irritating but far from insurmountable half-time deficit in a tight game into… whatever that second-half capitulation was.
Still, though. Let’s not throw the bald baby out with the bath water here. United have been a shambles for a long old time – and also getting thrashed on the regular by Liverpool for much of that time, it should be noted – and Sunday was a damaging, embarrassing and perplexing outlier, but an outlier nonetheless.
Ten Hag has made United a football club again. Poisonous influences have been sidelined and in the end removed as painlessly as was possible, silverware has been secured with the distinct possibility of more to come (although the once nailed on 150/1 quadruple now lies in 300/1 ruins) and most importantly of all a sense for the first time really since Ferguson of a manager with the ability and mindset to put this club where it belongs and keep it there for more than five minutes. But don’t lose 7-0 at Anfield again, mate. That’s ridiculous.
3) Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton (7)
Just the latest in the absurd line of Brighton making the very finest lemonade from life’s lemons. Losing Graham Potter on the back of the departures of Marc Cucurella and Yves Bissouma should have caused some sort of problem, shouldn’t it? Should have at least made Brighton a bit less good. Have since lost Leandro Trossard as well – who at least, unlike the other three, appears to be enjoying his new life. Again, though, it’s done not one thing to derail De Zerbi or Brighton who will go fourth if they win all their games in hand and are a home win against Grimsby away from the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
With any other club of Brighton’s standing, those games in hand and the piling up of fixtures would be a concern. With Brighton, it’s just another crisitunity, because that’s what they do. Presumably will mount a title challenge next season after De Zerbi goes disappointingly to Spurs or West Ham in the summer.
2) Marco Silva, Fulham (3)
There remains a school of thought that the manager of the year conversation starts and ends with Silva. The existence of Mikel Arteta is enough to stop that being the case but it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement from Silva to lead perennial yo-yoers Fulham to top-half comfort with such minimal fuss.
Fulham’s last three Premier League seasons have yielded 32, 26 and 28 points. This season they’re just a point away from the magic 40 with 12 whole games to go. Winning just one of those 12 games will see them match the total wins they managed in 2020/21 and 2018/19 combined. In almost any other season, Silva would certainly deserve gold. But…
1) Mikel Arteta, Arsenal (1)
He’s actually going to do this, isn’t he? Ridiculous. He’s turned Arsenal – Arsenal! – into the real mentality monsters. But please, guys, let’s tone down those celebrations of 97th-minute winners, yeah? On no account should anyone be under the illusion that this is a sport or on some level meant to be fun or emotional. Inspector Keys and Sergeant Agbonlahor are on the case. You’ve been warned.