Ranking all 40(!) Premier League managers this season: Lampard finishes in the bottom five…twice

Dave Tickner
Frank Lampard, Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta among managers

Forty managers, Premier League? Forty? That’s insane. 

The doomed return of Sam Allardyce meant a nice neat average of two managers per Premier League club this season and now for one final exhausting time we’ve ranked them. Only a few weeks since we last did this, but still time enough for a few things to change and a few managers – including ol’ Allardici himself – to make a bollocks of things so here we go…


40) Frank Lampard, Chelsea (40)
Hahahahahaha you know when you point and laugh at something and think it’s literally the most ridiculous idea that you’ve ever heard and then you worry about how stupid you’ll look if it turns out you’re wrong but then it all goes even more gloriously horribly than you ever dared to dream?

Frank Lampard’s Triumphant Chelsea Return might be our most favourite thing about this whole ludicrous season. Eleven games, one win, two draws, eight defeats. Chelsea actually managed to lose ground on Spurs during the Premier League run-in; you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. And there is something reassuring in the discovery, however fleeting, that while vast wealth nearly always insulates these huge clubs from facing meaningful consequences for a series of terrible decisions, it can still go this magnificently awry.

Hats off to Frank, by the way, for rather neatly summing himself and Chelsea up in his post-season post-mortem where he listed all the great many things wrong with the club before, without so much as a Lampardian Transition in sight, adding the kicker: “A very good manager will help that.”

They probably will, and it definitely isn’t you. But that kind of quote is why the press boys will always love him, of course. He Fronted Up. He Spoke Well, I Thought. He Lost Almost All The Football Matches. He will probably get the Leeds job, the poor sods.


39) Scott Parker, Bournemouth (39)
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 took his stellar Bournemouth form with him and won two games in 12, including defeats in both legs of a 7-1 last-16 defeat to Benfica.


38) Steven Gerrard, Aston Villa (38)
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 promptly went and did precisely that. It’s a double whammy.


37) Cristian Stellini, Tottenham (37)
Manager of the month by proxy when overseeing legitimately excellent wins over Man City, Chelsea and West Ham while Antonio Conte was ill, but in hindsight maybe Daniel Levy should have paid slightly more attention to the pitiful FA Cup effort at Sheffield United that also occurred on Stellini’s watch before handing him the caretaker role.

He never should have been kept on after Conte had tantrummed his way out of the place, and oversaw a series of dire performances and appalling results. Culminated in a 6-1 defeat at Newcastle that redefined Spursy. Did inexplicably manage to pick up a win over Brighton along the way, but this was mainly because the entire officiating team and VAR forgot what a penalty is.


36) Frank Lampard, Everton (36)
Quite something that Everton now looks like a sort of golden era for Frank Lampard, Football Manager. Will we ever see the like again?

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. Todd Boehly, of course, thought he knew better.


35) Nathan Jones, Southampton (35)
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 are and were 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. A pity. May yet go down in history as the man who stopped City winning the Quadruple, though.


34) Sam Allardyce, Leeds (14)
Placed 14th a few weeks ago before he’d even taken charge of a game as Leeds manager purely on the basis of the way he was playing all the hits. Rocked up to his first press conference wearing the precise face of a man who’s just been promised half-a-million quid for three weeks’ work and compared himself to Guardiola, Klopp and Arteta. Gave an interview to talkSPORT from his new office before the previous manager had officially been sacked. Virtuoso Allardici stuff. He presumably eyed this as an extremely lucrative free hit in which relegation could never be his fault but being the architect of an unlikely survival bid would see him painted as a hero.

But then he had to actually pick teams and tactics and it turns out he’s not the Messiah. Leeds under Allardyce weren’t just shitbone awful, which was predictable, but even worse than they’d been before. In the final two games of the season, they were naïve and careless to an absurd degree. They looked like a team that had been entrusted to a novice, not the firefighter of all firefighters.

In fact, they capitulated so utterly under Allardyce that it might almost help him get away with it. Easy now to imagine they were already doomed when he took over and the immediate aftermath of a humiliating 4-1 home defeat against a broken and half-assed Tottenham was dominated by assertions from Allardyce’s fellow PFMs that he just simply hadn’t had time to turn things round.

Yet he didn’t just fail to turn things round; he made them worse. They looked doomed by the end of his inglorious three weeks in charge but that was not the case when he took the job. Leeds were outside the bottom three when Allardyce arrived. The direction of travel was not encouraging, sure, but they were above both Everton and Nottingham Forest, teams who would end up five and seven points clear respectively.

Surely this was Allardyce’s last chance. He blew it.


33) Adam Sadler, Leicester (34)
Not really his fault as much as a dereliction of duty from those above that he was left holding the fort for a vital home game against Bournemouth that was lost 1-0. ‘How much that matters at the end of the season will soon become clear,’ we mused a few weeks ago. ”You worry that it could very well be ‘a fucking lot, actually’.’ Nice to get one right.


32) Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea (33)
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 and subsequent events at Chelsea have highlighted the folly of it, 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.

Nonetheless hilarious that Chelsea had secured almost 23% of their final points total (10 of 44) and more than a fifth of their final goal total (eight of 38) in the six games before Tuchel bit the dust on September 9.

And now, thanks to Borussia Dortmund’s ongoing insistence on remaining a kind of insane Spurs-Arsenal hybrid, he’s a Bundesliga winner. What a season he’s had. It really is somehow only nine months since the handshake episode with Antonio Conte.


31) Brendan Rodgers, Leicester (32)
Couldn’t and didn’t survive forever while leading what is demonstrably at worst a mid-table squad into the deepest relegation waters.

Eight goals in back-to-back wins over actually good Villa and theoretically good Spurs in February at least highlighted the potential that remained in Leicester but they were to represent Rodgers’ last hurrah at the King Power. Six games and a solitary point later, he was gone with the Foxes a grim 19th. Things didn’t really get much better without him (until an infuriatingly assured and impressive yet utterly futile display against West Ham on the final day), but there was by the end little hope they could still do so with him.

Rodgers’ pessimistic expectation-lowering chat before a ball was kicked this season does suggest he saw something like this – albeit surely not quite this bleak – coming but also it was his job to try and prevent it even if he had to do so with one hand tied behind his back. He and Leicester sleepwalked for too long towards oblivion.

Fully expect him to be back and doing very well for two-and-a-half years with another Premier League team soon, though. We still think Spurs, even though it makes their fans shout at us.


30) Bruno Lage, Wolves (31)
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 are far better now in every single way under Julen Lopetegui having slowly but surely steered themselves away from the relegation bunfight.


29) Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton (30)
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 at that time been cheerfully whomping every other team that moved.


28) Ryan Mason (26)
It wasn’t great, with just two wins from his six games in temporary charge of Spurs with defeats to Europa Conference rivals Aston Villa and Brentford condemning Tottenham to a season outside Europe and a deeply uncertain seat at English football’s top table. But also none of this was really Mason’s fault and he represented a marked and undoubted improvement on Cristian Stellini’s disastrously baffled interim spell. Mason’s Spurs were frequently dreadful, but the Brentford collapse was perhaps the only time they didn’t at least show some of the fight that had been sorely lacking in the acrimonious dog days of Conte’s reign and the confused incompetence of Stellini’s miserable short stint. The fightbacks against United and Liverpool – albeit on that occasion ultimately futile – were at least something to make fans feel alive again.

There was at least in Mason, to borrow a phrase the club has been using about the departing Lucas Moura this week, a man who is Fully COYS. His unashamed pride in leading Spurs and continued assertions that this is a big club that can attract a big-name manager should be unremarkable but after the high-profile negging of the Mourinho and Conte eras were welcome nonetheless.

He showed more flexibility than those two great managers, but inevitably far more naivety too. There is very possibly a future manager in Mason, an obviously intelligent and thoughtful coach who suffers no fools, but it’s not at Spurs, not yet. He was, inevitably, slow to react to anything unexpected and the extent to which very good and experienced managers like Unai Emery and Thomas Frank schooled him was a tough watch.


27) Javi Gracia, Leeds (29)
That unravelled fast, didn’t it? We thought they’d be okay with an underwhelming but better than better than nothing appointment, and it looked like it was heading that way until one of the turniest turning points of the whole season: Marc Guehi’s equaliser for Palace at Elland Road on the stroke of half-time on April 9. Before that, Leeds had won three of Gracia’s six games in charge and appeared firmly on course for a fourth in seven. Guehi’s against-the-run-of-play leveller set the platform for an absurd second-half collapse and 5-1 Palace win, which was swiftly followed by a 6-1 humbling from Liverpool. A draw at Leicester felt at the time like it was no use to either – and so it proved – and another thrashing at the hands of Bournemouth saw Leeds tear everything up and go down the Fireman Sam route.

Gracia’s last five games included three against direct relegation rivals; a single point and 18 goals conceded means he can have few complaints really. But the fact Leeds got demonstrably worse under just about the most Knows Our Leagueiest manager of all time offers Gracia some mitigation.


26) Jesse Marsch, Leeds (28)
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. Leeds’ timing, though. Don’t sack the manager in the first week of February, lads. It was 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, not all of whom are going to be easy to shift as Leeds recalibrate and reorganise for life back in the Championship. Javi Gracia has come and gone in the three months since, as too more pointedly has director of football Victor Orta as Leeds doubled-down on the whole ‘sack the manager in February’ caper by pressing the Big Sam Button at an absurdly late stage of proceedings.

Who’s running the show at Leeds United? Can anybody light that fire again?


25) Michael Skubala, Leeds (27)
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. Going to play six-point Dycheball at Goodison with a rookie caretaker manager was never going to be 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. Still, not like it was a game that proved enormously and decisively crucial in the final analysis or anything.


24) Steven Davis, Wolves (25)
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.


23) Bruno Saltor, Chelsea (24)
Had one game after Graham Potter got the boot and by drawing it 0-0 against Liverpool (followed that result with a draw against Arsenal and seven  straight wins) ensured he will not go down as Chelsea’s worst manager of the season but will be the one you forget on a Sporcle quiz in 2033 if the seas haven’t risen and claimed us all.


22) Ruben Selles, Southampton (23)
Giving a greenhorn caretaker the full-time job for a relegation battle is generally an act of wanton foolhardiness but it worked for Bournemouth. It hasn’t really worked for Southampton. There is not the sense of utter disaster that has befallen the worst caretaker choices – your Stellinis, your Lampards – this season but that is surely down to the fact they were already dreadful and probably going down anyway plus whatever Selles may be as a manager he is at least demonstrably not Nathan Jones.

Selles’ Southampton were obviously still poor and got enormously and entirely relegated, but also remained right to the very end entirely on brand when it came to bothering the Big Six. They avoided defeat in only four of their final 13 Premier League games for who knows how long. Those four games were a goalless draw at Old Trafford, a 3-3 draw at The Emirates, the 3-3 draw against Spurs that sent Antonio Conte over the edge and their season finally spinning into the full-blown misery it had been threatening for months, and a classic bit of final-day Barclays chaos thanks to a 4-4 draw against Liverpool in which the Saints both led and trailed by two goals. That is football heritage.

For better and mainly worse, Selles was undoubtedly A Southampton Manager. He will not be in charge of their attempt to regain Premier League status, and we rather suspect Southampton’s return to the top flight is more likely than Selles’, whose future lies alongside Saltor in frustrating quizzers a decade from now. Especially if the list is alphabetical. They’ll be right there next to each other, baffling your tired little brain as you desperately try to remember either of them ever existed.


21) Graham Potter, Chelsea (22)
The determinedly mediocre output Potter was extracting from some enormously valuable resources does at least look slightly better in light of what a genuinely bad manager is now doing with them, but being a better manager than Frank Lampard is a low bar for someone touted not that long ago – this season, in fact – as the best young English manager in the game.

The wildly exciting but esoteric and gaudy collection of players Todd Boehly accumulated in January never felt in any way like it’s something being done at Potter’s behest or, even more significantly, for his benefit. If it was meant for Potter, then there was 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 doesn’t really seem like someone you’d necessarily gift this absurdly OTT array of shiny tools. He’s a project manager who needs time and space for his methods to work.

So the conclusion we must draw is that, even as Potter gamely tried to make the best of a job that just wasn’t really his bag, all the expensive signings that sharpened the criticism and hastened his own departure were really being assembled for the next manager to exploit. Well, the next proper manager. Not Frank, obviously.


20) Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace (21)
It’s rare that every word of our nonsense comes to pass, but here’s what we reckoned a couple of months back:

‘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 to: 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.’

Worst fears realised. We still think it was a shame.


19) Antonio Conte, Tottenham (18)
Really, Conte’s Spurs were mainly rubbish this season even when the results were good. Once results started tracking with performance it quickly became unutterably grim, with Harry Kane’s absurd season in front of goal masking all manner of inadequacies and the general paucity of attacking football alongside some quite heroically inept defending.

Conte – who has had a truly awful and miserable and perspective-resetting season off the field – clearly no longer wanted to be there several weeks before the end eventually came. As it became clear that Daniel Levy fully intended to just try and get through the season, Conte took matters into his own hands with that now infamous press conference after bottom-of-the-table Southampton came from 3-1 down in the closing stages to snatch a 3-3 draw. There was no way back for Conte after a rant in which every single one of his players and pretty much every member of staff at the entire club was chucked under the bus, and whoever takes the job in the summer has a huge task on their hands. It cannot be another short-termist ‘serial winner’.

In a season of utter madness let us never, ever forget that Conte’s rant came on a night where, were it not for Southampton being awarded a very dodgy injury-time penalty, Spurs would have gone third in the table. Third! It was only nine weeks ago!

Conte’s negging and constant criticism of pretty much everything about Spurs really did manage to convince a lot of people he had been let down by the club rather than it being almost entirely the other way around.

It’s easy to forget now, but Spurs under Conte really did end last season playing some very, very good and extremely effective football. After a defeat at Burnley that prompted an early prototype of ‘The Southampton Rant’ Spurs went on a brilliant run to nab fourth place from Arsenal, picking up 32 points from their final 14 games of the season.

They then ‘won the transfer window’ with signings like Richarlison, Yves Bissouma and Ivan Perisic all looking excellent bits of business for assorted reasons.

It’s not entirely Conte’s fault that it all went to shit, but it is quite a lot his fault. He was backed, he did make them worse and he had failed to address any of the issues he raised after the Southampton game.

We all enjoy laughing at Spurs, a uniquely hilarious and hubristic football club whose commitment to being the butt of the joke is legendary. Even last week, for instance, on the same night one team lost a play-off tie from 4-0 up, another lost a European semi-final to a goal in the 129th minute, Juventus continued their policy of soiling themselves in Europe and Spurs did not have a game, the sight of Bryan Gil and Erik Lamela combining for Sevilla’s winner meant the joke was, yet again, on them.

But Conte weaponised that tendency we all have and used it to shield himself and deflect from his own obvious and significant failings in a season where he was too rigid, too stubborn and singularly failed to coach an ounce of improvement into a single Tottenham player. If anyone tells you Conte wasn’t backed or his self-serving Saints rant was proved right by what followed, send them our way and we’ll tell them they’re talking bollocks.


18) Dean Smith, Leicester (19)
He did… sort of okay? Nine points from eight games was a record that, extrapolated across a full season, would have kept Leicester up without issue. Two of his three defeats were against Manchester City and Liverpool, and that seems broadly fine. But he knew he had only eight games to save a squad that contained plenty enough quality to avoid relegation in a season where it really didn’t need a lot of points to do it. He drew six-pointers against both Leeds and Everton, and the defeat at Fulham was horrible.

Dean Smith is not the villain of Leicester’s season, but he never really looked like being the hero either.


17) David Moyes, West Ham (20)
We all laughed when Moyes insisted this could still be a very good season for West Ham. We’re not laughing now. They survived with plenty to spare and have had the luxury of being able to spend the last few weeks of the season focusing on the very real prospect of European silverware from a Europa Conference campaign that has been a) ignored and b) relentlessly excellent looms. The lengthy relegation scrap was undignified for a club whose trajectory had appeared to be mainly and significantly upward over a couple of excellent league seasons but at least it didn’t go all the way entirely to sh*t as appeared distinctly possible.

Moyes’ boys ended up closer to 11th (five points) than 18th (six points) despite the obvious late focus on Europe, and any end result that can reasonably be put down as ‘mid-table’ combined with European success will vindicate the decision to stick with Moyes throughout a season when most Hammers fans – and indeed most other clubs (and absolutely us) – would at one point or another have got rid.

Now look at him – mid-table (admittedly thanks to some help from some very dodgy interims elsewhere) on this all-important list. But it does rather feel like his true final placing hinges entirely on what happens against Fiorentina in Prague. Victory would surely lift him into the top 10 as the first West Ham manager to win anything since 1980; defeat leaves him as nothing more than a manager who led a team that had finished sixth and then seventh through an undignified relegation scrap after spending a load of money and drops him into the low 30s. Fine margins.


16) Aaron Danks, Aston Villa (17)
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.


15) Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool (10)
Very tricky to place now. No point pretending this has been anything other than a season of disappointment for Liverpool, who will end it without silverware and not in next season’s Champions League.

The manner of their defeat to Real Madrid again in this season’s competition is also vexing, but a season pockmarked by struggle is at least ending with something akin to a flourish for the one team who’d previously managed to give Pep Guardiola’s Man City anything to think about.

Klopp is at least going to now avoid the abject humiliation of finishing below this particular iteration of Spurs, and the prospect of missing out on Europe altogether – very, very real at one time – has been averted. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been converted to midfield with notable success, and the idea that Liverpool might need to move on from Klopp in the summer carries less weight now after a dignity-saving seven-game winning run propelled their late surge to fifth in the league.

He still needs to be a bit less of a dick about things, though. We could really do without him fuelling Liverpool fans’ delusions about referees being out to get them.


14) Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace (13)
Wily old Hodgson waited until Vieira had played all the decent teams and lost the run of himself before sauntering in to give the rubbish ones a good shoeing and confirm the fixture list was the main reason Palace found themselves theoretically in a relegation fight that, it turns out, actually had more Chelsea than Palace in it. Cushy fixture list or not – and having to play only one nominally decent team in the last 10 games of the season and that team being Spurs is certainly cushy – the results have still been excellent with five wins and only two defeats in 10 games for a team whose first win of 2023 didn’t come until April. Clever Roy.


13) Sean Dyche, Everton (16)    
Viewed through a narrow focus on the immediate and pressing need to avoid relegation, Everton appointing Sean Dyche made grim, uninspiring yet total sense. And he did the job he was appointed to do, just about. But after 18 games yielding 21 points we’ve seen precious little outside of an absurdly wonderful 5-1 win at Brighton that he has more to offer, 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 and that Brighton game offered tantalising glimpses of something more. Pure medical-grade Dycheball was and had to be the way for the most part in this grim survival battle. Having kept this shambles of a club in the top flight, Dyche must now offer more.

Otherwise he 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 a 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.


12) Julen Lopetegui, Wolves (11)
Nine wins and 10 defeats feels like it pretty neatly sums up Lopetegui’s time at Wolves thus far which, after a slightly delayed start has been broadly fine with the occasional dramatic flourish and the odd vaguely inexplicable disaster. One of those came with an out-of-character 6-0 defeat at Brighton but unlike most of the other teams in that godawful relegation scrap from which they fairly comfortably extricated themselves, Wolves under Lopetegui have been able to pick up wins often enough to prevent things ever becoming too thoroughly gloomy.

In 23 games that have earned a thoroughly acceptable 31 points, Wolves have never gone more than three without a win under Lopetegui. He has successfully kept the Wolves from the (trap)door but, as with other teams whose disappointing seasons will by definition end with Premier League status intact the bigger question will be what comes next.

In theory, Wolves look better placed than most having successfully gambled a proper manager with significant long-term upside rather than take the more short-termist ‘firefighter’ route, but that will all count for nought if Lopetegui decides he was sold a pup and buggers off.


11) Graham Potter, Brighton (9)
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 had to deal 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.

The success of Roberto De Zerbi as Potter’s 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.

Fascinating to see what Potter’s next move will be, because it feels like an absolutely huge career crossroads now. The contrast between now and the summer of 2021 when Potter was very easily able to very correctly tell Spurs to sod off feels quite marked.


10) Gary O’Neil, Bournemouth (12)
A 39-year-old rookie manager taking over in the wake of a 9-0 defeat and leading Bournemouth – a team not so much tipped for relegation as condemned – to now near-certain safety is low-key one of the stories of the season. So low-key we inexplicably had him down in 12th a few weeks ago by which time they were almost safe having eased nine points clear of the drop with four games to play. Remember, we’re talking about Bournemouth here. This was comfortably a top-10 effort from O’Neil and at least we have a final chance to rectify our mistake here.

The season-defining spell came in a run of four wins in their last five games, including a magnificent nonsense at Spurs and a 4-1 drubbing of Leeds which meant losing their last four games of the season mattered not a jot. If Palace being the first team to play their way out of the nine-team relegation fight was always pretty likely – they were the last team to play their way into it and had a very lopsided fixture list – few would have picked out Bournemouth as the second. It was a sensational effort, and who would have thought out of all the English former Premier League midfielders to have a crack at Our League management this season O’Neil would be the only one to leave the bed unshat.


9) Thomas Frank, Brentford (8)
Back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Manchester City – completing a league double over the champions on the final day – made sure a fine season didn’t peter out into anything approaching meh. That ninth felt like a slight disappointment is its own compliment, and it’s worth noting Brentford finished far closer to sixth than they did 10th in terms of points.

Frank continues to do a remarkable and largely under-the-radar job and the excellence of a campaign that has never for a single second threatened to slip into second-season syndrome territory is worthy of more attention. Could be that more headline-grabbing efforts by Brighton and Villa and even Fulham have slightly stolen a bit of Brentford thunder this season, but there being absolutely no surprise at Brentford being a solidly mid-table Premier League team with further upward mobility is in its own backhanded way a tremendous compliment to Frank and his team.


8) Marco Silva, Fulham (7)
Manager of the year talk has cooled decidedly after a season that has had an undeniable whiff of the ‘get to The Magical 40-Point Mark and then out come the flip-flops’ about it, albeit Fulham only had 39 points when embarking on a run of two wins and seven defeats in nine games.

But getting Fulham into a position where they can have a run of two wins in nine games without any meaningful worries whatsoever is a huge achievement and Silva deserves huge credit for turning the yo-yo Cottagers into a mid-table Premier League team this time around.

Credit must also go to Silva for ensuring a more upbeat end to the season thanks to seven points from the last four games in which the only defeat was a narrow one at Manchester United on the final day. A swashbuckling win over Leicester and a solid one over Southampton mean Fulham don’t run the risk of ‘Doing a Wolves’ and carrying a dismal end to one season into the start of the next with inevitable manager-imperilling consequence.

A top-half finish and the opportunity to look down on Chelsea in the league table can thus now be enjoyed to their fullest.


7) Steve Cooper, Nottingham Forest (15)
Brilliant. Turned a ragbag bunch of assorted footballers into something approaching a coherent Premier League football team after a necessarily hectic summer of transfer activity, and then did the same after a needlessly hectic winter of transfer activity. Forest deserve huge credit for holding their nerve when the temptation to gamble on a sacking and new-manager bounce will have been huge, but in truth Cooper’s quiet competence and his previous work meant that would always have been the wrong decision. Doesn’t mean plenty of clubs wouldn’t have chosen that route, though.

Crucially, the Forest fans knew it. Cooper never lost them, even at the darkest moments. And there were, inevitably, a great many of those. But their survival in a division they frankly had no business being promoted into when Cooper took the job is a monumental achievement. Second-season syndrome might well kick Forest and Cooper particularly harshly and squarely in the testes, but for now let’s not worry about that. Hopefully they won’t sign 20 players this time and it’ll all be a bit more straightforward.


6) Erik Ten Hag, Manchester United (6)
Could yet end his first season as United manager with two cups, the second of which might well be needed to preserve the uniqueness of United’s cherished 1999 Treble. Having held off fast-finishing Liverpool to also secure that top-four finish it’s going to go down as a very fine first campaign for a manager who has already done a great deal of the work needed to turn Manchester United back from joke to serious football team.

The Ronaldo Situation was played well by Ten Hag, who has successfully stamped his authority on proceedings at Old Trafford in a way none of the other post-Fergie bosses have. For the first time since Fergie, it’s genuinely possible to see United re-establishing themselves among the very best, rather than just having the odd season where they finish a distant second and pretend the good old days are back. With the right summer recruitment, next season could be fascinating…


5) Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton (5)
Wildly impressive across the whole season after replacing the Chelsea-bound Graham Potter in September, but while the seamless transition was enormously on brand for Brighton perhaps the most impressive part came during the run-in.

We all know this was a uniquely trying season because of having a World Cup shoehorned into the middle of it, and Brighton would have had more excuse than most for fading away after the heartbreak of losing the FA Cup semi-final to Manchester United on penalties after 120 ferociously competitive minutes. When that defeat was followed by a 3-1 defeat at Forest there was a really strong chance that Brighton, who had loads of games to squeeze into the final month of the season and still had to play every single member of the top four as well as fast-finishing Villa, might have just slipped quietly back towards mid-table. But no.

They beat United, thrashed Arsenal, drew with City to fly past Spurs and hold off Villa to seal a place in next year’s Europa League. Thirteen points from their final eight games of the season might not seem like much, but in the context of what they were up against and the fact those eight games were played in the space of 30 days, it was an extraordinary achievement to end a season that already featured plenty of hardships overcome. Excellent manager, excellent football club.


4) Pep Guardiola, Manchester City (4)
On the cusp of matching Manchester United’s 1999 Treble, which would be a staggering achievement. Very, very funny that far more column inches have this season been devoted to a Manchester United Quadruple that was literally never feasible than the extremely feasible achievement City are chasing, but such is life.

Still have to believe that the combination of untold riches and relative lack of attention makes the City job the best in the world, but that doesn’t mean just anyone could do it. It takes someone like a Guardiola or an Allardyce to nail this kind of task, and once all the new parts were fully incorporated into the City Machine they have been utterly breathtaking. The dismantling of nominal title challengers Arsenal was one of the great Premier League performances as the only side that has managed to stay with the all-conquering City was utterly blown apart. Twice.


3) Mikel Arteta, Arsenal (2)
They’re not going to win the league and from the position they got into they probably should have won the league. It’s all well and good saying City cannot be stopped and maybe they can’t, but those run of draws before the Etihad lesson will niggle at Arsenal brains for the rest of days. What should have been nine points ended up being only three. It’s an inevitably season-defining blip and that’s even before we get to the heads-gone defeats against Brighton and Forest.

But let’s not pretend Arteta and Arsenal have had anything other than a wonderful season, exceeding expectations by such a vast margin that the primary objective of a top-four finish was in the bag months ago for a team that has often played liquid football and had more than its fair share of injury problems. Had William Saliba not got injured then who knows how the season might have panned out.

Arteta has earned his place in the list of managers Sam Allardyce thinks he’s as good as, and there’s no higher praise than that. His next task is to emulate your Guardiolas and Klopps by proving this season is no one-off. But even as a one-off it’s been fucking brilliant.


2) Eddie Howe, Newcastle (3)
It was just starting to go wrong a few months ago as Howe slipped to sixth in this list. The Carabao final had been lost rather meekly and a run of one win in eight in the league appeared to have torpedoed those Champions League ambitions for a team that suddenly looked very, very tired.

Eight wins from the next nine games, including the thrilling and expert dismantlings of West Ham and Tottenham, saw Newcastle back in the promised land. A slightly underwhelming end to the season in which Newcastle won only one of their last five games and drew against such awful dreck as Leeds, Leicester and Chelsea cannot harsh the Champions League buzz.

It’s easy and not incorrect to point at obvious reasons why things are going well for Howe and Newcastle, but equally it would be entirely disingenuous to say anyone could reasonably expect this squad to achieve what they’ve achieved this season. Newcastle are well ahead of schedule and while we, like all right-thinking people, have thoroughly enjoyed watching the assorted bed-shittings at Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs this season it may well be that the rest of the league comes to regret allowing Newcastle and their literally limitless pot of cash get this far so quickly and so easily having spent so (relatively) little of it.

The big signings have played their part – none more so than Alexander Isak during Newcastle’s top-four charge – but this has been a season built on the solid foundations of players who were already here or arrived early in the rebuild. Howe has wildly overachieved and at the very, very least earned himself a crack at being the man in charge of stage two of Newcastle’s plan, which is world domination.


1) Unai Emery, Aston Villa (1)
Absolutely spectacular. Genuine relegation candidates turned into actual European qualifiers in the space of six months. On a table since his appointment, Aston Villa are fifth, and nipping at the heels of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool with a game in hand. They have more points than Newcastle or Brighton since Emery took over and 15 more than the Spurs side they pipped to European qualification on the final day. Villa collected 49 points from 25 games under Emery over what is now a sample size greater than half a season; in current Premier League managerial lifespans that’s an eternity.

Villa’s early and decisive move to replace Steven Gerrard has been entirely vindicated, allowing them to first watch on with detached amusement as the relegation free-for-all played out beneath them before their own form and the collapse of others allowed Villa to look beyond mid-table.

Villa never had a squad as bad as Gerrard was making it look, but you’d have been earmarked as a crazy person if you said out loud in September that it looked like a team capable of pretty much two points per game under the right manager. Maybe nobody could have succeeded at Arsenal straight after Arsene Wenger and events at the Emirates suggest they were right to move Emery on but he was never a bad manager – he wasn’t a bad Arsenal manager, not really – and it’s genuinely heartwarming to see his second attempt at Premier League management go so well.

It also blows our tiny minds that he is already the 12th longest-serving current manager in the top flight having taken over way back in the dim and distant times of six months ago.

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