Jurgen Klopp behind four others in top 10 Prem managers list as Liverpool boss departs

Dave Tickner
Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola.
Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola feature in a our top 10 Premier League managers.

Basically impossible to name the top 10 Premier League managers of all time, isn’t it? So many factors, so many criteria you could give more or less importance if you wanted. Basically not worth even attempting it. Certainly nobody sensible would do so.

Anyway, here’s the top 10 Premier League managers of all time.

 

10) Sam Allardyce (Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton, West Brom, Leeds)
Different ways of measuring success, aren’t there? We could easily do a top 10 of just fellas who’ve actually won the league. But real talk: some of those managers are quite crap, and there’s only 11 of them. If you want Manuel Pellegrini or Roberto Mancini or Kenny Dalglish or even Claudio Ranieri in your top 10 Premier League managers then you go right ahead. We can’t and won’t stop you.

But in our view there has to be room for more than that, for success of a different kind. For, say, beating relegation in unlikely circumstances an awful lot, or for managing to get yourself sweet fat lucrative contracts again and again in a series of powerful destroy-and-exits long after you’ve passed your best.

But there’s no point pretending Sam Allardyce hasn’t been and isn’t an excellent Premier League manager. His Bolton team in particular was an absolute menace, and one that often belied Big Sam’s Big Reputation for being a no-nonsense pint-of-wine-drinking PFM of the old school.

He is definitely worth a spot – nine different Premier League teams can’t all be wrong. Although some of them definitely were and are. Still, though: imagine just how high he’d be on this list if his name were Allardici.

 

9) David Moyes (Everton, West Ham, Sunderland, Manchester United)
Again, it’s how you measure it, isn’t it? If you were doing 10 managers who’d had the best one-off seasons there would be no Moyes in there. But in terms of managers who define Our League over the last three decades, Moyes is right up there. Only the Big Two have taken charge of more Premier League games than Moyes and, while there’s no point pretending it’s all been good times for the Scot, it would be just as daft to pretend it’s all been a shitshow as well.

Better managers than Moyes would have struggled with the sheer scale of replacing Ferguson at Manchester United – look at Unai Emery at Arsenal for further evidence of a similar issue here – but he made Everton into something they hadn’t been since the 80s and haven’t been since: a consistent top-six team. What he did at Goodison was already impressive at the time but only more so in hindsight, and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy the success he’s made of his second stint at West Ham. He’s taken the Hammers to sixth and then seventh in successive Premier League seasons during an era of Big Six dominance, and then landed the club’s first trophy in over 40 years.

This season there was a sense he might have had his best West Ham side yet, and one that has more in keeping with the club’s footballing traditions. But their season has tailed off and Moyes’ departure is widely accepted as being best for all parties.

 

8) Harry Redknapp (West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham, QPR)
A lot of the above applies here too, but with knobs on. Because Redknapp built some brilliant sides at several of those clubs. He took West Ham to fifth, kept Portsmouth up, went and took Southampton down, kept Portsmouth up again, won the FA Cup – he remains the last English manager to win a major pot – and then took Tottenham to the Champions League having taken over with the club in a dire position. Alas, the specifics of that position are lost to the ages because nobody ever mentioned them. Suffice to say it was a very low number of points for the number of games played.

 

7) Mauricio Pochettino (Southampton, Tottenham, Chelsea)
What happens over the coming weeks/months/years at Chelsea will go some way to defining where if anywhere Pochettino eventually sits on this list but his work at Southampton and especially Tottenham merits a place even though – and not a lot of people know this – he never won any trophies.

That Spurs side was mint. The 2016/17 runners-up weren’t quite the best team never to win the title but they were definitely our favourites.

His first season at Chelsea has been a chaotic mess, but the blame for that lies elsewhere. The Blues would be daft to change manager again.

 

6) Rafa Benitez (Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle, Everton)
Ignore the Everton bit, to be honest. That was quite rubbish. But he did better than most people remember in his brief time at Chelsea and, more importantly, managed the extraordinary trick of being beloved by the fans of both Liverpool and Newcastle – the two most indulged fanbases in the game. So, you know, he must have done something right when not doing press conferences about FACTS or doing magic tricks that make on-screen graphics appear. You’ve all seen the clip.

He also won the Champions League, quite famously. That’s definitely good.

 

5) Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
‘Only one Premier League title’ has been enough for us to dismiss the claims of plenty managers here, but it’s always been a curious stick with which to beat the obviously excellent and departing Klopp. Most obviously, that ‘one Premier League title’ is the only one Liverpool have ever managed to win and ended a 30-year title drought for England’s second most successful football club which was and is quite a big deal.

More importantly, though, Klopp achieved it – and a Champions League crown for good measure – in direct competition with the most dominant team and coach the PL era has ever witnessed.

Before Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, nobody other than Klopp’s Liverpool had even been able to live with Pep’s City. Whenever Liverpool have struggled, all other runners-up have been distant, never-in-contention stragglers.

Klopp’s teams at their best also play a ferociously, joyously watchable style of football and we make no apology for making aesthetic decisions here. We have great admiration for the clinical brilliance of Guardiola’s City but given the choice we’d rather watch Klopp’s team at their best than Pep’s.

The heavy metal football of the mentality monsters has frankly saved the Premier League from some extremely dull processions in the last six years and for that we should all be grateful.

And now he’s off.

MORE ON KLOPP’S LIVERPOOL FAREWELL
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4) Jose Mourinho (Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham)
Everyone’s favourite emo manager may have blotted his copybook a touch at Manchester United and especially Spurs, by which point his schtick had long since descended into a grim and joyless self-parody.

Still managed to get United to second place, though, which is as good as anyone else has managed post-Ferg, but it’s for his Chelsea years that he gets his place here. We should almost ignore what came after those two spells, because there should be no forgetting just how sensationally good he was. Manchester United and Arsenal had a cosy if hate-driven duopoly at the top of the Premier League when Mourinho came along and blew all that to bits.

His teams set records that looked set to last and last until Guardiola and Klopp came along with their nonsense, but even now no team has been as hard to break down as Mourinho’s Chelsea at their very best. Won three Premier League titles, doesn’t like to talk about it.

 

3) Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
Arguably the most significant figure in turning the modern Premier League into what it is today. Without Wenger’s 20-year reign at Arsenal the first 15 years of Barclays would have been even more dominated by Ferguson’s all-conquering United. Having easily swatted away less capable challengers like Kevin Keegan, finally here was a worthy adversary for the greatest manager of them all.

As well as inventing pasta and professionalism and convincing players eight pints of mild was not perhaps the ideal big-match preparation, Wenger also transformed the whole ethos of a gigantic football club in ways that persist to this day. To younger football fans it must be genuinely baffling to learn that Arsenal were wildly successful in the late 80s and early 90s but were infamous for doing so with unappetising route-one football and relentless, unimpeachable defending. One-nil to the Arsenal and all that.

Wenger totally changed what ‘The Arsenal Way’ meant with a team that was still built from the rock-solid defensive foundations of those earlier, greyer Arsenal sides, but was now filled with startling attacking talent doing quite glorious things. Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and co came to define what Arsenal were about but it was the steel of Patrick Vieira in midfield that truly completed the picture.

Great at the back, brilliant in midfield and thrilling in attack. It’s a mystery that only once did they manage to go a whole season unbeaten, frankly.

Wenger’s later years at Arsenal were less successful, and even though he was largely right about the merits and level of achievement involved in constantly finishing fourth, it did make him a slight figure of fun, which is a shame.

As is the fact he’s decided to lean into that by spending his retirement attempting to completely destroy his professorial reputation by coming up with absurdly stupid ‘solutions’ to the offside rule. But he was great once, and for an extended period of time.

📣TO THE COMMENTS! Should Wenger rank above Guardiola? Join the debate here

2) Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
The only truly big decision at the top end of this list is which way round to put Wenger and Guardiola. There is no doubt Guardiola has significant advantages Wenger never enjoyed – unimaginable wealth instead of just significant wealth, Manchester United being shit instead of one of the all-time great club sides ever assembled, and so forth – but the scale and totality of his dominance really is extraordinary.

It’s likely to be six titles in seven years after a season or two spent finding his feet, with the only team to deny him the title in that time an outrageously good Liverpool one that had been near-perfect but still unsuccessful the year before and simply stepped it up another level until the title was secured.

Guardiola roared back and hasn’t been stopped since. There’s now a sense that he’s even trying to make life more difficult for himself, just to make the Barclays a challenge. He trained up Arsenal’s manager, then gave them a couple of title-winners. Looked like it might backfire for a while there, but instead it gave us a couple of title races where there would otherwise have been no title race.

 

1) Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
Nobody enjoys wilful, performative contrarianism more than us but it would take a level that even we’re not truly comfortable with to put anyone other than Ferguson top of this particular list.

Quite possibly the greatest manager who ever lived, he won 13 Premier League titles and bestrode the first two decades of the league’s existence. Wenger and Mourinho gave him pause, but he ultimately saw off all-comers and remains the master of mind games. Keegan and Benitez were the two to most visibly and infamously combust in the glare of Ferguson’s spotlight but they weren’t alone.

Built at least two genuinely all-time great United sides and for perhaps his best trick then won the title in his final season with what was, frankly, a deeply ordinary one. They have never come close to winning it since despite a couple of distant second-place finishes and right now seem yet again as far away as ever of coming anywhere close to the success of those Ferguson years.

There is something undeniably great about Ferguson being at least partly responsible for that. He did salt the earth a bit with the squad he left behind, and his endorsement of the really quite obviously unsuited David Moyes set United inexorably down the current benighted road.

And let’s not forget that the current ownership unpleasantness is due at least in some small part to Ferguson and a disagreement over horse semen.

But let’s also not forget that for 20 years, finishing above Ferguson’s United basically meant winning the league. They were brilliant, they were rebuilt overnight, and they were brilliant again. If they weren’t there, you could be absolutely certain they were thereabouts. And he gave us the concept of ‘Fergie Time’ which will outlive us all.

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