Howe and Arteta shake up Liverpool-City hegemony in F365’s top 10 Premier League managers of 2022
Another year of Premier League football been and gone, is it? Now of course a calendar year is in no way a meaningful thing in football, where the passage of time is quite rightly measured in seasons rather than some daft January-December Gregorian calendar gibberish.
But there’s end-of-year internet space to fill and fill it we shall, with the ever-changing and fast-moving world of manager rankings. To give you an idea of just how fast moving, Thomas Tuchel was second when we did this 12 months ago, and David Moyes was fourth.
So in the unlikely event any Premier League managers are reading this, don’t get too pleased with yourself if you’re up near the top yeah?
10) Erik Ten Hag (Manchester United)
It’s not been flawless or without its dramas, but there is definitely growing evidence that Ten Hag is starting to make slow but steady progress in the arduous task of turning the hulking great creaking ship that is Manchester United around.
We’ll have a much clearer idea of just how much and how sustainable that progress is in another year’s time, but a start has been made. Solving the Ronaldo Problem (albeit with an atypically selfless assist from the man himself and his bumbling useful idiot Piers Morgan) undoubtedly helps draw a line under mistakes of the past and allows Ten Hag to start moving forward with his players in his way.
The disastrous start to the season already feels like a necessary palate-cleansing and there appears to be genuine reason for long-term optimism about United again, which hasn’t really been the case for an alarmingly long time now.
9) Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace)
The most vibes-based team in the league, Palace manage to feel far more entertaining than a record of five wins, four draws and five defeats, with 15 goals scored and 18 conceded, would ever suggest.
The results are perfectly adequate, albeit not that much better than under Hodgson, but the whole thing feels much, much nicer. There is a sense of fun and adventure around Selhurst Park and if nothing else then Vieira is at least proving himself the most adept of the assorted bona fide Premier League midfield legends to have had a stab at the management game in recent years.
8) Graham Potter (Brighton/Chelsea)
Probably top five for his Brighton work. Definitely outside the top 10 for his Chelsea efforts. Overall, he lands somewhere in the lower reaches. Will need to turn things round quickly at Chelsea or it will become a significant backward step in a career that should nevertheless recover.
He did need to take the plunge from Brighton at some point but, and this is only partly in hindsight, Chelsea and their constant need for instant results was always likely to be a tricky match for his quietly progressive squad-building approach. The good news, though, is that Potter has always appeared absolutely destined to have a promising if ultimately unfulfilling couple of years as Spurs manager, and spending some time at Chelsea (successful or otherwise) is a necessary step along that road.
7) Thomas Frank (Brentford)
Feels like what Thomas Frank has done at Brentford is too easily overlooked or taken for granted and, yes, there was a bit of Christian Eriksen-shaped assistance in the back half of last year. But even that is a tick against Frank’s name – there’s a reason Eriksen was willing to make Brentford the destination for his comeback and the fact the manager was a countryman he trusted will have been high on that list.
Forty-five points from 35 games across 2022 is solidly mid-table form and most pleasingly there has been no evidence whatsoever of second-season syndrome after such an impressive first season in the top flight. Comparisons with Leeds last season and Sheffield United the season before are immensely favourable for Frank and Brentford, who have lost the same number of Premier League games this season as Spurs, Manchester United and Liverpool.
6) Marco Silva (Fulham)
What does he know about our league, though? It is now, it turns out, quite a lot. With Fulham sitting comfortably in mid-table, Silva appears well on course to bring an end to the Cottagers’ annual crossing of paths between Premier League and Championship with Norwich and, while a cheeky push for Europe is likely to be scuppered by Chelsea being boringly less shit when the season starts up again, the fact Fulham went into the World Cup break only two points off a likely Europa Conference spot is mightily impressive.
Most impressive of all, Silva has finally solved the Mitrovic Conundrum and managed to convince the mercurial lunatic that scoring Premier League goals really isn’t so different to doing so in the Championship while summer recruitment was quietly impressive – especially in snaffling Joao Palhinha from Sporting.
5) Antonio Conte (Tottenham)
Still don’t understand Antonio Conte’s Spurs at all. They make us confused. Confused and furious. Look, lads, are you any good or what? Can we just have some conclusive evidence one way or the other that you are either a good football team or a shit one so that we can all just move on with our lives?
By any reasonable measure of success for a manager of Spurs, Conte is smashing it. The late-season run to pip Arsenal to fourth was brilliant, propelled by the genius of Kane and Son and given a necessary late push by a superb pair of January acquisitions in Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur.
And this season has been, on paper, absolutely fine as well. They’re fourth in the league, which is fine, and they won their Champions League group, which is also fine. But the way they’ve gone about being fourth in the league and the way they went about winning their Champions League group just hasn’t ever been convincing, has it?
Only Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have more Premier League points than Spurs this year, and even then there’s not much in it. City have 75, Spurs have 70. Spurs have 17 more points than either Chelsea or Manchester United in 2022. That’s… well that’s good, isn’t it? That must be good.
And yet we really think that actually it might not be.
It really doesn’t help that Conte’s own future is a constant point of discussion; even if he is building something good at Spurs, until and unless he signs a longer-term contract it’s all built on sand.
4) Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Liverpool are second on a calendar year Premier League table which feels… weird. Most of those points of course came in their latest futile pursuit of Manchester City at the end of last season, and this season’s league form has been really not good. You can’t be going around the place below Tottenham and Manchester United with this Liverpool team, it’s embarrassing.
Did win two cups, though, didn’t they? And almost another Champions League crown. We have particularly enjoyed the popular narrative that actually those cup wins don’t count because a) they were the less important cups and b) Liverpool didn’t score any goals until the penalty shoot-outs.
Essentially we just enjoy modern football’s point-blank refusal to give anyone else any credit ever unless it is absolutely impossible to avoid. Klopp’s Liverpool are actually an excellent example of that; he delivered the thing Liverpool fans craved above all else – a first league title since 1990 – yet have a quick look around online to see how that achievement is described as ‘only one Premier League title’ or similar in discussions of Klopp’s Liverpool reign.
3) Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
Won the league again, yes well done. Didn’t win the Champions League, though. Then got given Erling Haaland and… Manchester City aren’t actually any better? Really? Are they? Sure, Haaland is doing weekly daftnesses and is, in partnership with Kevin De Bruyne, going to break all manner of records. We’re all enjoying it tremendously.
But the actual results of Manchester City Football Club haven’t got any better, have they? Sure, there wasn’t much room for improvement on that score but they have been careless on occasion this season and at least some of the blame for that must rest with the manager.
We can’t quite shift the notion that he’s almost trying to make life harder for himself just to feel alive. That’s why they keep going behind to make games interesting. Also explains giving Zinchenko and Jesus to Arsenal, doesn’t it? Clever Pep saw Arsenal were closer to challenging than anyone realised, they just needed a couple of winners there to propagate the belief. Ergo, third place for Pep and his 4D chess mischief.
We have, inevitably, focused on the very small negatives here but that in itself is testament to Guardiola and his City team for the way they’ve normalised absurd excellence.
2) Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Let’s not mince words about the end of 2021/22. It was a bottle job, pure and simple. And also a very, very funny one. Had roles been reversed, had Spurs run away from a NLD in January at a time when Arsenal were injury-ravaged and playing badly only to have to instead meet them in the final weeks of the season when at full strength and in buccaneering end-of-season form, and then, with a chance to seal a top-four spot instead got walloped so damagingly that they then went and lost tamely to Newcastle and then spent the next few days going “Well, maybe Arsenal will lose to Norwich on the final day” and then Arsenal beat Norwich 5-0 on the final day to confirm fourth spot, we would rightly have chortled long and hard about the astonishing Spursiness of it all. They had fourth place in the bag and blew it.
But we must also acknowledge that what Spurs absolutely would not have then done is win 12 of their first 14 games of 2022/23 to open up a five-point lead over a slightly stuttering Manchester City and raise genuine hopes of ending a long wait for a league title.
In the first act of this revolutionary two-part Premier League season, Arsenal were demonstrably and comfortably the most impressive teams, winning matches in all kinds of ways against teams good, bad and indifferent. They’ve scored more goals than anyone bar City and no team has conceded fewer. The likelihood remains that they will ultimately fall just short, but the fact we’re talking about ‘fall just short’ in relation to the league title rather than the top-four trophy is testament to Arteta and The Process.
1) Eddie Howe (Newcastle)
Yes, the caveats are significant and problematic but let’s not pretend Newcastle’s vast wealth accounts for the entirety of their staggering improvement over the last 12 months. It’s not even like they’ve made absurdly extravagant transfers. Eddie Howe’s alchemy has turned Nick Pope, Dan Burn, Fabian Schar, Sven Botman and Kieran Trippier into the Premier League’s meanest defence while transforming Miguel Almiron into a game-seizing force to be reckoned with further forward.
A relegation-haunted team that took just 37 points from 42 games in 2021 – only Burnley (34 from 39) managed fewer of the 17 teams to play a full year of Premier League football – has become a Champions League-chasing one with 68 and counting from 34 games in 2022. That’s within a win of the calendar year records for both Arsenal and Tottenham (and in the case of Spurs from two games fewer) and 15 points more than either Chelsea or Manchester United have managed. You don’t have to like it, but this is definitely more than a morally dubious lottery win.
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