Premier League Managers Review: Unstoppable Guardiola, Unique Klopp and Under-fire Solksjaer
‘If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.’ This is what the legendary Bill Shankly once quoted but it doesn’t apply to the most thrilling Premier League race in the history of the competition, which finally ended with Manchester City winning the title ahead of Liverpool.
It just wasn’t a fight between two of the biggest clubs in England but also a mental battle between two elite managers with amazing European pedigree. Spaniard Pep Guardiola pipped Jurgen Klopp to the title but the German can keep his head held high as he pushed the Citizens right to the last day of the season.
No team had the title two years in a row in England since Manchester United claimed three in a row in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09. City have now managed to win two in a row in a country where six teams are supposedly in with a chance to win the league on the first day of the season.
Guardiola has been instrumental in not only guiding them to back to back titles but also playing good eye-catching football. While their star players like Kun Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva have been scoring goals for fun, defenders Aymeric Laporte, Vincent Kompany and others have been rock solid at the back.
Last season Guardiola oversaw his team breaching the historic 100-point mark but this season they had to settle for less as they were pushed all the way to the final day of the season by the second most illustrious team in England - Liverpool.
Klopp came the closest in comparison to other former Liverpool managers to ending their title drought but they were fighting against one of the most potent teams in Manchester City and fell short by agonising distance.
Never in the history of the Premier League have a team ended with more than 90 points and ended up not winning the title. Had it been any other season, the Reds would have been run-away winners of the league but had to be content with second place as they were fighting against an unstoppable Force in Manchester City.
Liverpool have finally assembled a side that is capable of challenging the European elite, which is evident by their reaching the Champions League final for two years in a row. The next year could really be their year in Premier League.
Chelsea and Tottenham complete the top four of this topsy turvy season and just because they lacked in the squad depth of Manchester City and Liverpool, they couldn’t fight on two fronts simultaneously.
Not only Mauricio Pochettino has helped them finish in the top four for two years in a row, he also took them into the Champions League final for the first time in their history. With his stocks at an all-time high, Spurs will need a lot of strength to keep him tied at their new billion-dollar stadium.
Maurizio Sarri, on the other hand, started his life in England well but it all turned Kepa Arrizabalaga for him soon. The Italian survived that rocky phase, brought order to his dressing room and now is guaranteed of a Champions League place next season. There is still a possibility of ending the season with a trophy as they will be taking on Unai Emery’s Arsenal in the Europa League final.
Legendary Gunners manager Arsene Wenger somehow used to help Arsenal finish at the fourth spot in most seasons in charge of the club. But Emery failed to achieve the same in his maiden season at helm. Despite this, the season is being seen as a successful one by the London-based club as Emery has left his mark on the club already.
Him playing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette together has been an inspired choice and resulted in bucket-load of goals. Three-time champion Emery is viewed as a Europa specialist and he will be gunning for his fourth in Baku next month.
The Nightmare of Dreams
It has been six years since Sir Alex Ferguson hung up his illustrious boots but the transition phase is still going on at Old Trafford. The season started with Jose Mourinho at helm has now ended with Ole Gunnar Solksjaer back at the club. From second, behind only to Manchester City dream team last term, United finished sixth in the table, courtesy of some inconsistent and uninspiring football.
Solksjaer replaced Mourinho mid-day through the season and saw a sudden surge of playing levels at the club that saw the Red Devils jump to fourth of the table but a catastrophic late downfall forced them to be content with Europa League next season. Solksjaer has a massive job at hand to rebuild the club and fight for the top honours next season.
The New Sensations
Wolverhampton Wanderers are the only team this season to beat European finalists Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal in different competitions. They also beat Manchester United twice in one week in two different tournaments. Manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves hunt in packs and the players always seem motivated to punch above their weight. Seventh-place finish for a side used to bottom-half of the table is no mean feat.