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Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp score A-plus while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer disappoints; Premier League managers' report card

“One would imagine Sisyphus happy,” said philosopher and existentialist Albert Camus. It’s very French, rather Parisian to translate the pains of Sisyphus into an essay that is an equivalent of a philosophical shoulder shrug. But it is indeed how we treat football managers, especially the ones at the very top of football’s Olympus, the Premier League.

Take the case of recently-relieved Brighton manager, Chris Houghton. Here’s his timeline of achievements:

2014-15: Kept Brighton in the 2nd division (Championship). 2015-16: Managed to, with very little resources, take Brighton to the promotion play-offs. 2016-17: Brighton were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history. 2017-18: 15th place finish in the Premier League. 2018-19: Brighton’s first FA Cup semi-final since 1983, 17th place finish in the Premier League securing survival in England’s top-tier. He was given the pink slip shortly after.

The argument is that Chris Houghton only managed 4 wins in this Premier League campaign, but a studied look at the table would tell you that Burnley with only 7 wins sat comfortably at 15th. Such are the fine margins. With that in mind, Firstpost attempts to grade the managers who are present and correct and those whom the narrative left behind.


 Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp score A-plus while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer disappoints; Premier League managers report card

File image of Arsenal players. AFP

Finishing position: 5th place, qualified for Europa League.

Last manager: Arsene Wenger managed with an arm tied behind his back. His sincerity and financial consciousness were both his strengths and weakness, if one looks back to the last few seasons. He was tasked to leave an establishment with self-sustaining methods of recruitment and an internalised philosophy. Arsene certainly did it better than Alex Ferguson, whose veto appointment of David Moyes set Manchester United back by at least 6 years.

Grade: A

Current manager: Unai Emery.

Emery had the biggest shoes to fill in world football this season, a legacy spanning over two decades at Arsenal. Arsene became not only the part of the furniture, but the cornerstone of how Arsenal as an establishment was built. There have been moments where Arsenal fans took to Twitter this season, especially in away performances, wanting Wenger back. But overall, Arsenal as an attacking threat have been potent scoring the third highest number of goals (73) but also conceded the second highest number of goals (51). He and his team are still searching for balance.

Grade: C


Finishing position: 14th.

Current manager: Eddie Howe.

Howe has been deemed one of the brightest young managers in the Premier League by Jurgen Klopp. Their potential was on full-display in mid-October, when they occupied the 6th place and won 6 of their first 10 games. Eddie Howe as established Bournemouth as a team that would go for the throat of their opponents regardless of who they are. This was highlighted in January, when Joshua King scored twice as Bournemouth beat Chelsea 4-0 at Vitality. This has come with the cost of a leaky defence, which is why they find themselves where they are instead of much higher. That, coupled with their poor high-money buys in the transfer market. 20-mil Dominic Solanke is yet to make good on his under-20 World Cup Golden Ball-winning potential. Jordon Ibe is has been underwhelming as mash.

Grade: C

Brighton & Hove Albion

Finishing position: 17th.

Current manager: TBD.

Chris Hughton shouldn’t have been sacked. But like most relationships, managerial ones come with a sell-by date. Brighton executives believe they can do better.

Grade: C


Finishing position: 15th.

Current manager: Sean Dyche.

You know what to expect from the Ginger Mourinho and his team. The top 6 teams wince when they realise they have to travel to Turf Moor. They are always going to make their lives difficult. Ashley Barnes, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, James Tarkowski form a spine behind the gumption. Burnley fans love him to bit and there’s a tavern named after him. He’s going to be a fixture of the Premier League for a few more seasons yet.

Grade: B

Cardiff City

Finishing position: 18th, relegated to the Championship.

Current manager: Neil Warnock
Warnock has become the caricature of the last generation of English football managers. His tactics and cynicism, that would be well-placed in the 1990s, but not now. Cardiff City need to ask themselves if they want a man who is openly-Brexit, represent a multicultural club.

Grade: F


Finishing position: 3rd.

Last manager: Antonio Conte.

It all went sour too soon for Antonio Conte. He was openly undermind, and called out. His reign brought out the toxicity Chelsea had as a club, compounded by their exit in the round of sixteen in the Champions League and a 5th place finish in the Premier League. Fans and players wanted him out.

Grade: D

Current manager: Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri had his task cut out for him. He had to wrestle back the reign at the club away from the players. He was openly undermined in a knock-out match by keeper Kepa, late-February, vs City, when the keeper refused to be substituted against Manchester City in a League Cup Final. Chelsea eventually lost. It was supposed to be curtains for Sarri after that incident, but to the surprise of Chelsea fans and outsiders looking in, they grew in strength and unity since. The proof was in the Champions League qualification pudding.

Sarri is absolutely the right man at the job but at the wrong club, where they don’t know the first thing about due process.

Grade: A

Crystal Palace

Finishing position: 12th.

Last manager: Frank de Boer.

Sacked after five games. That’s like what you get when you ask someone who drives Le Mans to adjust driving a Mini Cooper. It was a terrible fit.

Grade: F

Current manager: Roy Hodgson

Roy Hodgson matches the ambitions of Crystal Palace. They have had their highs, one being the defeat of Champions Manchester City and a 3-2 win vs Arsenal. Ugly wins and uglier losses are a regular feature, but considering the travesty of the start of the season, both Roy and the fans would be grateful for each other.

Grade: B


Finishing position: 8th.

Last manager: Sam Allardyce.

Like Warnock, Sam Allardyce’s techniques have become dated. It was little surprise when Everton and he parted ways. The hoofball aesthetics didn’t go down well with a team who begrudgingly aspire to copy the style of the neighbours, Liverpool.

Grade: F

Current manager: Marco Silva.

Everton have a long way to go before they can legitimately take the mickey out of city rivals, Liverpool. Until the only feeling of success will be derived from Liverpool’s failure, which is a rather sad thing to derive value from. Inconsistency and injuries have sanded the edge of Everton's season, studded with a warty away form. Theo Walcott has lost his drive since his move to Arsenal. Everton will have to make sure that the club doesn’t seem like a downgrade for players like Walcott, who on his day can be imperious.

Grade C


Finishing position: 19th, relegated to the Championship.

Last manager: Claudio Ranieri.

It was a surprise. Worth remembering that it was the Italian managers who too unfancied Leicester to win the Premier League a few seasons ago. But he started off slow and many felt he had his last hurrah and reached his peak at Leicester City.

Grade: D

Current manager: Scott Parker.

He has been thrown in at the deep-end. Now, if Scott Parker was still playing, he’d have stood a better chance of fixing Fulham's leaky defence. It’s terrible. Woeful. 81 goals shipped means that it is more a problem of personnel than any particular tactics. A rebuilding job in the Championship is required, maybe with a manager who knows a thing or two about steadying a sinking ship.

Grade: E

Huddersfield Town

Finishing position: 20th, relegated to the Championship.

Last manager: David Wagner.

The honeymoon period was over for David Wagner. Unlike last season, the Terriers start looking like Chihuahuas. Since he’s such a good bloke, people hoped he’d turn it around, but Huddersfield thought better (or in this case not well enough).

Grade: D

Current manager: Jan Siewert

Jan Siewert looked bewildered. He had to take the leap from Dortmund reserves manager to the Premier League. Next season will all be about regrouping, and re-orientation. It’s too early to tell if Jan stands a chance.

Grade: E

Leicester City

Finishing position: 9th.

Last manager: Claude Puel

Puel looked a tired man at the butt-end of his Leicester reign. His in-game management, usually accurate, took an apparent downturn. The skidmark of 5 straight losses in January was too visible to not be addressed.

Grade: D

Current manager: Brendan Rodgers

After using Celtic as a stepping stone, the Irishman wheedled his way back into the Premier League, and with some stellar effect, winning 5 of the first six games under Rodgers. he was a talented core to work with Youri Tielemans and Dem Gray. Expect them to target 7th next season. Still searching for consistency.

Grade: C


Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action. AFP

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action. AFP

Finishing position: 2nd.

Current manager: Jurgen Klopp

Boom! What a season for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. If ever there was a time that the team, the manager, fans and the executives have struct the perfect melody in football, this is it. Jurgen Klopp is the James Hunt to Pep Guardiola's Niki Lauda, their teams pushed the other to reach for their peak potential. Even if Klopp’s season ends trophyless, he’ll have been the manager that has given Liverpool fans memories of a lifetime squeezed in one season. The top position has changed hands more than 30 times this season, and that will you everything you need to know about the steel in this Liverpool team and what next season holds.

Grade: A-plus

Manchester City

Finishing position: 1st.

Current manager: Pep Guardiola.

Let’s not forget that at one point Manchester City were trailing Liverpool by 7 points. Despite being doped up financially, it would be disingenuous to disregards the character and the work that has gone in this chase down. They didn’t rest on their laurels (which is altogether an odd thing to do, to begin with).

Grade: A-plus

Manchester United

Finishing position: 6th.

Lats manager: Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho whinged too much, way too much. And he blamed everyone, the fans, the players the board, everyone. Under him, players lost their self-belief, sponsors baulked under pressure, and if you’re a business as much as club, you can’t afford to do that. Stockholders gave the word and Ed Woodward dropped the guillotine.

Grade: F

Current manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The wheels are slowly coming off and the honeymoon period is skidding dangerously towards the pavement. The last day home loss to Cardiff City is proving that appointing the former manager of Molde in a full-time capacity was a bit premature.

Grade: D

Newcastle United

Finishing position: 13th.

Current manager: Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez is a blessing for teams who have the long-term in mind. Newcastle and Mike Ashley will have to ask themselves the question who they want to be. Too many knee-jerk decision have wounded the club. Rafa Benitez has resorted pride for the shirt and have played the team to its strengths. He’s up for a contract extension, remains to be seen if he commits.

Grade: B


Finishing position: 16th

Last manager: Mark Hughes.

Southampton were known, like Bournemouth, for their dauntless football. Mark Hughes, not so much.

Grade: D -

Current manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl

Hasenhuttl of the Leipzig fame is a theorist, attack-minded and is obsessively sincere to every day minutiae. A full person will set Southampton in good stead. Expecting them to finish in the top 10 next season. Their best game of the season came against the juggernaut of Liverpool, even though as the scoreline would suggest otherwise.

Grade: B

Tottenham Hotspur

Finishing position: 4th

Current manager: Mauricio Pochettino.

With a negative net spend, Mauricio Pochettino has somehow contrived to finish 4th in the Premier League. And despite an abysmal record in the group stages, find themselves in the finals of the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool. The man is the apotheosis of resource management.

Grade: A-plus


Finishing position: 11th.

Last manager: Marco Silva

Marco Silva left Watford in a precarious position mid-season. All the good that he did has been marred since.

Grade: E

Current manager: Javi Garcia

Javi Garcia has restored self-worth and pride in the Watford ranks. There’s a balance in both their attacking and defensive plays.

Grade: B

West Ham United

Finishing position: 10th

Last manager: David Moyes.

David Moyes was cumbersome, negative, a parody of himself, with little or no in-game management, exemplified in his time as West Ham manager. An awful appointment.

Grade: F

Current manager: Manuel Pellegrini.

The Professor swooped in and rescued like a canny Peruvian concord. Took West Ham to a finish that would cause good bouts of optimism next season. The tactical development of players like Felipe Anderson under Pellegrini is extremely encouraging.

Grade: C


Finishing position: 7th.

Current manager: Nuno Espirito Santo.

They played like their names would suggest. Nuno, as the evidence suggests, is the manager in the Premier League outside the top-six. I’d go as far to say he’s probably at par with Unai Emery, and definitely better than Ole Gunnar. To get Wolves to finish just behind Manchester United and above Leicester, Everton, Newcastle, and Burnley was a monumental task. They are the only team to beat all 4 finalists of the Europa League and UEFA Champions League at least one time this season.

Grade: A-plus

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Updated Date: May 14, 2019 17:40:03 IST