Back with our first countdown of the season, this time we’re counting down managers. As usual the focus of these countdowns is mostly on what I’ve seen first hand so don’t expect to see Kenny Dalglish or Kevin Keegan featured. I’m sure they’ll be a few eyebrows raised due to some of my choices so let us know on our Instagram and Twitter pages what you made of the countdown. Let’s begin!
10. Rafa Benitez
This was a tough one, had I just focused on strictly what was achieved in the Premier league then he might not have made the list, but I feel you gotta consider Europe and cup competitions as well since the Premier League isn’t the only competition these managers competed in. In his first year he managed to win the Champions League with, let’s be honest, not a very great team, after that he made Liverpool top 4 mainstays and reached another final in 07. In the league in 2009 he had finally built a team capable enough to win a title but they just weren’t good enough in the end as they came 4 points shy. He also won an FA cup during his stay at Liverpool. His last season was his worst as it was the first time he didn’t qualify for the Champions league at Liverpool and led to his sacking.
He was back in England 2 years later after Chelsea did a Chelsea and sacked Di Matteo. He had a big mess to clean up and cleaned up quite well getting Chelsea 3rd place and adding another trophy to his CV, doing so with their fanbase 0n his neck the entire spell.
He took over a newcastle team who were all but dead in 2016 and went down with them, even though nobody thought he would. He came straight back up and managed to secure Newcastles spot in the league for 2 years, with little to no backing from the board. I think 10th is a fair ranking for Rafa, he’s shown he can win trophies and get good league finishes with not so great teams and on a limited budget, whilst also going down the table and showing he can survive with one of the worst teams in the league. I think 10th is the perfect spot for him on the list.
9. Harry Redknapp
The wheeler dealer himself. He was originally in the ‘honourable mentions’ list but after a stroll down memory lane he had to be included. His iconic Spurs and Portsmouth teams will always remain Barclays heritage and you have to give him credit for some of the young talent he brought through including Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.
My earliest memories of him are from his return to Portsmouth. He took over half way through the season and took them from being relegation threatened to 9th place. He made many signings in his two spells at the club included many players I would also class as ‘Barclays Heritage’ like Matthew Taylor, Yakubu, LuaLua, Pedro Mendes, Andres D’Alessandro, Kanu, Niko Kranjcar, Sulley Muntari, Lasanna Diarra and who could forget Benjani. These signings alone are worthy of him getting a top 10 spot, what an eye for talent. When this guy pulled up to sky cameras on deadline day you knew he had just done madness in the negotiating room, you had to stop and listen.
It’s what he did in 2008 however that stands out for me. From 1989 to 2007, the only clubs to win the FA cup were United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs. Harry somehow took Portsmouth all the way and got an 8th place league finish. He then went to Spurs and played some of the best football I’ve seen in my all life, they were easily the funnest team to watch, Crouch and Defoe up top, then modric and Van der Vaart in midfield, what a team. He was able to break the top into the top 4 against City’s oil spending in 2010 and then got 4th again in 2012, however due to the rules back then they missed out on Champions League. As well as these massive feats, he has the 3rd most wins of any manager in Premier League history, a true icon.
8. David Moyes
Had to put some bad memories aside for this one, while my club is still paying for some of his mistakes that were made 8 years ago, it would be unfair to leave him out due to a bad 8 month spell in an almost 20 year Premier League career. He spent 11 seasons at Everton, in all but 2 he managed to finish in the top 7, including 04/05 where he managed to get Everton into the Champions League for the first time since the 80s, he did this on a shoestring budget and also managed to bring Premier league cult heroes to the club such as Tim Cahill and Seamus Coleman.
Out of the interest of my PTSD I will not be discussing his time at United…
After a stint in Spain and some funny attempts at Spanish, he was back in England with Sunderland, it didn’t end well but nothing really does with Sunderland.
It’s at West Ham where he’s building his reputation back, he came in on a 6 month deal to keep them in the league and that’s what he did. 18 months later and he was back again to keep them up and did so by the skin of his teeth. If my memory serves me correctly everyone expected him to be sacked even though he kept them up and nobody gave them a hope for the following season. Fast forward a year and he broke West Hams points record, was tipped for a CL finish at one point and finished 6th taking West Ham to Europe.
People might argue with him being this high or in the list at all but for him to have gotten Everton 4th place almost 17 years ago and now to have West Ham at 6th ahead of Spurs and Arsenal is incredible longevity. He’s also one of only 5 Premier League managers with over 200 wins. I think he’s worthy of this spot on the list.
7. Mauricio Pochettino
One of the best managers of the past decade, yes I know he didn’t win any trophies but making Spurs into a title contending side with virtually no budget is incredible, not to mention his work at Southampton which I feel opened the door to more and more mid/ bottom table teams looking abroad for managers given Southampton’s success with appointing him. You could call him a trailblazer. He got them 8th place in his first full season which was their highest finish in over a decade, not to mention they were playing championship football two years prior. But it’s at Spurs where he became one of the most sought after coaches in football.
He made many big decisions in his first year that would shape his spurs career, he gambled on Kane and promoted him to be their main striker and also identified Dele Alli at MK Dons, we know how both of their careers under Poch went. He also took Spurs to their first final in 7 years that season. It was the following season where he made Spurs look like a credible threat, something we hadn’t seen even from Redknapp’s side. They could come away to Old Trafford or Stamford bridge and win, all while playing good football and being on a tight budget.
From when he came in in 2014 till 2018 he had a net spend of just 50m and then he was the only manager not to spend a cent in the 2018 summer window, funnily enough they got to CL final that season, I don’t know many other managers capable of that. So often we see managers spend buckets of cash and still fall way short, yes Poch couldn’t get Spurs a trophy but he went closer than almost anyone else would’ve in his position. Their team in 2017 was incredible, the 86 points they got would’ve won them the league last season. People wont like it but I think 7th is more than fair for Poch. Four top 4 finishes in a row is no joke, since Fergie left and the Premier League banter era begun, only City were a top 4 mainstay, Chelsea haven’t gotten 4 consecutive CL place finishes, they’re currently on 3, United are on 2 which is their most, Arsenal managed 3 and haven’t sniffed top 4 since, Liverpool got their 4th consecutive CL finish by the skin of their teeth last season, so what Poch did shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s well worthy of being here.
6. Jurgen Klopp
Doing this article is actually the first time I’ve seen klopp with the trophy, I’ve done a great job of blocking all evidence that it ever happened, as much as I’d love to not even include him here even I’m not that shameless. It was a question of 5th or 6th for me and I think 6th is fair, one thing I will say is that the gap between him and the previous 4 is large in terms of premier league greatness. His first year wasn’t very impressive but he did make 2 cup finals, ah that takes me back to my Klopp can’t win anything agenda, good times. I think he was 0-5 in his last 5 cup finals at one stage. Anyways what’s happened since then is almost polar opposite of that season, the league form has been immense and the cup form has been non existent. Klopp took Liverpool back to the Champions League in 16/17 and reached the final the following year, in which they lost of course and secured another top 4 finish, the first time they had done back to back top 4 finishes since 07/08 and 08/09.
One thing I don’t think Klopp gets credit for is the accuracy of the signings they made, obviously there was a few stinkers (Karius, Keita, Adrian) but who doesn’t get signings wrong. The players he brought into the team to be starters were all almost instant successes, they paid big money for some of them but that doesn’t matter when you get it right. I’ve been looking at some of his signings at Dortmund too and they’re immense too, I’m not fully sure if he picks all these players himself but I don’t think its any coincidence that he has such a high success rate at both clubs.
In 2018/19 he was oh so close to doing the double, besides United in 99 and 08 who done it, I think he’s went the closest anyone else has ever been, as they won the Cl and finished second with 98 points, they went even better in the league the next year and finally won it with 99 points, that’s 197 points in 2 seasons, crazy.
He might have found himself a little higher if he was able to win multiple competitions in the same season and no I’m not talking about super cups or that friendly tournament that happens at the end of the year. This factor, along with being unable to retain and then an extraordinary moment are what keeps him outta the top 5 for me. 6th is still a very spot for him, I think currently 5th is the highest you could place him, but who knows how long he wants to stay at Liverpool, when its all said and done he could end up higher.
5. Claudio Ranieri
As we get into the final 5 my explanations are going to get shorter and shorter as the accomplishments of these managers doesn’t need overstating. While I’ve mostly based this list on longevity and consistency, there’s always going to be some exceptions and Ranieri is one of them. When I mentioned an ‘extraordinary moment’ earlier, this is what I meant. What Ranieri did in 2015/16 at Leicester is more than enough to earn him a top 5 spot. My favourite football moments, goals and achievements are those that we are unlikely to ever see again and this is one of them, I don’t think we’ll ever see something like that again. He took a team who were almost relegated the season prior and did the unthinkable, that’s greatness.
He did it playing 442 with a team full of rejects, unheard of players and championship players. He can confidently say he’s done something that no other manager could have and that’s why I place him in my top 5. At the time I knew it was crazy but I don’t actually think I took in just how wild the whole situation was. That was a once in a lifetime moment and I’m glad to say I witnessed it.
You could also argue he set the foundations in place for that great 04-06 Chelsea side, he made Terry a regular, brought in Lampard and Makelele and also identified Cobham as Chelsea’s next training base, not to mention he identified Drogba and Cech as potential signings. Not that his Leicester triumph wasn’t enough but the ground work he did at Chelsea in making them an established top team ready to win, only further boosts his legacy and justifies his spot in the top 5.
4. Pep Guardiola
This is one I’m putting my foot down on, he’s 4th, no higher no lower. For as great as his achievements are, him and every other City manager is placed in the perfect environment to win. They don’t wait around on players, if they get it wrong they’ll just buy again until they get it right and thats what we’ve seen the past 5 years. His first season was very poor by his standards, only scraping a top 4 spot on the final day. What followed after was greatness as he became the first and only manager to get 100 points and he got a strangle hold on the domestic cups. Since a trophyless first year he’s won something every year since, more often than not they win two trophies. He’s built probably the most relentless team in Premier league history also, you see them vs a bottom half team and you just assume 5-0, it’s like the Old Trafford games during Fergie’s run, the game was over before it even started.
Whilst his accomplishments have been great, I think what keeps him outside the top 3 is his first season, the conditions at City and the fact he’s so damn unlikeable. Easily the most unlikeable manager ever, he tries to portray an underdog act at a team bankrolled by a COUNTRY, he went on TV and cried that they can’t replace Aguero meanwhile bidding 130m for Kane the next month, God I hate him but I can’t deny his greatness as a coach, yes I’ve said he gets constant backing but he still delivers constant success, not something every coach can do, which is why I think 4th is a perfect spot for him.
The man who put an end to that “top 6” nonsense. What a manager, delighted he was able to get the FA cup last season, he deserved it, seeing as he was robbed of a league title in 2014. Back to back finishes ahead of Spurs and Arsenal in his first two seasons, if he can just get over that end of season hump and make top 4 to he’ll silence his doubters. I think in 10 years I’ll do this list again and I fancy Rodgers to make it, I think he’ll get a chance at a top club again and will cement his legacy as one of the best managers in Premier League history.
This was one of the hardest choices to make, he only had 2 seasons in England and they were both polar opposites. His first year was incredible, 93 points in his first season in England (At the time the 2nd most in history), while lots of people seem to think he introduced 3 CB’s to England, he didn’t, LVG did this before him, but he’s definitely the first to get the 3 CB’s to work at a league winning level. They also managed to break the record (at the time) for number of wins in a season with 30 and equal the record (at the time) for most consecutive wins in a season. Not to mention he took over a Chelsea side who had just finished 10th. While all these accomplishments are amazing, it’s his second year that made me question whether to include him or not.
Some dodgy transfer business and a falling out with Roman led to Chelsea finishing 5th the next season, 23 points worse off. This and the fact he only managed 2 seasons is why he just missed out. He did however manage to grab an FA cup on the way out which shows he can still get his team titles no matter the circumstances. Ultimately I left him out as I don’t think 2 years is enough to merit a place.
Another tough one, if you have him in your top 10, that’s fair, he just doesn’t quite make mine. Yes you have to give him credit for the title win in 2012 but similar to Pep it’s too hard for me to ignore the level of investment and backing he had. Where he fails for me is his poor defence of the title, United had all but regained the title the following Christmas, I feel like he should’ve done more, he could’ve started a dynasty there, that as well as his short enough career in England is why I left him out. We all know he’s a great coach and I just feel like he could’ve done more with the squad he had at his disposal.
Now for the final 3…
3. Arsene Wenger
This was a tough one, either 2nd or 3rd but ultimately I went with 3rd, probably due to a bit of bias being honest. I said it last week but every game Mikel Arteta and Arsenal play, the more Wenger’s legacy goes up. His last years weren’t pretty but Arsenal fans would bite your arm off to have them back now, you really don’t know what you have till its gone. Three League titles, 7 FA Cups, an invincible year and 20 consecutive top 4 finishes. Consistency. He also built the Emirates, although that stadium might be a big reason as to why he had a 9 year wait for a trophy between 2005 and 2014, they simply couldn’t compete financially with United, Chelsea and then City, at the time it was seen as failure but I think history is going to be kind to Wenger as time goes on. Looking back now I can appreciate how he was able to keep Arsenal relevant for all those years whilst playing great football and bringing through young talent, they weren’t signing ready made superstars, players like RVP, Adebayor, Sagna and Fabregas, were all brought in and nurtured into world class talents, that’s something to be proud of.
Unfortunately for him though, they couldn’t keep a hold and from 2009-2012 their squad was absolutely ripped apart, year after year they were losing their best players to rivals and weren’t exactly receiving world record fees, nowadays you go to Leicester and ask for the best player and you get quoted 100m, anyways, Wenger had to rebuild his team with all his stars gone but still managed to get Arsenal into the Champions League continuously, nowadays manager’s will say “rebuild” as an excuse for coming 8th, anyways, what Wenger was able to do is something I don’t think many others would have and he was rewarded with this as the club finally started to win again as he won 3 FA cups in his final years at the club.
His run from the 01/02 season to 05/06 where Arsenal won 3 FA cups, 2 League titles and reached a Champions League final is nuts, had he have won that final he may have made my top two. Another part where I think he misses out is not winning a title in that short period after Fergie retired, the path was where and the league was up for grabs, in both 13/14 and 15/16 I really think they should have won at least one, as we’ve seen since, that was probably their last chance for a long time, nevertheless Wenger’s achievements are set in stone and he too can say he’s accomplished something that is very unlikely to ever be done again and that is finish a season Invincible.
2. Jose Mourinho
“Judas is number one” Not this time anyway, on my list he’s number 2, if others want to have him at 3 I can live with that. The instant impact, the character and the unforgettable moments are why he’s my 2nd greatest manager in Premier League history. He came to England and called himself the Special One and won two league titles against The Invincibles and United, that’s unheard of. Today everything is a “project”, “I need 3 years”, “we’re in rebuild”. Jose broke the points record, clean sheet record and fewest goals conceded record in his first year. I’ve seen Wenger, Mancini, Carlo, Klopp, Conte come to England and win the title but none of them could retain it. Jose kept going and won it again in his first two years in England, nobody’s done that since. That’s what I think sets him apart from Wenger and co. He wasn’t able to do 3 in a row but still grabbed an FA cup on his way out.
On his return he couldn’t make an instant impact like his first time around but it only took one year before he was winning the title again and they ran away with it in 2014/15, I don’t even remember there being a race, he also picked up the League Cup that year. It’s what happened after that season is why people may have him outside the top 2 or 3. His Chelsea run ended terribly but we got some great quotes and moments out of it. Then came his United spell, no league title but two trophies in his first year was enough to keep fans optimistic. Unfortunately things went downhill from there, yeah he came second but the writing was on the wall and his career has been on a downhill skid since, I really hope he can win again in Italy. Although his time in England ended badly, he was still reaching finals which isn’t easy and shows the type of manager he was/is and still can be. I think his first two years in England are too good too ignore and that’s why I have him at second, and while he’s only number 2 here, he’s still the greatest manager in Chelsea FC history.
1. The GOAT
No explanation needed.
TBE. The Best Ever.
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