Two Premier League managers lost their jobs over the weekend, with differing results leading to the decisions.
On Saturday evening Norwich were celebrating their first win of the season, a 2-1 victory away at Brentford masterminded by Daniel Farke.
However by that evening it was announced that the German had been sacked with immediate effect, despite the win, and that the club were looking for a new boss.
Then on Sunday, it was Aston Villa’s turn to wield the axe as Dean Smith was relieved of his duties following a fifth consecutive defeat against Southampton on Friday night.
The two departures mean that the Premier League has already lost 25% of their managers that started the season, a quite incredible stat considering we’re only 11 games into the season.
Xisco Munoz was first at Watford, followed by Steve Bruce at Newcastle and then Nuno Espirito Santo at Spurs. While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains under severe pressure at Manchester United, we’ve already seen the likes of Mikel Arteta and Sean Dyche survive a bad run to come out on the other side with support from their clubs.
But what it shows is that clubs are no longer content with just existing, they want to see clear progression.
It used to be an achievement for the lower and mid-table clubs to simply survive and compete amongst themselves, leaving the big boys to do their thing further away.
Now though, clubs want to see a plan. They want to see positive football, they want to see a silver lining in defeats against those top sides and more importantly they want a path to become one eventually.
Leicester and West Ham have successfully implemented themselves into the conversation for European places on a regular basis now under Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes. There are no reasons why others teams can’t do the same with the right manager and right plan.
Smith oversaw his boyhood club getting promoted to the Premier League, kept them up and even got them to a domestic cup final. None of that mattered in the end when the club decided it was time to move on.
Farke got Norwich promoted twice, with a relegation in the middle of those two. The Canaries tried to give him time, giving him the chance to keep them up and then bring them back to the promised land but he once again proved he wasn’t up to it at the highest level. The club have now moved on.
It shows you that in the modern game there is no space for romanticism and history. It’s about the present and the future, and rightly so.
You can be thankful to the job a manager has done and what they have given, but accept that it’s time to move on and try something fresh in order to progress. Because ultimately, progression is key.
With Newcastle United set to complete their task of appointing a new manager this week, the Premier League’s managerial hotseats have just become even more full.
It seems as though Eddie Howe will be the man to fill the void at St James’ Park, after Unai Emery sensationally rejected their offer after being interested in a move earlier in the week. But with 19 other managers in a job currently, where do they all rank?
I’ve ranked each manager and explained (briefly) my reasoning for their position based on preference of style, achievements and coaching of players.
19. Daniel Farke – Norwich
Twice Farke has come up to the Premier League with his Norwich side, and twice he’s been absolutely battered every time.
The German has a style but it seems to be more accustomed to the Championship, where his side is one of the big dogs and he can’t turn that into anything substantial at the top level, so he must go at the bottom.
18.Sean Dyche – Burnley
Maybe controversial for him to be so low, but the style of football grinds me and he’s got nothing other than scraping survival year on year to show for it.
The one season he tried to expand a little saw Burnley dumped out of the Europa League before the group stages even started. The football is too old school for me, but he gets results so it keeps him off the bottom.
17. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United
Another potentially controversial selection, the Manchester United boss is in the relegation spots here.
No obvious style of play, no defensive awareness about his sides and results only tend to come because of the quality of player he has at his disposal. If he got another Premier League job it would be in this region of the table.
16.Ralph Hassenhuttl – Southampton
This is a weird one for the Austrian, because he’s clearly got something about him.
Hassenhuttl likes to play expansive, attacking football but while his ideas are the right ones he seems to struggle with the actual execution of them. 9-0 defeats in consecutive seasons tells me he’s too stubborn to adapt too, so he slots in towards the bottom.
15. Claudio Ranieri – Watford
It seems harsh to have a Premier League winner this far down the rankings, but times have moved and Ranieri isn’t what he once was.
The ‘tinkerman’ tends to play counter-attacking football but it all seems very freestyled when watching his sides and defensively they’ve never been the best. His achievements earn him this height though.
14.Mikel Arteta – Arsenal
Hear me out. Arteta’s Arsenal are showing improvements in recent months now that he doesn’t have many injuries, but I’m still not convinced.
They seem organised enough for now, but the discipline issues remain and whenever they concede a goal they look frail mentally. He’s young in his career and could certainly move up the list in years to come but for now, he’s low down in my ranking of bosses.
13. Bruno Lage – Wolves
Not a lot of experience for the Portuguese manager here, but what he did at Benfica really stands out to me.
Plenty of focus on attacking football, using different player profiles to get what he needs from his teams. They play exciting football and score goals and the fact he has switched Wolves around as quickly as he has is testament to his coaching skills. Like Arteta, he could move up the ranks over the years.
12. Dean Smith – Aston Villa
Smith may have hit his ceiling with Aston Villa now, but the job he has done to this point is nothing short of excellent.
He took over in the Championship, got them to play front-foot, attacking football while also setting up a good defensive base and was rewarded with a cup final and a top half finish. He’s probably at his peak as a coach now, which means mid-table is where he sits.
11. Patrick Vieira – Crystal Palace
There may be a bit of recency bias in this pick, but the job Vieira is doing at Selhurst Park is incredibly good right now.
He struggled at Nice after moving from the MLS but the way in which he has transformed the squad’s way of playing in such a short space of time is delightful. Possession football with young and flairy players, Vieira’s stock is only going to rise.
10.Thomas Frank – Brentford
Honestly, I can’t praise this man enough. The job he has done since taking over at Brentford has been tremendous, but the transition they have made into Premier League football is even better.
They play attacking football, with a mix of possession and going direct, while they’re brave with playing out from the back and strong defensively. I fully expect them to stay up and think Frank will be on a lot of club’s radars higher up the league should the managerial merry-go-round start later this season.
9. Graham Potter – Brighton & Hove Albion
Not a big name in the slightest but the job he has done since coming to English football has not gone unnoticed.
Potter’s sides play excellent possession football with a major focus on control and scoring goals, just like a Pep Guardiola side. He’s still young in his career to rank him much higher than this, but you have to assume that with better players he gets better results, so he’s one to keep an eye on.
8.Marcelo Bielsa – Leeds United
Possibly the most gung-ho manager in all of football, Bielsa’s methods and philosophy are legendary across Europe and now he does it for Leeds.
The one vs one battles he creates all over the pitch rely on intense discipline from each player and unbelievable fitness levels, something he drills into every player. He improves individuals on a regular basis and entertains, but really should’ve won more in his career considering the reputation he has.
7. Rafa Benitez – Everton
A Champions League winner, a La Liga winner, an FA Cup winner, Rafa Benitez is one of the best coaches of his generation.
The issue for him unfortunately, is that generation was about 15 years ago. Rafa was at his best in the mid 2000’s to mid 2010’s during his time with Valencia and Liverpool but since then his football has become very rigid and uninspiring. He can still get results, but I don’t expect him to pull up any trees between now and the end of his career.
6.David Moyes – West Ham
Moyes’ career seemed dead and buried after his Man United spell almost a decade ago, but the way he has built his reputation back up has been nothing short of excellent.
He’s build a West Ham side that now competes with the best teams in the country when they face off against each other and is one of the toughest to beat, while also scoring plenty of goals going forward. The only thing he’s missing now is a trophy or two.
5.Brendan Rodgers – Leicester City
Rodgers showed what a great coach he was during his time with Watford and Swansea, then the Liverpool job when he made them genuine title contenders with brilliant, attacking football.
That job came a little early for him in the end, but he went to Celtic and was dominant and has made Leicester a truly competitive side. He even added the FA Cup to his trophy cabinet, so he is comfortably the best of the rest for me.
4.Antonio Conte – Tottenham
The new Tottenham manager has a proven CV in the managerial world and is without a doubt one of the best in the world.
His 3-4-3 formation has seen him win Serie A titles, a Premier League title and an FA Cup and his management style makes all his sides incredibly difficult to beat. Sometimes though, that pragmatism takes over and not losing gets prioritised over winning, so he just misses out on the top three.
3. Thomas Tuchel – Chelsea
A brilliant thinker with positive attacking football his forté, Tuchel has come to Chelsea and flipped a switch to become a brilliant defensive coach now.
Chelsea barely ever concede goals and yet they still find a way to score goals and win trophies. He’s shown he can do all sides of the game to a high level and has the trophies to boot with a Champions League winners medal so he goes in at third.
2.Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
When it’s all said and done and Guardiola hangs up his coaching hat, he could go down as one of the absolute best ever.
He’s won everything there is to win twice over, playing brilliant attacking football and revolutionising the way teams all over the world approach the game. He improves players individually, improves teams endlessly and wins games with style. The only flaw for me is he’s always had to spend a lot of money to do it, but that’s why teams bring him in and he always delivers.
1. Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
For me, the best coach in world football not just the Premier League.
Klopp came into a Liverpool side and implemented a brand new style immediately, and slowly but surely built his squad to become one of the best sides in modern history that won it all. They play fast-paced football with the first though always to score goals, have pace and are brave in their positions.
If I was starting a football club and could make anyone the manager, I’d pick Klopp.
Aston Villa crashed to a defeat against bottom side Sheffield United, further intensifying the belief that they are a one-man team with Jack Grealish missing once again.
The Villa skipper missed his third game on the bounce with an undisclosed injury as rumours continue to circulate about how long he will miss, and his side fell to a second defeat in that time.
Striker David McGoldrick’s sixth goal of the season in the first half was enough to secure the points for the Blades, who were reduced to 10 men with 35 minutes to play in the second half. Despite that though, Villa struggled to create any meaningful chances after that and Chris Wilder’s side held on for the points.
It’s a big worry for Dean Smith’s side, who had been one of the better teams to watch in the division for much of this season when Grealish was available.
The 25-year-old has been in sensational form with seven goals and ten assists in all competitions, leading Villa to a charge for the European places less than a year after avoiding relegation on the final day of last season.
With Grealish missing, the burden has been placed upon Bertrand Traore and Ross Barkley to provide the spark from midfield to create and score goals but it just hasn’t quite happened for them. Barkley’s performance in the defeat to Leicester was enough to see him dropped for the next two games to the bench, while Traore got on the scoresheet in that game but has struggled to do much else since.
Even in the win against Leeds, the Villains created just three shooting opportunities from open play, plus two from counter attack situations and then four set-pieces according to WhoScored. They scored one goal and only came out victorious thanks to a man of the match display from Emi Martinez in goal.
It’s something that the manager needs to address, with the over reliance on Grealish just asking for trouble even once he returns to fitness.
Clubs were already aware of how much creativity and skill he brings to the side, but seeing how little the rest of the team bring to the team without him, it’s worth them targeting Grealish a little bit more than usual and forcing the team to use the rest of the players on the pitch.
They could potentially go for a change of system, maybe adding in an extra midfielder to help them build from deeper positions or even a change of shape to move players into more attacking positions.
Regardless of what they decide to do, they need to do it quickly before they fall away from their league position and end up seeing out the rest of the season just playing out the rest of their games with nothing really to play for.
Aston Villa have completed their striker search after signing Brentford’s Ollie Watkins for a club record fee.
The 24 year old was one of Brentford’s best performers in the Championship last season as the West London side fell at the final hurdle, being beaten by Fulham in the playoff final. Watkins scored 26 goals in all competitions for the Bees last year in what was his first full season as a centre forward.
Aston Villa have agreed a fee with Brentford of an initial £28million, rising to £33million – a club record fee. The previous record was held by Brazilian striker Wesley who was signed just last summer from Club Brugge for £22million, but he scored just six goals in 22 games across all competitions. Villa also signed Mbwana Samatta in January from Genk for £8.5million but he scored just twice.
After scraping survival last season, Villa need to improve in all areas of the pitch. Their midfield is good enough to be a decent side in the Premier League but defensively and going forward they got no support and thus struggled.
Watkins is a big piece of the jigsaw that will see Villa improve. His willingness to run in behind but also his strength off the ball to hold play up and get his teammates involved will surely boost the likes of Grealish and McGinn who make bursting runs from deeper and out wide. On top of that, he clearly knows where the back of the net is after his season last year. The Premier League is a different kettle of fish to the Championship, but Watkins has the attributes and age to be a success.
£33million is a huge price tag and if Watkins lets it affect him then he and Villa will suffer but realistically he will thrive on the pressure and could be the man to fire Aston Villa to safety in 2021 and potentially make a late push for the England squad in next summer’s European Championships.
The great escape was completed as Aston Villa miraculously survived the drop and secured another season in the Premier League next year.
Captain Jack Grealish’s goal saw Villa take the lead on the day before Andriy Yarmolenko equalised minutes later to make it a nervy ending. In the end, they stayed strong and secured the point which meant Bournemouth’s win wasn’t enough to save them and Watford’s defeat to Arsenal meant they were the final team to go down.
The scenes after the final whistle were that of relief. The players gathered together on the pitch with the staff and bounced around in celebration, with the manager Dean Smith proudly boasting they would all celebrate by getting very drunk together.
But as the morning comes and the celebrations end, Aston Villa must decide how they build on this now.
Grealish is expected to leave but with the club still in the Premier League, they can now demand a much greater fee. £60million is a fee that has been reported, which would allow the club to not only replace Grealish but also strengthen elsewhere in the squad.
Pepe Reina’s loan deal is due to expire and with Tom Heaton hopeful of returning from injury in time for the start of the new campaign, Smith needs to decide whether or not he will be the first choice keeper once again.
In defence, the club need to improve. They conceded 67 goals this season, a number that only Norwich can top. Mings and Hause formed a good partnership in the middle but the full-backs really struggled both going forward and defensively. New full-backs on either side could be a big help to Villa and they could take a look at relegated Norwich defenders Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis to potentially help them. Another potential option could be a loan deal for Diogo Dalot of Manchester United, who has fallen behind Timothy Fosu-Mensah in the pecking order at Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
In midfield, after replacing Grealish they don’t need so much work. A bit of depth wouldn’t go amiss but with McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Conor Hourihane and Marvellous Nakamba they have enough quality to continue to keep them in games.
The attack is the huge problem Villa have. Without Grealish’s goals, Villa cannot rely on Wesley, Samatta and Keinan Davis. They need to look at bringing in a proven goalscorer in the Premier League. I’ve seen them linked with Teemu Pukki but I wouldn’t go for him. After a big burst at the start of the campaign, he fell away and hasn’t scored now since January.
After his revelation after Watford’s relegation that it could have been his last game for the club, Villa could do much worse than look to bring in Troy Deeney. He has Premier League pedigree, he is a leader and he can play football. He’d also go some way to replacing the leadership qualities of Grealish and wouldn’t cost them a bomb.
Once the party is done and the dust has settled, Villa need to come up with a plan quickly about targets and new arrivals they need to make sure they’re not in this same position yet again next season.