This weekend will see a legendary Premier League midfield battle take place on the touchline as Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa take on Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
Both men are in their first Premier League jobs as manager after taking over in the summer and during the most recent international break respectively, showing just how far the league has come as a spectacle.
During their respective playing careers, there weren’t many better than them in their midfield roles but now as coaches they are trying to carve a whole new legacy that can help them stand out.
From a team that was set up to defend their box and counter through Wilfried Zaha under Roy Hodgson for years, they are now a team that look to be brave in possession and create their own chances rather than just trying to capitalise on opponent’s mistakes.
They have a young squad that are composed and offensive minded, while defensively they look as solid as they have in the past.
Gerrard has made a name for himself in the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, helping to end Celtic’s dominance and earning them their first league title in ten years.
He plays attacking football, with an emphasis on control and speed while he also trusts youth if he deems them good enough.
For both, it’s an ode to the way they played the game themselves. Both love a powerful midfield with speed in attack and defenders who defend first and foremost. It’s also a blueprint to players of that era in the Premier League who are looking to move into coaching and management.
Playing in that era of football had a magical feeling, as technique and technology had more of a place than just passion and fitness. It’s likely that a lot of players from that era in the Premier League will see the game in a similar light, especially those who had success like these did.
The more we see former players move into management, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Scott Parker and Frank Lampard already involved it could lead to seeing a reincarnation of the old style of play with the new advancements tweaked in.
If Gerrard is able to continue his successful managerial spell with Villa and Vieira can continue the good job he has done at Palace so far, fellow ex-pros will see the benefits too and be more inclined to try and implement their way of playing onto their teams.
That can only be a good thing with the way football is improving, and that means fans will get a show every week no matter the fixture happening in the stadium.
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.
Patrick Vieira’s appointment at Crystal Palace in the summer was one that was met with plenty of intrigue and praise by fans and media alike.
After Roy Hodgson’s exit at the end of his contract, the Frenchman was brought in for just his third senior role in management after spells with New York FC and Nice in Ligue 1 where he had mixed success.
He was tasked with completely rebuilding the squad after a host of first-team exits and was given the keys to overhaul the style of play in the side.
The former Arsenal captain signed Marc Guehi permanently and Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea, Odsonne Edouard from Celtic, Joachim Andersen from Lyon, Michael Olise from Reading and Will Hughes from Watford to bolster his options.
He’s overseen a change of style from a rigid defensive unit where the entire attacking outlet centred around Wilfried Zaha supplying some magic and everyone else trying their best to be hard to beat.
Instead now, Palace are able to share the load with attacking talent and also control games with possession.
That was evident in their trip to The Emirates on Monday night in the Premier League, as they left with a point and 54% possession of the ball after an exciting 2-2 draw.
Arsenal took the lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, before goals from Christian Benteke and Edouard gave Palace a well deserved lead. Vieira’s side looked to keep the ball to see the game out until the final 5 minutes where they sat back to soak up pressure, only for Alexandre Lacazette to equalise in the 95th minute.
It was a blow for the boss and the visiting team, but it was a sign of the progress that the club have made in a short space of time.
They’re still difficult to beat, with only two defeats so far but they’re still trying to figure out getting wins over the line with just the sole win so far. Five draws show that they’re still figuring it all out.
But Vieira seems to have bought in to the Crystal Palace way. The fans love him, the players love him and he’s seeing progress with each and every game.
46 years later and Arsenal have officially got a new worst start ever to a season.
Mikel Arteta has led Arsenal to just 14 points from their opening 14 league games, with eight defeats and just 12 goals scored so far.
The performances and form of the Gunners have seen the pressure mount on their former captain, but the options to take over from him seem slim currently. Lets take a look at who the contenders are to take over and how they could potentially fare.
The bookies favourite is former Juventus and AC Milan boss, Max Allegri. The two-time Champions League finalist has been without a job since leaving Juventus in the summer of 2019, having won five Serie A titles in a row.
He’s been linked with several top jobs including Real Madrid, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain too but Arsenal seem to be the closest to him right now.
Stylistically, he goes against what Arsenal’s reported values are when it comes to on the pitch. He is very pragmatic as a coach and often relies on individual ability in attack. It’s no shock that he was the man in charge of Juventus when Cristiano Ronaldo came to the club, but defensively he is able to organise a team very well.
It doesn’t come across as much different to Arteta, other than he brings some name value to the team. I can’t see that he would be interested in going to the Emirates in their current state but Arsenal would do well to get a bigger name than him.
Another option that has just become available is another ex-captain of the club, Patrick Vieira.
The legendary French midfielder was recently sacked by Nice after two years in charge of the Ligue 1 club. He got them into the Europa League but following five successive defeats and elimination in the group stages, he was let go.
But with the current trend of hiring legendary players as manager, Vieira has a shout at the Arsenal job. Beyond being arguably the best captain in the club’s history, there isn’t much more that makes him deserving of the job.
A shout that a lot of Arsenal fans are making online is for Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. The Austrian has received widespread praise for the job he has done with the Saints, with the south-coast club playing attractive football despite a weaker squad than a lot of the division.
Tactically, he could be the answer but whether he is the type of profile that a club like Arsenal should be looking at is questionable.
Some could argue that where Arsenal are at the moment, they can’t be too selective about who takes charge. But that is arguably what got them in the trouble they’re in now, opting for the hipster pick rather than going with someone more proven.
For me the best options would be someone like Peter Bosz, Erik Ten Hag or a cheeky move for former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.
These guys have proven themselves at the elite level, play attractive football and have shown they have the qualities to build a squad to compete, even with a budget.
Whether they could be tempted to leave Leverkusen or Ajax or whether Pochettino would opt for the job considering his recent comments about wanting a top project is a different story.
Arsenal need to seriously consider this next appointment because not only do they need instant results, but they need someone who can produce in the long-term too and get them back to where they feel they deserve to be.
Since the early 90’s, two of the best footballing nations to have played the game are Holland and France.
Countless players have caught the imagination of fans and media alike over the last 30-odd years, so I decided to select the best XI of each country from my lifetime and pit them against each other.
Some incredible footballers have missed out, including the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, the De Boer brothers, Patrick Kluivert, Wesley Sneijder, David Trezeguet, Robert Pires, Paul Pogba and Patrice Evra.
I’m going to justify my selections for my teams here and break down what I think would happen if the two sides had ever met each other for real.
In goal, Holland’s keeper is obvious. Edwin Van Der Sar is a two time Champions League winner and multiple time league winner in two different countries with Ajax and Manchester United. He represented Holland 130 times throughout his career and is largely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation.
For France the decision was a bit tougher. It was between two World Cup winners in Fabian Barthez and Hugo Lloris but I opted for the Tottenham man in this instance. While Barthez was supreme in his time for France, he was more prone to errors than Lloris and for me his peak didn’t last for as long. Both have exceptional reflexes and decent distribution and I don’t think the squad is any worse off regardless of which one was chosen.
In defence for Holland, one of the best central defensive partnerships ever. Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk is the best defender in the world right now and has been for the last 18 months or so, while Jaap Stam was one of the most dominant in Europe during his peak in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Physically they’re untouchable but they can also compete in a foot race and in the air. They have the ability to play out from the back too to help build attacks early.
For France, it’s a similar story. Raphael Varane is one of Van Dijk’s closest companions at the top of the game right now while Desailly was France’s leader at the back during his time in the national team. Much like Holland’s pairing, they can compete with any sort of attack that comes up against them and would be a brick wall.
The full-backs are the first point where we see an advantage for one side or the other. France’s pairing of Thuram and Lizarazu is balance personified and the epitome of what a full-back duo should be. Individually both are comfortable at both ends of the pitch and equally able to defend their flank. Both are excellent defenders in their own right and are intelligent enough to know when to attack, although Lizarazu could struggle with the physical demands of today’s game a bit more.
Holland’s options aren’t so star-studded. Former Barcelona paid Michael Reiziger and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst are both excellent professionals who won plenty during their career. Despite that, they both have their weaknesses too. Reiziger was never the best one on one defender while Van Bronckhorst was physically on the smaller side, which could be something this French side could look to exploit.
In central midfield, it would be a battle for the ages. Ngolo Kante and Edgar Davids have many similarities in their style, with both incredibly energetic and determined ball-winners who can also play with the ball at their feet too. Davids had a bit more swagger to his game but Kante’s defensive positioning is a thing of wonder. Alongside them both are two of their generation’s best as Patrick Vieira does battle with Clarence Seedorf.
Vieira made his name at Arsenal as a marauding box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal and a bite to his tackle, while Seedorf was one of the most complete midfielders ever. His passing range, stamina, strength, creativity and striking ability meant he stood out on any pitch he was on and he would look to do similar here.
In attack, it’s two absolutely incredible variations of style, skill and quality.
For France, the new school mix with the old school as Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann partner up with Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane. All World Cup winners and all phenomenally talented, they would be able to rotate almost freely in the attacking areas of the pitch, knowing they are perfectly protected behind them.
Mbappe and Henry’s pace and goalscoring exploits would make them a scary sight for any defence that has ever existed, but especially a Holland side with obvious weaknesses at full-back. Zidane and Griezmann both have the ability to dominate a game in the hole and play killer passes from between the lines, while also carrying a goal threat of their own.
For Holland, it’s much of the same. Arjen Robben and Marc Overmars are among Holland’s greatest wingers ever, with their pace and drive while running from wide positions into the box unmatched by many. Centrally, Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy are Holland’s two highest goalscorers ever and would be able to link together to cause plenty of damage. van Persie’s ability to drop deep and link the midfield and attack would allow more space for van Nistelrooy to do what he does best – get in the box and finish.
It would truly be a game for the ages between these two nations and it would be a fantastic spectacle. But who would win?
Looking at the sides, the glaring difference as mentioned already would be the French wingers up against the Dutch full-backs. Everywhere else on the pitch is pretty evenly matched but with France’s two best goal-threats coming against Holland’s two weaker players it just pans out that the French would be able to get a victory because of it.