Should you have missed the media blitz and the numerous lists that the public is entertained with as we round up one decade and look forward to the next, here’s one that’s an ode to premier league managers. For a league that has seen significant shifts since 2010, who would stand out as Premier League Manager of the Decade? With unapologetic subjectivity, a list emerged as detailed below.
In selecting a shortlist (no one manager has so dominated to deserve the standalone honour), several parameters are taken into account – the length of time that they have been able to make an impact, the history of the team that they manage, the players that they have at their disposal, the kind of football that their teams play and of course the trophies added to the cabinet. Points to game ratio come to play, whether they nurture young talent and a few of their softer skills.
From the start of the decade to the present, the premier league is almost unrecognisable. 97 permanent managers later, the exits of titans Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger with the resultant emerging new breed managers, billions of pounds in transfer activity and new stadiums for a handful of clubs, the one constant is that the Beautiful Game continues to entertain millions globally.
Therefore, in alphabetical order:
Sir Alex Ferguson
Although he retired in 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson belongs here by virtue of winning two Premier League titles in a clutch of six won. This despite many of his senior players coming to the end of their careers and increased competition from other clubs. He retired as Manager of the Season with Manchester United crowned Premier League champions for a record 13th time. That United has not won the league since his departure is justification enough for his inclusion.
Guardiola moved to Manchester City in 2016 with a CV almost beyond compare and huge expectation. His remit was to replicate the success at the Etihad. Despite winning no silverware in his first season, he has since laid down the marker for others to follow: back-to-back Premier League titles and seven trophies while also stamping his football philosophy on the team. This has yielded fruit, breaking records along the way.
In the 2017/18 season, Manchester City had the most goals, the most wins and the most consecutive wins on the way to winning the league by 19 points, a record-winning margin and becoming the first ever Premier League side to reach 100 points. When it seemed impossible that they could do any better, they followed this up in 2018/19 by becoming the first side to win the domestic quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, Community Shield and League Cup, pipping Liverpool to the title.
Klopp arrived at Anfield in 2015 following a successful stint as manager at Borussia Dortmund. He inherited a somewhat dispirited team despite plenty of good rebuilding work done by his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers. He led Liverpool to the 2015/16 Europa League Final and the 2017/18 Champions League Final. In the 2018/19 season, playing their pressing football, Liverpool lost only one game in the season and were unfortunate to miss out on the Premier League trophy by one point. This was despite notching up one of the best points tally in the league with 97 points. Compensation came by way of European triumph. The Champions League trophy resides at Anfield, the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup have since followed. He is also boss to Virgil Van Dijk who arguably he has nurtured such that he was named the 2019 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year. With a seemingly unassailable 13-point lead in the league, Klopp looks to be in pole position to lead Liverpool to their first ever Premier League title.
Now at Spurs to oversee a much-needed turnaround, The Reformed One is here by virtue of spearheading Chelsea’s 2015 Premier League title in his second coming and winning three trophies at Old Trafford where United had been floundering since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. He engineered a return to European football with a Europa League win, without which the once-formidable team would have gone deeper into the football wilderness. Like him or loathe him, José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix will get results.
The quietly steely Argentine was first introduced to the Premier League via Southampton in 2012 where he kept them in the top flight and steered them to 8th position the next season before Tottenham came calling. He gave chances to the youngsters, Harry Kane blossomed under his tutelage and they paid this back with Spurs becoming more consistent in performance and remaining in the top four, season after season. They were 2nd in the 2016/2017 season. Their attractive football gained respect, never more so than in the 2018/19 season where they made history by having no activity in the transfer market yet still managed to reach the final of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. He never did win silverware, but his many improvements deserve more than a mention. Sadly, the partnership at Spurs has come to an end but his legacy must warm the hearts at North London.
The most surprising name among his illustrious colleagues is included in this list for achieving the near impossible. With odds of 5000/1 to win the Premier League, no fan believed it would happen until Ranieri’s Leicester City were crowned champions in the 2015/16 season. Not only did they overcome those odds, they achieved it with ten more points than the nearest challenger. It was quite phenomenal, given the resources at the disposal of the perennial Premier League heavyweights that they were up against. Jamie Vardy ex of Fleetwood Town became a superstar. N’golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, previously under the radar have leveraged on the accolades to move on to a bigger stage. For guiding the club to their first top-flight league win in over 100 years, Claudio Ranieri will remain in Premier League history.
Although the 2010s saw a slump in status for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, he gets an honourable mention for being a disrupter and despite the criticism of them being regular 4th place in the league table, it is no mean feat to keep a side in Champions League consistently for about 7 years in the decade. The last of the old guard, it is doubtful that his legacy can be equalled.
Mention must also go to Eddie Howe, quietly steering the Bournemouth ship and keeping them in the Premier League for 5 seasons including a 9th place. He is well rated for bringing up players form the football league and helping their growth as established top-flight players.
To conclude, unless there is a gun to the head, only a ‘successful Premier League managers of the decade’ list can be made. Perhaps it is a bias from having witnessed the legendary status of Sir Alex Ferguson. It would not be out of place to say that no manager can again dominate the Premier League in the same way.
Lande is Executive Secretary, Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria