The Hard Tackle’s End of Season Awards – Best Manager
It has been a season of ups and downs for several clubs and most of the managers who were heralded as bringing success to their respective clubs failed to do so to varying degrees, some more so than others.
Jose Mourinho’s early season insistence that Manchester United were going to fight for the title soon disappeared into the fog of some dour football, which left many fans wondering if he was the right appointment or not.
Arsene Wenger finally spent some money this season but the Gunners still played some of the worst football we have seen under the Frenchman and finished outside of the Top 4 for the first time during his reign.
Pep Guardiola’s team at times was nothing short of enthralling but the Spaniard failed to get any sort of consistency out of his side and the early season promise of a title challenge quickly faded, with City finding themselves in a battle for the Top 4.
However, there were also several managers who did impressive jobs at the helm of their clubs this season, some surprising and some not so surprising. The Hard Tackle takes a look at the top 5 Premier League managers of the season.
Antonio Conte is deservedly the first name on this list after doing a stellar job at Chelsea in his very first season in the English Premier League – a league that is so often unforgiving to foreign managers and even to local ones, as we have seen with David Moyes and Mike Phelan this season.
When he took over, Conte had already shortlisted a number of targets and failed to land almost all of them, with the exception of Player of the Season N’Golo Kante, for which he will be hugely thankful given the Frenchman’s brilliance.
Kalidou Koulibaly stayed at Napoli, Radja Nainggolan stayed at Roma, Alvaro Morata moved to Real Madrid and even Marcos Alonso was not Conte’s first choice signing for the left-back position, with Chelsea failing to sign many of their targets.
Instead, Conte signed David Luiz, who has been a revelation this season; Michy Batshuayi, who has struggled for game time but has played a small part in Chelsea’s success; and Marcos Alonso, who has also been excellent for the Blues.
Early hiccups led many to brand Chelsea as one of the teams that would be fighting for a top four position but that is when Conte’s man management and tactical nous came to the fore. A defeat to Arsenal sparked a change in formation and the club did not look back after that.
Chelsea turned into an unstoppable juggernaut and swatted aside team after team to rise to the top of the table, and were eventually crowned champions. The Italian had taken a side that finished 10th last year and although they still had world class players, there was certainly a lot of work left to do at Stamford Bridge.
That Conte’s impact has also led to several other teams adopting his hugely successful 3-4-3 formation – such as Tottenham and Arsenal – speaks volumes about his foresight, and the Italian might not be done yet. Conte could still win the domestic double in his very first season in England, an incredible achievement whichever way you look at it.
Since Mauricio Pochettino took over in 2014, Tottenham’s progress and evolution has been nothing short of remarkable and it is a shame that a team that plays with such bravery and positivity once again fell short when it came to winning actual silverware this season.
Pochettino has made some shrewd signings over the last couple of years and has assembled a relatively young squad that, somewhat scarily for the other teams, will likely only continue to improve next season.
The Argentinian’s brilliance does not stop there, however. Pochettino has shown that he is tactically flexible and quickly changed things up when Spurs struggled between October and November and then later in January, choosing to adopt a 3-4-3 formation during the latter period that was the foundation of their awesome form for the rest of the season.
That Pochettino is being linked with the Barcelona job is no surprise. The Tottenham manager has shown that he can not only work within a budget and get astounding results but that he is able to get the best out of his players and get them playing some brilliant football in the process.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool played some of the best football of any team in the league at times this season and quite simply blew teams away with their aggressive attacking play and high press early on.
This saw them installed as title favourites and while that proved to be premature, one must still not underestimate the job that the German manager has done at Anfield this season, something Liverpool fans fully recognise.
Despite spending significantly less money than his Arsenal and Manchester United counterparts, Klopp still managed to guide Liverpool to a 4th place position ahead of both sides while playing also playing a better brand of football than both sides.
Reds fans have a lot to be positive about with Jurgen Klopp at the helm and with the right additions in the summer transfer window, Liverpool could iron out their weaknesses and mount a sustained title challenge next season.
When Paul Clement took over Swansea City in January after the experiment with Bob Bradley failed, the Swans were bottom of the table and looked almost certain to be relegated at the end of the season.
Clement has an impressive resume, having assisted both Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti at various times of his career but with just one season in charge of Derby, the Englishman was not the most experienced appointment for the Swans.
Clement oversaw an impressive change in Swansea’s football in terms of tactics, effort as well as man management. The former Bayern Munich and Chelsea assistant oversaw a run in which Swansea collected 26 points out of a possible 54 under, they finished seven points clear of the drop zone in 15th.
It will be interesting to see what Clement can achieve with a full transfer window and pre-season with the club and Swansea fans definitely have a lot of reasons to be positive about next season with the Englishman in charge.
Marco Silva’s appointment sparked outrage from several British pundits who felt that the several better, English options were unfairly overlooked in favour of the Portuguese tactician.Those cries of outrage were soon silenced, when just two days after his appointment Silva led Hull City to an impressive 2-0 victory over swansea in the FA Cup.
A league victory over Bournemouth followed before Silva caused a huge upset by defeating Manchester United 2-1 in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup. That his side did not progress due to a 2-0 loss to Jose Mourinho’s side in the first leg was not Silva’s fault and he only further impressed when he led his side to a 2-0 victory over Liverpoool in the English Premier League, making it four wins
in his first four home matches as Hull City manager.
Unfortunately, the miracle that Silva was trying to engineer would not come to be as Hull City were eventually relegated but the impressive job he has done will not be lost on others and it is no surprise that Silva is currently in the running for the Porto job ahead of next season.