RANKED! Every current manager in the Premier League
You think managing a Premier League club is an impossible job? Try ranking them all by ability...
Who'd be a Premier League manager? It's a thankless task: when you win, it's the players who provided the spark of magic yet when you lose... it's all your fault.
The standard has arguably never been higher in the Premier League, either. While once upon the time the title was fought between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, England now can boast arguably the top four or five managers in Europe.
There's no saying who the best is. Or is there?
We thought we'd do the impossible and rank the current Prem bosses by how good they are at their job. This is based off past performance, tactics, man management and just how well they've proven themselves based on what they've had to work with. Feel free to argue about it...
20. Graeme Jones, Newcastle United
The only current caretaker or interim manager in the Premier League, Graeme Jones isn't expecting to keep his job that long. It's unfortunate that he's bottom too, given that he's a good coach: he was brought in by Steve Bruce to help inject Newcastle United with a bit more urgency and they stayed up as a result.
WHO IS GRAEME JONES? Everything you need to know about Steve Bruce's interim replacement at Newcastle United
Still, it's only fair to place him bottom... given that in his only permanent job, he took Luton to 23rd out of 24. Sorry, Graeme.
19. Daniel Farke, Norwich City
Again, it feels so harsh to put a man who's won the second tier two of the last three seasons in at 19th on this list. Daniel Farke is clearly extremely capable, as demonstrated by his Championship acumen - and Norwich's faith in his abilities is clear.
Yet at the time of writing, Farke has managed just five Premier League wins. This is a competitive league and that's relegation form, unfortunately.
18. Claudio Ranieri, Watford
Unbelievable, right? The man who made the miracle, well and truly in our managerial relegation zone.
Claudio Ranieri will forever be remembered for winning a title with Leicester City and frankly, that's a good thing. Because he was appallingly bad at Fulham, lost to the Faroe Islands when he managed Greece and his title in 2016 is the only one he's ever won.
A great guy, a good man manager and he was one of the better coaches in Europe at one point. But in 2021? There are 17 better in the Prem, we're saying...
17. Bruno Lage, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Bruno Lage's Wolverhampton Wanderers had a slow start but it did seem probable that all they really needed was a swing of luck. They look extremely well-coached after a drab last season under Nuno last term and Bruno Lage must be given ample credit for that.
He's purely down in 17th because he's not proven much so far and only had 10 games in the Premier League. Come back in a year - even six months - and we'll probably have Lage much higher on this list.
16. Dean Smith, Aston Villa
It's easy to point at the man who's just lost four games in a row and criticise him - but there are issues with Dean Smith's Aston Villa that we're perhaps only getting to see now that Jack Grealish has stepped out of the side.
This Villa side is entertaining with quality players across the team but are they tactically sound? Not especially. Does Smith do anything really groundbreaking with them? Again, not especially. That's not to say he's a bad manager though: he's not.
Smith is clearly very good at organising them and filling them with the confidence to go and control matches - even against bigger sides - but they're about the sum of parts.
15. Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace
Patrick Vieira has only been at Crystal Palace for a few games but they already look extremely good. The pressing is well-executed, the 4-3-3 has an excellent structure to it and the Frenchman is getting the best out of everyone, as he rebuilds Palace into something a whole lot more modern.
He was good at Nice with worse parts to hand and even at New York City FC, his team showed a lot of patience and competence on the ball that you wouldn't expect from a young coach. Vieira is a very good addition to the Premier League and Crystal Palace are so much fun to watch.
14. Thomas Frank, Brentford
Thomas Frank is another new face in the Premier League who's already had shown his tactical nous early in the season. Given that Brentford have a coach for everything, from set pieces to sleep, how much can we credit Frank for?
LONG READ How the Brentford's Moneyball philosophy overcame play-off heartbreak to make it back to the promised land
Well, we're going to credit him with the versatility in moving away from a back four to a three, while Ivan Toney's improved hold-up play no doubt stems back to instructions from the management. The shape of his side is superb, in attack, transition and defence and they're aggressive enough to cause even bigger sides problems. Frank is taking this Premier League life in his stride.
13. Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton
It's hard to know whether Southampton haven't improved because the squad doesn't have the quality required or whether Ralph Hasenhuttl simply hasn't improved as a manager and evolved tactically. The 'Klopp of the Alps' is a lot colder than Jurgen; he's tactically less flexible too, perhaps and he lacks a Plan B.
Despite this though, Hasenhuttl is still a top manager. His press is exemplary, the defensive shape of Southampton is superb and with what he has at St. Mary's, he's doing an excellent job. He was tipped for a Big Six job down the line - and he may still get there one day.
12. Sean Dyche, Burnley
If it wasn't for Sean Dyche, Burnley would probably be favourites for the drop this season - or any other. The ginger genius is a master of keeping his team compact and it's no surprise that defenders and goalkeepers look fantastic under his tutelage.
BURNLEY Is Turf Moor still a tough place to go?
And in Dyche we're witnessing something completely different from almost every club in the league. As other sides move towards expansive possession styles with short-term hires, this is a manager who doesn't care how his team plays so long as it gets results - and he's been there almost a decade.
11. Rafael Benitez, Everton
Rafael Benitez is one of the most beloved managers of all time - that's not an over-exaggeration. A Champions League winner who seemingly revels in the difficult jobs, going to places where he's not going to get much love for his work... but getting it anyway.
Benitez is in his twilight now but he can still compete with the best on his day. The way that midfielders in particular improve under him is great to watch over the course of a season and his teams are always going to be difficult to beat. It's a richer league for Rafa.
10. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United
The much-maligned Norwegian is a constant thorn in the side of Manchester United fans... but is he unfairly treated? You bet he is.
Looking at where United were when he took over, he reinvigorated the players, unified the side and the development shown by the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and even Bruno Fernandes owes something to Ole. He's got this team competing again: if Jose Mourinho called second in the league "his greatest achievement", then surely Solskjaer deserves some credit for doing it last year?
His team may have lost its way of late but Solskjaer's reputation is a little cruel to his ability. He's not half as bad as some make out.
7. David Moyes, West Ham United
Who'd have thought that in 2021, we'd be saying David Moyes was a better manager than the guy in charge of Manchester United?
The downs have been as much of a story as the ups for Moyesy, who's suffered his fair share of bonkersness over two decades of management. That he's been reborn in the cauldron of the London Stadium as the architect of the high-flying tricky Irons, is fitting for his talents.
His ability to find goals where there are no out-and-out strikers is legendary. He's kept his team relevant to modern trends in their compactness and pressing, while instilling good, old-fashioned brute force in the centre of the West Ham midfield and at the back. He clearly demands hard running and hard working from his players - and it's reaping rewards.
It's helped that he's stumbled upon a couple of gems - but this team is quintessentially Moyes. He's back as one of the best managers in the country. Rightly so.
8. Mikel Arteta, Arsenal
While the Emirates Stadium is fully behind Mikel Arteta, there's a social media cult of Arsenal fans who don't seem to understand what he's doing. Considering the challenges that he's had, however, he's excelled in management so far.
Arteta took over a side with low workrate, poor running stats and very few technicians. He adjusted his own principles to win an FA Cup - beating big sides along the way - and brought in a new generation of Arsenal players to improve the side. They're more competitive in big games, they're better in build-up, at pressing and in transition. And when key players have missed in big moments, he's found creative solutions to keep the machine whirring.
There still remain question marks over some of this young coach's decisions - but since having a more complete side after the summer's rebuild, it's clear to see his intention and philosophy at work. The chance creation has even improved since, too. Maybe that section of Arsenal fans who criticise ought to trust the process a little more...
7. Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United
El Loco has taken Leeds from midtable obscurity in the Championship to one of the highest-ever Premier League totals for a promoted side. He's not spent much. He's revolutionised plenty.
It's a tale that plenty of cities across Europe have come to learn. Marcelo Bielsa is a genuine legend of management whose principles have inspired the likes of Guardiola, Pochettino and Simeone. He's one of the best managers of all time. So why's he not in the top three at least?
Well, his teams have always been very beatable if you know which buttons to press. Leeds will find a way to pummel you without elite technicality but if they come up against a side who's worked them out, we've seen them get thrashed.
That doesn't take away from Bielsa's genius, though - and it is real, pure genius that the man has. He's one of the greatest to ever do it - and 20 years into management, he's still one of the best in the Premier League.
6. Graham Potter, Brighton & Hove Albion
Graham Potter got Ostersund promoted three times before getting them into Europe; he's turned Brighton from relegation battle fodder into one of the most exciting passing teams in England - and he's not exactly been bankrolled in either role.
The development of some of the players under his command has been nothing short of incredible, too. Potter's teams are really exciting to watch and they manage to lead xG charts, possession stats and chance creation tables even against the elite.
And one of the most impressive things about the Seagulls is how resilient they are defensively, despite what they throw forward. Potter is going places - don't be surprised if he becomes an elite coach in no time.
5. Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City
Previously looked at as a caricature with his cliches and his odd midfield diamond, Brendan Rodgers has ascended to become one of the finest coaches in Europe. It's important not to discount his extraordinary achievements in Scotland too - it's since been proven that not everyone could have done what he did at Celtic.
Leicester City are versatile, strong, entertaining and resolute. The likes of Wilfried Ndidi, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes have all become better players under Rodgers - even Vardy has credited the manager with improving his game - and they're now a genuine threat for top four, only missing out it seems due to injuries, bad luck or running out of steam.
Rodgers' renaissance has been fantastic to watch. There's a reason none of the bigger clubs in the Premier League can afford him.
4. Antonio Conte, Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur should have thrown the bag at Antonio Conte the first time around. He's the best short-term manager in the world - and the fact that other Premier League clubs have let Spurs have a free run at him? They may regret that.
Conte's football is sharp, gritty and gets results, while his man-management style is an intriguing one. For all the talk of him being a difficult character, he's never lost a dressing room - and Chelsea fans still loved him after he left.
TACTICS How will Tottenham play under Antonio Conte?
The Italian has proven his genius wherever he's gone, too, restoring the Blues to their usual selves, kickstarting Juventus's Scudetto marathon and bringing Inter back to the top table. He's easy to parody with his shouting and his back three but he's an incredibly astute coach who very few in the world can get one over.
3. Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel showed flickers of brilliance at Mainz. At Dortmund, he assumed a mantel in Klopp's shadow and did fantastic things. At Paris Saint-Germain, for all the circus, he led them to a Champions League final. Chelsea feels like the place he's truly become a genius of the modern game.
The German's record speaks for itself - but so does the Blues'. The goals they were conceding under Lampard dried up immediately. They suddenly became good enough to win Europe's biggest prize and one of the favourites for the title the following season, even before signing Romelu Lukaku. He's balanced a squad of disparate profiles immaculately. Tactically, there are very few who can compete with him.
And he's still fairly young. Tuchel is one of the brightest minds around right now and we're so lucky to have him in England.
2. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp could have gone anywhere after Dortmund. That he went to a faltering Liverpool team was admirable of his ambition - that he's turned them into one of the greatest Premier League sides ever is nothing short of stunning.
And he's done so while reinventing the wheel. There's no playmaker, famously, and the Reds can cut you apart any which way they want. They're brilliantly structured yet unbelievably expressive: Klopp has built the ultimate winning machine and elevated the games of countless players while doing so.
His greatest achievement may yet be that he got top four with a team that had no senior centre-back for much of the season. Some may say Klopp is even underrated.
1. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City
It couldn't be anyone else. Pep Guardiola revolutionised football in his first senior season in management; 13 years on, everyone is still a step behind him (even himself, sometimes, when he overthinks a big European night).
Guardiola's tactical nous is unrivalled. He's nurtured players in his own intense way and got Manchester City playing brilliantly and beautifully, without a proper striker, constantly evolving, surprising and battering everyone else along the way. Everyone else in football moves to the beat of his drum.
If the first Premier League era was defined by Ferguson's rise, then we're truly living in the time of Guardiola. The man who's always had a special fascination with English football has left quite the imprint on it.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.
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