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First Impressions: How top Premier League managers transformed their clubs

Top-level football management is undoubtedly a precarious business, particularly in elite competitions such as the Premier League.

That point has been highlighted to perfection this season as more than half the clubs in the English top flight have changed their managers during the current campaign.

The pressure on bosses is accentuated at the top of the tree, with the big clubs desperately striving to get their hands on major silverware.

It would be fair to say that the top English clubs have had varying success with their managerial appointments in recent years.

With that in mind, we have looked at the top managers in the Premier League and evaluated their first-year performances with their respective clubs.

We’ve assessed how much they improved their club’s performances compared to the previous season and how they stack up against their peers.

Pep Guardiola – Manchester City

Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City in 2016 amid plenty of fanfare, but you would be hard-pushed to describe his first season in charge as a success.

He started well, guiding City to a 10-match winning run in all competitions. However, they were unable to maintain their form and finished the campaign empty-handed.

Guardiola’s side finished third in the Premier League, reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and suffered early exits in the Champions League and Carabao Cup.

In fairness, City’s final league position was one place higher than the previous season and they have not finished out of the top two since then.

The club’s transfer business was largely positive, with John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus playing their part in City’s subsequent successes.

Leroy Sane was a noteworthy exception, although he did show flashes of brilliance during his time at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola’s first season with City was unquestionably about laying the foundations for the following seasons, and his methods have clearly worked.

Winning the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup treble this season would be the cherry on the cake for a manager whose ability is not in question.

Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool

A feature of the last few seasons in English football has been the growing on-field rivalry between Man City and Liverpool.

While the Reds have been the main challengers to City, the latter’s tally of nine major trophy trophies under Guardiola puts Klopp’s haul of four firmly in the shade.

Klopp arrived at Anfield in 2015 with the club in disarray and his first season in charge saw the team slip from sixth to eighth in the Premier League.

They made an early exit from the FA Cup but managed to reach the final of the Europa League and Carabao Cup. They were defeated on each occasion.

Liverpool’s transfer business in Klopp’s first season was patchy, with several signings failing to live up to expectations after joining the club.

Roberto Firmino and James Milner were the pick of the bunch, while Joe Gomez has eventually proved to be a useful member of the squad.

While Klopp eventually guided Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 2019/20, his time in charge has not been as productive as some fans would have you believe.

The Reds have endured a miserable campaign this time around and it will be intriguing to see if Klopp remains the right man to take them forward.

Mikel Arteta – Arsenal

Of the four managers we have assessed, Mikel Arteta can just about lay claim to making the quickest impact after his appointment.

The Spaniard arrived at the Emirates Stadium in December 2019, having learned his craft as part of Guardiola’s coaching team at Man City.

Arteta guided the Gunners to FA Cup success at the end of the campaign, but it took him longer than expected to turn around their fortunes in the Premier League.

Arsenal finished eighth in 2019/20 and ended the following season in the same position. They also failed to get their hands on any silverware.

However, the club made several shrewd moves in the transfer market including the acquisitions of Thomas Partey and Gabriel.

Arteta has subsequently got Arsenal heading firmly in the right direction, with the club following last season’s fifth-place finish with a Premier League title challenge this term.

Arsenal are now in a much better place than they were before Arteta replaced Unai Emery as manager, with their squad packed with hugely talented players.

Building on the foundations he has established will be the next big task for Arteta, which may prove tricky given the strength of the other big clubs.

Erik ten Hag – Manchester United

A case can be made for saying Erik ten Hag has made a speedier impact at Manchester United than Arteta achieved with Arsenal.

The Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League table last season but are well on course to secure a top-four spot this term.

Ten Hag has also guided United to a trophy in his first season, with the team comfortably disposing of Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final.

They are also through to the FA Cup final, although they now face the small matter of defeating Man City to get their hands on the trophy.

United were dumped out of the Europa League at the quarter-final stage by Sevilla, highlighting that Ten Hag still has plenty of work to do.

However, he has significantly improved United’s squad, with Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Antony and Christian Eriksen proving their worth to varying degrees.

Ten Hag has also shipped out plenty of deadwood, while his handling of the Cristiano Ronaldo situation showed he is not a man to be messed with.

The Dutchman is clearly the right manager for United. The only question that remains is will the ongoing ownership saga prevent him from restoring the club to its former status?

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