The Rival Managers: A Quick Look – Part I

Jürgen Klopp’s appearance on Sky’s Monday Night Football earlier this week got plenty of tongues wagging. The German joined David Jones and our very own Carra to discuss things such as formations, set-pieces and being a ball possession team. I don’t know the viewing figures, but if I were to have a guess I’d bet that the viewing figures dropped significantly when Klopp left the studio and the Burnley v Watford match got underway.

Most rival fans hate that Klopp’s our manager. They hate it for two main reasons: 1) Because he’s so good at his job. 2) Because he’s so immensely likeable. He’s the sort of engaging character that gets people’s attentions and I’ve had texts from people who have never watched a game of football in their life telling me they love Jürgen. A Man United supporting friend of mine told me he wishes he was their manager and he thinks he’s the best manager in the league. All of which got me thinking: How do the other managers stack up when compared to ours?

This week I’ll be having a look at the managers of both Manchester clubs and Arsenal. Next week, when the international break kicks in, I’ll have a look at Ronald Koeman at Everton, Antonio Conte at Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs. If there’s anyone else you think I should look at then give me a shout. I can’t promise this will be an in-depth tactical look at each manager’s approach to football and I readily admit that it will be fully of personal opinion. That might not be as insightful as a piece written by a stats guy who will look at the under-lying numbers, (I can’t recommend Andrew Beasley’s piece on Jürgen Klopp highly enough) but I can promise that I won’t pull my punches; especially when it comes to a certain Portuguese know-it-all…

José Mourinho

Where else to start but with the Portuguese irritant? It’s difficult to remain objective talking about the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’. It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that I am not a fan. I think he’s a rude, arrogant moron who displays little respect for any of his opposition managers. His treatment of Arsene Wenger over the years has been little short of disgusting and the fact that he’s allowed to do it without being called on by the press is a damning indictment of the newspapers in this country.

There’s also the fact that the former Porto man has spent more money than any other manager in the history of football. He has unquestionably enjoyed success – you only need to look at his medal collection to see that. But the fact that he receives such adulation and respect without constant mentions of the investment he’s been given to achieve said success is, in my opinion, another mark against the press.

That said, managers spend money. It is the way of the modern game. Despite the fact that Liverpool ended the summer with a positive net spent, Jürgen Klopp still spent around £60 million. It would be folly to suggest that Mourinho’s spending rules him out of being a top-class manager simply because he’s spent over a billion pounds during his career. Like it or not he will win trophies with Manchester United and his record proves as much. The Portuguese has won a major trophy with every club he’s been at since Porto and if things don’t work out for him at Old Trafford this season then he’ll just throw more money at the problem in January and during the summer.

The main question mark around José right now is whether he is the right fit for the Red Devils. As much as our two clubs dislike each other, United fans expect to watch a certain style of football. Alex Ferguson was no Bob Paisley, but he gained success at Old Trafford by playing exciting, attacking football. That is not something that will ever be high on Mourinho’s list of priorities. His default setting is stopping the other team from scoring rather than getting his team to try to find the back of the net. That is something that supporters will put up with as long as the team is winning, but if they’re not? How long will United fans put up with watching miserable football before losing their patience?

As I said earlier, Mourinho lacks class. He’s not against the idea of throwing players under the bus if it means that he’ll come out of any given situation without any flies on him. Eva Carneiro would tell you it’s not just players that he’s happy to sacrifice to the alter of himself. His treatment of her, much like his behaviour towards Wenger, Pep Guardiola, Anders Frisk and Tito Vilanova – whose eye he tried to gouge during a brawl – was pathetic. Leaks have already started to emerge from the United dressing room. Can he re-claim his territory before it’s too late? Only time will tell.

Pep Guardiola

It’s interesting to note how many people think of ‘Pep’. The Manchester City manager has cultivated a reputation as being a managerial football purist, yet he’s also spent an absolute fortune over the years. His Barcelona side is revered for the homegrown talents that he helped to nature such as Lionel Messi, making it easy to forget that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa, Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez were all brought in under the Spaniard and make up four of Barca’s six most expensive signings ever.

He doesn’t suffer from the same label or the same dislike as Mourinho on account of the fact that he actually seems like quite a pleasant person. On top of that, the football he gets his teams playing is genuinely exciting. It is possession based, yes, but it’s also attacking and incisive. City look like a formidable team this season and their attacking flow will be difficult for most teams to stop. Pep has a philosophy that isn’t just about stopping other teams and for that he should be commended.

City look formidable right now, but there are no absolutes in football. They looked formidable when they won their opening five fixtures of last season, too. One of the reasons some Liverpool supporters were quietly confident ahead of this season is the fact that we have no European football. For that to be relevant, other teams need to have the challenge of European football and that is the case with Manchester City. They’re not yet at the business end of the Champions League, so what will happen when they are?

Pep took Bayern to the semi-finals of the Champions League three times without winning it. He’ll be determined to right that wrong with City and a big part of the reason that the club’s oil-rich owners brought him in was to win that particular trophy for the first time. When things get serious, will players begin to get distracted by the upcoming European games? If Pep rotates his team, will the squad players be as mentally ready as the first XI to step up to the plate? We better hope not…

Arsene Wenger

What’s left to be said about Arsene Wenger that hasn’t already been said? The Frenchman has been in management for over thirty years, spending twenty of them at Arsenal. He won Ligue 1 with Monaco in 1988 and then popped over to Japan for a couple of years to see what it was like. He won three Premier League titles with Arsenal between 1997 and 2004 and, including the club’s incredible season when they went unbeaten in the league, becoming the only team to do that so far in the Premier League era. He has won six FA Cups, a feat only equalled by one other manager. In short, he’s done pretty much everything there is to do.

The only real question about Wenger is whether he is outstaying his welcome at The Emirates. It’s incredible to think that some Arsenal fans want him out of their club after everything he’s done for them. Yet the truth is that since they moved to their shiny new stadium in 2006 they have just two FA Cups to show for their troubles. They have consistently finished in the Champions League places, yes, but where has their ambition to win the league gone? Consistently getting into Europe’s premier club competition is a pretty amazing achievement, yet they haven’t threatened to win it. Many are hoping that the FA do indeed persuade him to take over from Sam Allardyce’s position as England manager, and that’s an odd situation for any manager to be in.

Arsenal’s seasons tend to follow a reasonably predictable pattern. They lose their first game, have a brilliant few months and then fall apart in February. They then pick themselves up for the final month or so to ensure they get into the top four. Will they do that again this year? Or will Wenger’s seeming lack of ambition finally catch up with them? They will be in the mix come the end of the season as they are pretty much every year, but Gunners fans are never far away from declaring a crisis and calling for the manager’s head. How well they cope when they lose a couple of games on the bounce will go a long way to letting us know what to expect from them in May.

So that’s it. Part I: Done. If you’ve skipped to the end to see what my main point was then here it is: Mourinho’s a pillock who gets far more respect than he deserves, especially considering he offers very little respect to anyone else; Guardiola has quietly spent a lot of money in his managerial career but gets away with it because he seems a nice chap and can pull off the jumper with a shirt and tie look; Wenger has achieved some incredible things at Arsenal but this could be his last season if the Gunners don’t pull something big off.

Next time I’ll have a look at the Ev, Spurs and Chelsea’s bosses.

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