The managers have provided the real talking points of the season, which is not a good thing. The game should be about the players and the fans, but somehow the EPL has become a sideshow to the man in the technical area. The headliners have been Brendan Rodgers, Tony Pulis, Roberto Martinez, David Moyes, Andre Villas-Boas, Jose Mourinho, and Arsene Wenger.
The manager of the year award is still up for grabs with Martinez, Pulis, and Rodgers the only ones in contention. The final position of their respective teams Everton, Crystal Palace, and Liverpool will determine their fate.
Everton have always been a club that most neutrals admire and under Martinez that reputation has only been enhanced further. Like Rodgers across Stanley Park, the Spaniard coaches an exciting brand of football that is rooted in his home country. The fourth and final Champions League spot is Everton’s to lose and were they to finish above Arsenal, Martinez will be sought after. He could even be the long-term successor to Arsene Wenger when the Frenchman steps down at the Emirates.
Crystal Palace were dead and buried when Pulis took over in late November. The turnaround in the club’s fortunes has been staggering and if Palace stay up, the credit must go to the former Stoke City manager. His team is playing with discipline, tactical organization and a work rate that could see them retain their Premier League status for the first time. Most teams (Sunderland, Cardiff City, Fulham, West Brom) that replace their managers mid-season tend to struggle after the initial boost in fortunes, but Pulis’ side is proving the exception to the rule.
What United’s travails under Moyes show are just how good a job Ferguson did in his last season in charge. The legendary knight managed to win last year’s title in a cantor, which has more to do with his sheer will to win than the overall ability of United’s squad. United will not remain in the wilderness for long because Moyes will be fired before the real rot sets in.
Jose Mourinho might just be about to oversee a League and Champions League double yet he continues to say Chelsea are underdogs. The Portuguese is taking the pressure off his own team and at the same time, himself. If he wins the league, he will accept the glory of an unlikely success and the continuation of his aura as the Special One. If he loses it, he will say, “I told you so.” He likes to have it both ways and is supported by an enamored media that needs to ask him to justify his viewpoints.
Arsene Wenger was the most progressive manager in English football when he arrived at Highbury in 1996. He rebuilt a club which used to be nicknamed ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ or ‘lucky Arsenal.’ That history is unknown to the Sky EPL generation of the club’s supporters, as Arsenal has been reshaped in Wenger’s likeness. He has stuck to his principles on how he wants the game played, the type of players he signs, and the way he spends money. There is a lot to admire, from a coaching perspective, about his attitude, but the new touristy type of Arsenal fan has grown tired of the lack of silverware and tired at the lack of progress in the Champions League. The fans see the club as going backwards while Chelsea and Manchester City have invested vast sums of oil money in on the field success. Wenger must win the FA Cup or those fans will seek his resignation.