Premier League managers graded

Jurgen Klopp and Unai Emery have led their sides’ revolutions while Erik ten Hag struggles and Pep Guardiola fails to meet his high standards… and is Mauricio Pochettino right for Chelsea? Premier League managers GRADED

  • Only two managers have been sacked in the Premier League so far this campaign
  • Several are struggling, however, with others flourishing at their respective clubs
  • Mikel Arteta booked again, other bosses getting yellows. If you are going to eradicate these ills, KEEP DOING IT, REFS! Listen to It’s All Kicking Off

With the Christmas period well underway in the Premier League, squads are being stretched and managers are finding out what their teams are really made of.

European football is on the backburner for now with domestic fixtures coming thick and fast, with the Premier League table starting to take shape and clubs beginning to find out what they’ll be fighting for this season.

We could have a three-horse race for the league title on our hands, while the bottom three are looking to prevent themselves falling away just months after promotion. The race for European football is hotting up too.

While there have only been two sackings so far in the Premier League this term – Paul Heckingbottom at Sheffield United and Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest – managers are earning their money in the tests of the winter period with games every few days and players dropping like flies due to injury and suspension.

Mail Sport have assessed the 20 Premier League bosses with a report card for each one, looking at the pros and cons of each man’s performance so far this season and what could be done to improve their grades.

Premier League managers are finding out what their teams are made off with the festive season well underway

The league table is starting to settle and clubs are learning what they will be fighting for come the end of the season

Only two managers in the league have lost their jobs this season – former Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom (left) was one, and Steve Cooper (right) at Nottingham Forest the other

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Arsenal – Mikel Arteta – B+ 

We are seeing a different approach from Arsenal this year when it comes to their Premier League performances and challenge for the title.

It’s shocked many to see last year’s runners-up somewhat struggling in front of goal – they are the lowest scorers in the top six – but they are the best defensive side in the division and that has been key to their success so far.

Mikel Arteta has got the Gunners once again in the title race and they have the experiences of last year to try and form a better charge this season. They are also into the Champions League knockouts and will fancy their chances of success in Europe’s premier competition too.

The one question that remains around Arteta is his behaviour on the touchline. The Spaniard has already served a ban and continues to come under scrutiny for his behaviour on a match day. Iron that out, and this could be a memorable season for Arsenal. 

Mikel Arteta has Arsenal challenging for the Premier League title again after coming second last season

Aston Villa – Unai Emery – A+ 

What an incredible season this has been for Aston Villa so far. Far better than they could possibly have dreamed of.

Unai Emery has turned the club from relegation fodder to title challengers in a little over a year and supporters will be wondering what they can achieve under the former Arsenal boss.

Their home form is absolutely exceptional and players like John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins are in the form of their lives. There can be no real criticism of Emery so far this season – deliver a trophy and he will be immortalised forever.

Aston Villa also find themselves in a title race, largely in thanks to much-loved boss Unai Emery

Bournemouth – Andoni Iraola – B-

It seems a long time ago that Andoni Iraola appeared to be on the brink of losing his job just games into his Bournemouth career.

His appointment raised eyebrows in the summer – perhaps more so the sacking of Gary O’Neil given what he achieved last season – but Cherries fans are finally starting to see the fruits of Iraola’s labour after a slow start to his reign.

It looked like it would be another season of battling relegation for the club but the formula is finally clicking, proven by a 3-0 win at Old Trafford recently, one of the club’s best-ever results.

Bournemouth are now looking up rather than down and will be hoping they have a solid project going on under another Spanish manager in the Premier League.

Andoni Iraola took a while to get going at Bournemouth, but now has the Cherries playing positive football

Brentford – Thomas Frank – C

Plans have been pretty hampered this season for Thomas Frank, who has had to endure the first few months without his star man, Ivan Toney, due to a betting ban.

His absence hasn’t been missed too much – Brentford are in mid-table and seem in little danger of a relegation scrap – but losing the likes of Rico Henry and Bryan Mbeumo too to long-term injuries has meant the Dane has been plugging holes rather than trying to move forward.

Frank’s appearance on Monday Night Football earlier in the season gave an insight into what he’s trying to do at the club but there has been little chance to show it on the field given the absence of vital players, which has been almost impossible to cater for.

Thomas Frank has had to deal with a number of injuries in his Brentford side so far this season

Brighton – Roberto De Zerbi – C

Roberto De Zerbi will go down a Brighton legend no matter what happens from here due to his delivering of European football for the first time in the club’s history. Brighton are still enjoying that journey and find themselves in the last 16 of the Europa League – success that could only have been a distant dream years ago.

Injuries, as they have for many other teams, have caused issues for De Zerbi and he has found it hard to balance the Thursday-Sunday match days with his squad running thin. While they have scored in every game but one this season, the Seagulls have conceded in every outing and that has brought frustration.

De Zerbi has said himself he is not yet a top coach but he’s doing a mighty fine job with the club enjoying European football and competing for a top seven finish in the Premier League once again this term. 

Brighton and Roberto de Zerbi have had to juggle European football at the club for the first time in their history

Burnley – Vincent Kompany – D-

Burnley were tipped by many to be dark horses this season given their storming of the Championship last term and their approach in doing so.

Vincent Kompany – who has claimed he thought this season would be harder – transformed the way the Clarets played, long gone the days of Sean Dyche with the potential for a really positive future on the horizon – but that is yet to arrive.

The Clarets find themselves in a somewhat unexpected relegation battle and are at risk of falling adrift already. An injury to Luka Koleosho and Lyle Foster taking time out to work on his mental health have made things trickier, but Kompany is facing stern questions.

With home form one of the many issues the club are facing, one wonders if the former Manchester City captain’s job could be at risk – something that seemed impossible five months ago.

Burnley have struggled this season and haven’t shown to be the dark horses many though they could be

Chelsea – Mauricio Pochettino – F

We have seen little progress at Chelsea this season despite the latest change in manager. Same problems, same results.

Losses to the likes of Nottingham Forest, Brentford and Everton have given Blues fans little evidence that Mauricio Pochettino is the right man to bring back the glory days to Stamford Bridge. Most believe he should be afforded time, but with the club again placed mid-table and the manager calling for even more money to be spent, his job could already be at risk.

Todd Boehly hasn’t exactly been chairman of the year but with the tools Pochettino has at his disposal few can argue he should be doing better. Performances from the likes of Cole Palmer can be praised, but there is work to be done at Stamford Bridge.

It’s been new manager, same story for Chelsea, who cannot find consistency under latest boss Mauricio Pochettino

Crystal Palace – Roy Hodgson – D-

It feels like Crystal Palace are wasting time in sticking with Roy Hodgson. He’s a reliable pair of hands and is well-liked at the club, but is unlikely to be in charge next season and is employing a brand of football that the club had seemingly wanted to move away from.

He too has had to deal with injuries to the likes of star men Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, but after what seemed a positive appointment in Patrick Vieira, the club have been adjudged to have gone backwards by many.

Results like a draw at the Etihad will be welcomed but losses to the likes of Luton and Bournemouth have caused frustration, as have some of Hodgson’s words in the press, such as the slamming some of the club’s younger players.

It seems another season of mid-table mediocrity awaits Palace, and they will likely try again next year.

It’s not been easy for Crystal Palace this year, and it feels like they are wasting time with Roy Hodgson in charge

Everton – Sean Dyche – A

Few managers if any have had to deal with off-field issues like Sean Dyche this season but the Toffees boss seems to be taking the challenges in his stride.

Without the points deduction, Everton would be a top-half side and that was a fever dream last season given the battles with relegation the fans have had to endure. They have gone from leaky to solid and dull to threatening and the former Burnley boss deserves immense credit.

Should the points deduction be overturned, Dyche will see the fruits of his labour and Everton fans are grateful for his presence and work, with recent wins over the likes of Chelsea and Newcastle in particular receiving great praise. 

Sean Dyche has worked wonders with Everton and would have them in the top half were it not for their points deduction

Fulham – Marco Silva C+

It’s been a season of adaptation for Fulham so far and they had struggled for goals following the departure of Aleksandar Mitrovic. That seemed to have been fixed until Raul Jimenez’s bizarre red card against Newcastle.

Recent tactical tweaks from Marco Silva have brought general success, however, and have helped pull the club away from what looked like an unlikely relegation battle.

After nearly losing their manager to Saudi Arabia in the off-season, Fulham will be happy with a season of consolidation and Silva is delivering just that so far. 

Marco Silva has stabilised Fulham after a tough start and rejecting a move to Saudi Arabia in the summer

Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp – A

Jurgen Klopp needed to re-invent Liverpool – falling short of Champions League qualification is not acceptable for the modern-day Reds – and he’s done just that.

Liverpool have gone from missing out on the top four to being in the title race and that’s thanks to summer recruitment and Klopp’s adaptations. The German has continued to play Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield on-the-ball, which has brought out the best of their home-grown star, and the likes of Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister have proven to be shrewd signings.

Liverpool will be tested when Mohamed Salah goes to the African Cup of Nations in January and will have been frustrated not to have beaten Manchester United, but, with some tough fixtures already out the way, Liverpool seem like they are well and truly back.

Jurgen Klopp has once again re-invented Liverpool and has them competing for the title

Luton – Rob Edwards – C

Rob Edwards deserves immense respect for the way he dealt with captain Tom Lockyer’s collapse against Bournemouth. He feared for the life of his captain and friend and dealt with the situation like a true leader.

In terms of football, he has given Luton hope of a second season in the Premier League and that is probably the most that could have been asked at this stage. They will likely still be relegated, but Edwards has been tactically smart and has his side in the fight.

The swap from 5-3-2 to 5-2-2-1 was a minor tweak but has helped improve his team, as has the shock dropping of top scorer Carlton Morris. A few more bodies through the door in January and more positive home form and Luton could well stay up.

Rob Edwards has given Luton a shot at a second season of Premier League football, despite the Hatters sitting in the bottom three

Man City – Pep Guardiola – B-

Pep Guardiola has said himself that he needs to adapt to try and help City bounce back from recent struggles, and that’s what they need to do as they find themselves up against it in their bid to retain the Premier League title once again.

Defenders stepping into midfield has become a regular occurrence, but City are clearly reliant on Rodri – losing all four games he’s missed their season – and potentially Erling Haaland too.

Throwing away home leads against Liverpool, Tottenham, and most recently Crystal Palace will be causing immense frustration and the champions can hardly afford to drop any more points if they want to remain favourites for the league ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal.

It’s not been an easy season for Pep Guardiola so far, who has admitted he needs to adapt to help Manchester City

Man United – Erik ten Hag – D-

It has felt like United have been going around in circles for a number of years now, both on and off the pitch.

Erik ten Hag has made strides to try and take more control with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, with Jadon Sancho, and with Anthony Martial. If players step out of line, don’t have the right attitude or dare to go against the Dutchman, they will be punished.

That’s not stopped it happening, but maybe we will see a pattern going forward. That said, the football has been no better this year, with no clear style and a refusal to adapt in big games often costing Ten Hag’s side.

A disaster of a Champions League qualifying campaign and up against it for a top four finish mean the season has to be a thumbs down so far. New ownership could help things.

Erik ten Hag has had to deal with a number of off-field issues at Manchester United, and the football has been poor too

Newcastle – Eddie Howe – C-

It’s not exactly been the season Newcastle fans were hoping for so far, with the club out of Europe having finished bottom of their Champions League group and playing catch-up in the race to finish inside the top four.

It feels as if they have been dealt more injury blows than anyone – probably because of the drop off from their first team and most of their cover – but Eddie Howe has opted against resting key players over a busy period and we have seen that cost them. The brave call-up of 17-year-old Lewis Miley to a starting spot, however, has been a shrewd move.

While their home form cannot be denied, they’re nowhere near as good away from St James’ Park and the Magpies will be hoping the second half of the season is better than the first.

Eddie Howe was unable to keep Newcastle in the Champions League and they are up against it in the race for the top four

Nottingham Forest – Nuno Espirito Santo – N/A 

It felt as though Steve Cooper is hanging onto his job by the skin of his teeth every week. And when reports arrived that Forest were looking at alternatives for the managerial role, he was fighting a losing battle.

Cooper had tried to be a bit more experimental – mainly moving to a back four rather than five – but his side looked uncomfortable and will be the team the bottom three have their eyes on chasing down if they are to stay up.

Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis a demanding man and keen to see more from his heavy recent investment, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Cooper let go, despite his backing from the fans.

Time will tell how Nuno Espirito Santo gets on as his replacement. Fans won’t be overly excited by his appointment, but he will get his chance to impress. 

Nuno Espirito Santo was recently appointed as Nottingham Forest manager – replacing the outgoing Cooper 

Sheffield United – Chris Wilder – C

It’s hard to judge Chris Wilder because he’s only recently taken back over at Sheffield United, but, if there’s one person that can keep the Blades up, it’s him.

Heckingbottom was an honest man but wasn’t cut out for the Premier League. United were on a crash course for the bottom three and had some awful results to prove it – namely the 8-0 home defeat to Newcastle in September.

Wilder picked up a vital three points against Brentford, but has lost every other game and it still seems an almost impossible challenge to keep the club up. He’s trying, though – going to a back four and pushing Cameron Archer out wide – and will do so until the end.

Chris Wilder hasn’t had long in charge of Sheffield United but has returned to try and keep the club in the league

Spurs – Ange Postecoglou – B+

Possibly the most talked-about manager in the Premier League so far this season, Ange Postecoglou splits opinion.

Some see his football as brave and ambitious, some see it as crazy and too risky. Tottenham fans, however, are loving it. The Australian has taken fresh ideas into the club and has his side playing their best football for a long time, refusing to negotiate on style, whoever they come up against.

His tactics with nine men against Chelsea will be talked about for seasons to come, and some will argue he should have adapted there and in some other games. Injuries and suspensions have been costly too – similarly to Newcastle, the drop off in quality from the first team to the reserves is large.

A few more players in the door and Tottenham could achieve something special under Postecoglou, but that feels a long way off yet.

Tottenham’s style of play has been transformed under Ange Postecoglou, who refuses to negotiate on his approach

West Ham – David Moyes – B+

David Moyes is another manager who refuses to negotiate on playing style. The less of the ball West Ham have, the better they are.

That doesn’t sit well with some Hammers fans, who argue that they should be doing more to get the best out of the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paqueta.

But the results are coming. Moyes has his side in the last 16 of the Europa League and competing for a top seven finish in the Premier League again, and he might argue that is the best he can hope for as uncertainty over his future lingers. 

West Ham haven’t been the most exciting team to watch this season, but are still doing fine under David Moyes

Wolves – Gary O’Neil – B-

It’s hard not to feel for Gary O’Neil, who may argue that he was harshly sacked by Bournemouth and then thrown into the deep end at Wolves just days before the season started.

He personally also feel – and rightly so – that luck has been less than on his side this season, having received a number of apologies from PGMOL for decisions made in matches that have cost them points.

Wolves fans will likely be pleased with the campaign so far. Ideas are clear enough, O’Neil has been tactically flexible and they aren’t in a relegation fight. 

Gary O’Neil has done a solid job with Wolves after taking over just days before the season started in August


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, with a show every Monday and Thursday this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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The results haven’t always come but the project is a work in progress and it will be a relief for supporters that they seem to have settled on a man who can take them forward with what they’re given – something not possible under Julen Lopetegui.

Wins against Tottenham and Manchester City were pleasant surprises, while getting one over on former side Bournemouth will have felt good for O’Neil. A bit more consistency and Wolves will be on their way.

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