With the final international break of the Premier League season upon us, The Sportsman takes a look at how different managers will be approaching the next week. From steering the ship towards a first league title in decades to avoiding the gaping maw of relegation, there’s everything to play for in the final few weeks of the season.
Here is some expert advice for just a few Premier League managers as we enter this period of quiet reflection before the stormy end to the season.
Mikel Arteta - Don’t touch anything
You’d forgive Arsenal fans for nursing a collective nosebleed, unaccustomed to sitting this high up. But against all odds, Arteta’s side sit on top of the Premier League table as the final international break takes place.
With the Gunners eight points clear of Manchester City, albeit having played a game more, the sensible advice would be to leave it alone. They have won their last six Premier League games and have no remaining cup commitments this season. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Just keep everything ticking over for these next ten games and the title could be yours, Mikel.
Pep Guardiola - Don’t reinvent the wheel
The Manchester City manager is one of the most tactically influential managers of all time. But Guardiola is also in love with his own alchemy to a ridiculous degree. Not above abandoning a winning formula to try and pull off something clever, sometimes it blows up in the Catalan’s face.
Being in the unusual position of chasing a rival rather than sitting on top of the tree at this stage could do crazy things to Guardiola. City are only ever one bad result away from Manuel Akanji playing up front. The former Barcelona boss needs to stick to what he knows, it’s his best chance of chasing down the Gunners.
Erik ten Hag - Keep everyone fit
The title challenge lasted as long as it took David De Gea to pick seven footballs out of his net, but Manchester United can still end this season with three trophies. Considering that before this season they’d only won that many in a decade (no, the Community Shield doesn’t count), that’s pretty good going.
But with great trophies comes great responsibility (to fulfil fixtures). Casemiro only ever returning from suspension long enough to get sent off, Anthony Martial building a fort in the treatment room with Phil Jones and Harry Maguire being Harry Maguire are all factors that play against United’s squad depth.
Ten Hag did learn one thing from his dinner with Fergie though, withdrawing Marcus Rashford from the England squad with a mysterious, unnamed injury that will inevitably have cleared up by the time the Red Devils play Newcastle on 2nd April. If Ten Hag can keep everyone else healthy, this could be United’s best season in a long time.
Graham Potter - Block Todd Boehly’s number
Oh Graham, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. British management’s bright young thing had taken Brighton to the stratosphere last season. Well, ninth. But still there was rightfully lots of praise for the transformative job he had done at the former relegation battlers.
After an encouraging start to this season with the Seagulls, Potter was given the Chelsea job after new co-owner Todd Boehly had sacked Champions League winner Thomas Tuchel. But now it is Potter who must surely fear that phone call from Boehly. Despite having been handed a squad featuring 83% of the world’s footballers, he has won just 12 of 30 games in charge.
With Chelsea sat in tenth place, Boehly and co-owners Clearlake Capital must be wondering what they paid a reported world-record compensation fee to Brighton for.
Roy Hodgson - Lots of shooting practice
Getting back together with an ex rarely works out, but Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson are going to give it another go. As is often the case in revived relationships, the participants aren’t getting any younger. But Palace have chosen to go with the devil they know as they try to snap a 12-game winless run across all competitions.
Despite somehow clinging onto 12th place in the table, Palace have scored the joint-fewest goals in the Premier League this season. Hodgson is well-versed in organising a defence but he will need to get his attack fit and firing. Getting the best out of the misfiring Wilfried Zaha, which he did with great effect during his initial four-year tenure, will be crucial.
David Moyes - Prioritise the Prem
For the second season in a row, West Ham United have reached the latter stages of a European competition. Last year, David Moyes’ men lost in the semi finals of the Europa League to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt. This year, they are scheduled to face Gent in the quarter finals of the Europa Conference League.
The Hammers are becoming dab hands at continental competition. But unlike last season, where going deep in Europe was accompanied by an admirable seventh-placed league finish, this time things are looking bleak. While Moyes’ boys excel abroad, they are stagnating at home.
West Ham are 18th in the table, albeit with a game in hand on Leicester City who are one point above them in 17th. But any notion of the Hammers being “too big to go down” must be banished. After all, this club was relegated in 2005 and 2011. European ambitions may need to be parked in order to keep everyone fit for the fight.
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