What The 'Big Six' Premier League Managers Need From This International Break

A pleasant break for Arteta, a valuable breather for Potter and some soul-searching for Klopp
08:00, 24 Sep 2022

International breaks are strange times when you’re a club manager. At the top end of the Premier League you’re generally left with a skeleton squad as your star men leave to play for their country. The pause for thought can also serve a manager in different ways. Some see it as an unwanted interruption, particularly if they are in good form. Others are grateful that the domestic merry-go-round stops for a couple of weeks, allowing them time to make adjustments. 

The traditional “big six” clubs of the Premier League are enjoying, or enduring, very different fortunes at the moment. So how might their managers look to spend this international break?


Mikel Arteta: Arsenal (1st)

Basically Mikel, just don’t break anything. But in all seriousness, Arteta can enjoy this momentary pause in the action. A 3-0 win over Brentford was a nice place to finish up and while normally one would want to keep the momentum going, upcoming fixtures are harsh. The Gunners boss will probably benefit from extra thinking time to plan for a North London derby with Tottenham Hotspur and the visit of Liverpool eight days later. 

A rearranged game with Manchester City will have to be played at some point too. Arsenal have had their best start to a Premier League season in aeons, but their toughest tests are still ahead of them. They have only met one of last season’s top seven teams so far. For Arteta, this break is probably more welcome than it is momentum-busting. 

Pep Guardiola: Manchester City (2nd)

City are only one point off the pace, but Guardiola doesn’t do second-best. The Spaniard firmly fits into the category of managers who will be chomping at the bit for club football’s return. That comeback 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund and a comprehensive 3-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers showed promise.

City have built up enough trust in their quality that no one sees second in the table after seven games as a crisis. But you better believe a born winner like Pep has taken it hard. He’s probably rondo-ing the players who aren’t internationals into dust as we speak.


Antonio Conte: Tottenham Hotspur (3rd)

Conte has taken this international break to field reports he is a possible successor for incumbent Max Allegri at his old club, Juventus. But assuming the pull of Turin isn’t too much to resist, the former Chelsea boss has reasons to be cheerful.

Like Arteta, the edict at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is probably, “keep doing what you’re doing”. Son Heung-min’s hat-trick last time out in a 6-2 win over Leicester City addressed the one question mark people had about Spurs this season. Unbeaten and level on points with City? Nothing could derail them now, unless Juventus come calling…

Erik ten Hag - Manchester United (5th)

If the Premier League had broken for internationals after the first two games, as it has in the past, this appraisal would be far different. But the former Ajax coach has rebounded from damaging losses to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford to go on a four-game league winning streak.

Ten Hag has reportedly been using the break to devise transfer strategy for the next two windows. More clarity in United’s targets and how they are signed is paramount, so that will be time well spent. The opportunity for players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to work their way back to full fitness will also be crucial.


Graham Potter - Chelsea (7th)

Considering he has only been in charge for one game, the new Chelsea manager will probably greet this two-week acclimation period with open arms. A chance to become familiar with the mechanisms and political climate at Stamford Bridge will be ideal for the former Brighton boss.

The 2021 European champions find themselves outside the top six, a state of play that would have caused much introspection if Thomas Tuchel was still in charge. But co-owner Todd Boehly moved quickly and now his new hire can use this time to familiarise himself with the role.

Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool (8th)

A natural regression after a season fighting on four fronts? The end of a cycle for this great Liverpool side? Life after Sadio Mane? Perhaps a combination of all three is responsible for Klopp’s men winning just two of their first six Premier League games. But whatever the problem is, Klopp must find the solution quickly. 

The international break will have been helpful for some soul-searching, but arguably it will not address the lingering issues. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s drop-off in form, the lack of a world class midfielder and the fact Darwin Nunez just isn’t Mane are not problems that will go away if you leave them for two weeks. Klopp needs to use this time to work out how to win with what he has, rather than with what he wants.

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