The Premier League Manager of the Season award is always a contentious one. Whilst usually dominated by the manager of the league champions, there are often several contenders. Overachievers competing for Europe? The newly promoted side comfortable in mid table? Many managers situations can be looked upon favourably by fans and media alike.
This season for example, the league champions will be led by either Roberto Mancini or 10 time award winner Sir Alex Ferguson. Whoever comes out on top will be favourite for the award, and it will be an achievement for either. Mancini will have led an expensively assembled yet inexperienced in terms of title chases to victory over the masters of the craft, the team that look as though they could win titles in their sleep, led by the most decorated manager English football has ever seen. If Sir Alex wins it asserts his dominance once again, and puts another new challenger in their place, as he has done throughout his career.
Below the title chase you have Arsene Wenger. About a fortnight ago I wrote an article suggesting that the situation at Arsenal was close to dire straits, and that they needed a change. A good run since then has put them, with their skeleton squad, injury problems and horrific start, in prime position for automatic qualification to the Champions League. Whilst I refuse to completely U-turn on that view, as they still look a long shot from trophy winners, his comeback this year deserves respect. Below that is 2010’s winner Harry Redknapp, the only English winner of the award in the league’s history, who kept Spurs hot on the heels of the top two for two thirds of the season, with his bargain group of stars that are dwarfed by the price of Liverpool and Chelsea’s signing over the past two windows. An outsider due to their recent struggles and that they have lost touch with the Manchester clubs, but a consideration nonetheless.
Outside of the top four lay Newcastle United, another bargain squad comfortably holding their own with two of the more expensively built squads, the faltering giants Chelsea and Liverpool. An achievement that is nothing less than stunning for journeyman manager Alan Pardew and his players. The sale of star striker Andy Carroll which at one time looked unambitious has turned out to be an inspired piece of business, considering the additions they have made. The shrewd signings of Demba Ba, one of the top marksman in the league, Yohan Cabaye — who has received nothing but rave reviews from all sources — and now the January addition of Papiss Cisse, whose short time in the north east has been lit up by a few highlight reel goals so far have turned so called relegation candidates into Europa League contenders. Their reluctance to fall away as many overachievers do in the second half of the season has made their season all the more impressive.
Of all the clubs promoted from the Championship, most will have expected QPR, with the financial backing of sports and airline tycoon Tony Fernandes to impress the most, with their signings of established Premier League players. However the opposite has occurred and it is they who struggle. Swansea, who lit up the Championship with Brendan Rogers’ style of attractive passing, has continued that on into the Premiership, where midfield anchorman Leon Brittain is in the same league as Xavi and Iniesta of Barcelona in terms of completed pass statistics. Their signings were cheap ones from abroad — i.e. star goalkeeper Michel Vorm, or from the championship such as Danny Graham up front. A home record to be proud of and a few big results against Manchester City and Arsenal have seen them comfortably making it into the notoriously difficult second season. They will be joined there by Norwich City, who under the stewardship of the shrewd Scot Paul Lambert have adapted to the Premier League in the same impressive manner that they did to League 1 and the Championship. More lower league signings and a willingness to stick with the players that got them there means that that they too have no worries of a fight to avoid the drop at this stage.
Honourable mentions also go to Martin O’Neill, who has turned a solid but uninspiring Sunderland side into exciting climbers, as he did years before with Aston Villa, and Blackburn Rovers’ Steve Kean, who received dogs abuse due to his side’s poor form for large parts of the season however will have to respected if he can lead them to safety after the loss of captain Chris Samba and his defensive partner Ryan Nelsen.
As mentioned this is an early look, as there is still football to be played this year and still important developments to unfold in front of us, both at the top and at the bottom, where it is particularly tight. However the surprising achievements of a few teams this year warrants the already wide array of potential nominees.
Who do you think should be named manager of the season at this current stage? Vote below, and share your opinions in the comments section underneath. And let us know if you think there are managers who weren’t included that you think should be contenders.