2014 has seen a whole host of managerial comings and goings despite the Premier League having a rather uncharacteristically quiet first half of the 2014-15 campaign in that regard. That being said, here are the top five managerial appointments of the calendar year.
5. Massimiliano Allegri: Juventus (Appointed July 2014)
Whilst Allegri walked into the Italian champions, he walked into a very troubled camp at Juventus and has done an excellent job in keeping the team’s fortunes positive on all fronts. Arturo Vidal was a feature in the back-pages of every newspaper, every day with regards to a possible move to Manchester United whilst Juventus’ own work in the market was disrupted by Antonio Conte’s sudden departure as well as financial issues.
Allegri has since steadied the ship and has guided Juventus to the knockout-phase of the UEFA Champions League, something which Conte failed to do last year costing the club significant financial benefits.
The appointment of Allegri was by no means a popular one at the time with the Juventus faithful almost in a period of initial mourning following Conte’s departure. The 47-year-old Italian was last seen being dismissed by AC Milan the previous season where his methods had gone stale.
After some initial tricky starts and the odd bad result, Allegri’s Juventus appear to be a fine-tuned machine that perhaps may be lacking the spark of intensity that Conte brought to the table but the calm approach of Allegri seems to be better suited to the Champions League.
Despite being a controversial appointment at the time it appears as though Juventus’ quick decision to recruit Allegri was a smart one given how Juventus’ fortunes have continued along an upward trajectory.
4. Garry Monk: Swansea City (Appointed February 2014)
Michael Laudrup’s shock departure from Swansea in February last year looked as if it could be the first stage of the Welsh club’s decline in the Premier League with many supporters shocked when it was announced former club captain Garry Monk would take charge of the team with no notable experience in the field of management.
Since then Monk has gone on to prove all of his detractors wrong with a stellar performance at the helm of the Swans, guiding the club to 8th place in the table at Christmas.
There has also been an excellent level of continuity with regards to the club’s impressive playing style. Monk has encouraged all the aspects of both Brendan Rodgers’ and Michael Laudrup’s playing styles whilst at the club as well as introducing some of his own defensive preferences. As a result Swansea are arguably a more complete team than they have been over the course of the past three seasons.
Having recorded some excellent results in 2014 including a 2-1 victory over Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side on the opening day of the season, Monk’s team looks well set for a top 10 finish this year.
3. Nuno Espírito Santo: Valencia (Appointed July 2014)
After being handed a one-year contract with Valencia, Nuno Santo has gone on to enjoy an excellent first six months in charge of the club overseeing a rapid upturn in the club’s fortunes over the course of this period.
Backed by the finance of Peter Lim, Valencia have once again been able to be competitive in the transfer market, securing the services of Alvaro Negredo on a lucrative obligation-loan with the club guaranteed to purchase the player fully for around £23 million next summer.
Other arrivals have included Nicolas Otamendi, Rodrigo Moreno as well as one of the unsung stars of Germany’s World Cup campaign, Shkodran Mustafi. These high-profile signings have certainly given Nuno Santo an advantage in La Liga, however, his style of coaching has had a positive influence as well.
The former Portuguese international has seen his Valencia side become efficient in both phases of the game. In attack there is such high individual quality that it is impossible for them not to create chances whilst in defence the organisation and natural ability of the personnel has shone through in performances.
Whilst there is still not a lot between the teams vying for a fourth place finish in La Liga this season, Valencia look well set to challenge for the entire season rather than falling away as they have done in recent years. Nuno Santo has assembled a strong group of players who are all performing well as a unit for him, it looks very likely the Portuguese coach will be handed a contract extension sooner rather than later.
2. Louis van Gaal: Manchester United (Appointed July 2014)
After a disastrous 12 months which saw Manchester United not just concede their Premier League crown without so much as a fight but also slip out of the top four for the first time in Premier League history, the club turned to a proven winner on the biggest stage to help restore the club to the top table of English football.
An unprecedented record spend of over £100 million followed with the Dutchman bringing in Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Radamel Falcao in order to give United’s squad the boost in quality in so desperately required.
Van Gaal has spoken about his ‘philosophy’ right from his first press-conference in July yet it took a few months for his players to fully grasp their coach’s ideology. The early months were littered with both defensive frailties and injuries however since early November, United have looked like their former selves with the club recording a six-match winning run ended by a draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park last Saturday.
It is not just the performances that have impressed because given the money spent assembling the team, as well as the individual quality already at the club, you would expect United to succeed this season. What Van Gaal has done excellently is restore a sense of belief around Old Trafford, there is a feeling of the club being back in the control of a suitable manager, somebody who knows how to not just approach, but win big matches and this confidence has certainly transmitted itself to the players.
There are still weaknesses which have to be addressed but Van Gaal certainly looks to have steadied the ship at Old Trafford as well as beginning to steer it in a positive direction.
1. Ronald Koeman: Southampton (Appointed June 2014)
Ronald Koeman arrived at St Mary’s this summer with the club in dire straits. Liverpool and Manchester United were successfully targeting their most important players whilst Tottenham Hotspur had managed to unsettle Morgan Schneiderlin. Amidst talk of training ground bills and unpaid transfer fees, it also appeared as if Koeman would not be given nearly enough funds to replace the players lost.
The job Koeman has done since is nothing short of outstanding. The Dutch coach arrived in England with an excellent reputation following a fine spell in charge of Ajax’s fierce rivals Feyenoord, almost guiding them to the league title in 2013 and has only improved on that.
Nobody expected Southampton to be challenging for a top four finish however the arrivals of Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Shane Long have all helped ease the club’s worries after several high profile departures. The individual quality of players is shining through as is the excellence of Koeman’s system.
Former Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino was heralded for his work with Southampton in terms of their pressing game. Koeman has continued this but has added a level of technical brilliance to the team’s attacks. Southampton now dominate matches from start to finish, particularly at home and have recorded several impressive results.
The Saints are very much in the race for Champions League qualification, in truth the lack of depth in the squad may cost them once Arsenal return to a consistent level of form, however, the job Koeman has done in improving Southampton under such difficult circumstances is one the highlights of 2014.
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