Gareth Southgate became a national hero over the summer. The former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough centre back had England fans dreaming once again as he took the Three Lions through to the semi final of the 2018 World Cup and did it with style. English football has been longing for a home grown manager that the fans can rally behind but is Southgate even the best English manager around right now?
Sean Dyche, Chris Hughton and Eddie Howe are all flying the flag for English managers in the Premier League. All three are massively overachieving in the top flight and leading clubs with tiny budgets to great success, relatively speaking.
|Manager||Age||Current Club||Years in Management|
Of that talented trio, it’s Howe who is definitely the most exciting. The job he has done in taking Bournemouth through the Football League and turning them into an established Premier League side hasn’t always garnered the sort of praise it deserves. That is starting to change thanks to Bournemouth’s brilliant start to the season.
The Cherries won their sixth game of the campaign when putting Fulham to the sword on Saturday afternoon. That leaves Bournemouth sixth in the table and top of the so-called ‘league within a league’. Recent seasons have seen the establishment of a firm top six in the Premier League – Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United – but the teams below that elite group are incredibly competitive. We’ve taken a look at the leading contenders to finish seventh in what should be a fascinating battle both on the pitch and in the betting.
How Long Can Bournemouth Hack the Pace?
No matter what happens in the future, Howe will go down as a bona fide Bournemouth legend. As a player, Howe made over 350 appearances in two spells for the Cherries. He’s also had two spells as the club’s manager and will take charge of his 400th competitive game at some stage this season. Having had his dalliances with another club (the 40 year old had a fairly disastrous spell as Burnley manager) Howe is very much happy to stay at Bournemouth and the club are benefitting hugely from the stability that his continued management brings.
The 3-0 win over Fulham was a perfect example of that stability. Six of the players in the match day squad for that clash in 2018 were also involved in the 2015 Championship match against Fulham. As well as showing the incredible job done by Howe and his coaching staff in terms of improving individual players, that stability has given Bournemouth a real identity that players coming into the club can buy in to.
The combination of identity, top class coaching and quality players has taken Bournemouth to sixth in the Premier League table at the time of writing. The Cherries are currently averaging two points per game. That return would have been good enough to finish fourth last season and although that won’t be the case this time around due to the improvement of the top six, it will surely be enough for Bournemouth to finish as the ‘best of the rest’ in seventh.
The question is, can Bournemouth keep that pace up. No doubt it is going to be tough given that those first 10 games included just one against the ‘big six’ which resulted in a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea. Bournemouth are an excellent team on the counterattack though which always gives them a chance of scoring against event the best opponents. The improvement in their defensive record this season and the way that all of their midfielders understand their role suggests that Bournemouth are a great price to finish in the top half of the table at 8/13 with bet365, even if only the most optimistic Cherries fans will take the 16/1 that the same firm are quoting on a top six finish.
Pressure to Perform Keeps Watford Pushing Forwards
One of the joys of football – and particularly the Premier League – is that there are many ways of achieving the same goal. Chelsea have flown the flag for the chop and change style of running a football club and Watford’s early season form is another such example. Ever since being bought by the Pozzo family, Watford have had no problem making quick and decisive decisions regarding managers, players and even styles of football.
|Manager||From||To||Best League Finish|
|Gianfranco Zola||Jul 2012||Dec 2013||3rd (Championship)|
|Giuseppe Sannino||Dec 2013||Aug 2014||13th (Championship)|
|Oscar Garcia Junyent||Sep 2014||Sep 2014||–|
|Slavisa Jokanovic||Oct 2014||Jun 2015||2nd (Championship)|
|Q. Sanchez Flores||Jun 2015||May 2016||13th (Premier League)|
|Walter Mazzarri||Jul 2016||May 2017||17th (Premier League)|
|Marco Silva||May 2017||Jan 2018||–|
|Javi Garcia||Jan 2018||Present||14th (Premier League)|
The Pozzos are the one constant. They have excellent connections throughout football so are able to attract players of the calibre that Watford fans could only dream of a few years ago. The high turnover of players has seen an influx of quality footballers such as Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucouré but it’s fair to say not all incoming players or managers to Watford have hit the levels expected by the Pozzos. Rather than toughing out the difficult times like Bournemouth have, Watford have taken the decision to be ruthless and it’s paying off this season under Javi Gracia.
Like all of his players, Gracia is under no illusions about the need to perform. Despite disappointing defeats to Bournemouth and Man Utd at home, Watford are sitting seventh in the table and the bookies have them at shorter odds across the board to break the top six than Bournemouth. Given the way that the Hornets have a habit of throwing in the towel in the latter stages of the season, they look a little short for a top six finish at 10/1 with Coral but Gracia’s direct, effective style of football should ensure they finish in the top half at 4/6 with bet365.
More Than Just Goals Lacking from Everton
Farhad Moshiri’s ownership of Everton has seen the Toffees invest heavily in players. Having an owner who can open his chequebook was something that Everton fans have looked forward to for years given the relatively limited funds available to Bill Kenwright but they realised over the last couple of years that access to money is far from the cure to all ills.
The influx of Moshiri’s millions is yet to provide the sort of return that the Everton fans expected. When you go through the individual players that Everton have signed there aren’t too many who stand out as poor investments but there is certainly a problem with the balance of the squad. The club’s hierarchy have decided that they trust Marco Silva to take the club forwards but they’ve also made changes in the director of football (Steve Walsh out and Marcel Brands in) which adds yet another layer of complexity for the manager to deal with.
The long term hope is that Everton will be able to challenge the biggest clubs in the Premier League in the same way that they used to do under the management of David Moyes. It is doubtless frustrating for fans to have to take that long term view and defer success but there are enough green shoots to suggest that this project will eventually pay dividends. As for this season, Everton don’t quite look ready to finish above both Bournemouth and Watford, let alone break into the top six at best odds of 10/1 with bet365.
A lot has about been said and written about the need for Everton to add a top class striker to their squad. They certainly lack a quality player to lead the line but Silva has been able to work around this by playing without a striker and letting Richarlison, Theo Walcott and Bernard work together as a front three and allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson to pull the strings in the number 10 role.
However, after 10 games Everton rank seventh for goals scored this season and only joint 11th for goals conceded. That shows the Toffees still need to add quality in many positions, not just up front, before they can be considered the best of the rest in the Premier League and then trying to kick on for even something even better.
Is It Too Early for Wolves to Make the Breakthrough?
That Wolves have made such a great start to life in the Premier League is not a surprise. The club made all sorts of headlines last season for their controversial ownership structure which allowed “super agent”, Jorge Mendes, to yield extraordinary influence over the club. Mendes lured a host of quality players and the highly regarded young manager, Nuno Espirito Santo to Molineux, resulting in promotion as Championship winners.
Mendes continued his close association with Wolves over the summer and many more classy players joined to add even more quality to the squad as they embarked on their assault on the top flight. Over the summer many pundits talked about Wolves as dark horses for a Europa League spot and they have made a solid start to life in the top flight.
Last season saw fans, players and management come together to create a truly positive and special atmosphere at Molineux. That’s continued in the Premier League and Wolves have already achieved some excellent results leaving them as heavy odds on shots to finish in the top half.
Pundits have been falling over themselves to proclaim Wolves the strongest side ever promoted from the Championship. We’ll have to wait until the end of the season to see whether that is accurate or not but Wolves have certainly shown that they belong at this level. The problem they have when it comes to finishing above Bournemouth, Watford and Everton is that there is a distinct lack of Premier League experience in their squad.
It’s true that the likes of Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio have experienced football at the top level but the Premier League has chewed up and spat out many players who were successful elsewhere. Mixed in with their impressive performances are some results in which the opposition has ground out wins thanks to their Premier League nous. Wolves will be a force for years to come providing things keep going as they’ve been going but don’t be surprised if they find the rest of the season tougher than their early results would suggest.