No league can compete with the calibre of manager the top echelon of the Premier League has. Some iconic names, some improving young bosses and grizzled veterans ready to upset the applecart with a perfectly executed rearguard action.
It’s make or break for some of them, too. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were given a first season grace, but their immense spending sees the demands ratcheted up. Arsene Wenger must return Arsenal to the top four, Jurgen Klopp needs to take Liverpool to the next level and Antonio Conte faces the task of balancing European and domestic football.
Elsewhere, Mark Hughes could be under early pressure, Rafa Benitez must calm a jittery Geordie fan base and Frank de Boer is challenged with bringing stability and Premier League security to Crystal Palace.
The list goes on. Clubs are anxious for a good start, and managers face the brunt of that pressure, especially where spending has been particularly enormous. Yes, we’re looking at you Ronald Koeman.
Seldom does the Manager of the Year award go to anyone other than the league winner. It’s perhaps an expected result of such an award, but it does oversimplify the decision somewhat. Antonio Conte was a deserved recipient last season, though the value of Chelsea’s squad – that had won the title two years before – made it a point of debate. Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs were impressive throughout, too, and the Argentine had supposedly far inferior resources.
Overachievement might be the best barometer of a manager’s impact. Coaching is an unquantifiable factor, but the changes made to many of Pochettino’s players cannot go unnoticed. Conte, too, deserved recognition for the turnaround from where Chelsea were prior to his appointment. This could even suggest, then, that the title favourites’ manager can never win the Manager of the Year award.
Conte is 5/1 to retain his award, but that would surely take a superhuman effort from Chelsea both in the league and on their return to the Champions League. The Blues’ squad looks desperately thin – at the time of writing, anyway – and manoeuvring this group to another successful season is a step too far even for the prolific medal collecting Conte.
Mourinho joins Conte at 5/1, and a league title is long overdue for Manchester United. It would take an emphatic stroll to the Premier League crown, but Mourinho certainly has the team and experience to do it once again. Not a great price given their struggles last season, mind.
Other big name managers will naturally attract most of the money in this market. Wenger at 14/1 with Klopp could tempt a few given the unpredictability of next season’s top six.
The real outside shout currently is Slaven Bilic at 40/1. West Ham’s boss a Claudio Ranieri distance from the award in 2015/16 and the Irons’ investment this summer has a mist of hope around the London Stadium. Last season’s forgettable campaign must be shown to be a blip by Bilic – who will see his job under threat otherwise – but the Hammers could be the surprise package again.