After unceremoniously dumping Louis Van Gaal just hours after winning the FA Cup, Manchester United have appointed perhaps the worlds biggest name to replace him. The Special One is back after a less than special season in 2015/16. He’s a manager with a big point to prove, and he’s joined a club with perhaps a bigger point to prove. Mind you the riches in our game mean that this season we have a lot of world class managers with a point to prove. We also have Arsene Wenger.
My first prediction for next season is that it will be the last we see from Wenger. I’ve veered from disliking him to appreciating his input into our national game, but now I think the time has come to step away. He joined our league and revolutionised the way our big clubs approach games. He built a team of Invincibles that swept aside all before it domestically. However he’s struggled season after season and a couple of FA Cups can’t mask a miserable spell in the Premier League. They may always be there or thereabouts in the top 4, but they haven’t mounted a serious challenge for too long now. Next season could see Arsenal finish outside the top four in a long while.
The reason I think this is because I strongly fancy Jurgen Klopp to have Liverpool pushing all the way next season. It pains me to say it because as a kid I was surrounded by smug Liverpool fans, and even now I constantly hear how they’re a big club, the peoples club blah blah blah. The fact is Liverpool looked very dangerous towards the end of the last campaign and the Europa League final appearance was just rewards for big changes made at Anfield. If he can bag a striker more fitting to his style than Benteke then I can’t see why those smug fans can start their relentless crowing about how good they are.
However I think next season will be the story of another tussle in Manchester for the Premier League crown. There’s no doubt Pep will want to succeed with Man City, he has a win rate of 71% in the games he’s managed and he’ll see no reason why that might not continue. However just across the city his nemesis will be plotting his own route to success, getting one over on his old enemy and the club that sacked him. I admit I like Mourinho, I think he’s a very good manager and a good character for our game. He’s a showman and he takes pressure off his players with his antics. That will suit United as they’ve played most the season with more pressure on them then ever before. A lack of attacking football and a habit of disappearing completely left the players looking almost afraid to shoot. Even the cup final win was uninspiring, with them labouring to a narrow victory over a vastly inferior Crystal Palace side. However Mourinho will take the pressure off players like Martial, Smalling and maybe even Rooney. If he chooses to switch Rooney to an advancing Frank Lampard role he might get some success out of England’s fading hero. As soon as I heard the news I decided my money was on United next season, and unless one of the top five sign Ronaldo or Messi I can’t see me changing my mind. They’ll have to sign a couple of players but I’d wager that is already in progress with rumours of Ibrahimovic already circulating. I’d fully expect Juan Mata to move on though.
I think a Manchester 1-2 with Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea picking up the scraps further down. I think of all the big name managers in the Premier League Conte will probably struggle the most. He’s another disciplinarian coming into a side peppered with undisciplined and volatile characters. Eden Hazard should have been ashamed of the way he performed last season, and he’s by no means alone. If Conte loses the dressing room then I’m afraid Chelsea will do nothing of relevance in the competition next year.
However all this will bring more misery for Wenger. The signing of Grant Xhaka will have to be matched by at least a world class striker and a world class centre half if they’re going to have any chance of pushing on for glory next season, and that is as long as they retain the services of Sanchez and Ozil. With such an interest in our domestic game at the moment I’m convinced that the Arsenal board will take the opportunity to bring a new face in at the end of next season. Who that might be, I don’t know but this might be the season where the old man gets usurped by the new breed of exciting foreign managers.
By the way if Roy Hodgson left England now, which English manager would be championed to do the job? Eddie Howe? Sam Allardyce? Danny Cowley?