Liverpool: Ranking Managers of Premier League Era

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2012

Liverpool: Ranking Managers of Premier League Era

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    The Premier League era hasn't exactly been kind to Liverpool. It's been 22 years since Liverpool has lifted a league title.

    The club was the most successful in England in terms of league titles, but the Reds have been surpassed by Manchester United.

    This is the 20th Premier League season, so some newspapers and websites are running retrospectives about the 20 years.

    With that in mind, here is how the managers of Liverpool during the period stack up.

1. Rafa Benitez

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    It just has to be Rafa Benitez.

    The Spaniard helped give Liverpool supporters a night unlike any other in the club's history with the Miracle in Istanbul.

    It's a testament to his managerial acumen that he got that team to finish as the best in Europe. With that Champions League title alone, he would probably top this list.

    Liverpool went on to win an FA Cup the following season in dramatic fashion as well.

    Then in 2007, the Reds managed to make another Champions League final, losing a rematch against AC Milan.

    In 2008-09, the club finished just four points short of winning the Premier League for the first time. Benitez' press conferences about "facts" regarding Alex Ferguson are looked upon as the period when Liverpool lost the title.

    He was often criticized for his expensive flops, but it was under Benitez that Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso all arrived at Anfield.

    Benitez's reign didn't end well, with Liverpool finishing out of Champions League qualification and getting knocked out of the competition in the group stage.

    However, he'll always hold a special place in the hearts of Liverpool supporters.

2. Gerard Houllier

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    Houllier arrived in 1998, joining the incumbent manager, Roy Evans, for their ill-fated spell as co-managers.

    Evans left, surprising no one, and Houllier became the lone man in charge.

    He was left with a tall task ahead of him. Liverpool was a club that was in dire need of rebuilding.

    A couple of years into his reign, Houllier looked to be putting the Reds on a path to major success.

    During the 2000-01 season, Liverpool won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup. It may not have been the most impressive treble, but it was a treble nonetheless.

    The club then started the following season with a UEFA Super Cup title and the Community Shield.

    However, it was also that same season that Houllier had to have emergency heart surgery. After that, he just didn't look to be the same manager.

    The club was never able to regain the form that it showed in that treble-winning season.

    Instead of being remembered for bringing in Dietmar Hamann and Sami Hyypia, the Frenchman is more remembered for purchasing Salif Diao, Bruno Cheyrou and El Hadji Diouf. It was Houllier who also decided not to sign Nicolas Anelka to a permanent deal.

    History should still look kindly upon Houllier and his time at Liverpool.

3. Roy Evans

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    Roy Evans had quite a mess on his hands trying to clean up what Graeme Souness left him, but a little more on that later.

    By the time Evans got the manager's job in 1994, he had already spent 30 years with the club in either a playing or coaching capacity. He was a product of the legendary Boot Room.

    The club wasn't wildly successful under Evans. They never finished higher than third in the Premier League. He did manage to bring a League Cup title to Anfield and earn a FA Cup final appearance.

    Evans, though, was able to right the ship after the damage done by Souness.

    It was under him that Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman really emerged. He also opened the door for a young Michael Owen.

    The biggest problem for Evans might have been a lack of discipline among the players. There wasn't infighting, but that FA Cup final appearance is best remembered for the players wearing cream Armani suits before the game.

    Some wondered if the "Spice Boys" were more worried about themselves and their off-field reputation rather than the league standings.

4. Kenny Dalglish

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    He is the last man to deliver a league title to Liverpool, but that was back when the English top flight was the First Division.

    Dalglish made his return last January and the results have been a bit mixed.

    Last year, the team performed very well in the second half of the season, leaving supporters salivating at what could be coming this year.

    However, Liverpool have struggled in league play, sitting eighth through 33 games. Dalglish has managed to deliver a Carling Cup title and a place in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, though.

    It's a little early to accurately judge the reign of King Kenny at this point, but his short stint as Liverpool manager the second time around has been somewhat successful.

5. Graeme Souness

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    One of Liverpool's best players of the late '70s and early '80s, Graeme Souness seemed a natural fit to replace Kenny Dalglish.

    His time as manager was pretty much an unmitigated disaster.

    Souness was known for his aggression on the pitch as a player, and he carried that over as a manager.

    Unfortunately, his players didn't respond very well and they figuratively—and maybe literally at times—fought back against their manager.

    The club's struggles in the league alone were probably enough for Liverpool supporters to start siding against Souness.

    To compound things he made a major PR misstep.

    An interview with Souness ran in The Sun, a tabloid still reviled on Merseyside to this day, about Liverpool's win in the FA Cup final and his own successful heart surgery.

    This almost permanently alienated him from Liverpool supporters and represented what seemed to be a misguided approach in general by Souness when it came to managing the club.

6. Roy Hodgson

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    On paper, this looked to make sense.

    There were some Liverpool supporters who felt that Hodgson would struggle at a big club. But his stock was sky high after leading Fulham to the Europa League final.

    Having managed at clubs across Europe, he looked to bring stability to club that was in dire need of it as a result of a corrosive ownership group.

    It pretty much all fell apart for him, though.

    The new players—including Milan Jovanovic (albeit a Benitez signing), Raul Meireles, Joe Cole and Paul Konchesky—flopped. (Meireles didn't really hit his stride until Kenny Dalglish arrived.)

    To make matters worse, relegation looked like it was a realistic, albeit unlikely, possibility.

    Although he was only in charge of Liverpool for 31 matches, Hodgson managed to pick up a few embarrassing results.

    There was the Carling Cup exit to League Two side Northampton Town, while the Reds also lost at home to Blackpool by a 2-1 scoreline.

    But the final nail in the coffin was the club's 1-0 defeat to at Anfield to bottom-of-the-table Wolves.

    With time, Hodgson might have been able to turn things around, but he was sacked after about six months.

7. Gerard Houllier/Roy Evans

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    You have to wonder what exactly the club was thinking when it chose to make Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans co-managers.

    You can't hire two men for the same position. It would be understandable if the players were a little unsure of who exactly was in charge and had the last word on tactical decisions.

    The club suffered as a result, winning seven out of 18 matches.

    The writing was clearly on the wall for Evans as Liverpool clearly wanted him out but weren't sure exactly how to do it.

    Houllier arrived in July 1998 and Evans was gone by November.