Grading All 20 Premier League Managers on Their Performance This Season

Matthew Celentano@@Gunner_NYCFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2012

Grading All 20 Premier League Managers on Their Performance This Season

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    In what was arguably the most exciting Premier League season ever, there are plenty of talking points about different managers' performances.

    It's a constant debate in football on exactly how much impact a manager has on his team: is it the gaffer, the 11 players on the pitch or both who decide a team's victories and defeats? We certainly saw both brilliant and awful managerial displays in the Premier League this season, from transfers to tactics to dealing with the press.

    Without further ado, here are the grades for every Premier League manager this season.

Roberto Mancini: A

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    Although it may have taken a gazillion pounds in Arab oil money, Manchester City have won the Premier League title.

    Despite all of the money at his disposal, I think Roberto Mancini deserves some degree of credit. Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero were all key components in City's title charge, and were all signed by Mancini. Sure, they weren't bargains, but each of the players Mancini has signed can be considered among the best in the league.

    Mancini also changed the way City played their football this season, reverting from his defensive tactics of 2010-11 to dynamic, attacking football in 2011-12.

    All in all, Roberto Mancini proved that he is the right man to lead the Blue Moon Rising.

Sir Alex Ferguson: C

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    When Manchester United had an eight-point lead in the table over Manchester City, many were already stating that this title win would be Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest achievement.

    Not only would he have won the Red Devils' 20th title from their crosstown rivals, but he would have done it with what's considered the weakest Manchester United squad in years. United's "experience" was going to have them see out their eight-point lead for the remaining fixtures of the season, and they would bask in glory for another year in English Football.

    If that had happened, Sir Alex Ferguson would have gotten an A.

    But it didn't. Instead, Fergie will face the heat of going trophy-less with a weak squad lacking quality in midfield and blundering in defense, looking ahead to a summer where changes must be made.

    For that, he gets a C. 

Arsene Wenger: A-

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    Before you scroll down to the comments section and claim that I know nothing about football, hear me out.

    I think leading Arsenal to a third-placed finish is Arsene Wenger's biggest achievement since the Invincibles. Nine months ago, the full-time whistle had blown at Old Trafford as Arsenal had lost 8-2 to Manchester United, suffering their largest defeat in 84 years. If someone would've told me then that Arsenal would finish third at the end of the season, I'd call them insane. People didn't even expect the Gunners to finish in the top six, let alone the top three.

    Sure, Robin van Persie had a large say in Arsenal's third-place push this season, but people forget who signed and developed him into the best out-and-out striker in the world. People forget who turned Alex Song from a bumbling defensive midfielder into the potential replacement for Cesc Fabregas.

    Arsene Wenger hasn't gotten the credit he deserves for helping turn Arsenal's season around, hence the generous A-.

Harry Redknapp: C-

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    A few months ago, Spurs were shock contenders for the Premier League title. Harry Redknapp was faced with a January transfer window where he would sign the right players in order to give Spurs the push to go on, fight for the title and at the very least secure Champions League football.

    Well, 'Arry failed. He signed Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen. While Saha has been a half-decent squad rotation option, Nelsen is still a head-scratching signing, and both players are not what was needed for Tottenham to finish the season that started so promisingly.

    They now face a fight to keep their star players in Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, and that will certainly be difficult without Champions League football as a chip to bargain with. 

    Blame it on Fabio Capello, but Harry Redknapp could have done a lot better for Spurs and in the end left them empty handed.

Alan Pardew: A+

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    Wanna see some nonsensical math? If Andy Carroll=35 million pounds and Papiss Cisse+Demba Ba=9 million pounds, how are Papiss Cisse+Demba Ba > Andy Carroll?

    The answer is Alan Pardew. After selling off the Toon's key players in Jose Enrique, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll, no one expected Pardew to lead Newcastle to anything better than a midtable finish. Some even predicted a relegation scrap.

    Instead, Alan Pardew defied even the most optimistic Newcastle fan's expectations with brilliant signings and attacking football, inspiring the Magpies to a charge for a Champions League spot.  It shows how far Newcastle have come this season with Pardew that fans feel somewhat disappointed in finishing fifth. 

    It'll certainly be interesting to see how Newcastle's thin but talented squad handle the Europa League next season and if they'll prove to be consistent top-six finishers. 

Roberto Di Matteo: B+

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    Remember, these grades are based on Premier League matches alone. If Champions League matches were taken into account, Di Matteo would've gotten an A+++.

    But people tend to forget that Di Matteo had 11 matches to get Chelsea back into the top four after Andre Villas-Boas' great failures. An unexceptional sixth-place finish meant Chelsea needed to win the Champions League in order to qualify for it, and in the end they were literally a few inches away (Schweinsteiger's penalty miss) from being in the Europa League.

    So although Di Matteo did win two trophies with Chelsea (one of them being the biggest trophy a club can win), the Blues' record under Di Matteo in the Premier League was five wins, two draws, and three losses. Remember that one of those losses was 2-0 at home to Newcastle, and another was 4-1 at Liverpool. 

    B+ is nonetheless an impressive grade for Di Matteo, but is it enough to secure his job at Stamford Bridge?

David Moyes: A

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    It's beyond me how David Moyes can get Everton to consistently finish in the top half of the table while hardly spending anything.

    Let's look at some of his shrewd transfer dealings this season. There was the loan of Royston Drenthe, who was impressive attacking in his time at Goodison Park. The loan of Landon Donovan (again) was both beneficial for Everton's season and Donovan's career, and the reacquisition (on loan, of course) of Steven Pienaar helped Everton finish above Liverpool in the latter stages of the season.

    And believe it or not, there were two signings that were actually permanent. Darron Gibson from Manchester United was a surprisingly good addition to Everton's already stacked midfield. And then there's Jelavic. If it weren't for the brilliance of Papiss Cisse, Nikica Jelavic would have been the best signing of the January transfer window, scoring nine goals in his first 13 league appearances for Everton.

    Now just imagine what Everton could do if they knew how to start a season.

Kenny Dalglish: D-

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    Oh, boy. Where do I start?

    In all honesty, Kenny Dalglish has done a terrible job of managing Liverpool. He shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the transfer market after a majority of his signings have been flops, and his tactics and team selections have been awful at times.

    On top of that, he was partly responsible for one of the worst PR disasters in Liverpool history when he controversially supported Luis Suarez in his racism row.

    In my opinion, Kenny Dalglish is the example of everything a good football manager shouldn't be. He is the reason Liverpool finished behind Everton, who spent about a tenth of what the Reds spent.

Martin Jol: C+

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    Fulham have now proved that they can consistently finish in the top half of the table with a respectable ninth-place finish this season.

    But Martin Jol hasn't done anything of real significance, and the people who should really take credit for Fulham's solid season are Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele. Martin Jol did have a falling out with Bobby Zamora, leading to the Englishman's exit to QPR, but besides that Jol has had a fairly low-key first season with Fulham.

    He now faces the uphill battle of trying to convince Clint Dempsey to stay at Craven Cottage. Good luck with that.

Roy Hodgson: C+

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    Roy Hodgson is another manager who hasn't done anything of note this season.

    Except for landing the biggest job in the country, of course. Hodgson led West Brom to a respectable midtable finish once again and has done a decent job since joining the club in the middle of the 2010-11 season, but few people would have considered him worthy to be the England manager.

    West Brom's 10th-place finish reflected their place as a perfectly mediocre Premier League club, but Roy Hodgson now has the huge task of winning over England fans by leading the Three Lions to glory at the upcoming Euro 2012.

Brendan Rodgers: A

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    If Alan Pardew wasn't manager of the season, it would have surely been Brendan Rodgers. 

    After taking Swansea to the Premier League against all odds via the playoff final, many predicted that the Welsh side's Premier League dream would be short-lived. But in the end, Swansea were never even really close to getting relegated. And that is, in my opinion, because of Brendan Rodgers.

    Everything he's done has been phenomenal. His work in the transfer market was brilliant, with Michel Vorm, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Danny Graham only a few of his impressive signings. Rodgers has also greatly improved players already in the squad, with Leon Britton having one of the best passing completion rates in Europe and Scott Sinclair established as a top Premier League winger.

    Most admirable of all, though, is how the Swansea boss has his side playing football. Clubs that fight in midtable or the relegation battle tend to play not-so-attractive football (cough, cough, Stoke Rugby Club). But Rodgers has bravely decided to implement fluid and attacking football in Swansea's play, giving them a new identity in the Premier League.

    Hats off to Brendan Rodgers, and good luck to Swansea next season. 

Paul Lambert: A-

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    Swansea City and Norwich City have practically had identical seasons, with Swansea only finishing above Norwich on goal difference.

    Paul Lambert has shown the same kind of bravery in his managing as Brendan Rodgers has. Although Norwich haven't played as attractive football as Swansea, they've played better football than most midtable clubs and have actually scored the seventh-most goals in the league.

    So why the A-? Why not A? It's simple. Defense. 

    While Norwich's attacking play has rewarded them with another season in the Premier League, their defensive play has constantly let them down, as they've conceded 66 goals—that's more than any other team in the league, besides the relegated sides.

    All in all, Paul Lambert is definitely going places in his managerial career (hopefully it's not Aston Villa) and will be looking to improve next season on Norwich's stellar 2011-12 campaign. 

Martin O'Neill: B

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    Steve Bruce was leading Sunderland into a relegation scrap before Martin O'Neill took charge.

    O'Neill instantly rejuvenated Sunderland, making them the most in-form side in the league and propelling them back into the top half of the table. However, we all know that good runs of form come and go with midtable clubs, and that's exactly what happened with the Black Cats. Their form dipped towards the end of the season as the goals began to dry out and late-season fatigue was beginning to hit.

    Nonetheless, it's amazing how Sunderland could only muster a 13th-placed finish. We all know they've got the potential to consistently finish in the top half of the table with quality players such as Sebastian Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon.

    Martin O'Neill has done a fine job at the Stadium of Light, and I expect him to be there for a while.

Tony Pulis: C

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    If this was about the quality of football each team was playing, Tony Pulis would get an F.

    Stoke City play the worst football in the Premier League and scored fewer goals than any other team, but they've nonetheless established themselves as a side that avoids relegation year after year. 

    There was a point in the season when Stoke were flying high, and it was looking like they would finish in the top half of the table. But they lacked anything to play for in the latter stages of the season, and that resulted in a rather disappointing 14th-placed finish. 

    Tony Pulis is having Stoke City just barely scrape by as a midtable club at the moment, and don't expect that to change next season.

Roberto Martinez: A-

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    This may seem like a generous grade for the manager of a team that sat in 20th place practically all season, but I think Roberto Martinez has been one of the best managers of the year.

    He somehow always manages to pull Wigan out of the relegation zone at the very last minute, but it wasn't looking like that would happen, as the Latics were dead last in the middle of the season with another "Houdini" not looking likely.

    And then Roberto Martinez's magic came into play. Playing with three men at the back, Wigan pumped out the results they needed in order to stay alive, beating Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.

    Martinez is now arguably the most sought after manager in this transfer window, but I hope he'll continue to perform miracles with Wigan.

Alex McLeish: D-

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    Alex McLeish deserved to be sacked by Aston Villa for so many reasons.

    Firstly, he dragged a club that's finished in the top half of the table for years into a relegation scrap, only two points away from the relegation zone in 16th place. Worst of all, I think, is the kind of football he's had Aston Villa playing. 

    In short, they've been playing like Stoke. Scoring the second-fewest amount of goals in the league, Alex McLeish has had Villa play a game of hoofing, a brand of anti-football that should be frowned upon.

    Alex McLeish is the sole reason for Aston Villa's horrible 2011-12 season, and I hope to see the Villains back in the top half of the table in 2012-13. 

Mark Hughes: C-

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    Mark Hughes didn't exactly have the impact on QPR that the board of the Loftus Road outfit expected him to have.

    The most important thing is that he kept QPR safe from relegation. But he didn't exactly do it convincingly, and for most of his time in West London, the Rangers were in awful form. The only reason Mark Hughes' side stayed alive was because of their giant-killing capability at home, beating Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs.

    All in all, Hughes got the job done, but Tony Fernandes and the QPR board will surely expect more than a relegation scrap next season.

Owen Coyle: D

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    It doesn't seem like very long ago that Owen Coyle was tipped to be the next Liverpool manager.

    Although Coyle's Bolton was relegated on the final day of the season after a surprisingly bad campaign, I'm not giving him an F—and that's because he's not a bad football manager. Owen Coyle's season with Bolton was ridden with misfortune, with devastating injuries to Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong as well as the loss of Gary Cahill making the Wanderers' fight against the drop even harder.

    But we all know that relegation can't be blamed on injuries. Owen Coyle certainly could have done better as manager—for example, he should have brought in a better striker than David N'Gog.

    Coyle is a good manager, and Bolton is a decent team; it's just that the two both had awful seasons.

Steve Kean: F

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    If Steve Kean kept Blackburn alive from relegation while fighting fan protests, it would have been admirable.

    But he didn't. Blackburn were relegated after a nightmare of a season, and you can't say that it wasn't coming. The Rovers had been horrible for most of their campaign, and it's a miracle that Steve Kean kept his job.

    Both Kean and Blackburn's Indian chicken company owners are taking heat from the fans for a horrendous season, and with the Ewood Park outfit set to lose a few of their star players, I can't see them back in the Premier League any time soon.

Terry Connor: F

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    It would be unfair to blame Terry Connor for Wolves' relegation.

    My personal opinion is that the Wolves board is responsible for their own relegation after they unjustly and stupidly sacked Mick McCarthy. We'll get to that in the next slide, but the point is Terry Connor shouldn't take the majority of the blame for his side's relegation. 

    Should Connor have done better? Of course—he didn't pick up a single win and failed to convince anyone that Wolves deserved another season in the Premier League.

The Sacked

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    Andre Villas-Boas: C-

    Andre Villas-Boas was supposed to be the foundation of the beginning of a new era for Chelsea, and he seemed to be on the right track with the signings of Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu. However, he neglected Chelsea's veterans to the point of mutiny, and his team selections were downright horrible at times. If he hadn't been sacked, I don't think Chelsea would have won either of their trophies.

     

    Steve Bruce: C-

    Under Steve Bruce, Sunderland were on their way to a season of relegation scrap. The only reason he isn't getting a worse grade is because he made some impressively shrewd signings in Sebastian Larsson, Ji, Wes Brown, John O'Shea and Nicklas Bendtner (on loan).

     

    Neil Warnock: C

    QPR were certainly heading downhill with Neil Warnock, but I don't think sacking him and bringing in Mark Hughes was exactly a turning point in their season. If Warnock wasn't sacked, QPR may have well survived in the Premier League anyways.

     

    Mick McCarthy: C

    Mick McCarthy was the man who brought Wolves into the Premier League, he was the man who kept them in the Premier League for two seasons, and he was the man who had the best chance at keeping them in England's top tier for a third season. He was sacked impulsively and foolishly after Wolves' bad run of form in the middle of the season was capped off by a 5-1 loss to local rivals West Brom.

    If Wolves can get Mick McCarthy back, they certainly should

     

    How do you think each of the Premier League managers performed this season?