John Aldridge: Guardiola has done well but there's another manager whose achievements are as good, if not better
PEP Guardiola toasted his first Premier League title as Manchester City boss on Sunday, but I don’t believe he is the lone contender for the Manager of the Year prize.
You have to consider the net spend of a manager in the transfer market to evaluate the scale of his achievements and when you have been handed £400m to spend in just two seasons, winning the Premier League is an achievement that is expected rather than hoped for.
There are still some factors that will finalise my end of season ranking of the top managers in the English game, but we can already draw some conclusions as the most one-sided title race in a long time came to an end.
PEP GUARDIOLA (Manchester City)
City are a great team – and so they should be after Guardiola was allowed to make some huge mistakes in the transfer market last season before being handed another £250m to go again with some new players last summer.
Winning the league is never easy and City have done it in style, with the Carabao Cup a nice addition for a fine team that were a few steps ahead of the chasing pack for the first two thirds of the season, even if most teams were scared stiff of them and were beaten before games started. Yet I look at the way Liverpool beat City twice at Anfield – pretty convincingly on both occasions – and the fact that they went out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and you could not give Guardiola top marks given the money he has spent.
JOSE MOURINHO (Manchester United)
Mourinho will try to claim United have been successful if they win the FA Cup and finish second in the Premier League, yet this season will have been a disaster if they don’t get some silverware to paper over the cracks. I look at the money Mourinho has spent in his two seasons at United and see the football his team have churned out for most of this season and it is nowhere near good enough.
Classy football is beating Mourinho’s brand of functional boredom now and lovers of the beautiful game should celebrate that.
6/10 (will go up to 7/10 if United win the FA Cup)
JURGEN KLOPP (Liverpool)
Football is a strand of the entertainment business and while Mourinho would rather win at all costs by using some ugly tactics at times, Klopp has a far more adventurous philosophy on the game. Supporters will accept the odd setback if they can see progress and they are given something to get excited about and Liverpool’s run to the Champions League semi-finals – which has included some sensational performances – has been spectacular to watch.
Throw in the fact that Klopp is close to breaking even in his transfer trading since he arrived at Liverpool and his achievements are as good, and possibly better, than those of Guardiola.
8/10 (will be 10/10 if Liverpool win the Champions League)
MAURICIO POCHETTINO (Tottenham)
There are only three teams I would get excited about watching in the Premier League, with City, Liverpool and Spurs the only sides that try and win in the right manner.
Pochettino has done a great job at Tottenham and, like Klopp, he hasn’t spent too much to build a team oozing with good quality players.
I would be delighted to see Spurs win the FA Cup this season as they are the best team left in that competition and deserve to win a trophy after three years knocking on the door at the top of the table.
7/10 (8/10 if Spurs win the FA Cup)
ANTONIO CONTE (Chelsea)
I have some sympathy for the Chelsea manager because he was clearly not given the players he wanted last summer and has looked unhappy in a club that no manager seems happy at for too long.
He did a fantastic job winning the title last season, yet Conte seemed to predict problems were on the horizon for his team last summer, and so it has proved in a campaign that can only be saved by victory in the FA Cup. I still expect Conte to leave Chelsea this summer, even if he gets a trophy as a leaving gift.
ARSENE WENGER (Arsenal)
Arsenal have spent more money than you might imagine in the transfer market in recent years, so the performance of Wenger and his team over the last few months has been well below expectations.
They could win the Europa League and salvage something from a miserable few months, but it feels like this once great manager has run his course at Arsenal and the supporters are craving something new.
I don’t expect Arsenal to win the Europa League as they are too flaky to get around Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals and if they go out of that competition this will have been a dreadful season.
4/10 (6/10 if Arsenal win Europa League)
BEST OF THE REST – Sean Dyche, Chris Hughton, Rafa Benitez, David Wagner
It’s easy to be seduced by the heavy-hitters at the top of the table, but we have had a lot of overachievers outside of the top six this season and none more so than my old Ireland team-mate Chris Hughton.
His Brighton team aren’t quite good enough to survive in the Premier League, but Chris is close to keeping them up and the same story is true at Newcastle under Benitez and Huddersfield under Wagner.
I’d give all three of them eight or nine out of 10 if they avoid relegation, as that will be as good as winning a trophy.
As for Sean Dyche at Burnley, finishing seventh with the resources he is working with would be incredible and he would have a big claim to be Manager of the Year if he achieves that.