Assessing the Premier League's seven summer appointments

Mike Holden by Mike Holden / 25 August 2016, 09:51

In the final instalment of the the four-part series on summer managerial appointments, Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike), takes a look at the seven changes that took place in the Premier League.

(Not including Hull City who have yet to replace Steve Bruce)

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Antonio Conte (Chelsea)

Just like Louis van Gaal two years ago, Antonio Conte showcased his ability as a supreme tactician on the international stage. The only trouble is, international football isn’t a reliable barometer of elite club football and Chelsea fans will be hoping Conte’s masterclass at Euro 2016 is a little less misleading than van Gaal’s impact at Brazil 2014.

Having dragged Juventus back to the top of the Italian game following an aimless cycle in the wake of Calciopoli, few would dispute that Conte is a top manager. The debate is whether the 47-year-old belongs in the same elite bracket as your Klopps, Mourinhos and Guardiolas.

He can clearly make a difference in a weaker field but can he provide the same edge against other sharp minds? Chelsea should be there or thereabouts, in and around the top four. What happens beyond that will be the true measure of Conte.

Ronald Koeman (Everton)

There were rumours of friction behind the scenes throughout Ronald Koeman’s second season at Southampton, most of which went unreported, meaning Saints were able to command a hefty compensation package for a manager they were apparently happy to lose in any case.

The suggestion is Koeman was neglecting certain responsibilities, like the commitment to youth development, while getting ideas above his station in other departments, pushing the boundaries of his power.

In short, Everton have got themselves a proven coach, but they moved heaven and earth to get him and that will only feed his ego. If things don’t fall into place quickly and the Toffees come up short on transfer targets, the Dutchman won’t be shy in passing responsibility and dishing blame about. Following Roberto Martinez isn’t much of challenge but once the new benchmark has been set, there’s plenty that could go wrong with this relationship.

Pep Guardiola (Man City)

Never has a Premier League managerial appointment been so eagerly awaited. If the Catalan tears up the English top flight like he did for his first three years in Spain and Germany, then he surely passes undisputed as the sharpest tactical mind of the past 20 years.

In reality, though, he probably won’t and the extent to which he struggles will be conclusive proof of the extent to which the league should be regarded as the most competitive and unforgiving on the planet.

It goes without saying that Guardiola needs great players for his ultra-attacking philosophy to work but that doesn’t lessen his prestige. As much as the media will judge him purely on results, his arrival at the Etihad is about more than that. It’s about pushing boundaries, creating a legacy for the club that has everything but, and changing the way the game is played and understood.

Jose Mourinho (Man Utd)

For every action, there’s a reaction, and the spectre of Guardiola’s shadow looming large across town has evidently been the final straw for United to bite the bullet and put their destiny in the hands of probably the only man you would back to keep the Catalan in check.

Mourinho is the anti-Guardiola and history is written by winners. He wants the world to be judged on results and results alone, which makes him hugely compatible with United as a club. However, the Portuguese will stop at nothing to get those results and his methods, especially off the pitch, are rarely endearing.

The fact his move to Old Trafford has happened now, on the back of the car crash that was his Chelsea title defence, tells you everything about the importance of this next cycle in the overall context of United’s long-term future.

Claude Puel (Southampton)

There’s not much Southampton have got wrong over the past five or six years, effortlessly sustaining their Premier League status, and more besides, in the wake of key departures every summer.

Whether Puel will be considered a success at St Mary’s or not depends mainly on expectations. If the benchmark is successive club-record finishes under Ronald Koeman, then he’s on a hiding to nothing. But if regression in the Premier League is considered an acceptable consequence of embracing the adventure of a season in the Europa League, then another exciting campaign could be in the pipeline.

A protege of Arsene Wenger who played nearly 500 times for Monaco, Puel has managed almost continuously for 17 years in the French top flight, most recently with Nice, and he comes highly-recommended as an ideal fit for the Hampshire club by many journalists who specialise in Ligue 1.

Walter Mazzarri (Watford)

The jury’s out about Walter Mazzarri in Italy after a string of notable achievements amounted to little when his big break came along at Inter. But his appointment at Vicarage Road follows the Pozzo family principle of keeping things lively by appointing a foreign coach who brings fresh ideas to the English game and presents new challenges to most Premier League tacticians.

In Mazzarri’s case, his desire to impart several systems on his squad could be his doing in this role, particularly at this early stage while his English remains inadequate, with certain players having already expressed their reservations about how complicated he makes it all sound.

If the Hornets don’t get to grips with his methods soon, then fireworks are possible. Mazzarri can be a combustible character, his touchline outbursts are frequent and he openly describes himself as unpopular. At this stage, he’s odds-against to complete the campaign.

David Moyes (Sunderland)

The arrival of David Moyes at the Stadium of Light presents a familiar problem for Sunderland - namely, the curse of the ex-Manchester United employee.

The Black Cats have invested in a string of ex-Red Devils down the years, on the assumption they are getting someone steeped in the highest standards of professionalism.

But the reality, in many cases, is a smaller flame of desire. They’ve had their chance at Old Trafford and come up short. Subsequently, there’s no escaping the perception that the pinnacle of their career is already behind them. And so it is with Moyes. No matter what he achieves on Wearside, he’ll never be trusted in a top job again and that prior knowledge only encourages a manager to go through the motions, hoping that enough wisdom has been acquired to compensate for the limit imposed on his ambitions.

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