Premier League Manager Preview 2020/21: Marcelo Bielsa, Brendan Rodgers, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 07 September 2020, 13:16

What an ensemble of managers we have here!

Owner of one of the most captivating and complex minds in managerial history, Marcelo Bielsa, makes his Premier League bow where he’ll join the division’s last two victors, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola (x2), along with Brendan Rodgers, who came within two points of getting his hands on the coveted trophy before the above duo arrived on the scene, but on the plus side did at least go on to win seven trophies out of seven north of the border.

Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds)

When Leeds were relegated from the Premier League in 2004 they were managed by Eddie Gray. Fast-forward 16 years and 15 permanent bosses and they’re back in the big time under Marcelo Bielsa

“A man with new ideas is a madman, until his ideas triumph,” Bielsa once said. Get the popcorn at the ready, this is going to be absolutely compelling.

Last Season

In the end Leeds emphatically stormed to the Championship title as they completed their best season in yonks with six straight wins. 

They finished 10 points clear at the summit, had the best goal difference, sternest defence and four more wins than any other team. Job done, convincingly.

Strengths

How long have you got?

There's a good reason that Bielsa is lionised as the world’s most technically astute coach.

In a nutshell, his brand of football is a fiery cocktail of speed, mobility and manoeuvrability which blend together to produce orchestrated patterns of play. 

If we hone in on one particular area, perhaps surprisingly it was the strength of Leeds’ defence which was key to their improvement and subsequent title triumph last term. While they’ve since lost Ben White, their new German international signing Robin Koch could prove to be an excellent purchase.

Bielsa’s meticulous nature means no stone will be left unturned, while you can expect a sprinkling of idiosyncrasy, innovation and tactical genius. His first match against Jurgen Klopp should be a cracker.

Areas of Improvement

In order to not merely survive but thrive Leeds need a high-class forward. Patrick Bamford is often on the end of a lot of stick but he will be determined to prove his doubters wrong and show that the Premier League is his level, while new boy - and club record signing - Rodrigo will be looking to make an instant impact.

Being in the Premier League, the players won’t need any motivation, it’s how they react to moments of adversity that will be essential.

Target

Given how long Leeds have been away - 16 years - they need to avoid any major slip-ups and focus on staying up. 

Many fans will be eager for the club to roar out of the blocks and will be eyeing up a top-10 finish, but this is an insanely difficult league they’ve arrived in, so anything towards mid-table would be a grand achievement. 

Odds

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Back-to-back titles for Jurgen Klopp?

Brendan Rodgers (Leicester)

Injuries and an alarming loss in form combined to bring Brendan Rodgers and Leicester back down to earth following a superb start to last season. There were plenty of positives to take but it’s now up to the boss to iron out the negatives.

Last Season

Leicester won a game 9-0, beat both North London clubs, finished 5th, and booked a spot in the Europa League...yet they ended the season disappointed. 

The second-half slump was both shocking and unexpected given how well they had been playing in 2019 - the Foxes will still be gutted at missing on a top-four spot that looked nailed on for most of the season.

Strengths

Leicester have enjoyed a spectacular transformation since they made the decision to replace Claude Puel with Rodgers, who has constructed an exciting and ambitious young team.

Rodgers has immense self-belief and has never hidden his ambition, which he’s complemented with his excellent communication skills and astute technical knowhow. His side showcase an enthusiasm for high-pressing, possession-based football which they exercised to the highest-level in that win over sorry Southampton.

Rodgers also deserves credit for getting the very best out of Jamie Vardy.

Areas of Improvement

Ben Chilwell’s exit will be a big loss for Leicester, while they are desperately counting down to the days for the return of Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison. Jamie Vardy needs a helping hand up front and there’s hope that this is the season Kelechi Iheanacho shines.

Surprisingly, Rodgers didn’t seem to have an answer to Leicester’s second-half slump. A lack of depth was evident, as was the team's collective failure to dissect problems effectively. With a heavy Europa League fixture list added to their schedule, new additions are needed.

Fans will hope that Rodgers’ obsessive quest for perfection means that he’s found a way to re-energise his side ahead of the new season.

Target

Given the spending at Chelsea, Man Utd’s resurgence, Arsenal’s improvement under Mikel Arteta, and Jose Mourinho’s slowly-but-surely approach at Tottenham, it will be a big ask for Leicester to break into the top-six again.

Odds

Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

After ending Liverpool’s lengthy search for a Premier League crown in dominant fashion, Jurgen Klopp will now be bidding to follow in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola by securing two titles on the spin.

Last Season

Liverpool stamped 99 points on the board en route to winning the title. They finished a whopping 18 points clear of Man City, bagged 32 wins, and dropped just two points at home, while Klopp was crowned the LMA Manager of the Year.

Strengths

Utter dominance. Liverpool have accumulated 196 points over the last two seasons, and lost just four times to three clubs in that time, with two of the defeats coming after the title had been secured.

At his disposal, Klopp has one of the planet’s most feared attacking triumvirates. Tireless workers operate in the middle of the park, in front of a stingy defence which also add creativity and goals. They’ve also got a world class keeper between the sticks.

Through embedding a winners mentality, exceptional recruitment, and both cohesive and individual brilliance, Klopp has created a true juggernaut of a team which have thrived under his leadership.

Areas of Improvement

How to improve on one of the best Premier League seasons ever?

While it’s the front-three who consistently supply an avalanche of goals, Klopp would like to see more attacking intent from midfield. Not a single player in that area scored more than four times in the league, and if we are being picky then they need to find their shooting boots. It could prove to be a big season for Naby Keita who has yet to reach his potential at Liverpool.

A midfield acquisition could therefore freshen things up and keep things competitive, as would a forward, although it looks like Klopp has pinned his faith on back-ups Rhian Brewster and Takumi Minamino.

Liverpool have lost three of their last 11 league games, having previously gone 44 matches undefeated. A title-related hangover may have something to do with this but still, it will give their rivals a glimmer of hope.

Target

Top, obviously.

Odds

Pep Guardiola (Man City)

For only the third time in his managerial career Pep Guardiola finished a season without a top-flight title. The Spaniard will be more motivated than ever to reclaim the prize, surely he won’t go back-to-back campaigns without the league gong?

Last Season

Man City fell way short in their quest for three consecutive titles as they finished 18 points adrift of Liverpool, and lost a whopping nine games, seven of which came on the road. 

From a pride perspective, losing both home-and-away to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd would have hurt Guardiola somewhat.

Strengths

Keeping the ball is central to the Guardiola ideology with his possession-based approach both pleasing on the eye aesthetically, and thrillingly effective. Short, quick and intricate passing movements mesmerize audiences and bamboozle the opposition. 

Man City thundered in 102 goals last season meaning they’ve now scored over 300 times over the last three seasons. They tonked Watford 8-0, beat champions Liverpool 4-0, hit six past Aston Villa, and stuck five past a number of others.

Areas of Improvement

For Guardiola’s style to work at its brilliant best, he requires players of the highest quality. Technique, talent, skill and intelligence are key characteristics of a Man City player. 

This wasn’t always evident last season as the Citizens slumped to an alarming number of defeats (nine). Their confidence, usually sky-high, took a knock at times so Guardiola needs to get back that winners resolve. And while we’d never tell one of the best bosses ever how to pick his team, many fans no doubt crave more consistency in the starting-11. Fantasy Football players certainly do!

Missing out on Lionel Messi was a blow, but fans will be looking forward to seeing explosive winger Ferran Torres in action. Nathan Axe has been added to a defence which could also include Kalidou Koulibaly next season.

Target

Reclaim the spoils and become only the fourth manager - after Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho - to lift three Premier League titles.

Odds

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Odds Correct as of 2020-10-28 21:29:28
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