As the Premier League kick-off draws closer, we assess the challenges facing the managers at the big-six clubs.
Will Pep Guardiola become the first Premier League boss since Sir Alex Ferguson to retain the title? And how will Mauricio Pochettino handle Tottenham’s transition to their new stadium?
Read on as we continue the countdown to the 2018/19 season…
Pep Guardiola: Retaining the title
Manchester City sent records tumbling on their way to the title last season, scoring the most goals, recording the most wins and amassing the most points in Premier League history. Their achievements were extraordinary but Guardiola now face a huge challenge to take them to the same heights in 2018/19.
Not since Manchester United clinched a third consecutive title in 2008/09 has a Premier League side retained the crown. Since 1992, United and Chelsea are the only sides to manage it. City finished second after both their 2011/12 and 2013/14 title successes.
It’s down to Guardiola to keep his players motivated and ensure they do not succumb to complacency. He must also decide how to approach team selection and tactics. Does he stick with what worked so well last season? Or does he attempt to innovate again? In terms of transfers, he must also be careful not to upset the balance of a title-winning squad.
Signings of the summer
With the new Premier League season almost upon us, we pick out the best signings of the summer so far.
Jose Mourinho: Avoiding third-season syndrome
Mourinho’s biggest challenge is to ensure history does not repeat itself. It was in his third seasons in charge at Chelsea and Real Madrid that things began to unravel. It is an ominous pattern for Manchester United, but the difference this time is that he has not yet achieved his goals.
He guided United to a Europa League and League Cup double in his first season in charge, but last season ended without a trophy. And while they jumped from fifth to second in the Premier League, they still finished 19 points behind City and crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16.
There is much room for improvement, in other words. Mourinho’s task is to avoid the familiar conflicts which have undermined his previous roles and focus on taking United back to the top.
Mauricio Pochettino: Stadium transition
Pochettino committed his future to Tottenham with a new five-year contract in May, ensuring he will lead the team into their new stadium. The 62,000 arena will undoubtedly provide long-term financial benefits for the club, but the transition presents challenges in the short term.
London rivals Arsenal and West Ham have shown how difficult it can be to make a new stadium feel like home in recent years, and there are spending implications to consider, too. With debts to pay off, Pochettino knows transfer funds will be limited and new signings will have to be balanced with departures.
Tottenham are yet to make any signings this summer, but they can ill-afford to miss out on the lucrative rewards of Champions League qualification as they look to pay off their stadium. It’s up to Pochettino to keep them punching above their weight.
Jurgen Klopp: Title tilt
At his Liverpool unveiling in 2015, Klopp said he expected to win silverware within four years of his appointment. For all the progress, however, trophies have not yet been forthcoming.
They have come close, of course, suffering defeats in the finals of the Champions League, Europa League and League Cup over the last three years, but as Klopp approaches season number four, the challenge is to go one better.
It certainly looks as though they are gearing up for an assault on the big prizes. Klopp has already brought in Naby Keita, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and goalkeeper Alisson, and with last season’s PFA and FWA Player of the Year Mohamed Salah signing a new contract in July, the team looks in strong shape.
Maurizio Sarri: Implementing the style
It has been a long summer for Chelsea. Antonio Conte’s sacking looked inevitable long before the end of last season, but it was not until July 12 that his departure was finally confirmed. The delay leaves his successor, Sarri, with just a few weeks to implement a drastically different style of football before the start of the new campaign.
If, as expected, Sarri is to use his favoured 4-3-3, the team will require considerable surgery. He will be helped by the arrival of the £57m Jorginho, a key player from his time in charge of Napoli, but he faces a difficult task to transmit his ideas in such a short timeframe.
With Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard wanted by Real Madrid, and Willian and N’Golo Kante being chased by Barcelona, there is also considerable uncertainty surrounding his squad. Before even taking charge of a Premier League game, Sarri could find himself with a rebuilding job on his hands.
Unai Emery: Launching the new era
Optimism abounds the Emirates Stadium as they prepare to embark on a new era under Emery, but replacing Arsene Wenger, whose influence on the club was all-encompassing, is a huge task.
Arsenal have been uncharacteristically efficient in the transfer market, bringing in Lucas Torreira, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Matteo Guendouzi, but can Emery bring the new components together and ride out a difficult start to the campaign?
Arsenal fans will be desperate for an improvement on last season’s sixth-placed finish, and they will also be eager to see new ideas in action. It’s down to Emery to put his stamp on the team and ensure there is no hangover from the Wenger era.
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