Who Deserves the Premier League Manager of the Year Award?8 min read
While the football season might be drawing to a close in the next few weeks, the awards are getting handed out thick and fast.
There is always a hot debate over the Player of the Year awards, and this year’s is no different, but it is the Manager of the Year award that is just so difficult to pick a winner.
Here are my three contenders for this season’s best Premier League manager.
When Newcastle United were promoted last season from the Championship, there was reasonable doubt to suggest that if the Magpies were not allowed to spend a considerable amount, they might well be finding themselves back from where they came from.
Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s highly controversial owner, played hardball with the transfer funds last summer and didn’t allow them to be released until the final week of the window. At that point, it was too late to acquire their targets and they failed to land Besiktas’s Cenk Tosun because of it. Of course, Ashley knew this.
Benitez grew frustrated with the constant games with the owner and it looked at one point that the Spaniard might just walk away. After all, who could have blamed him if he had done so?
However, the former Real Madrid and Napoli boss stuck with the Magpies and the Geordie faithful had even more admiration for him. For a few months, it did look sketchy business for Newcastle, who were dropping down the table in quick effect, but the Spaniard’s strong motivational techniques and intricate tactical displays showed why he is so highly revered.
In truth, Newcastle’s squad is Championship level. Not many coaches in the world could have done what Benitez had done and he is fully deserving to be in the conversation of Manager of the Year. Benitez has, somehow, delivered the club’s third top 10 finish since Ashley took over in 2007, 11 years ago. It is really quite the achievement.
If a new owner comes in, or Ashley decides to give the manager a helping hand, the sky is the limit in how far Newcastle can go.
The most obvious and expected choice for the award is Manchester City’s Guardiola. After delivering two trophies in his second year in charge, the Spanish manager has proven (not that he really needed to) that he can implement his philosophies in England too.
There was a fair amount of criticism last summer when City flopped to a third-place finish and no trophies in the cabinet, but this season we have seen the Manchester club dominate the Premier League from start to finish with very little competition standing in their way.
City have been exemplary in the way they have played and have, arguably, been the most eye-pleasing team to watch in the whole of Europe. The dynamism is flowing non-stop and the defence looks like it has a bandage covering its former leaky years.
There is a great sense of team cohesion at City right now, mostly thanks to Guardiola, and it will be incredibly difficult for any English team to dethrone them now they are at the top. The Premier League has Beena walk in the park for the Spaniard this season, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.
You get a sense of more to come with new additions arriving over the summer for the Citizens, but Guardiola has implemented his ethos into his players and they are reaping the rewards after buying into it. The Citizens have been a joy to watch this season and Guardiola deserves the plaudits he receives.
Perhaps the most remarkable job of all has been the one Dyche has undertaken at Burnley this season in delivering them European football for next season. Against all odds, and all of the economic laws of the game telling otherwise, the Clarets are embarking on a top seven finish that defies belief.
After losing Michael Keane to Everton for a club record fee of £25 million, Burnley fans were skeptical over this season due to their unwillingness to replace him. Partly because they didn’t feel that there were many on the market that were at an affordable price, but also because they knew they had one of their own who fill the Keane-sized hole.
That player was James Tarkowski, who has now earned his first England call-up as a result of this year’s campaign with Burnley and under Dyche. With such a small budget compared to the teams in close proximity, it really is immense how the Englishman has instilled a confidence, belief and determination in these Burnley players that hasn’t been seen before.
3 matches. 3 wins.
Your @BarclaysFooty Manager of the Month for March is @BurnleyOfficial's Sean Dyche! ?#PLawards pic.twitter.com/EmO1zsvPYe
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 13, 2018
There will be complaints from rival fans regarding the style of football Dyche plays, but in fact, Burnley, more often than not, actually play football and only resort to long balls at a time of need. Yes, they are physical, and yes, they are aggressive, but that’s what football is about and it quite obviously works for them.
Burnley will never be the possession-orientated team that Man City are, but then they don’t have to be. These Clarets fans will cherish next season’s European participation (providing they qualify) in the same way that Leicester City’s fans did in the Champions League.
The club’s best bit of business this summer will be to make sure they can keep ahold of their key man in the dugout. There will certainly be no shortage of offers for Dyche.
My winner is Sean Dyche