Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is the favourite to win the prestigious Premier League Manager of the Season award, having become the first manager in 30 years to deliver an English top-flight title to Anfield.
After enduring three barren years without silverware at the helm of the club, Klopp led The Reds to a British-record sixth European Cup / Champions League title last June, before then adding the UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and last month, the Premier League title to his Liverpool resume.
The German ended three decades of Liverpool ridicule, misery, hurt and regret in record-breaking fashion. Over the course of the campaign, Klopp has struck a somewhat charismatic and passionate character, which has resonated with his players and made him a popular figure among Liverpool fans and neutrals alike, exemplified by his five Premier League Manager of the Month accolades.
Klopp rightfully deserves all his plaudits, however, the hard work and graft of his Premier League counterparts shouldn’t be overlooked, as the announcement for the award draws nearer.
So which other managerial candidates could contest Klopp for the Premier League Manager of the Season award?
Frank Lampard – Chelsea
Frank Lampard has had a stellar first season in charge in the English top -flight, especially considering he’s only two years into his managerial career. His only previous managerial spell saw him lead Derby County to sixth place in the Championship last season, where they qualified for the play-off final.
Although his first season of his three-year Chelsea tenure hasn’t completely ended, he saw his side finish as runners-up to Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup, led The Blues to a fourth place finish in the Premier League and guided them to this year’s FA Cup Final and the Last-16 of the UEFA Champions League.
Lampard has had to overcome his fair share of adversity and criticism, let alone substantial changes in personnel, including the fallout from talisman Eden Hazard’s departure and a transfer embargo that prevented the Englishman from making any immediate summer signings.
Yet, despite limited resources, Chelsea’s all-time top goalscorer trusted his young players and instilled them with confidence to perform, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic catching the eye.
The former England international also showed off his tactical ingenuity in high-profile league matches away against London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham, against whom he played with three defenders at the back and triumphed on both occasions.
Nuno Espiríto Santo – Wolves
Nuno Espiríto Santo can be proud of his achievements at Wolves this campaign. The Portuguese tactician may not have gone one better than last season’s seventh place finish, but The Wanderers managed to surpass last season’s club-record of 57 points and set a new points tally of 59 in the Premier League.
Wolves may have missed out on qualification for next season’s Europa League, but Espiríto Santo deserves a lot of credit, especially considering his Wolves side started their 2019-20 football campaign on July 25 last year.
In previous campaigns, Premier League sides past and present such as Burnley and Stoke City found it difficult to balance the domestic pressures with those of the Europa League, with their league position often taking collateral damage.
However, the Portuguese boss has seen his side finish level on points with Tottenham and three above Arsenal, while reaching the Round of 16 of the European competition, and they could even clinch a Champions League spot with overall victory, which would be a remarkable feat for the club.
Chris Wilder – Sheffield United
Chris Wilder’s first Premier League season in charge of Sheffield United has been nothing short of astonishing. When promoted sides enter the English top-flight, the main priority is usually to secure survival, but Wilder’s men more than achieved that target and after 18 rounds of fixtures in the league, were up to fifth.
Drawing on comparisons to Wolves’ first season back in the Premier League last campaign, United also took points off some of the league’s prominent sides, including Arsenal and Manchester United, and even went unbeaten against Tottenham and Chelsea, wining both home fixtures respectively.
Like Wolves in the previous campaign, Wilder’s men had the fourth-best defensive record in the league. They conceded 39 times, with only the top-three conceding less. Similarly to The Wanderers, their first season back in the Premier League also saw The Blades set a club-record points tally, this time of 54, as well as reaching the Quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Dean Smith – Aston Villa
Not many people would believe that Aston Villa would claim Premier League survival, having been seven-points adrift of safety with four matches to go, but they have Dean Smith to thank, who steered the Claret and Blue Army away from the drop-zone on the final day.
They may have rode their luck with goal-line technology (or a lack of) coming to their rescue against Sheffield United, but it was Smith’s defensive initiative towards the latter stages of the campaign, that ultimately rescued Villa’s Premier League status.
The side had kept just two clean sheets in the entire league campaign prior to the lock-down, before finding three in the last 10 matches. It was clear that Smith’s change in tactics played an instrumental role, with defenders getting tighter to their opponents and pressing higher up the pitch.
A personnel change also helped the cause with experienced ‘keeper Pepe Reina playing a pivotal role since being reintroduced into the side with six games to go.
With their defence looking more assured under the guidance of former Chelsea defender John Terry as assistant manager, it allowed Jack Grealish to inspire in attack and his goal in their draw on the final day against West Ham, was enough to earn survival, two weeks after The Lions looked to be heading for the inevitable drop.
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