Rating the Premier League bosses: How did your manager grade out?

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The manager’s chair is always one of the hottest seats in a Premier League venue, but this year’s bosses seemed more flammable than ever before. From Jose Mourinho to Malky Mackay to three bosses at Fulham, 2013/14 was a season for the bosses.

So how did yours do? Let’s take a look.

Arsenal – Arsene Wenger
Wenger’s tumble in the train station symbolically illustrated Arsenal’s season: It seemed like the Gunners were headed for title town only to be forced to hold onto the fourth Champions League spot for dear life. To be fair to Wenger, the club faced big injuries to some key players including missing a half-season’s worth of Theo Walcott. Still, the inability to bring a forward in during the transfer window, opting instead for a last-second swoop for injured Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom, gives the slender Frenchman a poorer grade than the No. 4 slot would hint.
Grade: C-

Aston Villa – Paul Lambert
A 15th place finish for Villa should almost never be acceptable; This is not a club in which survival is the only goal. Lambert didn’t seem to press the right buttons and even had his assistants stripped from him at the end of the year. At many times during the season, the attack seemed to center on “Let’s hope Christian Benteke scores,” and the team hemorrhaged goals late in the season. Throw in his criticism of the cups, and it wasn’t a good year for PL or AV.
Grade: D

Cardiff City – Malky Mackay, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Criticize unorthodox owner Vincent Tan as much as you’d like, but Mackay did not succeed despite some decent spending in August. Plus half the battle is getting along with your owner, not getting a solid month of the season hamstrung in ornery shouting matches. Mackay did well to get the team up, for sure, and will likely do better with a fresh start somewhere. Solskjaer was allowed to spend, too, but his infusion of Manchester United castaways and Norwegian talent didn’t do the trick. They went down. No one wins.
Grades: Mackay, D; Solskjaer, F

Chelsea – Jose Mourinho
The Special One had a good first year at Chelsea, although not up to his lofty expectations. He made clear the team’s problems (Have you heard they need a striker?) but also made some classy buys in Nemanja Matic amongst others. There were times his verbal games seemed to backfire, like in the case of his, “Well now we won’t win the league” with plenty of time remaining. But still he reached second place and the final four of the Champions League. Next year, it’s hardware or bust.
Grade: B+

source: APCrystal Palace – Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis
Credit to Holloway for getting Palace to the Premier League, but he struggled in the first throes of the season. The Pulis hire was a brilliant one, as the Eagles defended in elite fashion and pulled a number of surprising results out of the sky. And, of course, if all Crystal Palace’s season served was the “Pulis laugh” after a 3-3 draw against Liverpool, then this year was a success.
Grade: Holloway, D; Pulis, A

Everton – Roberto Martinez
He walked into a club that had traditionally failed to push to the next level… and took them to the Europa League. Martinez’s style may not have achieved PL success at Wigan, but he worked wonders with youngsters like Ross Barkley as well as veterans across the board. Martinez guided Tim Howard to a career-best in clean sheets, and Everton nearly made the Champions League. That’ll be the measuring stick for next season.
Grade: A-

Fulham – Martin Jol, Rene Meulensteen, Felix Magath
What a mess. Jol never seemed to have the answer, and Meulensteen’s first time in a Premier League first chair could was not a success. Magath did a number of good things that make you wonder what would’ve happened if he was appointed when Jol was fired or if the plug could’ve been pulled on Meulensteen a couple weeks earlier. In any event, their records reveal more about the on-field talent then the sideline sorcery.

Martin Jol: 3W-1D-9L
Rene Meulensteen: 3W-1D-9L
Felix Magath: 3W-2D-6L

Grades: Jol, F; Meulensteen, D; Magath, C

Hull City – Steve Bruce
A slow start for the Tigers was complicated by ownership’s public desire to change the team name to Hull Tigers, but credit Bruce for steadying the ship. The big man also made a couple solid mid-season signings in forwards Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, and got the club into the Europa League with a run to FA Cup Final. This grade could be higher if they trump Arsenal for silverware.
Grade: B+

Liverpool – Brendan Rodgers
Last year, with his club on a reality show, everyone wanted to pip Rodgers as out of his depth. Yet here came the man with 33:1 odds to win the title, and he came to within a Steven Gerrard slip of getting the job done. You can’t blame the man for allowing a veteran to fall down. Rodgers will have to find better defending and hold onto Luis Suarez to be a true threat next year, but he also has the Champions League with which to lure players. Unquestionably, the man navigated an emotional season with a deft touch.
Grade: A-

Manchester City – Manuel Pellegrini
Talk about his board room riches? Sure, but Pellegrini lowered his public persona and worked his way through some tricky injuries and trickier road struggles. Though you could argue that City underachieved given its talents, Pellegrini pushed the right buttons and massaged egos well on the way to a title.
Grade: A

Manchester United – David Moyes, Ryan Giggs
The Moyes era was a disaster, but was Moyes himself? You could certainly argue he needed a PR-savvy team to help him talk and negotiate transfer fees, as his ludicrous offer for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini set the table for a rough season. He also never seemed to sound the right note after losses. Manchester United is not considered a normal club by anyone, but Moyes often sounded as if “losses happen.” They do, but Manchester United fans don’t accept that. Giggs was a place-holder  who did his job of not being Moyes and being Giggs pretty well.
Grades: Moyes, D; Giggs, B+

source: APNewcastle United – Alan Pardew, John Carver
We have to include former TFC boss Carver because Pardew went and got himself suspended for headbutting an opponent during a game. Read that and guess what grade is coming. What makes it most screwy is that the club chief scout Graham Carr and Pardew assembled was talented enough to flirt with Europe for most of the early season. Then, Yohan Cabaye was allowed to leave for Paris Saint-Germain and Pardew had no answers. Not one, unless you count headbutting an opponent during a game. Carver was essentially Pardew Jr. for the suspension, and the club was simply the worst outside of Norwich over the final weeks, even months of the season. See this Tweet for more:

Grades: Pardew, D; Carver, F

Norwich City – Chris Hughton, Neil Adams
It wasn’t much better for former Newcastle boss Hughton, whose club was pegged for big things after offseason signings Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel. The club just wasn’t humming all year. By the time Adams took over, it almost felt like the philosophy was, “Well, let’s see if Neil can pull off a miracle and at least he’ll get to say he was a PL boss if he doesn’t.”
Grades: Hughton, F; Adams, D

Southampton – Mauricio Pochettino
Really it could’ve gone so much worse for the Saints, with a midseason boardroom kerfuffle to go with constant rumors of nearly every player getting a big name transfer. Pochettino to me is the guy who should be getting looks from Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. A brilliant tactician who knows his way around the motivational circles as well, he’s about as good as it gets.
Grade: A

Stoke City – Mark Hughes
It didn’t start well, but boy did Hughes pull it together! Stoke leapt into the No. 9 slot in the table on the season’s final day, and Hughes did it with a variety of tactics. He’s earned plenty of guff for failures at other stops, but if the Britannia Stadium club backs him with a difference maker or two… well, perhaps the Potters can make the next step.
Grade: B

Sunderland – Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet
This isn’t the first time di Canio’s honeymoon ended in disaster, but don’t think Poyet gets a great grade just for a pair of Cup runs and rescuing the season. The boss had plenty of chances to save his team a bit of late-season drama, only to fail. That said, there’s promise for Gus’ guys once he gets more of his own flavor in the side.
Grade: di Canio, F; Poyet C-

Swansea City – Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk
When you have a PST writer comparing you to Don Draper, that isn’t a compliment. Laudrup failed, leaving a player to step up and clean up the pieces. Monk did that after a shaky start, and earned himself a three-year extension. Training ground dustups were old hat by the end of the season, but the play improved.
Grade: Laudrup, D; Monk C+

source: ReutersTottenham Hotspur – Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood
It almost feels unfair to grade either of these gents considering Daniel Levy seemed intent on making sure both of their jobs were complicated. AVB claimed to have a handful of players he didn’t want after Spurs spending spree, and while that’s not ideal, who says that? Sherwood did the world’s best job doing anything soccer-related ever, according to him.
Grade: AVB, C-; Sherwood C+; Levy, F

West Bromwich Albion – Steve Clarke, Pepe Mel
Maybe it’s the concussions, but Clarke’s was the only manager whose name I couldn’t recall from memory. A forgettable start to the season, and Mel barely saved things — if you can even call it that — before mutually-parting ways with the club today. Bad year for the Baggies, but it obviously could’ve been worse. Perhaps Clarke was dealing with expectations that were too high, but still…
Grade: Clarke, D+; Mel D+

West Ham United – Sam Allardyce
Well, well, well Big Sam. The Irons had to contend with an injury to their prime signing in Andy Carroll, but really isn’t that the argument against putting all your eggs in one basket? Allardyce saved his team from the drop, and how, but he also guided his team into said danger.
Grade: C-

MLS Week 4 Preview: Portland flying, RSL depleted

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We’re just starting to see things take shape in Major League Soccer. The dangerous teams are clear, the middle of the pack is forming, and the struggling teams know it’s not too late to get a things going.

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Week 4 is stretched out over this weekend and next thanks to the international break, so there are only three matches to get to on Saturday. Here’s the outlook:

New England Revolution vs. Minnesota United – 2:00 p.m. ET

There is just one point combined for these two teams through the first three match weeks. They are both bottom of their conference. A basement spot awaits the loser, and a revival awaits the winner. If there is one.

A lot is on the line with these two clubs as they meet in Foxboro. It’s early enough in the season where three points can vault a team halfway up the table, completely alleviating any fears of impending doom. However, it’s at the point where should a team lose this match, the alarm bells begin to go off for fans.

Minnesota, already struggling to begin the season, has been ravaged by the international break and will be without Rasmus Schuller, Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, and Francisco Calvo. That said, if there’s any time to have a number of players missing, it is nice to have it come against a struggling team like New England who has yet to score a goal from open play yet through two matches. Will New England strike against the lack of opposition depth to spark their goalscoring efforts?

New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake – 4:00 p.m. ET

RSL has to get things going, and they need to do it fast. Unfortunately, they visit an Eastern Conference might as New York welcomes the cross-country travelers with six points already in hand to Salt Lake’s one. To make matters worse for the visiting side, they’re ravaged up and down the roster. Nick Rimando and Albert Rusnák are on international duty, Kyle Beckerman is suspended for his silly red card, and Joao Plata is injured along with Jordan Allen. Tack on the questionable tags for Justen Glad, Aaron Maund, and David Horst, and the outlook is bleak for RSL. Oh, and they just fired their coach too.

That leaves interim coach Daryl Shore little to work with, and they’ll take on a strong New York team that presses hard. Sacha Kljestan struggled in last week’s loss to Seattle, but this team is known for its ability to bounce back. Bradley Wright-Phillips could have a field day if he gets the service, or even if he doesn’t.

Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers – 7:30 p.m. ET

For me, this is the best game of the three. Portland is considered by some to own the best attack in the league, and they’ve shown it through three games, scoring 10 goals against a relatively soft opening schedule. Columbus, meanwhile, picked up three points from a two-game road trip and is back home looking to prove that last year’s struggles are a thing of the past. We still don’t know exactly what to expect from the Crew, but we sure do know what’s coming to town, and that’s the Timbers’ red-hot attack duo of Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi.

22-year-old rookie Alex Crognale made his debut for Columbus last week and contributed heavily to the Crew’s clean sheet. He will be tested heavily should he earn himself a second start. Jonathan Mensah is back from his red card suspension and will add to the defensive abilities. Still, it will be a tough test for Columbus, one which would provide an enormous boost should earn all three points.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 3: Gap developing at the top

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We’re just three weeks in, and while there’s still obviously gobs of time for teams to right the ship, we are also seeing who’s for real at the top of the table, and while the table doesn’t always show it, we’re starting to learn more and more about each team that picks up the points.

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Atlanta continues to win, still yet to lose in MLS play three matches into its inaugural season, and Portland bounced back to prove they’re still in control. At about the 7-8 mark there looks to be a clear gap developing. Can anyone buck the trend moving forward? Your updated power rankings:


TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

 

22 (19)

21 (22)

20 (21)

DC United: Six goals conceded, none scored in their last two. Not much else needs to be said.

Minnesota United: Their very first MLS point was an important one, holding on down a man. Still a very long way to go.

New England Revolution: More of the same for New England who admittedly had a tall task against FC Dallas but couldn’t hold on.

19 (20) Columbus Crew: Could this week be the one that starts the climb? Six shots on target out of seven total, that’s efficient. Still need a result against a better team to back it up.
18 (18) Real Salt Lake: No Glad, No Plata, down a man, still almost pulled it out. Still, the defending was poor at times a man down and Beckerman knows better. Need to start picking up points.
17 (16) Philadelphia Union: 14 shots, just two on target. That’s the type of day it was in Orlando. Just 2 points from three is worrying, but they have a shot for their first win against DC before taking on Portland and NYCFC.
16 (12) Chicago Fire: Ouch. It’s hard to take much of anything from a big loss to a smoking hot team playing 79 minutes with 10 men. Still…that one will hurt.
15 (17) Montreal Impact: They held firm against a good NYCFC attack, and actually did the coming back for once.
14 (14) Vancouver Whitecaps: In a vacuum, no shame in losing to Tigres or Toronto, but now they’ve got a bit of poor form with the Galaxy coming to town and then the CCL second leg. Will want to avoid a string of bad results.
13 (15) LA Galaxy: All road wins are good wins. That said, beating a weakened RSL by a goal after playing a man down the entire second half is not exactly convincing. They were second best until Beckerman went off and managed just 4 shots on target.
12 (13)
Sporting Kansas City: Have conceded just one goal. They have a plan, and it’s working so far. Just need to figure it out on the other end.
11 (5) Colorado Rapids: Give the Loons credit, but a draw against 10-man Minnesota is not a good look. The defending has been poor.
10 (7) San Jose Earthquakes: Bit tough to figure out this San Jose team early on, but with Godoy held in check, they were outshot 15-5 by KC.
9 (6) Houston Dynamo: Caught Portland at a bad time. This is still a good team, but maybe with some soul-searching to do after a big loss.
8 (10)
Orlando City: An extra week of rest helped Orlando and Cyle Larin did Cyle Larin things. Six possible points, six taken. Still need to prove themselves on the road after last season.
7 (9) Seattle Sounders: Just like Portland, Seattle got back to what it does best, and that involved Dempsey and Morris scoring. The attack looked dangerous
6 (4) New York City FC: Montreal hacked NYCFC to death and it worked. They’re still a good team, but will have to figure out how to win ugly too.
5 (8) Toronto FC: A very solid bounce-back win without Giovinco, who will be back after the break. The rough start appears to be more of a blip.
4 (3) New York Red Bulls: The ugly wins finally came back to haunt them. Hard to take much from a cross-country road trip, but they fell short in a tough test.
3 (11) Atlanta United: You betcha. This team’s for real. Well, they certainly appear to be with Josef Martinez on fire, but he’s just been injured. Now what?
2 (2) FC Dallas: A win over New England continued FC Dallas’s hot start. It’s mind-boggling how little attention Max Urruti gets.
1 (1) Portland Timbers: That’s more like it. The scary Portland attack bounced back by putting four goals past 2-0-0 Houston.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five goals in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.