2014-15 Premier League season review: The managers

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ MORE: PST’s Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, it’s time to take a look back at the managers that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.

One of the most intriguing facets of the Premier League is its managers. Sure, the play on the field is perhaps second to none in the world, but the Premier League’s managers often times take on a storyline of their own and provide ample entertainment and fodder for debate. Here are a few of the PL’s managers that made 2014-15 just that much more interesting.

Jose Mourinho, the champion

Manipulator. Tactician. Twister of words. Protector of men. So many titles could be used to describe Chelsea’s enigmatic boss, but the one he will prefer the most is that of “champion.” As in, 2014-15 Premier League champion.

Mourinho used his every last one of his old tricks — diverting attention/blame from his players upon their rare slip-ups; “parking the bus” defensively; and controlling the narrative surrounding his team all season long — en route to returning the Blues back to Premier League glory for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

source: Getty ImagesTim Sherwood, the prodigal son, returns

His win percentage is the thing of legends at Tottenham Hotspur, and yet the 46-year-old was fired by Tottenham Hotspur following the 2013-14 season. On Valentine’s Day 2015, Sherwood was hired as the new Aston Villa boss and tasked with keeping the Birmingham club, which sat in 18th place at the time of his appointment, in the Premier League.

Stunning results followed. Horrid results followed. A run to this weekend’s FA Cup final followed. More of Sherwood’s proud, boastful, king-of-the-world personality ensued. In the end, Villa finished 17th, three points clear of the drop. Now Sherwood will be given his first summer transfer window in which to buy his own players and build his own team. 2015-16 prediction: Villa either win the league next season, or Sherwood will be out of a job by the New Year. Either way, he’ll continue to make the club must-see TV on a weekly basis.

[ MORE: 10 biggest storylines of the Premier League season that was ]

Nigel Pearson, the nuclear reactor (and survivor)

Is there a bigger jerk in the Premier League? The answer to that question is very likely “not a chance.” (Remember this?) Now, with that established, Pearson did a masterful job of keeping PL new boys Leicester City in England’s top flight for another season, thanks to the Foxes’ unlikely rise from last place on Christmas Day, to safety from relegation (a feat only ever achieved once before in the Premier League era) with one game left.

Pearson’s players obviously believe in him, otherwise they’d have folded when the going got tough. His shock-and-awe style with regards to handling the media can definitely be questioned and criticized, but one thing is for certain: players love managers that stick up for them and deflect the attention away from them in the bad times, and give them all the credit in the good times.

source: Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers and Manuel Pellegrini, dangling in the wind

Will they stay or will they go before August arrives? Are the Liverpool and Manchester City boards, respectively, even right to be expecting title challenges, given the obvious, gaping holes in their squads? How many of each manager’s best players will leave this summer, and how many new recruits will arrive?

Short answer: No one knows, but it’s likely to be an absolute circus either way.

Even if one or both stay at their respective through the summer, the questions will return at the first sign of trouble next season (i.e. the first loss). There’s a reason managers are paid handsomely as they are, because you’d have to be mad to take up the line of work for anything short of a king’s ransom.

[ MORE: How the Americans in the Premier League fared in 2014-15 ]

Alan Pardew, the Big Pardiola

We’ve finally reach everyone’s favorite managerial character of the 2014-15 Premier League season: Alan Pardew, formerly of Newcastle United and now the head genius in charge at Crystal Palace.

Newcastle fans seemed to genuinely hate the man, and wanted him out of their club, like, yesterday. In January, the Geordie nation got their wish, and came oh so close to realizing their greatest nightmare: Premier League relegation. Meanwhile, Pardew’s new club, Crystal Palace (then in 18th place), quickly ascended the league table and finished the season in 10th. Palace passed Newcastle on March 21, two months and 19 days after Pardew changed jobs.

John Carver, the lover of club

Poor John Carver, right? After Pardew skipped town, Carver was named interim manager by an owner, Mike Ashely, who on the whole refuses to invest funds back into the team despite selling a number of the club’s best players in recent years, and Carver struggled, in part, due to this.

I mean, he struggled badly. Just three wins in his 16 games in charge (including eight successive losses from March to May) dragged Newcastle United right down into the relegation battle. Carver loves the club dearly (he was born in Newcastle, is a product of the club’s youth academy and has said “yes” to everything they’ve ever asked of him), of which we were reminded to begin any discussion about the future of Newcastle United and Carver alike. In the end, his love for the club was just enough to keep them up, but will it keep him in the manager’s job next season? Probably not.

source: Getty ImagesHarry Redknapp, the ship jumper

Oh, you thought we’d forgotten about Harry? Of course we didn’t. The ol’ wheeler-dealer gets all his full, deserved share of credit for Queens Park Rangers being relegated from the Premier League this season.

Upon his departure for “health reasons” (he said he needed a knee operation), QPR sat second from bottom in the league with 19 points from 23 games. Not great! In the weeks and months following his resignation, Redknapp continuously appeared in the media, saying things like, “I could have kept QPR up,” “QPR fans deserves better,” and my personal favorite, “I wasn’t given enough money to build the team,” despite out-spending the entire Championship last season and tossing another $50 million worth of players on top of that this past summer.

It shouldn’t be long until he’s recklessly angling for his next job — Bournemouth? Watford? Norwich City? Sunderland? Newcastle United? Chelsea? Who knows! — and spending them into crippling debt once hired, before up and leaving again at the first sign of trouble. It’s the Redknapp way.

Man United reveal plans for the future; financial results announced

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Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has a plan.

He shared it in a statement on Monday, as the Red Devils have picked up some momentum over the past few weeks with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side back in the hunt for a top four finish in the Premier League.

The leading man at the PL giants confirmed that producing their own young group of players in the first team is now their main aim.

“We have a clear vision in terms of football philosophy and recruitment,” Woodward said. “The significant investments that we have made in recent years in areas such as transfers, recruitment infrastructure, analytics and our Academy are already beginning to bear fruit.

“We are very proud to be shortly approaching a milestone 4,000th game featuring an Academy player, and we are particularly optimistic regarding the considerable young talent currently coming through. Our ultimate goal is to win trophies by playing exciting football with a team that fuses graduates from our Academy with world-class acquisitions.”

Academy products Marcus Rashford, Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay are key players in United’s first team this season while the likes of Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe and Mason Greenwood have all gained valuable experience.

That said, Woodward will no doubt realize that United have to spend on key additions in the upcoming windows alongside promoting their talented youngsters.

Solskjaer has already mentioned that the January transfer window is something United will look at closely, as they are currently in seventh place in the Premier League table and nine points off the top four. An attacking midfielder is likely to be their key target as they failed to bring in Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes this summer.

With regards to the finances, United’s net debt rose by $177.9 million which was in essence due to bringing in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James this summer. However, their first quarter revenue for this year was slightly up to $175.5 million year-on-year.

They are expected to bring in $86.8 million less in the next 12 months from TV revenue and prize money as they failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, but players wages did fall 8.8 percent with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez off the wage bill, as that now stands at $90 million.

As always, a lack of success on the pitch doesn’t really seem to hurt United off it.

Senegal, Nigeria stay perfect in African Cup qualifying

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Famara Diedhiou scored a hat trick in a game interrupted by heavy rain as Senegal beat Eswatini 4-1 on Sunday for two wins out of two in qualifying for the 2021 African Cup of Nations.

Diedhiou missed an early penalty and it was 0-0 at halftime when Senegal coach Aliou Cisse substituted Sadio Mane.

Diedhiou netted all three of his goals in a nine-minute period from the 59th to keep this year’s African Cup runner-up on course in the final stage of qualifying for the 2021 tournament. Badou Ndiaye scored Senegal’s fourth in Manzini against the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.

Senegal lost to Algeria in the final of this year’s African Cup of Nations in Egypt and is embarking on another attempt to win the continental title for the first time.

Like Senegal, Nigeria has also won its first two of six games in the qualifiers’ decisive group stage after the Super Eagles benefited from an outstanding performance by forward Victor Osimhen in a 4-2 win over Lesotho. Osimhen scored twice and set up the other two as Nigeria again came from behind to win, like it did in its opening qualifier.

South Africa beat Sudan 1-0 with a goal by Lebogang Phiri for its first win of the qualifiers after losing to Ghana first up. Cameroon, which will host the 2021 African Cup, also registered a first win by beating Rwanda 1-0. Midfielder Ngoumo Ngamaleu scored in Cameroon’s first competitive win under new coach Toni Conceicao and first in six games.

Cameroon has already qualified as host but is still taking part in qualifying. The top two teams in each of the 12 groups will qualify with the exception of Cameroon’s group. There, the highest-placed of the other three teams – currently Mozambique – goes through to the 24-team finals which will be played in mid-2021.

Guinea and Mali sit in the qualifying positions in Group A – Mali won 2-0 in Chad and Guinea 2-0 at home to Namibia. There were also wins on Sunday for Uganda, Benin, Republic of Congo and Gabon.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.