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Grading all 20 Premier League managers

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Which Premier League managers were most responsible for their team’s overachievement — or, underachievement — during the 2018-19 season?

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal ]

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester, West Ham ]

Benitez, Rafael (Newcastle United) — B-

High marks for: Keeping Newcastle in the PL and finishing 13th, with one of the league’s smaller wage bills, by beating the teams they needed to beat (eight of 12 victories came against teams that finished below them) | Low marks for: Going winless in the first 10 games of the season

Final thoughts: Newcastle could be a perennial top-half side, if only owner Mike Ashley would either 1) back his manager, or 2) sell the club. Benitez is far and away the brightest manager Newcastle could hope to attract and he continues to deliver above realistic expectations.


Dyche, Sean (Burnley) — C-

High marks for: Finding three teams to be worse than Burnley; going eight games unbeaten to start 2019 | Low marks for: Six losing skids of three games or more (two that lasted four games)

Final thoughts: This is Burnley’s level — scraping and clawing a few points clear of relegation — rather than last season’s 7th-place finish.


Emery, Unai (Arsenal) — C+

High marks for: Going 14 games unbeaten after losing twice to start the season | Low marks for: Failing to finish in the top-four, despite Tottenham and Chelsea falling apart down the stretch

Final thoughts: Emery’s first season following in the footsteps of Arsene Wenger could have gone better, but it could have gone worse. The more distance Emery puts between Wenger and present day, the easier the job will get. He sorely needs to win the Europa League to build a squad capable of returning to the top-four.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Espirito Santo, Nuno (Wolverhampton Wanderers) — A

High marks for: Leading a newly promoted team to a 7th-place finish, while playing an entertaining style of soccer | Low marks for: N/A

Final thoughts: If this is as good as it ever gets for Wolves, let’s all choose to remember Espirito Santo’s time at the club for what he did this season, not for how it might all come crashing down around him in future seasons. Sure, Wolves spent on par with the PL’s biggest clubs. Then again, Fulham outspent Wolves by $42 million last summer and finished 19th.


Gracia, Javi (Watford) — B-

High marks for: Taking Watford another step forward, up to 11th, in his first full season in charge after they narrowly avoided relegation two seasons ago and progressed to 14th last season | Low marks for: Once Watford were mathematically safe, their form fell off a cliff and they took a bit of a tumble down the table

Final thoughts: There was a time this season when Watford looked like they might be the surprise 7th-place finishers, then they lost six of their last nine games but still only finished seven points back of Wolves.


Guardiola, Pep (Manchester City) — A+

High marks for: Winning the title, for a second straight season, by winning 14 straight games to finish the season; needing 98 points to win the title, and getting 98 points; winning the title with Kevin De Bruyne, his best player last season, playing just 19 games | Low marks for: N/A

Final thoughts: If there were any remaining questions about Guadiola’s suitability to the PL, they have been answered by winning 198 points over two seasons. Whatever he chooses to do next, he will do it well.


Hasenhuttl, Ralph (Southampton) — B

High marks for: Taking over a bottom-three team right before Christmas and keeping them in the PL | Low marks for: N/A

Final thoughts: Saints had won just once in 15 games before Hasenhuttl was appointed, which means they won eight times in their final 23 games — a massive improvement, though it would have been very difficult to replicate Mark Hughes‘ record. A 3W-3D-3L run to finish the season was 1) enough to keep them in the PL, but more importantly 2) provided the only period of consistency all season.

(Adam Davy/PA via AP)

Hodgson, Roy (Crystal Palace) — C

High marks for: Overcoming a truly horrific start to the season (just three wins from Palace’s first 16 games) to finish 15 points clear of relegation| Low marks for: Overseeing the truly horrific start to the season

Final thoughts: Hodgson deserves tons of credit for keeping the team onside when things were looking terribly bleak (16th place, one point clear of relegation after 16 games), but he deserves just as much blame for being in that position in the first place. In the end, he’ll have a job for life if he can deliver 12th-place finishes to Palace year after year.


Howe, Eddie (Bournemouth) — C+

High marks for: Winning six of their first 10 games and propelling Bournemouth into the conversation for a top-half finish | Low marks for: Losing 17 of the next 28 games and sinking to a 14th-place finish

Final thoughts: If not for a strong start to the season (20 points from their first 10 games, where might the Cherries have wound up? In the end, though, expecting too terribly much more out of a club with the budget of Bournemouth would be wildly unrealistic.


Hughton, Chris (Brighton & Hove Albion) — C-

High marks for: Doing enough — just enough — to keep Brighton in the PL | Low marks for: Finishing 17th, two points clear of relegation, and getting fired

Final thoughts: Hughton’s four-and-a-half-year tenure at Brighton will forever be remembered fondly, as he was the one who took them to the PL, kept them their for a second season, and secured a third season as well. That said, he might have taken the club as far as he could, making this summer the right time for a change.


Klopp, Jurgen (Liverpool) — A+

High marks for: Improving Liverpool by 22 points from one season to the next (they were 24 points better in relation to Man City); setting up a young Liverpool side for what should be a decade of title challenges | Low marks for: Liverpool had a seven-point lead on Jan. 13, but Man City took the lead for good on March 3 and never looked back

Final thoughts: What more could Klopp and Co., have done? 97 points would have won the title in all but two seasons in PL history: last season and this season, because of 198-point Man City.


Parker, Scott (Fulham) — Incomplete

High marks for: Snapping Fulham’s nine-game losing streak (five of which he was in charge of) by winning three straight | Low marks for: Losing those five games by a combined score of 13-4

Final thoughts: Fulham were already all but gone (10 points back of 17th, with just 10 games left to play) when Parker was appointed. Fulham lost his first five games in charge, then won three, then lost their last two. Let’s wait and see what the first-time boss can do in the EFL Championship.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Pellegrini, Manuel (West Ham United) — C

High marks for: The run of just three defeats in 13 games from mid-September to mid-December | Low marks for: The four games — four losses — with preceded the aforementioned 13-game run and had some wondering whether Pellegrini would survive his first season month in charge

Final thoughts: On paper, Pellegrini had a very strong squad with which to work. In practice, it was heavily skewed toward the attacking half of the field, and nothing could be a worse fit for his preferred style. Part of that is on him as he needs to adapt, and part of that is on the executives who hired him and assembled his squad.


Pochettino, Mauricio (Tottenham Hotspur) — A-

High marks for: Overcoming all of the self-imposed obstacles to limp across the finish line in fourth; reaching the Champions League final | Low marks for: Not walking into chairman Daniel Levy’s office and demanding he sign a player

Final thoughts: Name a manager who did more with less this season. Pochettino finished last season with an already-thin, injury-plagued squad. In the summer, Spurs signed not a single player. In January, Spurs signed not a single player. In January, Spurs, a team with hardly a central midfielder on the roster, sold one of their most influential players and midfielders, Mousa Dembele, in the name of recouping a whole $14 million. Yet, Pochettino pieced together lineups and gameplans nearly every time out that gave Spurs a chance to pick up points, and they did so more often than not until the final few weeks.


Rodgers, Brendan (Leicester City) — Incomplete

High marks for: Winning four of his first five games in charge while conceding multiple goals just once (the Foxes had conceded 11 goals in the five games pre-Rodgers) | Low marks for: N/A

Final thoughts: Much like Newcastle, Rodgers might be the height of who Leicester could realistically attract. If he’s committed to sticking around for the long haul, rather than using Leicester as a stepping stone, it seems like a match made in heaven and a long tenure, with plenty more top-half finishes, could very well be on the cards.


Sarri, Maurizio (Chelsea) — B-

High marks for: Getting Chelsea back in the Champions League next season and finishing 3rd despite significant struggles in his first season in the PL | Low marks for: His downright refusal to adapt his tactics for such a long period when it was all beginning to unravel and the fans were turning against him

Final thoughts: Eden Hazard papered over a lot of cracks for Sarri this season. If he’s not around to do the same next season, it probably won’t be Sarri we’re grading this time next year.


Siewert, Jan (Huddersfield Town) — Incomplete

High marks for: N/A | Low marks for: Losing 12 of the 15 games of which he was in charge

Final thoughts: Like Fulham, Huddersfield were already long gone (10 points off 17th with 15 games left) by the time they made a change, so bringing in Siewert was purely about planning for next season. A few more non-loss results would have been nice, though.


Silva, Marco (Everton) — B-

High marks for: Starting (just two defeats from Everton’s first nine games) and finishing (five wins from their last eight games) the season strongly | Low marks for: Disappearing from December to February (nine losses in 14 games) and (maybe) almost getting fired

Final thoughts: He is clearly the most talented and ambitious manager Everton have had in a long time, and that’ll show through even more so after a second summer of transfers to build a squad that better fits his style (e.g., younger, more mobile defenders).

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Solskjaer, Ole Gunnar (Manchester United) — C

High marks for: The lengthy honeymoon period (12 games unbeaten, including 10 wins) after he was appointed; liberating Man United fans from Jose Mourinho | Low marks for: The dismal run-in (just two wins from their final eight games, including four defeats) after he was given the job on a permanent basis

Final thoughts: Did Man United really have to remove the interim tag when they did? Are they sure the guy who got fired by Cardiff, in the only top-level job of his career, is the right guy to take on a complete squad rebuild?


Warnock, Neil (Cardiff City) — D+

High marks for: Giving Cardiff a real shot at avoiding relegation, until the final two or three weeks of the season, despite the emotional hardship they faced when club-record signing Emiliano Sala died before he played a game | Low marks for: Being relegated; winning back-to-back games just once all season

Final thoughts: Warnock is expected to remain in his position next season, which makes all the sense in the world considering Cardiff will be seeking another promotion back to the PL.

USL adds new team in Queens, David Villa involved

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David Villa is heading back to New York City.

This time as a club owner.

A second-tier side called Queensboro FC will begin play in the USL Championship in 2021 with Villa, 37, heading up a ownership group who are bringing the team to Queens.

In a statement to ESPN, the former NYCFC and Major League Soccer star is delighted to be part of setting up the new team which will play at York College in Queens.

“Bringing professional football to Queens’ diverse community is an exciting and unique opportunity,” Villa said. “The beautiful game already lives here, thanks to the melting pot of cultures who are so passionate about the sport. I can’t think of a better place for QBFC to grow. I’m proud to be part of this project.”

Villa spent four seasons with New York City FC and the Spanish national team legend was one of the best Designated Players in MLS history as he scored 82 goals in 130 appearances across all competitions. Villa is now heading back to the Big Apple to head up QBFC and you have to think there will be some kind of link-up with his former club in the future when it comes to giving NYCFC academy products playing minutes in a professional environment.

Jonathan Krane, CEO of New York City-based asset management company KraneShares, is leading the ownership group and Villa will be retired by 2021 (he currently plays for Vissel Kobe in Japan) when the team begins play, so he can take up a leading role.

Villa lived in Queens during his time playing for NYCFC and was heavily involved in the local community, setting up his own soccer academies and trying to help youngsters in Queens realize their dreams.

Queensboro FC will now be his next project as Villa’s strong connection with NYC continues.

Liverpool’s move for Ryan Fraser makes perfect sense

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Liverpool are said to be in talks with Bournemouth about signing Ryan Fraser in January.

The Scottish winger is out of contract next summer and talks over a new deal at Bournemouth have so far failed.

Fraser, 25, was a star for the Cherries last season but has only been a bit-part player so far this campaign (adding one goal and two assists) as Eddie Howe plans for a future without him and the tension surrounding his future hasn’t helped matters.

Per a report from talkSPORT in the UK, Liverpool winger Harry Wilson, who is currently on loan at Bournemouth, could make a permanent switch to the South Coast club in January in exchange for the Reds being able to sign Fraser. Per the report, it is expected Bournemouth would also want around $15 million from Liverpool, plus Wilson, for Fraser.

Does this move make sense for Liverpool? Absolutely.

The speedy winger was an assist machine last season, racking up 14 which was the second-highest in the Premier League. Fraser wouldn’t start ahead of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino, but he would be a great option off the bench and to play in cup competitions. His style of play is also perfectly suited to Liverpool’s high-tempo and pacy counter attacking.

With Xherdan Shaqiri currently out injured and failing to break in as a regular for Liverpool last season, Fraser would jump ahead of him in the queue for minutes after Liverpool’s attacking trio.

If this move to Liverpool doesn’t work out then Fraser can of course ‘do an Aaron Ramsey‘ and start talking to non-English clubs in January about a free transfer next summer. That’s not something Bournemouth would want, so you can understand their eagerness to at least get a little cash and a promising young player to replace Fraser.

From Liverpool’s point of view, Fraser would be a great addition on the cheap and he still has the prime years of his career ahead of him.

Sterling issues apology after Gomez row

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Raheem Sterling has been left out of the England team for their EURO 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday after a bust-up with Joe Gomez.

According to multiple reports the Man City winger was sat in the players’ canteen when Gomez, the first of several Liverpool players to arrive, walked in and was laughing.

Sterling then reportedly said “you’re the big man now are you?” and confronted Gomez, trying to grab him around the neck as the two were separated.

This all came after Sterling clashed with Gomez in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over City at Anfield on Sunday, as the England winger was booed heavily by the home fans, plus also clashed with England teammates Jordan Henderson and Trent-Alexander Arnold during the game.

England manager Gareth Southgate released a statement on Monday saying that Sterling would not be available to play against Montenegro but would remain with the squad.

“One of the great challenges and strengths for us is that we’ve been able to separate club rivalries from the national team. Unfortunately, the emotions of yesterday’s game were still raw,” Southgate said as he referenced the fiery Liverpool v. Man City clash. “My feeling is that the right thing for the team is the action we have taken. Now that the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad, it’s important that we support the players and focus on Thursday night.”

Gomez and Sterling both trained for England at St. George’s Park on Tuesday.

In a statement posted on his Instagram page, Sterling issued a public apology to Gomez and apparently the matter is now sorted between the two.

“First and foremost everyone knows what that game means to me. Everyone knows that I am not that way inclined and more to the point, both Joe and I have had words and figured things out and moved on,” Sterling said. “We are in a sport where emotions run high and I am man enough to admit when emotions got the better of me. We move, this is why we play this sport because of our love for it. Me and Joe Gomez are good, we both understand it was a 5-10 second thing. It’s done, we move forward and not make this bigger than it is. Let’s get focus on our game on Thursday.”

Sterling will be available to play against Kosovo in England’s final EURO 2020 qualifier on Sunday.

It seems like that is that and Southgate has acted swiftly to punish Sterling for his reaction, everyone has accepted it and they’ve drawn a line under it.

These things happen in sport all the time and this is more about the principle of the matter as Southgate doesn’t want to see anything like this in his squad in the future.

The message is now clear, it isn’t acceptable. No matter if you’re one of England’s best players or a youngster who is a bit-part player, the Three Lions squad must stick together.

Borussia Dortmund hurting after heavy loss in Munich

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BERLIN (AP) Borussia Dortmund is hurting again after another heavy Bundesliga defeat in Munich.

Dortmund lost 4-0 in the “der Klassiker” against rival Bayern Munich on Saturday, being fortunate not to concede more goals.

Dortmund’s lackluster performance has been criticized following sporting director Michael Zorc’s call for a “men’s soccer” type of performance in the buildup for the game. Instead, Dortmund delivered what Kicker magazine called “scaredy-cat soccer.”

“A lot of our players just weren’t there today,” Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said. “That’s the biggest disappointment.”

Zorc was even more critical of the performance.

“That wasn’t football at all, to be honest,” he said. “Bayern were on top and better in every respect. Bayern completely took over after 15 minutes and we were second-best at everything. That’s why Bayern also deserved to win by this score.”

It was Dortmund’s fifth consecutive heavy defeat in Munich. It lost 5-0 in April, 6-0 last year, 4-1 in 2017 and 5-1 in 2015. In its last six games in Munich, Dortmund has been outscored 26-3.

“It was beautiful that the talk before the game was of men’s football,” said Bayern forward Thomas Muller, who set up two goals. “As I’m a bit older now, 30, I know that it gives you a bit extra inspiration. The way I see it, that’s why we are German champions seven times in a row. It’s always wonderful when the Dortmunders come to Munich and we play like we did today.”

Bayern appeared to be in crisis after firing coach Niko Kovac following the team’ 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt – its heaviest league defeat in over 10 years.

But Kovac’s dismissal seems to have come as a relief to some players, and interim coach Hansi Flick has now overseen two wins from two competitive games, with no goals conceded. Bayern reached the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Olympiakos on Wednesday.

Bayern’s will to win on Saturday contrasted sharply with Dortmund’s, which will be under increased pressure after it appeared to have turned a corner following a series of questionable results.

[ MORE: Premier League Club Power Rankings ]

Dortmund had strung together three consecutive wins – over league leader Borussia Monchengladbach in the German Cup, previously unbeaten Wolfsburg in the league, and Inter Milan in the Champions League, when the team displayed great morale to come back from two goals down and win 3-2.

But there was none of that in Munich on Saturday, and Favre and his superiors are left wondering how to consistently get the best from the talented but fallible team.

“We expected a lot from this game,” Zorc said. “Then we delivered what is basically a non-performance. I’m disappointed. You can’t even say that it was just a lack of challenges. We were also bad when we had the ball, we gave it away and simply made it too easy for Bayern. That was a huge disappointment.”

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