A dramatic Premier League season reached its conclusion last month. Now that the dust has settled, we look at the managers at Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham — to assess their performances and what needs to be improved ahead of the next campaign.
Manchester City | Pep Guardiola
While it was agony for Liverpool, there was unconfined joy for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City as they clinched a fourth title in five seasons in the most dramatic of fashion. Guardiola’s side were worthy winners, responding to Liverpool’s challenge by raising their own standards, and it’s now legitimately a dynasty of domestic success at the Etihad to rival Fergie’s Man United in their prime. Even more impressively, City have zero intention of standing still and the signing of Erling Haaland will strike fear into the hearts of those who wish to take them on next season.
No sooner had they waved goodbye to the likes of Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan, Guardiola will be plotting how to make them even better. They may have won the title again but by other measures, City are still falling short. A few minutes of madness saw them lose to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals and mere lapses continue to haunt them in Europe.
Maybe Haaland will provide the deadly finishing touch to break through this final frontier and keep their necks ahead of Liverpool in the next captivating title race. The only cloud in City’s clear blue sky is how much longer Guardiola will want to do it for. He has spoken about his desire to leave the club in 2023 and so that gives him just one more opportunity to deliver the Champions League glory he was hired to deliver.
Liverpool | Jurgen Klopp
Almost certainly the best team to miss out on the Premier League title and it was a phenomenal season for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. Klopp’s brilliant team ultimately reached 92 points and yet still finished behind Manchester City. Liverpool lost only two league matches all season long and still came second but played some mesmerising football along the way while demonstrating an astonishing never-say-die mentality.
Klopp has committed for a few more years and Liverpool fans couldn’t be happier. But next season will be all the more challenging given City have already signed one of the world’s deadliest strikers in Erling Haaland. How will Liverpool respond in this ongoing arms race? Is there a big name they can sign, or will Klopp continue to spend less but acquire more absolute gems like Diogo Jota or Luis Diaz.
Can they also fend off interest from leading European clubs for their other star Mohamed Salah this summer? Whatever happens, Klopp’s Liverpool always seem to emerge better from the occasional sacrifice of a big name player. Their true strength lies in the collective and mental fortitude. In the Premier League, City proved a hair’s breadth better than them. Taking into consideration all competitions, they’re neck and neck.
Chelsea | Thomas Tuchel
The fall of Chelsea’s Roman Empire has indeed been seismic with the reverberations felt well beyond west London. It’s likely to be a chaotic summer ahead with key players departing and the takeover saga could rumble on for some time yet. Given all this, Thomas Tuchel can be said to have done a very good job on the field. Chelsea weren’t able to keep up with Liverpool or Manchester City – even before the Abramovich shock – but have still finished third.
They reached the finals of the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, losing both on penalties having matched Liverpool, won the Club World Cup and only lost in the Champions League to a very good Real Madrid side. Even if Romelu Lukaku has so far been underwhelming for £98million – and unhelpfully rocked the boat mid-season by airing his grievances – other players have stepped up.
Mason Mount continues to be outstanding and Kai Havertz has quite the knack for scoring significant goals. Reece James missed a chunk of the season with injury but is clearly a world class wing-back. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking the sanctions on Abramovich, a mid-season pile-up of fixtures, injuries and Covid issues saw Tuchel under serious strain. But the German was a reassuring presence during the madness – even offering to drive his team to away games in a minibus – and emerges with credit from the most demanding of seasons.
Tottenham | Antonio Conte
Yet another season in two parts. Going nowhere under Nuno Espirito Santo, Tottenham acted decisively to bring in Antonio Conte at the beginning of November and reaped the benefit. A return to Champions League football for next season was sealed on the final day and made all the more sweeter by the fact Arsenal missed out. Now it’s clear they must do everything within their power to cling on to Conte, a born winner who has revitalised the club again. If that means getting the chequebook out this summer to boost the squad, then so be it.
That’ll be Daniel Levy’s top summer priority because, for a change, it looks as though Harry Kane looks content and won’t be linked with a move anywhere. There’s a strong case for keeping hold of Dejan Kulusevski, who scored five goals and contributed eight assists during his loan from Juventus, and with a couple more additions Spurs will have the makings of a good team again.
Conte’s next mission, should he remain, is to try and deliver a first piece of silverware since 2008. They would surely have had a good crack at the Europa Conference League had they not been forced to forfeit their final group game against Rennes because of a Covid outbreak. But then the additional burden of those knockout games could easily have derailed their efforts to break into the top four so a worthwhile sacrifice.