As the new Premier League season kicks off, the managers at the league’s biggest clubs have a variety of different challenges to deal with.
With high expectations, transfer business to resolve or problem players to work with, the likes of Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Ronald Koeman all have unique pressures ahead of the new campaign.
Sky Sports expert Graeme Souness knows what it’s like to deal with those pressures and has given us his verdict on the situation facing the managers at last season’s top seven clubs…
Antonio Conte – Chelsea
Conte doesn’t seem to be a happy bunny with what he’s got and it seems like he wants to bring in more players. He realises that he doesn’t have enough strength in depth to challenge in the top two competitions.
It’s a classic example of how that club is run. They’ve got a transfer committee and that’s how they see they should spend their money. I think the power should be with the manager, and you wouldn’t see this happening at United and City where Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are run past every decision. I don’t think any players would be coming or going there without the managers say-so.
Then there’s the Diego Costa situation. I think he is a difficult person to manage and I don’t think he has really settled in London. He also only wants to go back to one place – Atletico Madrid – which is never good news when you’re trying to sell a player. Having Costa around the place could pose a problem for them and you don’t want someone like him in the dressing room if he wants to go because he could influence the players around him.
Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham
Pochettino can make all the noises about relying on youth development and having a great set-up in place – but all the great teams that are winning trophies have good talent coming through and also go out and buy big players to complement what they’ve got.
They should have been buying serious players to make sure they had the finished article in two or three positions and then they could have been real challengers for the Premier League and the Champions League. Instead, they have stood still while everyone around them has got stronger. As a player you want better players coming in as it benefits the club.
Also, playing at Wembley seems to be an issue for a lot of their players. It wouldn’t have made a difference to me because, as a player, I always relished playing at Wembley and Tottenham are a good footballing side so playing on pitch like that should suit them.
Over the past two years they have promised so much and this should be the time to kick on and have a real go. You can get in trouble buying under pressure when things aren’t going so well and your group is not good enough – but Pochettino is in a great position. I don’t believe he’s any different to other managers and he will always want more and more players. Deep down I think he will be frustrated that they haven’t bought in more players.
Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
Man City are my favourites for the title at the moment. They already have the hardest thing to get right, which is scoring goals, so they just need to sort themselves out defensively.
They have signed a new goalkeeper [Ederson] but I think the biggest thing for them is getting back a player who hasn’t been fit for two years in Vincent Kompany. I think if you can get him fit then everyone in that back four becomes a different player. If they sort themselves out defensively they’ll be the team to catch. But it’s a big if and if they go down the same road, over-complicate the goalkeeper situation and play too close to their own goal they might be more of the same, even with Kompany.
I would like to think Guardiola has had a look at our game now and realised that no one is going to roll over and everyone you play is going to be a challenge. Everyone in the Premier League believes they can get a result anywhere so none of them will roll over for him.
Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
I don’t think he’s made enough signings to challenge in the big two competitions next season and if they lose Philippe Coutinho, they’ll get an enormous figure for him, but at this point of the window, they’ll probably end up spending a lot of money on someone they are not sure about to replace him.
They have to fight to try and keep the player but ultimately the player will decide and for a Latin-American player, Barcelona will always be the place to go.
I think Klopp needs to make sure Liverpool challenge for the Premier League next season. I think that – alongside a run into the latter stages of the Champions League and one of the domestic cups – would be a good season for him. But I can’t see them winning the Champions League or the Premier League, with or without Coutinho.
Jose Mourinho – Manchester United
I think Manchester United have bought well in this transfer window. Romelu Lukaku will do very well for them. Zlatan Ibrahimovic came to the club and got 20 goals last season so Lukaku, with his enormous price tag, will be expected to get that and then some.
I think people forget the impact that Ibrahmiovic had at United last year. He won them games and when he went onto that pitch he helped the people around him grow in stature. So Lukaku has got big shoes to fill because Zlatan’s influence around the dressing room will be missed enormously. Mourinho hasn’t got anyone like him there this season.
They will go into the season confident after winning two trophies last year. I think they have a pragmatic manager but he will still want to play a better brand of football than they did last year. I can see them having a good season because they are difficult to beat.
However, I think they have to make a real impression in both the Champions League and in the Premier League. Old Trafford is a place where you go to be entertained and not just to win games so they are like Real Madrid and Barcelona in that respect. So he’ll want to play better football but still win games.
Arsene Wenger – Arsenal
The goodwill Arsenal felt after winning the FA Cup will be short-lived if they don’t make a good start to the season. There was quite a bit of the crowd who were restless and some wanted him to leave in the summer, so they need to get off to a flyer otherwise that momentum could build in the stadium and that will not be helpful for the players on the pitch.
I think the lack of Champions League football will help him enormously. I feel like he doesn’t have to take the Europa League seriously in the early rounds and the group stage as he could play his second string against some of the teams and still get through. So he’ll be able to keep his powder dry for the Premier League at the weekends.
There’s an issue with Alexis Sanchez, though, because if he stays is he going to be the same Mr. Enthusiasm as before? He is an infectious player who brings the best out of others around him. What Sanchez would remain at the club? And if he goes there would be big shoes to fill.
Ronald Koeman – Everton
They’ve bought a lot of players during the summer and Koeman will have been working hard to make sure they have bedded in at the club. They are trying to sign Gylfi Sigurdsson and even though the deal is still up in the air, if the boy wants to go I’m sure it will go through.
I think we’ll have the wait and see how far they can go with the players they have brought in. It’ll be interesting to see if Wayne Rooney can get his mojo back because it hasn’t been there for the past couple of years. It depends if Koeman has brought him in to be a regular starter or to come on and change games from the bench. Rooney left United because his bit-part role was getting smaller and smaller so I don’t seem him going to Everton to do the same. He’ll have to find his mojo again.
Michael Keane is a very solid defender and given his age, he can only get better. Jordan Pickford is a solid goalkeeper too, but they might all need time to bed in with the new manager. I think they will be there or thereabouts around the top six, but not the top four.