Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Premier League Manager Updates

The Premier League slate of managers for next season is nearing completion after Chelsea formally announced Enzo Maresca as their new head man. Maresca piloted Leicester to the Championship title this past season and thus Leicester enters the market alongside Brighton as the only remaining clubs with open manager positions.

Of course, Manchester United’s Eric ten Hag remains in a form of limbo which seems crueler by the day. Still in place but seemingly unwanted, ten Hag awaits the determination of his fate by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS group, the new sheriffs in town at Manchester United.

The Maresca appointment was no shocker as rumors had heavily circulated for more than a week, but it remains a bit of a head scratcher. Winning the Championship cannot be dismissed but Maresca had a strong roster to work with in Leicester’s first year post relegation from the Premier League and, despite a plethora of talent, the Foxes almost choked it away in the end. A 14-point lead in the table shrank to just a point as the Foxes just got by Ipswich to take the top spot. Declining performance in the second half of the Foxes’ season also saw increased complaints from supporters about Maresca’s possession based, often perceived by Fox fans as boring, style of play. Maresca has but one and a half seasons of senior management, having failed to last a season at Parma before his Leicester stint. He does have the Pep Guardiola stamp of approval, however, after spending time as an assistant at Manchester City where he worked with young players such as current Chelsea men Cole Palmer and Romeo Lavia. Mikel Arteta, it should be remembered, was also a Pep assistant and had less head man experience than Maresca before succeeding at Arsenal. Importantly, Maresca is reportedly fully on board with Chelsea’s management structure which limits input by the coach upon matters such as transfer policy and roster construction, a key sticking point with former manager Mauricio Pochettino. Chelsea is all in on its new manager, paying a substantial fee to Leicester to enlist his services and giving the 44-year-old a five-year contract. Maresca officially takes command on July 1.

Liverpool’s new manager took the reins this week as Arne Slot officially takes over from Jurgen Klopp in Merseyside. Slot is also a huge admirer of possession football and building from the back in the manner of Pep Guardiola sides. The Dutchman, however, is also fond of attacking with widely spaced wingers, a tactic which was more a part of Manchester City’s game in the earlier years of the Guardiola era. How Slot may integrate his approach with a Liverpool roster accustomed to more direct play under Klopp will be interesting to observe. Slot led Feyenoord to the Eredivisie title two years ago and Liverpool will certainly be hoping for a smoother transition to the Premier League than that experienced by other Dutch title winners such as ten Hag or former ill-fated Crystal Palace Manager Frank De Boer, both of whom won the Eredivisie and then found the Premier League just a bit more challenging.

Well under the radar in comparison to the Maresca and Slot signings was West Ham’s announced hire of Julen Lopetegui. The Spanish manager, who replaces David Moyes on the touchline at London Stadium, could actually have the best resume of the three new hires. Lopetegui won the Europa League and delivered three consecutive top four La Liga finishes as manager of Sevilla. His accomplishments also include a two-year unbeaten run as manager of Spain’s national team. On the downside, Lopetegui suffered an awkward departure from the Spanish national team, failed at Real Madrid, and walked away from Wolverhampton after less than a year in place last summer. Importantly, though, Lopetegui ensured Wolverhampton’s Premier League survival in the 2022/23 season. He took over a club that was at the bottom of the table in November 2022 and guided it to a 13th place finish. Differences with ownership then ended his time in the Black Country. Having already proved his effectiveness as a Premier League manager, Lopetegui returns to the league as one of several Basque managers who have experienced success in England. Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Aston Villa’s Unai Emery and Bournemouth’s Andoni Iraola also hail from the Basque region in northern Spain. Xabi Alonso, yet another Basque manager, won the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen this past season. Like Maresca, Lopetegui will start July 1.

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