With the Premier League about to return from the international break, we can pause for a moment and take stock of where things stand.
Evaluating teams after seven games can seem too soon, but there is a degree to which the patterns that will play out over the course of the season have already emerged and there will only be a few twists and turns left.
For instance, it seems clear that Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are on a different level to Manchester United, who joined them in the pre-season hype as title contenders but whose misshapen midfield and the dire standard of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s game management and tactical structure has left them lagging behind the top trio.
But if Solskjaer is struggling, which managers are thriving? At this early stage who looks likely to end up on the Premier League’s six-man Manager of the Year shortlist? We’ve had a look at the contenders and come up with a list, albeit with the caveat that a mid-season appointment who saves a club from relegation (probably Newcastle’s new boss) will certainly make the final shortlist, but that cannot be predicted now for obvious reasons (although let’s say it should be Lucien Favre).
Club: Manchester City
Expected goals: 14.57
Who else but the defending Premie League champion and Manager of the Year? The Catalan has won the award every year his team have taken the title and given how well they’ve started the season, it seems entirely likely he could do so again. City have been fantastic this season, rocking up to their two toughest away games (against Liverpool and Chelsea) and absolutely running the show. They didn’t get all six points but they made two massive statements about how dominant they can be. Watch out for Guardiola potentially becoming the only man besides Sir Alex Ferguson to win this award four times.
Expected goals: 9.99
It’s obviously early but Brentford have been sensational to watch so far this season. Thomas Frank has his men playing the same way they did in the Championship only now he’s doing it to Premier League teams. Should Brentford keep up this form, and as long as they can keep Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo fit they’ve got a chance of doing that, then their inevitable top-half (possibly top seven?) finish would see Frank a huge contender to take manager of the year.
Expected goals: 17.25
Oh lordy, it’s that man again! After a season where he looked like he was losing his touch and a summer where they only signed a back-up centre-back, no one expected Liverpool to be among the true elite this season. Klopp, however, should never be doubted and has got Liverpool playing in a ferocious and entertaining manner. Mohamed Salah is playing better than he ever has and should he fire the Reds to a second title in three years, you know Klopp is taking home the award.
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Expected goals: 10.66
Everton have started the season incredibly. They have almost immediately settled into Rafa Benitez’s style of play and are moving with intensity and drive. Benitez got a tune out of Newcastle, and Everton have a much better squad so expect much better results, a spot in Europe looks if not certain, then highly likely. Could Benitez work some of his famous cup magic, too? Forget Rafa’s reds, it’s all about Benitez’s blues these days.
Expected goals: 11.76
Champion of Europe and current leader of the Premier League, the transformation that Thomas Tuchel has wrought on Chelsea has been nothing short of miraculous. Bar one game against Manchester City they’ve been excellent again in the league this season, defending solidly and finding ways to win. Only four times this was Manager of the Year won by someone who didn’t take the title, so Tuchel would need to get the big one to win it, but on current evidence he could definitely get the big one.
Club: West Ham
Expected goals: 12.42
David Moyes could double dip this season. So far we’ve seen the Hammers impressing in Europe and struggling in the Premier League. But of course their struggles are due to juggling the Europa League and domestic commitments with a small(ish) squad. However, this presents chances for heroics: focus on Europe and league form suffers, but the European progression earns you plaudits and then you know that you have the quality in the side to fire your way out of any relegation trouble you could encounter, basically “faking” a great escape and earning lots of kudos for that as well. There might be no stopping Moyes this year!