Football Features

Every ‘Big Six’ Premier League manager’s bogey team

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 15:15, 15 May 2022

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur played out the 205th North London derby on May 11, 2022 and it’s hard to find a bigger one in recent memory.

With three games left to play in the 2021/22 Premier League campaign heading into this game, it was billed as a top four decider. Arsenal had the upper hand, four points clear off fifth-placed Spurs and knew a win in the derby would all-but secure Champions League football for next season.

And they were in good form, winning their past four matches, while Spurs have drawn two of their past three and realistically had to beat Arsenal to keep their Champions League hopes alive. And they did exactly that.

A brace from Harry Kane coupled with a Son Heung-min effort sealed a sensational 3-0 victory.

Spurs’ fiercest rivals had represented Conte’s biggest test, in more ways than one. Why? Because Arsenal could lay claim to being the former Premier League champion’s bogey team, but not anymore as they’re no longer responsible for Conte’s worst win rate among all opponents he has faced at least five times.

The Premier League has lately become a hub of elite managers, well-travelled and with experience all across Europe. Which made us think: who are their trickiest opponents?

We looked at those coaching the so-called ‘Big Six’, along with West Ham’s David Moyes, owing to their high position in the table. The answers are quite surprising.

Pep Guardiola (Man City)

BOGEY TEAM: Lyon (20% win rate)

  • February 24, 2009: Lyon 1-1 Barcelona
  • March 11, 2009: Barcelona 5-2 Lyon
  • September 19, 2018: Man City 1-2 Lyon
  • November 27, 2018: Lyon 2-2 Man City
  • August 15, 2020: Man City 1-3 Lyon

Debates will be had but very few deny Pep Guardiola’s place in the conversation of ‘greatest-ever manager’.

To date, he’s lifted the most important championship in Spain, Germany and England, as well as two European Cup crowns. Wherever he’s been, Guardiola’s squads are revered and boast quality of another level.

But although he’s a winning-machine, the Catalan tactician isn’t without kryptonite. Believe it or not, the club who’s got Pep’s number don’t play in any of the domestic leagues he’s coached in.

Instead, the Champions League has been the playing field. Guardiola has faced Ligue 1 giants Lyon five times in Europe’s premier club competition while coming up on top just once, a 5-2 rout while coaching Barcelona in 2009. His most recent meeting with them in 2020 saw Rudi Garcia’s side dump City out at the quarter-final stage.

“I don’t want to complain or look for excuses, we are out,” Guardiola said after falling out of the competition yet again. “We have to do better than that. We did some good things in the game but we made mistakes in both areas, and that’s why we lost. It’s disappointing, but now it’s time for the holidays. We will keep trying, and one day I am sure we will be able to bridge this gap.”

Ralf Rangnick (Man Utd)

BOGEY TEAM: Bayern Munich II (12.5% win rate)

  • October 7, 1995: SSV Reutlingen 0-0 Bayern Munich II
  • April 26, 1996: Bayern Munich II 0-1 SSV Reutlingen
  • November 30, 1996: SSV Reutlingen 0-0 Bayern Munich II
  • March 7, 1997: Bayern Munich II 1-0 SSV Ulm 1846
  • September 6, 1997: SSV Ulm 1846 0-0 Bayern Munich II
  • March 15, 1998: Bayern Munich II 3-1 SSV Ulm 1846
  • August 12, 2006: Bayern Munich II 1-0 Hoffenheim
  • December 8, 2006: Hoffenheim 2-2 Bayern Munich II

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. The nut Manchester United’s current manager just could not crack is not the all-conquering Bundesliga giants, but their reserve team. Ralf Rangnick has faced them no fewer than eight times while coaching in the lower leagues (not including his stint in charge of Stuttgart’s second team) and only has one win to show for it.

To be fair, in some of those meetings down the years he would face rising stars and familiar names such as Mats Hummels, Samuel Kuffour and Klaus Augenthaler.

Also worth noting is that while in charge of SSV Ulm 1846, he coached a future European Cup-winning manager and now Premier League rival Thomas Tuchel.

Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

BOGEY TEAM: Sevilla (0% win rate)

  • September 15, 2005: Sevilla 0-0 Mainz 05
  • September 29, 2005: Mainz 05 0-2 Sevilla
  • September 30, 2010: Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Sevilla
  • December 15, 2010: Sevilla 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
  • May 18, 2016: Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla
  • September 13, 2017: Liverpool 2-3 Sevilla
  • November 21, 2017: Sevilla 3-3 Liverpool

Under the leadership of Jurgen Klopp, there have been three major European finals contested by Liverpool, two of which came in the Champions League.

The first was against Europa League kings Sevilla, in what has come to be known as very much their competition. You can understand if Klopp was nervous; this final was the culmination of his first months in charge of the Reds and would have secured Champions League qualification (they finished eighth in the league that year).

But it was against a team he couldn’t figure out while coaching Mainz and Borussia Dortmund respectively. Despite going in front, Liverpool would end up with a silver medal. His next two meetings would be goalfests but there were no raucous celebrations from the dugout at the full-time whistle.

“I don’t know if it’s the best stadium to play in, but the stadium I hate playing in the most is Sevilla’s because of the atmosphere it has… that’s a compliment!” Klopp told Spanish publication Sport in 2019. No wonder.

Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)

BOGEY TEAM: Borussia Dortmund (16.7% win rate)

  • November 21, 2009: Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Mainz 05
  • April 10, 2010: Mainz 05 1-0 Borussia Dortmund
  • October 31, 2010: Mainz 05 0-2 Borussia Dortmund
  • March 19, 2011: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Mainz 05
  • September 24, 2011: Mainz 05 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
  • March 3, 2012: Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Mainz 05
  • November 24, 2012: Mainz 05 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
  • April 20, 2013: Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Mainz 05
  • November 30, 2013: Mainz 05 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
  • April 19, 2014: Borussia Dortmund 4-2 Mainz 05
  • February 18, 2020: Borussia Dortmund 2-1 PSG
  • March 11, 2020: PSG 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

If you can’t beat them, join them. Thomas Tuchel followed in mentor Klopp’s footsteps when he succeeded him on the Dortmund throne, a club he had not enjoyed facing when guiding Mainz.

At Mainz, the Krumbach-born coach tasted one win before collecting seven losses across eight meetings. All of those setbacks — each being head-to-head against Mr. Klopp — came in the Bundesliga and it must have felt like déjà vu a few years ago when his star-studded Paris Saint-Germain side fell to BVB in their Champions League round of 16 first-leg encounter. He turned it around, with Neymar leading the way, dumping his former side out en route to a first European Cup final. But Bayern, whom he became acquainted with as Dortmund coach, rained on his parade. Months later the powers that be showed him the door, but who’s laughing now…

David Moyes (West Ham)

BOGEY TEAM: Villarreal (0% win rate)

  • August 9, 2005: Everton 1-2 Villarreal
  • August 24, 2005: Villarreal 2-1 Everton
  • December 7, 2014: Villarreal 4-0 Real Sociedad
  • January 7, 2015: Villarreal 1-0 Real Sociedad
  • January 14, 2015: Real Sociedad 2-2 Villarreal
  • April 25, 2015: Real Sociedad 0-0 Villarreal

It’s still talked about today: Everton’s near Champions League qualification in the summer of 2005, a controversy-ridden game against Villarreal that sticks in the craw of Toffees fans everywhere, and it remains David Moyes’ lowest point at Goodison Park.

By the late 2000s, he was considered the Premier League’s brightest coach. Moyes’ diligent work in Merseyside of course led to Sir Alex Ferguson handpicking him as his successor.

It proved a bad decision and within months of his arrival, Moyes was shown the door. Following his removal the proud Scot turned up at Real Sociedad, where he immediately crossed paths with the Yellow Submarine, who proved unbeatable in his presence. That said, Moyes’ two most recent meetings against them ended in stalemate.

Antonio Conte (Tottenham)

BOGEY TEAM: Juventus (12.5% win rate)

  • May 19, 2007: Arezzo 1-5 Juventus
  • November 7, 2009: Atalanta 2-5 Juventus
  • October 6, 2019: Inter 1-2 Juventus
  • March 8, 2020: Juventus 2-0 Inter
  • January 17, 2021: Inter 2-0 Juventus
  • February 2, 2021: Inter 1-2 Juventus
  • February 9, 2021: Juventus 0-0 Inter
  • May 15, 2021: Juventus 3-2 Inter

Arsenal were the chalk to Conte’s cheese. However, the most significant clash in September 2016 — his first showdown against them — ultimately laid the blueprint for Chelsea’s eventual Premier League success that season seeing as it prompted the switch to a back three.

“It’s not as simple to say a change in formation took us to the top,” said Conte months after the result. “It has taken work […] But I only decided to do it 10 minutes into the second half at Arsenal.

“I’m happy I did because, now, we are top of the league and, back then, we were eight points behind Manchester City. That just shows the situation can change very quickly.”

But as far as the head-to-head goes, it hasn’t been much better for Conte since that 3-0 loss to Arsene Wenger. The Gunners have even lifted an FA Cup trophy at his expense, and the Community Shield.

By slaying this Gunners demon, his worst record is against Juventus, which is ironic, considering the native of Lecce is a Bianconeri legend.

However, there are no friends in this game. Never more so was this the case than when Conte — who could never beat them when Conte managing Atalanta — returned to Serie A football managing Inter Milan, their Derby d’Italia rivals. Even while coaching the Nerazzurri, whom he guided to Scudetto success in 2020/21, he was rarely able to crack Juve’s code.

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)

BOGEY TEAM: Liverpool (11.1% win rate)

  • July 15, 2020: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
  • August 29, 2020: Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
  • September 28, 2020: Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
  • October 1, 2020: Liverpool 0-0 Arsenal
  • April 3, 2021: Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool
  • November 20, 2021: Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal
  • January 13, 2022: Liverpool 0-0 Arsenal
  • January 20, 2022: Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
  • March 16, 2022: Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool

The least experienced coach managing one of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ teams, Mikel Arteta joined Arsenal in a time of crisis. They had recently parted company with Unai Emery, before installing club great Freddie Ljungberg as interim coach. Arteta — who ended his playing career skipping the Gunners — was snared away from City, where he served as Guardiola’s right-hand man.

He has struggled against City, but it’s Liverpool who Arteta hates facing most — a club he came to know very well during his playing stint at Everton. However, it’s worth pointing out that under Arteta’s guidance, Arsenal have eliminated the Reds from the EFL Cup via a penalty shootout. This was also how the 2021 Community Shield was decided.