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Erik ten Hag sneaks into top 10 Premier League managers of 2023

Erik ten Hag sneaks into top 10 Premier League managers of 2023

Manchester United won a trophy in 2023 and that earns him a place on this list, which features two Englishmen but no Eddie Howe.

Erik ten Hag actually occupied the same place on last year’s list, which featured Antonio Conte at 5), which feels weird now.

10) Erik ten Hag (Manchester United)
We start with possibly the most controversial inclusion, but football success is measured in trophies as well as vibes and Manchester United won a trophy in 2023. They also finished in the top four and this was the first time they have managed that double feat since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

And then came the second half of 2023 and Manchester United have made an absolute mess of their Champions League return, cocked up their League Cup defence, overpaid once again for almost all their incoming transfers and left themselves staring at a bin-fire of a Premier League season.

But they are still comfortably the fifth best team of 2023 and won a trophy. So deal with it.

9) Rob Edwards (Luton Town)
Started 2023 as the outsiders in a Championship play-off race. They end 2023 as the outsiders in a relegation battle. But at least it’s still a battle; most of us weren’t expecting the Hatters to be the best of the promoted sides, and almost none of us expected them to put up this much of a fight.

Edwards also comes across as the loveliest man in football, with the tears in his eyes after the Tom Lockyer incident and again after the win over Newcastle making him impossible not to like. Whatever happens in 2024, he can be proud as punch of 2024.

8) Gary O’Neil (Bournemouth/Wolves)
He would be comfortably mid-table if his Bournemouth and Wolves points were added together. And we have to say we didn’t see that coming – either when the Cherries failed to claim a post-World Cup Premier League win until February 18, or when Wolves replaced the huffing Julen Lopetegui with what looked very much like a downgrade.

What a year it has been for O’Neil, who led Bournemouth to survival and has now led Wolves into mid-table despite the exits of several key players. He is getting a fancy tune out of Hwang, Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Cunha, among others. Now has a genuine chance of finishing the highest of any English manager in the Premier League, particularly with Eddie Howe in all kinds of trouble.

7) Roberto De Zerbi (Brighton)
The sixth-best team of 2023; it must feel very nice to be ahead of Dan Ashworth’s Newcastle for the calendar year but also in the Premier League table as 2023 becomes 2024, having started the year trailing 10 points in their wake.

Only one defeat in the first 11 Premier League games of the season gave them a foundation from which to claim a place in the Europa League, a competition they have negotiated like veterans. This Premier League season has been tricky with injuries and fixtures mounting – and Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister gone – but ending the year with a batsh*t 4-2 win over Spurs in front of their own fans seems really rather apt.

6) Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Moves down a couple of players from the 2022 list because a) they didn’t win anything and b) didn’t qualify for the Champions League. But on the plus side, they do end 2023 with a decent chance of winning one, two, three or even four trophies this season.

There were points last season at which it seemed like the love affair between Liverpool and Klopp was waning but a summer in which he has brought in four new central midfielders has prompted far better form than you might reasonably expect. There has been only one Premier League defeat – at Tottenham in September – and that was a clown-show.

They are mentality monsters once again; their second-half form is a joke.

5) Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
It’s easy to mock the fact that Arsenal were seven points clear on the morning of January 1 and somehow – largely via a run of four winless games in April – threw away the title, but we are here to give Arteta his flowers for the way he has picked up that broken squad and put them right back into the title race again.

Money was made available and premium prices were paid for Declan Rice and Kai Havertz, with the former immediately proving his worth by giving the Gunners a solidity in midfield that has earned them a better defensive record than Manchester City this season.

In Europe, Arsenal have cruised into the last 16 while Manchester United and Newcastle United have faltered. They have nailed every target so far in a season when they absolutely could have crumbled.

4) Sean Dyche (Everton)
Everton are a mid-table Premier League side under Sean Dyche, with a win percentage that puts him in a similar category to David Moyes, and that is phenomenal given the mess he inherited from Frank Lampard, one of several English midfielders/coaches exposed by the people on this list.

He started his reign with a 1-0 win over Arsenal as a team with no defensive organisation suddenly had a backbone. More impressive victories followed until the Toffees finally ended the season two points above the relegation zone but with renewed hope under the leadership of a man who absolutely knows his way around a backs-to-the-wall scenario.

Ten-point deduction? No problem when you have this Everton side working together like Dyche, who landed on his feet a little with players like Dwight McNeil and James Tarkowski already well versed in Dycheball, but he has also kept Dominic Calvert-Lewin fit, instilled belief back into Abdoulaye Doucoure and entirely revitalised Vitaliy Mykolenko, who makes our Premier League XI of the season so far.

3) David Moyes (West Ham)
As 2022 became 2023, you could have got good odds on David Moyes still being in charge at West Ham as 2023 became 2024. The Hammers had lost their last five Premier League games of 2022 and the Scot was not waving but drowning. The Hammers were in a genuine relegation battle and Moyes genuinely looked like a dead man walking.

In the end, West Ham survived relatively comfortably and Hammers fans forgave them for the Premier League humiliations as Moyes delivered their first trophy since 1990. Even the hardest of hearts were melted by Moyes’ reaction to the greatest triumph of his career.

West Ham manager David Moyes lifts the Europa Conference League trophy.

They then lost their best player and have somehow improved after an excellent summer of recruitment that brought James Ward-Prowse, Mohammed Kudus and Edson Alvarez. Comfortably in the top half and top of their Premier League group? What a year.

2) Unai Emery (Aston Villa)
Regardless of the final totals, Aston Villa have been pretty much the equals of Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League in 2023, which is astonishing for a team that started the calendar year in 12th place, four points behind Crystal Palace and seven behind Fulham.

What followed was an unbeaten January including a 2-0 win at Tottenham. They then won 10 of their last 15 Premier League games of the season to claim a European place, which they have embraced with both hands this season, while they have been the unlikely gate-crashers to a Premier League title race party.

Throughout it all, Emery has been dignified and humble, while getting some phenomenal signings through the door – most notably Pau Torres. He has improved Ollie Watkins, Douglas Luiz, John McGinn and just about every other player floundering under Steven Gerrard. He is truly elite.

1) Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
There are asterisks. There are hashtags. There are caveats. But this is still a manager who was staring at a seven-point gap to Arsenal as 2022 ticked over in 2023 and promptly responded with a run of form that included 12 straight Premier League wins, while also claiming the FA Cup and a first ever Champions League title. You cannot win a Treble and not be the manager of the year.

This season has been tricky after a summer of transfer upheaval – and there is a sense that there have been some errors along the way – but City still end this calendar year with the most points, the most goals scored and the least goals conceded. And by far the most trophies.

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