New managers need time to adapt to their new clubs, as the theory goes. It takes time for players to adapt to them and their methods. Not, it seems, if they’re Pep Guardiola, though. His Manchester City stands clear at the top of the Premier League, perfect in 10 matches across all competitions under the new regime. Not all new starts are created equally, though.
After a summer in which more than a third of the Premiership’s clubs changed managers, we assess how the eight bosses are doing at their new locations:
It’s hard to imagine what Guardiola could have done better. His City side has won 10 out of 10 under his management, but more than that, it has played with great verve and style. Already City looks like a clear favorite to win the league, and all doubts about whether Guardiola would adapt to the Premier League or thoughts that it might take time to instill his methods have been banished.
If there is a quibble, and it is a tiny one, it’s that City has kept only one clean sheet in six Premier League games, but it’s also scored 18 goals in that time for an average of three a game. Ruthless decisions like loaning out Joe Hart and banishing Yaya Toure have been vindicated.
It all began extremely promisingly for Ronald Koeman. The reshaping of the squad had gone well, Romelu Lukaku had ended his drought and the manager seemed to have found the right psychological buttons to get the best out of Ross Barkley. The first five league games brought 13 points, but a League Cup exit to second-tier Norwich City followed by Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth have dampened optimism a little.
The fixture list has been relatively kind so far, but that shouldn’t detract too much from the new tougher regimen Koeman has instilled.
There was understandable concern at the end of the last season when Quique Sanchez Flores was dismissed after having kept Watford up comfortably, but results had turned and the feeling perhaps was that it was best to arrest the slide before it was too late.
Mazzari has made a highly promising start: defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal are no great disaster for a club of Watford’s stature, while there was much to admire in the 3-1 victory over Manchester United. His substitutions have tended to have a positive impact as well, but perhaps most impressive has been the speed with which Watford has adapted to playing a back three this season.
Given the summer Hull City had, it feels vaguely miraculous that the club sits in a mid-table position with seven points from six games. The illness of the owner, Assem Allam, and the protracted takeover talks led to Steve Bruce walking out, frustrated by the lack of investment, and a photograph from Hull’s pre-season training camp in Austria showed just nine fit senior players. Yet Hull beat champion Leicester City and then Swansea before a flurry of transfer activity in the final days of the window. That the club has lost three of its last four is mitigated by the fact those defeats came against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Southampton’s problem every season is the rotating door of players at the club. No side can deal easily with the loss of such quality as Sadio Mane, Vincent Wanyama and Graziano Pelle, and the way the season began there must have been concerns that this would be the season when the eternal renewal came to an end. But the introduction of Charlie Austin to the starting lineup has given Southampton an edge. Two league wins in a row, added to victories in the Europa League and League Cup, suggest that Puel may prosper in the Premier League after all.
The trauma of last year is not over yet. The opening game of the season against West Ham gave hints of what was to come as Chelsea seemed secure, then wobbled badly after Dmitri Payet came off the bench before finally claiming the win with a late Diego Costa goal–after he should have been sent off. Costa escaped a red and got a late winner at Watford in the second game as well, and his form has been the undoubted plus of the season so far.
But the defensive problems, exacerbated by the injury to John Terry, were ruthlessly exposed by Liverpool and then Arsenal. Conte, it’s been whispered, does not like the 4-2-3-1 shape and would rather press harder and higher but finds himself restricted by the makeup of the squad.
The pressure has been increased on Mourinho by Guardiola’s instant impact at City, which has made his explanation that he has to unpick the work of his predecessor Louis van Gaal ring hollow. Normal logic, though, dictates that new managers should be given time to impose themselves. Three defeats in a row prior to a convincing win over Leicester raised doubts about Mourinho, while there have been suggestions that his new habit of blaming players in public has caused discontent in the dressing room.
There are questions about how certain star players, notably Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney, can play together, and United was outplayed for much of the first half of the derby loss.
Sunderland’s run without a win in August or September now stretches to four years. It would be wrong to blame Moyes for significant structural issues at the club, but at the same time there has been little sign yet that he can continue the rebuilding work begun by the now-disgraced ex-England manager Sam Allardyce. Most damning of all is a defense that has leaked 12 goals in six games, letting leads slip late against Southampton and Crystal Palace and looking utterly shambolic against Everton. The failure to sign a high-class strike partner for Jermain Defoe (not to mention a capable backup) may come to haunt Sunderland.