Premier League Manager of the Season Contenders

There are still 5 Premier League games remaining (6 for Aston Villa and Bolton), but here is a list of the 5 top-performing Premier League managers this season, with my favourite at the top.

Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)

Newcastle United have gone from a pre-season popular outside bet for relegation for top 4 challengers with 5 Premier League games remaining.

Top scorer Andy Carroll was sold last January, following by a summer clear out that included captain Kevin Nolan to Championship side West Ham, controversial midfielder Joey Barton to Queens Park Rangers and star left back Jose Enrique to Liverpool.

Carroll has been under sever criticism this season having scored just 4 goals for underachieving Liverpool following his £35 million move. Nolan has been on the receiving end of stick from frustrated West Ham fans for his lack of performances as the Hammers fail to top the Championship as the fans were expecting. Barton has been booed by his own fans this season following a number of disappointing performances, whilst Enrique claimed his move in the summer was due to Newcastle having the lack of ambition to finish in the top 6.

Alan Pardew’s replacements… Demba Ba, with 16 goals following his cheap move from relegation West Ham. This is more than twice as many as Fernando Torres and Carroll combined who cost a total of £85 million between them. Not a bad return from the Senegalese international.

Yohan Cabaye from French Ligue 1 champions Lille. A relatively unknown player amongst the English media and myself when he joined Newcastle in the summer. The French international has been a popular figure at the Sports Direct Arena following the number of tackles made in midfield as well as his creativity in the middle of the park. Cabaye has assisted 3 of Newcastle’s last 4 goals.

Papiss Demba Cisse has exploded on the scene in the Premier League. 10 goals in his first 9 games is some return following his January move from German Bundesliga side SC Freiburg. Although his goal scoring spree has coincided with Demba Ba’s lack of goals following his fellow countryman’s arrival, Newcastle have not lost in the 7 games Cisse has scored in, winning 6 of them.

Alan Pardew gets my vote for Premier League manager of the season with 5 games to go. He got his side’s tactics spot on at Swansea on Easter Friday and has done so on many occasions this season. Newcastle have a legitimate shot at finishing in a Champions League position. Harry Redknapp is the only previous English manager to win this award.

Results so far this season include a 3-0 victory over Manchester United and a 1-0 win at rivals Sunderland.

Brendan Rodgers (Swansea City)

Successfully guided Swansea City to safety in their debut season, Brendan Rodgers’ side have impressed fans and pundits alike with the Welsh side’s style of play, on a cheap budget.

Following the departure of Dorus de Vries for Wolves in the summer, Rodgers signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm for a free in the region of £1.5m from Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht. In his debut season, Vorm has been a popular figure with his shot stopping and agile displays. The experienced pair of Gerhard Tremmel and José Moreira were also signed but have barely been used this season.

Last season’s Championship top scorer with Watford, Danny Graham was Swansea’s record signing in June when they forked out £3.5 million for the former Middlesbrough youngster. Graham made a good start to the season and is the club’s top scorer with 10 goals through 33 games. Arsenal are the only side in the current top 8 that Graham has scored against, but beating the lower half side’s are the most important aims for teams looking to avoid relegation and Danny Graham has certainly helped his side with that.

Former Chelsea youth Scott Sinclair has contributed to the goals also, with 7 to his name – all in 2011 and all that the Liberty Stadium. His pace and dribbling have been a threat down the left hand side, whilst Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge offer a similar threat on the opposite flank.

In the middle, Leon Britton has played a sensible, short passing game, whilst January loanee signing Gylfi Sigurdsson has lit up the Premier League with half a dozen goals from midfield as he has had no problems slipping into the passing and possession game that the Swans have adapted.

They have dropped off a little in recent weeks, but Swansea City have every reason to be happy with their debut Premier League season. Having seemingly been found out by a few times in recent weeks, it will be interesting to see how Rogers adapts his team next season, providing he remains in charge.

A 3-2 win over Arsenal and a 1-0 win over Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium are Swansea City’s two most impressive victories this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

George Burley (2000/01) is the only manager to win the Premier League manager of the season award other than Sir Alex Ferguson when Manchester United have won the Premier League. Harry Redknapp (2009/10) is the only other manager to win the award without winning the league that season.

With that in mind, Sir Alex Ferguson is automatically in the run-in to win the award for an eleventh time. Many fans and pundits alike were claiming this Manchester United side were the weakest in years, conveniently after they lost 6-1 at home to Manchester United. That result and a points deficit over their multi-million spending neighbours have quickly been forgotten about following Manchester United’s form in 2012 which has seen them jump to the top of the table.

The return of Paul Scholes has been a big factor in Manchester United’s form after he came out of retirement at the start of the year. Ferguson is getting the best out of Antonio Valencia on the right wing, especially when supported by Rafael bombing on from full back. Ashley Young has suffered from injuries following his big summer move, whilst Nani has shown inconsistent form this season.

A defence that has seen Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this season whilst record goalkeeper signing David de Gea has come strong during the title run-in after a dreadful start to the season. No doubt Ferguson has had a big impact on the younger players that have been forced into the team and with 5 games to go Sir Alex looks set to claim his 13th Premier League title in its 20th season.

Manchester United’s underachievements in Europe may have an adverse effect when it comes to voting, despite Europe supposedly not being a factor. I think with what was stacked against Alan Pardew’s Newcastle, provided they finish in the top 6, Ferguson’s efforts won’t be praised as highly as what the English manager has achieved this season.

Paul Lambert (Norwich City)

I have to confess that I wrote Norwich City off before the Premier League season had started. Paul Lambert’s side were playing in the third tier of English football two seasons ago, including a number of their signings.

The Canaries had one of the Championship’s weakest defences in the league last season (they like to play attacking football). I didn’t fancy their chances against the world’s finest strikers in the Premier League.

Regardless of their defensive weaknesses and lack of experience in the top flight, Paul Lambert’s side are set to play Premier League football in 2012/13. A remarkable achievement with the resources at hand if you ask me.

Wayne Rooney is the only Englishman to have scored more goals in England’s top flight than Grant Holt this season. The aggressive forward who is responsible for winning and conceding a large number of free kicks has certainly left his mark amongst the opposition defences.

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

Subject to a lot of criticism from his own supporters as well as a number of pundits earlier in the season, Arsene Wenger has overcome the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer to lead his team to 3rd place with 5 games remaining.

There were a few questionable signings on transfer deadline day (I didn’t have confidence in Per Mertesacker myself), but over the course of the season Arsenal have come good. Only Chelsea survived longer in the Champions League than Arsenal of the 4 English sides.

Robin van Persie’s 27 Premier League goals to date have been a major contributing factor, but Wenger has also got the best out of Theo Walcott down the right wing this season. The English forward has scored 8 goals and assisted the same number in the league through 33 games.

Arsene Wenger’s side have had a number of injuries this season which was a big contributing factor to their slow start to the season. Written off by a number of pundits to qualify for next season’s Champions League, Arsenal currently have a 5 point lead over 4th place Tottenham.

Indeed it was a 5-2 thrashing of Tottenham that started the turnaround of both side’s fortunes heading into the business end of the season. Arsenal’s best result of the season in my opinion. Given that he has won the league on 3 occasions previously, Wenger will not win the award but I couldn’t write this article without crediting the work he has done to a number of boos at the Emirates this season.

David Moyes (Everton)

Everton are heading for another top half finish, are above Liverpool in the Premier League with 5 games remaining and are set to play their local rivals in an FA Cup semi-final on Saturday. David Moyes is doing a great job with Everton in the second half of the season.

Much has been made of the lack of budget David Moyes has had to spend at Everton. It was no more evident when the Toffees were the only side not to spend as much as £1 during the summer transfer window.

Things changed in January with the £1 million signing of Darron Gibson and £5.5 million signing of Nikica Jelavic. The former scored the winner against Manchester City in January and remains unbeaten in blue. The latter has scored 4 goals in his first 8 Premier League appearances.

Should David Moyes’ side fend off Liverpool for the remaining 5 games of the season, Everton will finish above their local rivals for only the second time in Premier League history. However, Kenny Dalglish’s side have lifted 1 trophy this season, compared to the 0 Moyes has lifted in 10 years as Everton manager.

It’s not been an overly-special season for Everton in the Premier League, but an honourable shout out for David Moyes.