Jurgen Klopp will go down in history as one of the greatest managers ever. Deservedly so, too.
The man’s a genius, from his tactics to the way he conducts himself. Kudos to the German’s English teacher because he is such an eloquent speaker. He always knows exactly what to say and his enthusiasm is infectious. The players adore him and so do the supporters.
But there is only one Manager of the Year for me, and that is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United.
Jurgen Klopp has been phenomenal but Chris Wilder is my pick for manager of the season
At the start of this season, me and 11 of my Sportsmail colleagues — including Peter Crouch, Martin Keown and Chris Sutton — were asked for our predictions. Those forecasts were published on August 9, and every single one of us had the Blades finishing in the bottom three.
A few also tipped Liverpool to win the Premier League, myself included, because we knew Klopp’s men would be contenders. They picked up 97 points last year. They won the Champions League.
They’ve been building towards this since Klopp arrived in 2015, so we can’t say the 53-year-old performed a miracle in leading Liverpool to the title. But I count what Wilder has achieved in his first season as a Premier League manager as miraculous.
Few experts believed Sheffied United could survive this season, let alone reach the top six
Not only have his side survived, they have survived with style.
Wilder, 52, took a group of players who, no disrespect, had hardly walked the red carpet in their careers, and made them competitive.
He stood by a system that is unique — a 3-5-2 that involves centre backs overlapping and overloading the flanks.
It’s football on the front foot. We thought they’d be found out playing that way. We thought because they didn’t spend a fortune in the transfer market, like Aston Villa, that they’d struggle. How wrong we were. Only Manchester City and Liverpool have produced more crosses. Only a handful of clubs have allowed fewer shots against them, with Wilder’s back three of Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell having kept many a striker quiet.
Tammy Abraham was the latest on Saturday, while Olivier Giroud could not drag Chelsea back into the game after coming on.
Because of all this, a European adventure could follow.
The Blades’ disciplined defence kept Tammy Abraham quiet in the 3-0 win over Chelsea
I wrote a column earlier this season explaining why Wilder was not an ‘old-school manager’. Sure, he let his players have a beer after beating Chelsea 3-0. Sure, he demands they work hard. But Wilder is the most forward-thinking coach in the top flight. He’s new school.
I have nothing but good things to say about Klopp. Liverpool have evolved into a successful side on his watch. But Wilder’s achievements deserve recognition.
If it was up to me, I’d give him the Manager of the Year gong.
One of my pet hates is when managers refuse to be honest about their players’ performance. Why sugarcoat it? Frank Lampard said it as it is after Chelsea’s defeat. He didn’t assassinate them. He just told the truth, and what stood out for me was when he said: ‘All I could hear was Sheffield United voices.’ That’s alarming. That was him saying Chelsea lacked leaders and he was seething at what he saw.
Frank Lampard’s honest damning verdict after the defeat was refreshing to hear
I have stood in the tunnel at Anfield, looked at the opposition and thought: ‘You don’t fancy this.’ Why? Because Liverpool supporters can make that stadium so intimidating. There won’t be a manager more desperate to get crowds back than Jurgen Klopp.
Mikel Arteta could restart John Stones’ career
It’s a big day for Manchester City and all eyes will be on the outcome of their European ban hearing. But I’m also wondering what’s next for John Stones.
One of Virgil van Dijk’s biggest assets is his decision-making. He knows when to play and when to put the ball into row Z. With Stones, that’s been a downfall.
He is quick, strong and brave in the air but he’s made high-profile mistakes.
A move to Arsenal could rejuvinate John Stones’ career with the help of Mikel Arteta
The spotlight has been on him since he was signed from Everton for £47.5million so his errors always catch attention.
But Stones is still only 26 — the same age Van Dijk was when he joined Liverpool. He is young enough to mould, but has only started once in the league under Pep Guardiola since January.
Arsenal need a centre back, and Mikel Arteta knows Stones from his City days. That could be a good fit.
Norwich couldn’t save themselves in Project Restart, so now it’s about Project Return. But their young talent will attract interest. There’s full back Max Aarons, 20, and midfielder Emi Buendia, 23. There’s Todd Cantwell, 22 (minus his new haircut). There’s Ben Godfrey, 22, who may benefit from a year in the Championship. Depending on who they keep, they’ll be one of the favourites to return.
My Team of the Weekend
Nick Pope is rightly being tipped to be England’s No 1. But what might work against the Burnley goalkeeper is that Sean Dyche’s team play a more direct way than Gareth Southgate might like. This is no dig at Dyche — I love watching Burnley. But only 9.5 per cent of Pope’s passes are short, with 90.5 per cent long. In contrast, Jordan Pickford plays 33.2 per cent of his passes short and 66.8 per cent long, at Carlo Ancelotti’s request. He likes a passing game, and so does Southgate.
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