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Premier League will be a coaching personality contest this season

Never before has the Premier League boasted so much managerial quality in one season

Graham Ruthven

Published: Updated:

The Premier League has never been short of compelling characters. There is something about English football that inherently draws those who are most captivating in the game, whether it is Eric Cantona, Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson. Even by such a measure, however, the country’s top flight is set for its most fascinating of personality contests this season.

Almost in synchronization, the Premier League’s biggest and best clubs have sought football’s most bewitching coaches to lead them into the new season. There is Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Pep Guardiola’s long-awaited arrival in England at Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Wenger at Arsenal, Claudio Ranieri at surprise champions Leicester City, and Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs.

Never before has the Premier League boasted so much managerial quality in one season, with the tussles in the dug-outs sure to be just as interesting as the battles on the pitch. The 2016/17 campaign promises to be one of the best in the league’s history, and that is down to the coaching appointments made over the past year or so, specifically over the summer.

The most enchanting of the Premier League’s new rivalries is the one that will see Guardiola and Mourinho resume their personal duel in Manchester. The Manchester derby will now arguably be the most bombastic of fixtures in European football, not just in England.

There is a consensus that the Premier League has fallen behind its continental counterparts in terms of methods and philosophy in recent years, with its clubs’ floundering in the Champions League somewhat illustrative of that point. The English game no longer offers the best of football.

Comeback

That could change this summer with the arrival of the sport’s best coaches. Premier League clubs are in need of modernization, and the likes of Guardiola and Klopp will bring that. Their influence could be so profound that the English game looks back on this juncture as a watershed in its recent history.

In the immediate term, however, the country’s top flight and the millions who watch it worldwide every week are concerned solely with how the Premier League’s elite will form a new order at the top of the table. With only four Champions League qualification spots some will be squeezed out, making competition stiffer than ever.

One storyline that has been somewhat underplayed ahead of the new Premier League season concerns Conte’s appointment at Chelsea. While the Italian won countless honors in charge of Juventus - also leading his country’s national team to an impressive display at the summer’s European Championships - he remains untested outside his homeland. There is a hefty element of risk to his hiring.

Nonetheless, Conte is considered one of the sport’s most demanding coaches. Chelsea are expected to challenge once again this summer under his charge, despite their dismal showing last term. The lack of European football could actually benefit the Blues as they aim to recalibrate what has gone so badly wrong at Stamford Bridge.

Klopp’s progress at Liverpool also makes for a compelling case study. There were signs of development last season, but now the German has had time to shape his team in the mould of his own personality and identity.

Saturday’s 4-0 win over Barcelona demonstrated just how dangerous the Reds could be this term, with new signings Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum impressing against arguably the best side in Europe. On that basis, they will be challengers for Premier League honors.

Ranieri is charged with lodging a credible title defense with Leicester City. The Premier League will be a gripping personality contest this season, but no manager is as popular across the league as the Italian. How the Foxes fare this term is just another strand of captivation.

When the football starts on Saturday, the focus will turn to the Premier League’s new arrivals on the pitch, with the signing of Paul Pogba, Ilkay Gundogan and N’Golo Kante sparking excitement.

However, the 2016/17 campaign in England will be defined by the new arrivals in the dug-outs. That is where games and titles will be won and lost. Personality now counts for more than ever before.