After leading Chelsea to their fifth Premier League title, Antonio Conte joined a very exclusive club containing eight other title winning managers. This time of the season often leads to debates and discussions over how good a team is compared to previous winners.
We thought we should get in on the fun and have a go at ranking each of the nine title-winning managers. Rankings will be based on four criteria: number of titles, the strength of opposition, resource maximisation and style of play. These are of course highly subjective, and this list aims to prompt fun debate rather than to try and present a definitive classification.
9. Kenny Dalglish, Blackburn Rovers, 1994/95:
A spectacular player and an excellent manager, Dalglish was very successful at Liverpool and won the old First Division with them three times as a manager. However, when the Premier League rolled around, he moved to Blackburn who were being bankrolled by Jack Walker.
Walker aimed to turn Blackburn into the most successful club in England. After finishing eight points behind Manchester United in the 1993-94 season, Walker’s dream was realised as Blackburn won their first title, pipping United to the post by a single point.
It was to be Dalglish’s only title and was won with only one real opponent in the form of Manchester United. He had a strong squad and broke the British transfer record twice. They played a good quality of football with Shearer and Sutton scoring 49 goals between them, but they are rarely eulogised in the way other sides are, hence Dalglish’s 9th place in this list.
8. Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea, 2009-10:
The fact that a manager with his talent and skill ranks only eight on this list shows the quality of bosses that have lifted the title. He did an excellent job at a Chelsea team who had lost some of their identity after Jose Mourinho left in 2007 and gave them their swagger back. The Blues claimed the title on the final day of the season beating Manchester United by a point.
As with Blackburn, they also really only had one side who pushed them all the way. Arsenal kept pace with them for a while but faded and left them fighting it out with United.
They had an excellent well-resourced squad including Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry all near their best. They played sparkling attacking football scoring 103 goals. Ancelotti could not defend the title the following season and left England with one title to his name.
7. Antonio Conte, Chelsea, 2016-17:
Conte’s title victory this season was very impressive. He took a Chelsea side who had been terrible the year before and reorganised them into a solid team. It will be interesting to see how he does with European football alongside domestic commitments next season, but concerning this year, he has proven himself to be one of the best managers in the world.
However, despite Chelsea’s poor performance in their last campaign, Conte still inherited a squad full of players with title-winning experience and added over £100 million worth of talent.
Regarding opposition, some of the big clubs performed very poorly this season, the Manchester clubs both had new managers beset with teething problems while Liverpool and Tottenham’s squad sizes have proven to be their downfall.
Chelsea’s football was a little utilitarian at times, but there have also been some great performances. Conte could easily go up this list if he can retain the title next season, but for now, 7th seems fair.
6. Roberto Mancini, Manchester City, 2011-12
Manchester City had waited a long, long time to win a title and the weight of history and expectation wore heavy on Mancini’s shoulders. The city had a topsy-turvy battle with United all season to try and claim the crown and won it in the final minutes of the season in a moment that will live long in the memory of the club’s fans.
As with his successor Pellegrini, Mancini was also heavily backed by the club’s owners and brought in some players who have since become club’s legends including Aguero and Silva.
Their city rivals Manchester United were the only real opposition, but it was a titanic battle and one that will go down as one of the great Premier League titles races. They also played great football, their 6-1 victory at Old Trafford was an incredible display. Again though, as with all of the previous managers on this list he only managed a single title.
5. Manuel Pelligrini, Manchester City, 2013-14:
There was a degree of scepticism when Pellegrini took over from the very popular Roberto Mancini, but he quashed any doubts in his first season at the club.
Man City had struggled in their title defence the previous season, but Pelligrini’s quiet demeanour and calming attitude helped to get City back on track. They were behind Liverpool for a great deal of the season but kept plugging away and overhauled them with only three games remaining and sealed their second Premier League title.
Pelligrini had a high level of resources with the financial muscle to spend almost £100 million. He did, however, have to compete with a high standard of opposition with a Liverpool side propelled by Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling and a Chelsea side under Jose Mourinho. City played spectacular football at times scoring 102 goals. He only managed to win one title as City limped to fourth after another poor title defence in his second season.
4. Claudio Ranieri, 2015-16, Leicester:
The impossible dream, the 5000-1 shot, the greatest sporting story ever told were all phrases used to describe Leicester’s incredible title win. They may not be remembered as the most beautiful or creative team, but their journey from the bottom at Christmas in 2014 to Premier League Champions in 2016 was magical.
Taking resources into account Leicester’s success is put into even sharper focus. Ranieri’s regular starting 11 cost less than single players from all the rest of the top four and their wage bill was not in the top 12 highest in the league. Their style of football was rather marmite, but at times their counter attacks were thrilling especially in the 3-1 win over Manchester City.
Opposition wise, while the usual suspects all had mediocre seasons when you consider the resource gap, the fact Leicester were even close to sides like City was outstanding. This is, of course, Ranieri’s only title; however, he has been a runner-up at Chelsea, and the context of this title win elevates him to 4th.
3. Jose Mourinho, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2014-15, Chelsea:
Second and third position are very close, with the managers occupying them both having fantastic careers in the Premier League. Mourinho won back to back titles with Chelsea, his first being Chelsea’s first since the 1950’s. He was a breath of fresh air when he first came in and the fact that there are ten years between his first and third title illustrates the Special One’s longevity.
His time at Chelsea, especially in his first spell, coincided with the Abramovich revolution where Jose was given massive funds to try and conquer England.
In his first two seasons he spent a combined £120 million on an already strong squad and in his second spell he broke the bank again, resources were never an issue. Opposition wise, in his first two spells Jose’s Chelsea blew the competition away cantering to the title losing only six games in two seasons.
In the 14-15 season, they were more defensive and functional and were more the best of a bad bunch than an exceptional side. Mourinho’s three titles make him the joint most successful manager hence he sits in 3rd place here.
2. Arsene Wenger, 1997–98, 2001–02, 2003–04, Arsenal:
Wenger just pips Jose to 2nd spot mostly because of his astounding achievement of taking his side through a whole season unbeaten. Despite his current barren period of no Premier League since 2004 he has kept Arsenal in the Champions League consistently and has maintained incredible longevity in the Premier League.
Wenger has never been a manager who spent massive amounts of money, however, when he was winning titles he was certainly backed whenever he needed a player.
Arsenal’s title winning sides also played some beautiful football and in their unbeaten season led by Henry and Bergkamp were a joy to watch. Their battles with their main opponents Manchester United, when both teams were amongst the best in Europe, were absorbing.
Wenger’s three titles match Mourinho’s, but his longevity just gives him a slight edge and 2nd place.
1. Sir Alex Ferguson, 13 times, Manchester United
By quite some distance the easiest decision on this list, Sir Alex has dominated the Premier League and his Manchester United team’s 13 titles put them an astonishing eight ahead of the closest competitor, Chelsea.
Sir Alex was the perfect manager and his ability to win titles in the 90’s, 00’s and 10’s set him apart.
There is no need to go through every opposition Ferguson’s United dominated, every squad he created or all the signings he made. He managed to continue to win titles even after Chelsea and Manchester City became bankrolled by billionaires. It will take something very special to see him replaced on this list; he is by far the Premier League’s greatest ever manager.