Jurgen Klopp will go down in history as one of the best managers ever. Rightly so too.
The man is a genius, from his tactics to the way he behaves. Kudos to the German teacher of English for being such an eloquent speaker. He always knows exactly what to say and his enthusiasm is infectious. The players love him and the supporters too.
But there is only one Manager of the Year for me, and that is Chris Wilder from Sheffield United.
Jurgen Klopp was phenomenal, but Chris Wilder is my manager of the season
At the beginning of this season, me and 11 of mine Sports email colleagues – including Peter Crouch, Martin Keown and Chris Sutton – were asked about our predictions. Those predictions were published on August 9, and we all had the Blades ending in the bottom three.
Some also tipped Liverpool to win the Premier League, including myself, because we knew that Klopp’s men would be contenders. Last year they got 97 points. They won the Champions League.
They’ve been working on this since Klopp arrived in 2015, so we can’t say the 53-year-old has done a miracle leading Liverpool to the title. But what Wilder accomplished in his first season as Premier League manager, I think is wonderful.
Few experts thought Sheffied United could survive this season, let alone reach the top six
Not only did his side survive, they survived in style.
52-year-old Wilder took a group of players who, without respect, had barely walked the red carpet in their careers and made them competitive. He stood for a system that is unique – a 3-5-2 where mid backs overlap and overload the flanks.
It’s football on the front foot. We thought they would play with it that way. We thought they would be struggling because they hadn’t spent a fortune in the transfer market like Aston Villa. How wrong we were.
Only Manchester City and Liverpool have produced more crossings. Only a handful of clubs have allowed fewer shots against them, with Wilder’s back three from Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell keeping many a striker quiet.
Tammy Abraham was last on Saturday, while Olivier Giroud was unable to drag Chelsea back into the game after coming on.
This allowed a European adventure to follow.
The Blades’ disciplined defense stopped Tammy Abraham (right) in the 3-0 win over Chelsea
I wrote a column earlier this season explaining why Wilder was not an ‘old-school manager’.
Of course, he let his players have a beer after beating Chelsea 3-0. Of course he demands that they work hard. But Wilder is the most progressive coach of the top flight. He is a new school.
I have nothing but good things to say about Klopp. Liverpool has become a successful side on his watch. But Wilder’s achievements deserve recognition.
If it were up to me, I’d give him the Manager of the Year gong.
Frank’s damning judgment was refreshing
One of my pet hates is when managers refuse to be honest about their players’ performance.
Why Sugarcoat? Frank Lampard said it as it is after Chelsea’s defeat.
He did not kill them. He was just telling the truth, and what struck me was when he said, “All I could hear was the Sheffield United voices.” That is worrying. That was what he said that Chelsea had no leaders and that he was seething in what he saw.
Frank Lampard’s honest judgment after the defeat to Sheffield United was refreshing to hear
No one wants more audience than Klopp!
I stood in the tunnel at Anfield, looked at the opposition and thought, “You don’t like this.”
Why? Because Liverpool supporters can make that stadium so intimidating.
There won’t be a manager more desperate to get the crowds back than Jurgen Klopp.
Mikel Arteta could resume John Stones’ career
It is a big day for Manchester City and all eyes will be on the outcome of their European ban hearing. But I also wonder, what’s next for John Stones?
One of Virgil van Dijk’s greatest assets is his decision-making. He knows when to play and when to put the ball in row Z. That was a downfall with Stones.
He’s fast, strong, and brave in the air, but he has made some high-profile mistakes.
A move to Arsenal could rejuvenate John Stones’ career with the help of boss Mikel Arteta
He has been in the spotlight since he was signed to Everton for £ 47.5 million, so his mistakes always stand out.
But Stones is only 26 – the same age as Van Dijk when he joined Liverpool. He’s young enough to knead, but has only started in the league once since January under Pep Guardiola.
Arsenal needs a central defender and Mikel Arteta knows Stones from his days in the city. That could be a good match.
Everything about Project Return for Norwich
Norwich couldn’t save itself in Project Restart, so now it’s about Project Return.
But their young talent will arouse 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 can take advantage of a year in the championship.
Depending on who they love, they will be one of the favorites to return.
My weekend team
Nick Pope is rightly tipped to be England’s No. 1. But what could work against the Burnley goalkeeper is that Sean Dyche’s team plays a more direct way than Gareth Southgate would like.
This isn’t a dig at Dyche – I love watching Burnley. But only 9.5 percent of Pope’s steps are short, at 90.5 percent long.
Jordan Pickford, on the other hand, plays 33.2 percent of his passes short and 66.8 percent long, at the request of Carlo Ancelotti. He likes a passing game, and so does Southgate.