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The Premier League managers of 2019: In a class of their own

Who’d want to be a manager?

Certainly as far as England’s top flight is concerned, the answer to that question has quietly become more and more obvious in the last year or so.

A maverick.

Maurizio Sarri’s comments after his side’s two-nil loss to Arsenal were quite frankly, baffling.

“I have to say that I’m extremely angry because this defeat was down to mentality.
“They were far more determined than we were and I can’t accept that. It was similar to Spurs – I spoke to the players and I thought it was solved.
“I want to talk about tactics but it would appear this group of players are very difficult to motivate.”

It’s the first time a newspaper could use the word ‘SLAMS’ in their headline and not be guilty of chronic sensationalism.

The 60-year old Italian has been a refreshing addition to the Premier League, at least entertainment-wise. He is a maverick of the highest proportions. Don’t be mistaken, this is brilliant.

As you watch him on the sideline, chewing on cigarettes while dressed like a retired, Italian mob boss in pyjamas, you can tell there isn’t a single cell in his body that cares about what the press, the fans or the opposition think of him.

His manner in post-match interviews is unprecedented. Directly pleading with the board for a new midfielder and striker while admitting to having minimum input in the Christian Pulisic deal. Openly discussing his dealings with Chelsea director and “transfer guru” Marina Granovskaia. Questioning the mentality of his players in a far more shocking way than Jose Mourinho ever did at Manchester United.

Not to mention when he told the world that Morata’s exclusion from the matchday squad against Newcastle was simply because it was a pointless exercise to have two strikers on the bench.

It’s one thing to think it, but an entirely different one to say it.

He is either totally oblivious or 100 per cent carefree to the pragmatism and common sense generally used by public figures in football. Either way, it is wonderful.

Although he may stand out in the class of 2019 Premier League managers, he is far from the only non-conformist in the league. Nuno Espirito Santo streamed down the touchline after his team’s late winner versus Wolves on Saturday, getting in the thick of the celebrations and reminding us all that the whole point of this is just to have a laugh and go mental every so often.

Jurgen Klopp was out on New Year’s Eve, probably getting the celebrations started early for Liverpool’s double-winning season (coming to a city near you in May 2019).

Ralph Hasenhuttl has been another eccentric, German-speaking addition to the division, doing us all a favour by replacing the antithesis of a managerial maverick, Mark Hughes.

Niel Warnock’s political opinions are by far the worst in the league, possibly even the country. But credit where credit’s due, who else would be brave/insane enough to back Brexit at this stage.

The leader of the Labour Party perhaps?

Sean Dyche is so old-school British it’s incredible. He definitely gets in from work shortly after six o’clock, hangs up his coat, kisses his wife on the cheek, sits down at the dinner table, pours a mountain of gravy over his roast potatoes and asks his kids how their day at school was.

Claudio Ranieri is perhaps the original maverick of the Premier League era. From dilly-ding dilly-dong to contemplating actual homicide in his post-match interviews and press-conferences. The man has said it all.

Manuel Pellegrini and Claude Puel are the learned men of the league. They definitely retire to their study after dinner and read hours of classical literature beside the fire.

And Rafa Benitez. What about Rafa? So cold and yet so loveable. So efficient and yet so full of needle.

They are all unique, like characters out of a novel they all have their discernible personality traits, mannerisms and attitudes towards football.

But why are the managers of today so unafraid to be different? Why do they lack any sort of fear towards the media, when it confines players to little else other than the media-trained clichés?

More than anything, it is surely the nature of the profession. Who’d want to be a manager? Well, on the face of it, very few people.

Yes, the money is seismic at the highest level, but sleepless nights fretting over a formation change, second-guessing your tactics, animosity and calls for the sack from the media and the supporters whenever a few results go against you.

There are a lot of easier routes for a footballer to go down when they retire. Harmless punditry, club ambassadorial roles, charity matches, a business venture.

But despite all this, there is still a group in society that is mad enough to step into the ruthless world of football management. The mavericks.

We should all try to be a bit more like these men. We should care less about what the rest of the world wants us to do and instead chew our cigarettes in frustration whilst watching twenty-two men kick a piece of leather around a field.

Not just are these men different, but they are older and wiser than we will ever realise.

Never mind.