So we’ve heard all about the new signings, the title race, the battle for survival and the golden boot, but what about the masterminds behind all of this: the managers, and specifically the teams under new management this season?
Compared to last season’s managerial-merry-go-round, only three teams will start the season with new managers. Frank de Boer has come in at Palace, Marco Silva at Watford and Mauricio Pellegrino is the new man at Southampton.
De Boer comes to Selhurst Park as the club’s first manager from outside the British Isles (excluding player-manager Attilio Lombardo in 1998, who managed just seven matches) and the Dutchman arrives trying to rebuild his managerial reputation. The 47-year-old’s last post was at Inter Milan at the beginning of last season, but lasted just 85 days before being sacked in early November. This was somewhat of a downfall following six successful years as manager of Ajax, where he led his side to a record four successful Eredivisie titles before missing out in 2015 and 2016 to PSV. Judging from Palace’s pre-season, Eagles fans can expect to see their side line-up in a 3-4-3 formation, similar to that of Conte’s Chelsea, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye operating in midfield. But de Boer will need to bolster his squad somewhat before being able to make this a guaranteed success.
Heading north-west across London, Marco Silva is settling into his new surroundings at Vicarage Road. Coming into English football relatively unknown, Silva joined Hull City in January 2017 and, despite an impressive start, was unable to save the club from relegation. This short spell in charge came after one hugely impressive season as Olympiacos, where Silva held a 79% win percentage from his 48 matches in charge. The Portuguese manager boasts an incredibly impressive home record throughout his managerial career and will need this to continue if he is going to keep Watford in the Premier League. With plenty of central midfielders to choose from, Silva is now turning his focus to bringing in goalscorers; Richarlison signed this week from Fluminense and the Hornets have today signed Burnley’s Andre Gray which should be a fantastic signing (albeit potential Premier League suicide for Sean Dyche). There’s no doubt that Silva is an astute manager and more than capable, and with a full pre-season under his belt he will be hoping to have a sound first (and probably only!) season at Vicarage Road, which kicks-off at home to Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime.
Finally, Mauricio Pellegrino comes into Southampton amid the storm brewing by the Virgil van Dijk-shaped cloud lingering over St Mary’s and refusing to go away. The Dutch centre-half insists he wants to leave, and Pellegrino has been ruthless thus far; no pre-season time, no first-team training sessions, nothing for the 26-year-old. After leading former side Alaves to a ninth-placed finish and a domestic cup final in his one season, it sounds all too familiar for Southampton fans, who appeared not too sad to see the back of Claude Puel after just one year in charge. But Southampton’s executive directed Les Reed has promised Pellegrino will bring “exciting, attacking football” and “a high-intensity game” to St Mary’s this season, something Saints fans will be desperate for.
As is always the case when a new manager comes into a club, it can go one of two ways. They either hit the ground running straight away, pick up some good wins and settle the club’s nerves and worries early on. Alternatively, they struggle to get the first win under their belt, the fans get on their back and they fail to have the impact everyone wanted them to have. In these three characters, de Boer, Silva and Pellegrino, it is very difficult to predict which avenue each will take. Silva has been in the division before, obviously, but probably has the weakest of the three squads and may well struggle. De Boer has a strong stance which may take some time for Crystal Palace players and fans to adjust to, but I believe he will come good sooner rather than later. For Southampton and Pellegrino, it looks like a match that could work well; the Argentinian appears happy to build and progress with what Puel has left behind and what has been left behind is a very able, young set of players capable of pushing for a Europa League spot.