With the annual Premier League awards fast approaching towards the end of the month, there has been much discussion regarding which player should be the one to lift the Premier League Player of the Season award. The other awards haven’t been discussed quite as much, though. For example, surely Man City boss Pep Guardiola will be the one to secure the Manager of the Year award?
While that may well prove to be the case, there is certainly a massive argument to be made that, despite the beautiful football and massive runaway advantage City hold at the top of the table, Guardiola has simply made the best he can with the players at his disposal, while there are other managers out there who have helped their side massively overachieve.
Claudio Ranieri famously did that a few years ago when he lead Leicester City – usually annual relegation battlers – to the Premier League title. While the Foxes haven’t managed to defend their title to the point of challenging for the accolade again to this point, they have seemed to consolidate themselves as a comfortable midtable / top half team.
One man who has done an absolutely outstanding job in this regard is Sean Dyche at Burnley. Having taken over at Turf Moor when the Clarets were still in the Championship, Dyche has twice guided the club to the Premier League – and this season not only have they avoided a relegation battle, but they find themselves embroiled in a race for qualification to next season’s continental competitions.
There looks to be a fair chance that seventh place will be enough to get into next season’s Europa League, as long as Southampton don’t win the FA Cup this season. Burnley, at the time of writing, sit in that hallowed seventh spot, six points ahead of the aforementioned Leicester City. That alone should ensure Dyche is at least in contention for the Manager of the Year award.
What makes this achievement all the more impressive is the size of the club. Admittedly they are an historically successful club, but in the modern day it can be argued that they have nowhere near the resources to sustain a challenge for supremacy against the likes of mega-rich clubs like City, United and Chelsea. Yet they find themselves not too far behind them in the league, and they are a club representing a town with a population of around 100,000.
There are, of course, other managers who deserve a nod in recognition of what they have achieved this season. Rafa Benitez, for example, has managed an essentially Championship-level squad in Newcastle and has ensured they stay outside of the battle to avoid the drop, while Sam Allardyce has done a great job (if not somewhat maligned) since arriving at Goodison Park, guiding Everton away from the drop zone and into the top half of the table.
Dyche, meanwhile, has seen performances from his players that have garnered some great attention towards the Lancashire outfit. James Tarkowski made his England debut last month, while goalkeeper Nick Pope has entered international reckoning as well after some outstanding performances in the absence of fellow custodian Tom Heaton.
Their top scorer, Chris Wood, was signed from Championship side Leeds United just after the start of the season, and while he has only bagged eight goals in the league those strikes have contributed to Burnley’s much-improved standing this term.
We briefly discussed Dyche’s credentials and claim to the award on this week’s episode of the Euro Fantasy League Podcast, and while no resolution was ultimately reached on that platform it seems somewhat churlish to fail to at least acknowledge that he deserves a place right up among the best performing bosses the Premier League has had to offer this season.
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