In Depth

Premier League: Rock star vs assassin in battle of the bosses

As Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp and Wenger fight it out, the drama will be on the touchline this season

The Premier League kicks off this weekend, but for once the action on the touchline is set to rival that on the pitch. 

Has any division ever boasted an array of managerial talent to rival that on display in the Premier League this season? There are at least seven big name bosses aiming to steer their clubs to the title this season. To make matters even more intriguing, four of them will be taking charge of their first full campaign at their clubs.

With old rivalries set to be renewed and fresh conflicts brewing, a season of intrigue lies ahead.

But which of the seven leading men will have top billing at the end of the season? 

Jose Mourinho: The assassin

He's back and he means business. The Portuguese boss who has taken over at Manchester United has an air of menace allied with a devilish charm, and loves putting the wind up his opponents. He has gouged the eye of one adversary, called Arsene Wenger a "voyeur" and been described as an "enemy of football".

Having claimed the crown at Old Trafford, Mourinho will be more determined and ferocious than ever after the humiliation of his fall at Chelsea last term. He's already spent big on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba. Will the dapper devil bounce back?

Pep Guardiola: The guru

Particularly loved by footballing hipsters, the smooth Spaniard's track record means he's admired by anyone with even a passing interest in the beautiful game. He won 14 trophies in four years at Barcelona, including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues, before grabbing two titles in two years in Germany.

Now he has arrived in football's Holy Land, the Premier League. Given the Catalan's track record and the financial backing he has received from Manchester City (net outlay £150m this summer) he must be expected to add to his collection of trophies. His laser-like perception and meticulous methodology are rich additions to the domestic game, but will he be able to stay cool when the Premier League heats up?

Jurgen Klopp: The rock star

"I like heavy metal," the charismatic German gaffer once told an interviewer. With his volatile persona on the touchline, unshaven, shaggy-haired appearance, and easygoing approach to the media there is plenty of the rock star about him. He is already a hero for Liverpool fans.

The season ahead could be a career defining one for Klopp, who has always divided opinion. Is he the clever motivator and tactical genius who guided Dortmund to two German titles, or the overrated chancer who has lost five successive finals? We could well find out over the next nine months with expectations high at Anfield.

Arsene Wenger: The professor 

He speaks six languages: French, German, English, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. He has a degree in economics. He says clever things like: "I'm a facilitator of what is beautiful in man."

Well, that's all very well, say Arsenal fans, but when will he start winning us titles again? The Frenchman last won the top domestic prize in 2004. Whether he succeeds or fails in the months ahead, this could be the cerebral 66-year-old's final season at the helm. It could be a painful goodbye if he allows his old rivals Mourinho and Guardiola to get under his skin. 

Antonio Conte: The Godfather

"When he talks, you listen. Do what he says, don't argue." That was the advice for Chelsea players from Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci who has played for Conte at club and international level. 

Throughout his playing days as a midfield hard man and his colourful managerial career, Conte has been an intimidating figure. His no-nonsense approach could be just what Chelsea need after their traumatic 2015/16 season. You get the feeling that opponents and staff alike will be checking their beds for horses' heads.

Mauricio Pochettino: The demanding one

The Argentine manager advocates the sort of energetic, pressing game and 4-2-3-1 formation normally favoured by extrovert rogues such as Jurgen Klopp or Marcelo Bielsa. Yet Pochettino himself is a quiet, conservative character who only recently began speaking to the media in English.

The son of a farm labourer, he works his players hard and gets palpable results on the pitch – the enthusiasm and energy of Spurs for much of last season was a sight to behold. However, suspicion reigns that he works his players too hard, leaving them exhausted during the all-important final weeks of the campaign.

Claudio Ranieri: The eccentric

The Italian has carved out a reputation as a bit of on oddball, thanks to his training ground mantra of "dilly-ding, dilly-dong", his love of antiques and books, and his former habit of tinkering with teams. He is also generally considered to be one of the nicest men in football.

Some say all this loveable stuff is a mere front for a very serious and calculating manager. Can he calculate Leicester City all the way to the top again? With Champions League commitments to attend to, it will be a tall order.

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