The international break appears to be coming to an end without any further managerial departures on the domestic front, so it is probably safe to assume, with only seven or eight games remaining, that the 20 incumbents will be in situ until the end of the season.
Ultimately the final league standings will be the judge of what they have or have not achieved, but though the table never lies it can sometimes be economical with the truth. Wolves would be delighted to finish seventh, for example, while Chelsea would consider sixth place a failure. Not all managers start the campaign with equal assets or aspirations after all, some have only been parachuted in midway through the season, some have proved popular with supporters despite adverse results and others have found the opposite to be true.
So purely as a hypothetical exercise before the actual gongs are handed out, let us reorganise the league table a little in terms of managerial performance so far. The criterion here is improvement, both at a club level and a personal one. Which managers are sitting prettier now than they were at the start of the season, in other words. Obviously some were sitting prettier than others before a ball had even been kicked, but here is a stab at a satisfaction index for the season so far.
1 Pep Guardiola
Easy to point to Manchester City’s riches and argue anyone could do it, but not everyone would fight on four fronts or mould Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva into reliable match winners. With a trophy already in the bag and the league leadership just a game in hand away, it would be odd to top the list with anyone else.
2 Jürgen Klopp
Only in the running for two prizes, but making a good fist of both. While Liverpool are likely to regret surrendering the initiative back to City in the Premier League they are bang on course for a second successive Champions League semi-final. Who remembers now that Klopp’s team had to enter through a play-off round last season?
3 Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Might have been even higher in the list had the euphoria that followed Paris not been punctured by Wolves in the FA Cup, but in terms of giving Manchester United fans exactly what they crave, caretaker Ole simply cannot be faulted. A dazzling improvement on all three previous regimes.
4 Nuno Espírito Santo
Looks like an Old Testament prophet and could probably walk on water in the Black Country at the moment. League position alone would be impressive for a newly promoted side, but Wolves not only have an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to, they are most people’s favoured underdogs for a Wembley fairytale.
5 Mauricio Pochettino
No longer quite the shoo-in for the Old Trafford job he seemed at the time of José Mourinho’s sacking, even if Spurs are still going well in Europe and the overall trajectory has remained upwards. Stadium saga has made things difficult, but Spurs fans worry, with reason, that Arsenal and United pose a threat to a top-four placing.
6 Unai Emery
Faced with arguably the trickiest task of the lot in following Arsène Wenger, Emery needed time to get to grips with a new club in a new country but is now showing results. Arsenal currently look the most impressive team in London, and though all is not perfect, much will be forgiven if they can stay in the top four and perhaps even pip Spurs.
7 Javi Gracia
A similar story to Nuno at Wolves, who will be waiting at Wembley when Watford arrive for an FA Cup semi-final next month. Gracia has quietly but efficiently gone about getting the most from an underrated team of disparate talents; with five home games still to play Watford could manage seventh place, or best of the rest as it is now known.
8 Rafael Benítez
No silverware in sight, obviously, but at least the long-suffering Newcastle fans are reasonably confident of avoiding relegation. That counts for something in the context of the Mike Ashley years. Benítez is one of the few reasons for cheerfulness on Tyneside, and let’s not forget Newcastle beat Manchester City in January.
9 Marco Silva
Enigmatic, inconsistent, jury still out. Everton fans were cheered by a victory over Chelsea in the last match, but even a poor Chelsea side ought to have turned their superiority into points. Silva can only be an improvement on Sam Allardyce, but no one at Goodison is fooling themselves that 11th place in the table is what was expected.
10 Ralph Hasenhüttl
The improvement in Southampton has been plain to see over the last couple of months; they were unlucky to leave Old Trafford empty handed after a spirited display and deserving of the three points against Spurs in the next game. Not safe yet by any means but a good example of a revitalising managerial change.
11 Manuel Pellegrini
Seems to be running a steady, mid-table course at his latest Premier League club, though the word steady does not really belong in the same sentence as West Ham. Wildly inconsistent, infuriating to watch, this is a squad that needs firm guidance that Pellegrini and his array of mournful expressions do not seem able to provide.
12 Maurizio Sarri
Talking of mournful expressions. Fair enough, the Chelsea job is never an easy one. True also that Sarri is new to the country. But 12th place is generous, really, for a manager who has been publicly castigated by his own fans and humiliated in a cup final by his own goalkeeper. Has looked out of place for most of the season.
13 Eddie Howe
Satisfactory, as it used to say on an old-school school report. Not a lot more to say about Bournemouth, who rarely hit the heights or plumb the depths. Howe has deserved enormous credit for that over the last few seasons, as well as for astute signings such as David Brooks and the confidence to give young players game time.
14 Brendan Rodgers
A somewhat arbitrary placing after just three games, though at least Claude Puel’s replacement has managed to win two of them. Rodgers is far more engaging and upbeat than Puel, too. There is a feeling of freshness about Leicester at the moment, an expectation that next season could see them back with a top-six challenge.
15 Neil Warnock
Currently in a relegation position, but few at Cardiff would have expected much else at the start of the season. The crucial point is that Warnock’s players are still in with a chance of survival, there has been no collapse, no throwing in the towel. A manager many think is better suited to the Championship could be about to prove otherwise.
16 Chris Hughton
Probably ought to be higher given Brighton’s consistency over the last couple of seasons, but had supporters worried with a slide towards the bottom of the table after the turn of the year. Still among the candidates for the last relegation spot, but only a result or two from safety and in an FA Cup semi, albeit against Manchester City.
17 Roy Hodgson
Had his moments this season, most notably when inflicting a wholly unexpected home defeat on Manchester City, though Palace’s own home form has been nothing to shout about, hence their flirtation with relegation. Will probably stay up, though fans feel Hodgson could do more with the talent at his disposal.
18 Sean Dyche
Last season’s over-achiever is now inspecting the relegation positions from very close range after suffering four league defeats in a row. Burnley have a tough run-in, too, though a possible chance to save themselves when Cardiff visit Turf Moor next month. Sensational as Dyche has been for Burnley, these are worrying times.
19 Jan Siewert
An odd appointment in many ways, and one that seemed to be made with a Championship season rather than survival in mind, though at least Siewert has tasted both victory and high drama in his last couple of games. Is likely to be judged on next season, and should therefore be warned that the Championship is just as tough.
20 Scott Parker
Not quite bottom of the actual league table but yet to win a game and in charge of a dispirited squad with the worst defensive record in the top flight. Not Parker’s fault, clearly, but Manchester City are up next and Fulham have not won a game since January. If only Claudio Ranieri really had been a risk-free appointment.