Premier League: Three men have been nominated for February’s Barclays Manager of the Month award. Unai Emery (Arsenal), Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United).
Two months at the wheel and two Premier League manager of the month nominations. Solskjaer now has the chance to become the first manager to win the award in consecutive months since Pep Guardiola won it four consecutive months at the end of 2017. But does he actually have the best case this month?
Let’s break it down.
Opened the month by losing 3-1 to Manchester City, which shouldn’t be held against anybody, and then rattled off three straight wins against Huddersfield, Southampton, and Bournemouth. Those may be games that Arsenal should have won anyway but here’s the thing.
Arsenal entered the month deader than dead. They had just lost at home to Manchester United in the FA Cup, and were then overtaken by United in the league (a loss against BATE Borisov in the Europa League didn’t help). They fell all the way to sixth and looked like that’s where they were going to stay for the rest of the season. Emery turned things around and has the Gunners back in the top four at the start of March. That’s impressive.
A perfect month that saw City top Arsenal, Everton, West Ham, and a complete annihilation of Chelsea. That 6-0 win will probably win Pep the award but it shouldn’t. Chelsea were/are a complete mess who didn’t even give an effort in that match. Not to mention, even though the Carrabao Cup doesn’t count here, Chelsea showed up to play that day and came away with a well played 0-0 draw. Besides, City have the best team in the league they should be winning every match.
This is a bit of a side note but here’s the thing. Do you know how many times Sir Alex Ferguson won manager of the month over two consecutive months? Two and a half! (He won the last month of the 1999 season and the first month of the 1999/2000 campaign). The most successful manager in Premier League history only won two consecutive months twice? Why? Because he had the best team. His team was expected to win all the time and they did. That alone should disqualify Pep from winning the award.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Solskjaer rattled off three wins and a draw to Liverpool. If we’re not counting Arsenal’s loss to City against Emery then United getting a draw against Liverpool should definitely be considered an accomplishment for Solskjaer. Especially when you lose three players to injury in the first half! All three of United’s wins came away from Old Trafford, giving them eight straight away wins in all competitions, a new club record.
Solskjaer’s issue is that his biggest accomplishment of the month, the 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge came in the FA Cup and therefore isn’t accounted for. On the other hand his biggest blemish of the month, losing 2-0 at home to PSG, also doesn’t factor in.
There’s also a bit of a Pep factor here. This is two months in charge for Solskjaer and two straight nominations. Why? Because he’s letting his team play. There shouldn’t have been any doubts over how good this United team is. Solskjaer is essentially getting the best out of them by basically just not being Jose Mourinho. If we’re eliminating Pep because of team strength, we may have to eliminate Ole too.
I’m biased but I think Solskjaer has a real good case due to the away wins and the way he’s handled this current injury crises. However I do think Emery is the most deserving this month.
Unfortunately I think ultimately Pep will be the one taking it home.