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Power Rankings | Top 5 Managers: Guardiola, Pochettino & Marcelino feature

A new mini-feature on the site for the new season is the introduction of the manager Power Rankings, where every month we list out the Top 5 tacticians from across Europe’s top leagues. September’s Power Rankings feature five individuals who have stood out as the season has progressed.

Sousa Pochettino 2016


The Argentine manager took charge of the Spanish club last season and has overseen the club’s establishment into the top division, firmly putting behind their relegation nightmare from a few years back.

September started off with a fair bit of disappointment for Celta Vigo, as the side played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Las Palmas, despite the newly promoted side playing 80 minutes of the game with 10 men. But the result was a sign of things to come, as Berizzo’s men got an impressive 2-1 win away to Sevilla.

However, arguably Berizzo’s most famous result as a manager came in the following week. Defending champions and treble winners, Barcelona, were the visitors – a game seen by many as a simple three points for the Catalan club in their fight for the title with the two Madrid clubs. Instead, Celta managed a surprising 4-1 victory with Iago Aspas scoring a brace. The following draw with Eibar was a bit underwhelming, but Celta under Berizzo’s guidance have opened the season unbeaten.

Formation used: Berizzo has been smart with his approach, using variants of the 4-3-3 formation depending on the opposition. Against difficult opposition like Barcelona and Sevilla, he has been more cautious, pulling the wide men of the front-three back to make a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Key Player: As he has been for the past couple of seasons, Nolito remains a standout performer for Celta Vigo. The 28-year-old has been involved in eight goals this season (five scored and three assisted), more than any other player in the league.


Another Argentine comes in at #4, as Tottenham’s progressive manager Mauricio Pochettino continues to impress with his North London side. A slow start to the campaign has been over-shadowed by a good recovery and positive form as the season has worn on.

While it wasn’t as straight-forward as it should have been, Pochettino’s Spurs opened September with a 1-0 win away to Sunderland. It was the side’s first win of the season following three successive draws after their opening day defeat. Victory at home to Crystal Palace was welcoming, given the form the opponents have been in.

But it was Spurs’ game at White Hart Lane against Manchester City that turned heads. Having gone a goal down to Kevin De Bruyne’s strike, the North Londoners recovered to score four past against the league leaders. Each of Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane and Erik Lamela were on the scoresheet. It marked Spurs’ first victory over Manchester City in over two years, and the first real statement of intent from the side.

Formation used: The Argentine has stayed true to his 4-2-3-1 philosophy, as the Premier League’s youngest squad continues to play an exciting brand of football. Pochettino has found a good blend of attacking intent while being more conservative in his approach without the ball.

Key Player: While Spurs’ performances have been a group of good performers rather than individuals, Eric Dier’s new found role in midfield has been impressive and a clear indication of Pochettino’s tactical ability. The youngster is also currently 2nd in our Talent Radar Midfielder Rankings. Such has been his development this season.


There remains no doubt that Bayern Munich will retain their Bundesliga crown, dominating the league as they are always expected to do. But the side have taken it up another notch this season, dominating sides with their football wihile the rest of Europe looking on in fear.

Bayern started September in questionable fashion, requiring a stoppage time penalty to beat Augsburg 2-1 at the Allianz Arena. A 3-0 win away to Darmstadt set things right, but what followed next left even Pep Guardiola himself spellbound.

In arguably one of the greatest individual performances you are ever likely to witness, Robert Lewandowski struck five times in the space of nine minutes to see his side come from behind to defeat supposed Bundesliga challengers, Wolfsburg, 5-1. Another comfortable performance away to Mainz rounded of a perfect month as the Bavarian giants maintain their 100% start to the season.

Formation used: As is the case with Guardiola, the Spaniard has altered formations nearly every week. But there has been a shift in the base formation employed as Bayern have shifted away from their three man defensive system seen at the start of the season. While absurd 3-3-3-1 formations were employed earlier, there has been an inclination to install a four-man back line as the season has progressed.

Key Player: With the season he has been having, it’s hard to ignore the brilliance of Robert Lewandowski. Breaking multiple goal-scoring records on the way, Lewandowski has further proved why he is among the elite strikers of the world.


Having managerial experience in Hungary, England and Switzerland, Paulo Sousa took his diverse expertise and made his way to Italy; and the start to his Serie A career couldn’t have gone better.

Fiorentina came into September on the back of one win and one loss, with no real indication that they could be worrying the bigger clubs in the league. But one month later and the Italian media are singing praises of Viola, further impressed with boss after the somewhat surprising dismissal of Vincenzo Montella in the summer. Goals from Babacar in each of the games against Genoa and Carpi saw simple 1-0 wins. While the 2-0 victory at home to Bologna was more comfortable.

The last game of September saw Fiorentina visit the San Siro and face leaders Inter Milan, a side yet to drop points (at the time of writing) with many convinced their return to the top was well underway. But in the matter of twenty-five minutes, Fiorentina found themselves 3-0 up and saw defender Miranda sent off a few minutes later. A statement-making 4-1 was the final result, that cemented Sousa’s side among Serie A’s challengers for the 2015-16 season.

Formation used: Sousa himself has altered between three-man and four-man defensive systems. 3-1-4-2 and 4-3-3 have been the common approaches, with Sousa proving he isn’t afraid to flex his tactical muscle in the tactical Italian league. The important point though, is the preference of using a lone striker system, irrespective of what exists behind.

Key Player: The performances of Milan Badelj has impressed viewers, playing in the defensive midfield role and maintaining the tempo of the Florence club, the Croat has certainly given a fantastic advert to his ability (especially knowing he needs to compete with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in a couple of months for the European Championship).


Spanish league leaders, Villarreal, have impressed under the guidance of Marcelino, as the Yellow Submarine continue to enjoy their post-promotion years.

After having drawn their opening game, Villarreal went on a winning streak that trickled into September. Three goals were scored each past Granada & Athletic Bilbao, while the 1-0 win away to Malaga would be looked upon as a massive three points later in the season.

However, their last game of September, at home to Atletico Madrid has been the best result thus far. Pegged back for large portions of the game, Marcelino did extremely well in sending out a defensively organised side to contain the physical threat of Atletico’s attack, and walk away with all three points. Two of Villarreal’s youngsters on that day also made it onto our Talent Radar Team of the Week, for those performances.

Formation used: Marcelino has employed a 4-4-2 formation for all La Liga games thus far. Irrespective of opposition, Marcelino ensures two deep midfielders are part of the tactical formation, to maintain their organisation in the defensive phase of the game. His conservative approach has helped peg sides back and contain them, while a clinical attack takes the chances that fall for them.

Key Player: One of the youngsters, Eric Baily, who featured in the above Team of the Week, has been among the most impressive performers in the side’s defensive approach. Still only 21, Baily is certainly taking to Marcelino’s defensive approach well.

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Written by Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

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