22 Jul, 20:30
As we approach August 11th - the new Premier League season is nearly upon us. Managers are continuing with their preparations, but some are set for more time under the spotlight than their rivals.
Title ambitions, European football, relegation and job security are all on the line this season with varying degrees of pressure across the league, and as we prepare for the opening weekend; here are the eight managers who have the most to prove ahead of the 2017/18 season.
8. Ronald Koeman
Koeman took Everton back into the top half of the table last year in his first season at the club, delivering the type of success which he would have realistically been expected of after securing Europa League football with the Toffees.
However, after being backed so heavily this summer, Koeman now has to deliver, and there is little time to take your foot off the gas in the Premier League, so his new additions will have to adjust quickly.
The Toffees boss' ultimate ambition will be to qualify for the Champions League - for his first time in England - but the pressure will be on the Dutch manager to get his side firing on all cylinders if they have any chance of overthrowing one of the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool or Tottenham.
7. Slaven Bilic
The West Ham manager found his position under massive scrutiny mid-way through last season after the Hammers were pulled closer to the relegation zone, but a late campaign rally saved the Croatian's services as his side finished a modest eleventh.
It was a disappointing second season for Bilic as he fell at the first hurdle in the Europa League qualifiers and was unable to improve upon his seventh place the season prior, and now all eyes will be on the 48-year-old as he enters his third and final year of his contract.
6. Jurgen Klopp
The Reds' boss took his side to a Champions League qualification spot for only the second time in eight-years, a major step in the right direction for Liverpool after they seemed to have been cut adrift from the league's top spenders.
Despite dominating the charts in wins against the top six last season, Klopp's side failed to find a way to breakdown deep sitting opposition from sides towards the bottom of the table, so progress has to be made against ‘small’ teams to prevent their devastating counter-attacks.
Perhaps, the German needs to show his experience and ability to be a title contender next season.
5. Mauricio Pochettino
Well well… Hasn’t he been phenomenal - but unfortunately, Pochettino has overseen two seasons of Tottenham falling just short of the title, they were the closest challengers to Leicester and Chelsea but they were never really in the running as they'd simply left their runs too late.
The Argentine is due significant credit for taking Spurs to their record league points tally (86) last term, but the elephant remains in the room that he has yet to acquire silverware as a manager. It is likely to be only a matter of time before he breaks his duck, but after three seasons his time has to be now.
The pressure ultimately now comes down to the fact that Wembley will be Spurs’ new home stadium for the next year. The width of the pitch and lack of atmosphere the national stadium generates is a whole new ball game, but if he can do it then he may just have clubs across Europe beckoning for him.
4. Marco Silva
The former Hull City boss and now Watford manager - the club's eighth in five-years - did impress during his short spell with the Tigers, offering a glimpse of the defensive organisation and counter-attacking approach that he preaches to his sides which resulted in standout victories against Liverpool and Manchester United.
However, his five months in charge proved he could create a formidable home record but also a significantly poor away record, which Watford have as a pre-existing issue themselves. Silva's Tigers picked up only two points from a possible 27 in their 2017 away matches, with the Hornets acquiring only 12 away points for the entirety of last season.
With four of their first seven fixtures next season away from home, Silva needs to work out how he can best set up his side at opposition grounds to ensure he establishes Watford as a mid-table Premier League side - and keeps his job.
3. The Special One - Jose Mourinho
Anything special about him? You figure it out.
Mourinho had a largely successful debut season at the helm of Manchester United, well, if you take the Premier League out of the equation.
A sixth place finish last season was overlooked by their Europa League campaign and League Cup triumph, however, do not underestimate the importance of Mourinho's second season at Old Trafford.
The club has failed to challenge for the title in their last four seasons, which is their longest league title drought since 1975-1992. To make matters more interesting, since 2002 Mourinho has won the league title as a manager in either his first or second year at a club, and with his average spell with a side only 785 days, his time simply has to be now at United.
Considering their expenditure these past two summers, Jose Mourinho really has to deliver next season.
2. Arsene Wenger
The ‘not’ so special one - you tell me.
Wenger in, Wenger Out - was the discussion for a few months last season. The future of the Arsenal manager dominated the headlines and with the knowledge that he is staying put at the Emirates, this has only made his job all tougher.
The expectations at the club are unrelenting and frustrations have continued to grow following 13 seasons without a league title, and the Gunners first finish outside the top four in 21-years.
Now Wenger has to simply put all his eggs in one basket, a fully-fledged battle for the title is his only option as he cannot oversee another mid-to-late season fade.
1. Pep Guardiola
The ‘other’ one.
Arguably the most anticipated managerial arrival in the Premier League era, but Guardiola did not set the league alight last season like many expected him to, and for the first time in his managerial career he ended his season trophyless.
His possession-based game didn’t really work, in-part due to the lack of quality options at his disposal - hard to believe right? But he will no doubt remain committed to his style of play and his new additions will require his imparted confidence to persevere with a game-plan which came unstuck against the top sides.
The hype surrounding him has not withered, but he must now get rid of the lingering doubt by perfecting his game plan to suit English opponents so City can sustain a challenge for the title.