Ahead of Ange Postecoglou’s first league game as Celtic manager, he had already trimmed down.
After rejecting a Champions League bid as early as July, Postecoglou launched an incredibly public criticism of his club’s own recruitment. The affable Australian sidestepped his frustrations by taking full responsibility for the “hesitation” in the player market. “I’m not saying that because I’m some kind of martyr,” Postecoglou insisted. Two years later, his start at Tottenham Hotspur has earned him sainthood.
A 2-0 win over Fulham took Spurs top of the Premier League table, with 23 points from nine games. No manager has had a better start in the history of the competition. Tottenham, under any charge, have only once started a new season in better form; and that 1960/61 campaign ended with a top-flight and FA Cup double.
While Postecoglou’s start is going well compared to his predecessors in north London, how does it compare to the opening salvos from his contemporaries among the Premier League’s elite?
Pep Guardiola was still wearing a suit on the sidelines in 2016 / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages
After six consecutive Premier League victories to start his 2016 season at Manchester City, and a career-high 18 goals, Pep Guardiola found himself forced to play down his men’s strengths.
“We are far away. If we were close, I could just go back home,” Guardiola said. The Catalan coach may have delivered that line with a smile but he was proved right when Spurs wiped the grin off his face with a 2-0 win at White Hart Lane.
With the gloss of invincibility removed, the teething problems Guardiola had spotted in City’s first six appearances translated into the overall points tally. Despite their fast start, Guardiola’s new side, repeatedly exposed by set-pieces and counter-attacks, spent the final months of their debut frustrating Champions League qualifiers while Antonio Conte’s Chelsea battled for the title.
Jurgen Klopp joined Liverpool midway through the 2015/16 season / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages
Upon his arrival at Liverpool in October 2015, Jurgen Klopp declared: “My message to Liverpool fans is that we have to change, from doubters to believers.
A tally of three wins from his first nine league games, which saw the Reds drop to ninth, could certainly have cast a shadow over fans. Yet, even at this early stage of Klopp’s tenure at Anfield, there were glimmers in the air that pointed towards the sky-high potential of the German’s “heavy metal football” approach.
Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-1 thrashing of Manchester City at the Etihad proved to be the first of Liverpool’s crucial victories under Klopp. “It’s perfect,” the then bespectacled coach said after the game.
Mikel Arteta won just one of his first seven Premier League games as Arsenal manager / Chloe Knott – Danehouse/GettyImages
“Trust the process” is a phrase that has followed Mikel Arteta as Arsenal manager, especially when he threw himself ironically during his time in charge.
It was Mesut Ozil, the first star Arteta managed to ice out of north London, who conjured the indelible phrase in a tweet – X was just a twinkle in Elon Musk’s eye in 2019 – after Arteta’s debut in a 0-0 draw against Bournemouth. “Unlucky not to get the win. But many positives to take from the game. Let’s trust the process,” he wrote.
Arsenal drew five of Arteta’s first seven Premier League games in charge, prompting a shift in focus towards the FA Cup. That process has always been reliable for Arsenal and ended Arteta’s debut with a win at Wembley.
Erik ten Hag did not have the best start at Manchester United/Visionhaus/GettyImages
As the entire Manchester United squad went through a punishing 13.8km run, Erik ten Hag could be forgiven for wondering what he had gotten himself into. The Dutchman had become the first United manager to lose his first two games since John Chapman in 1921 and was disgusted by the statistics from the nightmarish 4-0 humbling at Brentford with chants of “You’ll be sacked in the morning”. surface before the first drinks break.
As punishment, Ten Hag canceled the team’s day off and accompanied his players on runs as long as the difference in the combined distance between United and the Bees.
However, Ten Hag’s steady hand sparked a surge upwards, as United climbed off the table to third at the end of the season.
Ange Postecoglou has had the best start of any Premier League manager / Henry Browne/GettyImages
Erik ten Hag
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