The battle for supremancy

How the English Premier League’s four most prominent managers measure up. Here’s an assessment by Rich Jones.

Let the psychological battle commence. The Big Four’s big cheeses are ready for a title battle, which promises to be as nerve-wracking as ever. Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez and Arsene Wenger will all be desperate to prise Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League crown from Old Trafford after Manchester United swept all before them last season.

TRANSFERS

Ferguson: Blew his rivals out of the water with quick signings of Owen Hargreaves, Nani and Anderson.

He also appears to have won the race for Carlos Tevez. An awesome statement of intent.

Points: 9

Mourinho: Florent Malouda will add attacking thrust but the other new arrivals — Steve Sidwell, Tal Ben Haim and Claudio Pizarro, all freebies — add depth rather than top quality.

Points: 6

Benitez: After a slow start to the summer, the signings of Fernando Torres, Andriy Voronin, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun add vital attacking options.

Points: 8

Wenger: Eduardo da Silva will find it hard to fill Thierry Henry’s boots, while right-back Bacary Sagna and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski are ostensibly ones for the future.

Points: 5 TACTICS

Ferguson: Hargreaves will add the much-needed midfield grit, allowing United’s array of attacking talent to cut loose in a goal-packed 4-3-3. However, the Manchester United manager still lacks defensive midfield options unless Mi chael Carrick can toughen up.

Points: 7

Mourinho: Has mooted a return to 4-4-2. He needs to find the attacking width that was so often lacking last season. Any success will still be based on defensive solidity and he needs Andriy Shevchenko to find his feet.

Points: 7

Benitez: Arguably the continent’s canniest tactician in the Champions League, but needs to add fluidity to his 4-4-2 to reduce Premier League predictability. His new signings appear to offer better options.

Points: 8

Wenger: Will always ensure that his team plays great football in a 4-4-2, but it must become harder to beat. It still looks susceptible to brute force in a talented but lightweight midfield.

Points: 7 TEMPERAMENT

Ferguson: May be less explosive than in years gone by but his competitive fire burns as bright as ever. Pretty much unflappable.

Points: 8

Mourinho: Inability to accept blame often grates and his well-publicised recent reconciliatory meeting with Roman Abramovich is sure to have included an order to cheer up.

Points: 6

Benitez: Calmer on the outside than Fergie or Mourinho but quietly ruthless. His conservative streak has hampered the Reds in the Premier League, but new signings and David Brent-style goatee hint at greater flair.

Points: 8

Wenger: Icy exterior was frequently betrayed by post-match rants and touchline handbags last season. Not very dignified and not very Wenger. Needs to rediscover his cool.

Points: 6 MOTIVATION

Ferguson: No doubt that European success is at the top of his agenda after last season’s San Siro humiliation. Will he lose focus in the Premier League where he has nothing left to prove?

Points: 8

Mourinho: Bristled as United stole his title last season and the ‘Special One’ will be fuelled by an ego that refuses to accept second place.

Points: 10

Benitez: Knows he will never be viewed as a complete success until he brings the title ‘home’ for the first time since 1990 — regardless of European heroics.

Points: 8

Wenger: Expectations are at their lowest for a decade and he knows he can stay as long as he wants, but he will hate to see Ferguson and Mourinho steak away once more. Biggest challenge may be to stave off neighbours Tottenham.

Points: 6 OVERALL Ferguson: 32/40 Benitez: 32/40 Mourinho: 29/40 Wenger: 24/40

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