How have the Premier League's best midfielders fared as managers?

Gerrard’s out of a job, Lampard has little room for error and it looks bright for Arteta and Vieira… but Keane and Scholes should stick to TV! How Premier League’s best midfielders have fared as bosses

  • Steven Gerrard has been sacked from his first managerial Premier League role
  • Aston Villa made a poor start to the season and were thrashed on Thursday night
  • His ex-England colleague Lampard knows all about the axe after his Chelsea stint
  • Mikel Arteta has Arsenal on the up once again and they top the Premier League
  • Another legendary midfielder Patrick Vieira is performing well at Selhurst Park
  • But ex-Man United duo Roy Keane and Paul Scholes turned back on coaching 

They were all masters of the midfield art. Whether creative dynamos carrying their teams forward or tenacious defensive shielders, all made an impact on the Premier League during their pomp.

All have taken the path into management after hanging up their boots but it’s fair comment to say it’s been a mixed bag in terms of fortunes.

Here’s how the midfield giants of modern English football have fared in the dug-out.

Steven Gerrard has been sacked by Aston Villa after their dreadful start to the campaign

STEVEN GERRARD

Making the headlines once again in recent days but not in a good way. Gerrard finds himself out of work, his long-held dreams of an Anfield return currently in tatters.

The Liverpool icon and former England captain was one of the most complete midfielders the Premier League has seen and capable of spectacular long-range goals.

Steven Gerrard has been relieved of his duties at Villa Park with the team sat in 17th place

A natural leader, it was inevitable he would move into management and he handled the white heat of Old Firm battles at Rangers in his first job, helping them break Celtic’s stronghold on the Scottish Premiership with a record-breaking 2020-21 campaign.

That led to Villa headhunting him in November 2021 but after a positive start, Gerrard could only lead them to a pretty underwhelming 14th position.

Backed with pretty significant funds to shape his squad over the summer, Villa started poorly, winning just two of their opening 10 games to leave Gerrard fighting to save his job.

That battle came to a shambolic end on Thursday night when his side were thumped 3-0 by newly-promoted Fulham. His time at Villa was supposed to be the stepping stone that primed him for an eventual return to his beloved Anfield. That road back now seems to have taken a rather lengthy diversion. 

Former England midfield colleagues Lampard and Gerrard are both top-flight managers 

FRANK LAMPARD

Losing a job is something Gerrard’s former England accomplice Lampard can certainly relate to after his axe as Chelsea boss. Things aren’t too much more straightforward in his current role either, his Everton team having flirted with relegation last season.

The Blues legend, probably the Premier League’s best-ever box-to-box midfielder who won every conceivable club honour, came in to replace Rafa Benitez at Goodison Park back in January.

For a while it looked like the unthinkable might happen but Lampard managed to steer Everton to safety by winning their penultimate game of the season.

Everton boss Lampard diced with relegation from the Premier League last season

Lampard has certainly strengthened Everton’s back line this season but the desired results haven’t necessarily flowed from that. The Toffees have won just two of their opening 10 matches and wouldn’t want to slide any further but fans have been pleased to see an increased solidity to their side after last season’s chaos.

Prior to his time at Chelsea, Lampard cut his managerial teeth at Derby, whom he took to a Championship play-off final, before returning ‘home’ to Stamford Bridge.

The posting probably came too early in his career and after a respectable 4th place finish and FA Cup final appearance in his first season, he was sacked the following January with the Blues a lowly ninth in the table.

PAUL SCHOLES

Paul Scholes quickly discovered management wasn’t his cup of tea at Oldham

Continuing the theme of outstanding English midfielders, Scholes ranked among the most driven and n0-nonsense, as well as the most naturally gifted and unassuming.

His Manchester United career spanned almost two decades and he won 25 trophies during what was a golden age under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Post-retirement, Scholes established himself as a television pundit who isn’t afraid to voice a critical opinion – but he has also dabbled in management.

He was appointed manager of League Two Oldham Athletic, a club close to his heart, in February 2019 but never convinced anybody that he wanted to be there.

It was little surprise that after just one win in seven games in charge, Scholes stepped down, frustrated at the hands-on approach owner Abdallah Lemsagam wanted to take in team affairs. He’s been in the job just 31 days.

‘Unfortunately it became clear that I would not be able to operate as intended and was led to believe prior to taking on the role,’ his resignation statement said.

He briefly stepped back into the breach as caretaker manager of Salford City, the club he part-owns with the Class of ’92, but it’s clear Scholes is more at ease in the pundit’s chair.

Scholes looks far more comfortable working as a television pundit than in the dug-out

MIKEL ARTETA

The Spaniard was one of the most cultured playmakers the Premier League has seen but also excelled in a more defensive midfield role when it was asked of him.

Mikel Arteta has Arsenal back on track and potentially challenging for the title 

Arteta played for Everton and then Arsenal during his playing time in England, helping the Gunners to a couple of FA Cup wins and, it would seem, soaking up the management techniques of the great Arsene Wenger.

Always a decent bet to make the transition, Arteta wasn’t short of attractive coaching opportunities when he retired, with Wenger wanting to keep him at Arsenal’s academy and Mauricio Pochettino keen to poach him for Tottenham.

But Arteta decided to link up with his old friend from Barcelona, Pep Guardiola, at Manchester City where he learned the intricacies of the tiki-taka style of football.

A first crack at a top job came along when Arsenal dispensed with Unai Emery in December 2019 and the Gunners are now seeing the fruits of their decision to appoint Arteta.

Following two eighth place finishes and a disappointing late-season collapse to surrender a Champions League place last season, Arsenal finally look like they mean business again.

It’s a good example of a coach being given time to impart his philosophy when so many elite clubs are so trigger-happy.

Arteta would certainly have learned plenty from Arsene Wenger when an Arsenal player

ROY KEANE

A one-off character who set the standards in Manchester United’s great teams of the 1990s and 2000s. Never one to pull a punch or hold back an opinion, Keane was the on-field leader Fergie needed.

He made the move into coaching after retiring in 2006 and guided Sunderland from second bottom of the Championship back into the Premier League, keeping them up in their first season.

Inevitably, Keane’s abrasive style of doing things rubbed plenty of players up the wrong way and there were reports of parties thrown when he stood down in December 2008.

Roy Keane was often a brooding presence in the dug-out when at Sunderland and Ipswich

His time as Ipswich Town manager wasn’t very successful and Keane became No 2 to Martin O’Neill with the Republic of Ireland.

Subsequently, Keane became a popular pundit on ITV and Sky Sports, meaning the lure of management receded despite brief stints as an assistant at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.

Earlier this year, he was linked with a return to Sunderland, who were battling to win promotion out of League One. In the end, he failed to agree terms and Alex Neil led them to promotion instead.

Like his old midfield colleague Scholes, you suspect Keane is more than happy in the TV studio for the time being.

After their legendary duels on the pitch, both Keane and Vieira decided to try management 

PATRICK VIEIRA

Keane’s old nemesis from the old United vs Arsenal clashes has found the dug-out much more to his liking.

Another natural leader and born winner, Vieira was instrumental in Arsenal’s spell of success under Wenger in the late 1990s and early noughties in which they won three league titles and had their famous Invincibles side.

Having ended his playing days at Man City, he was given a youth development role to gain coaching experience before landing a first role at their partner club New York City FC, where he gradually improved their position in MLS.

Vieira is doing good things at Crystal Palace who are aiming for a top-half finish this season

A spell in France with Nice was less successful but Vieira got a crack at the Premier League with Crystal Palace at the start of last season.

It’s clear that Vieira has taken Palace forward and made them a more exciting proposition to watch, taking a more proactive approach to their games as opposed to defending and hitting on the break.

Palace were comfortably mid-table last season and will hope to improve on that this time around.

XABI ALONSO

The Spaniard had a superb passing range and was pleasure to watch during his time at Liverpool, whom he helped to two Champions League finals.

Alonso was the kind of professional who would be earmarked as a potential future manager and so it has turned out.

Perhaps sensibly, the 40-year-old has only just taken on his first big job having been appointed by Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen a couple of weeks ago.

Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso has just take the job at Bayer Leverkusen in Germany

Alonso wanted to ensure he was fully prepared for the rigours of management and so coached Real Madrid’s under-14 team after completing his UEFA badges.

He then enjoyed a successful stint as coach of Real Sociedad’s B team, leading them into the Spanish second division for the first time since 1962.

They suffered immediate relegation but it certainly alerted plenty of clubs around Europe to Alonso’s potential as a coach – and Leverkusen could be the lucky recipients.

PAUL INCE

One of the great midfielders of the Premier League’s early years, Ince was an uncompromising and tenacious type who achieved big things with Man United before later playing for their rivals Liverpool.

Again, he possessed so many of the leadership characteristics that translate into management and he was more than willing to climb his way up the ladder from the lower league rungs.

He started as a player-manager at Macclesfield Town in 2006 before going on to coach MK Dons, taking them up into League One as champions.

That attracted the attention of Blackburn but the step up to Premier League standard maybe came too soon and Ince was gone after six months.

Paul Ince was happy to coach in the lower leagues and is now in charge of second-tier Reading

He reset things at MK Dons and Notts County, then went to Blackpool, all without too much joy.

That seemed to have deterred Ince from the coaching game but he’s thrown himself back into it with Reading, keeping them in the Championship last season to get the gig permanently.

The Royals have already shown enough improvement this season to suggest they won’t be struggling down the wrong end of the table this time.

SCOTT PARKER

A tough-tackling midfielder who played in the top-flight for Charlton, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham during an extensive career.

Parker would surely have won more England caps if he wasn’t around at the same time as Lampard and Gerrard, though there was a time around Euro 2012 when he was a first choice.

With a network of old clubs to fall back on, Parker initially coached Tottenham’s under-18 squad before working as a first-team coach at Fulham under Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri.

Parker showed enough acumen to step in as caretaker when Ranieri was sacked and though he couldn’t keep them in the Premier League, he did enough to get the job full-time, imprinting his own possession-focused style on the team.

Scott Parker took Bournemouth into the Premier League but the honeymoon didn’t last long

Fulham won promotion back during the Covid-affected 2019-20 season, beating Brentford in the Championship play-off final but Parker wasn’t the man to break the club’s cycle of ups and downs.

Moving on to Bournemouth, he achieved another promotion from the Championship, this time automatically in second place behind his former employers.

But Parker’s latest crack at the big time ended prematurely. Annoyed at Bournemouth’s lack of summer spending, a 9-0 thrashing at Liverpool proving the final act.

While Parker enjoys some downtime from the madness of management, he certainly won’t be short of job offers from home and abroad.

ROBERTO DI MATTEO

The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Di Matteo – arguably the best caretaker manager in football history.

The accomplished Italian ended his playing days in England with a Chelsea side who were an outstanding cup side at the time and a growing force in the league.

Blessed with a fine long-range shot, he scored from 30 yards in the opening minute of the 1997 FA Cup final, as Chelsea beat Middlesbrough.

Further cup success would follow – another FA Cup win in 2000, the League Cup in 1998 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup that same year.

Roberto Di Matteo was Chelsea’s caretaker manager when he led them to European glory

Moving into coaching, Di Matteo replaced Ince at MK Dons in 2008 before guiding West Brom to automatic promotion back into the Premier League in 2010.

He returned to Stamford Bridge as assistant to Andre Villas-Boas in 2011 and when the Portuguese was sacked after a few months, was handed the caretaker gig.

Against all odds, Di Matteo guided Chelsea to the Champions League glory that had eluded several elite managers during Roman Abramovich’s ownership, beating Bayern Munich in their own backyard.

Abramovich could hardly refuse him the job after that but Di Matteo lasted only until November of the following season and was fired amid poor results.

He went on to manage at Schalke and Aston Villa but has steered clear since 2016.




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