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Just how important are managers in the modern game? It's a question you hear whenever a team of multi-talented stars are performing within a side on a regular basis.
It looks easy and leads to fans and media pondering whether a manager has a role in that or whether it's as simple as picking your best XI and telling them to do what they do.
You hear it levelled at Pep Guardiola. The Catalan coach is fortunate to have managed at clubs with an abundance of world-class stars, meaning whatever he achieves there is often swept under the rug and downplayed.
Zinédine Zidane is another who is a victim of his squad. The French legend has won consecutive Champions League crowns, yet his managerial ability is still questioned on a regular basis.
Here at Football Whispers we've decided to look into just how important a manager is to a team. Using Football Manager 2018 we moved Guardiola to Manchester United, Jürgen Klopp to Manchester City and José Mourinho to Liverpool.
We simulated two full seasons to look at league finishes, how they did in cup competitions and how they performed in the transfer market. Of course, it's all theoretical but nonetheless makes for interesting reading.
Analysing the 2017-2018 season
No surprises in which clubs made up the top six, but the order in which they finished would certainly get people talking. United romped home to the Premier League title, with Mourinho managing to guide Liverpool to a runners-up spot.
But just two points separated the Reds, Arsenal, City and Chelsea in what can only be described as a scramble for a Champions League place. Spurs finished comfortably in sixth spot, eight points ahead of Bournemouth but five points shy of Chelsea.
Guardiola almost had a perfect debut season at Old Trafford. His Red Devils won the league and finished as runners-up in the Champions League after being beaten by Barcelona in the final.
He didn't go to town in the transfer market either. Kostas Manolas arrived in a deal worth £20million, while he supplemented his squad by bringing in former Liverpool centre-back Sebastián Coates as well as signing André-Pierre Gignac. The duo cost a combined £37million.
Mourinho managed Liverpool to their best league finish since the memorable 2013/14 season, but it was far from a stereotypical masterclass on the part of the Portuguese coach. The Reds lost eight matches in the Premier League and didn't make any waves in the cup competitions.
The big surprise, however, arrived when you looked at the stats for the season to realise Danny Ings was the club's second-top scorer. He was the back-up striker to Roberto Firmino, not Daniel Sturridge.
Mourinho played it safe in the transfer market and opted to spend the best part of £70million on three full-backs. He lived up to his conservative name by signing compatriot Cédric from Southampton before raiding La Liga for José Gayà and Mario.
A fourth placed finish had Klopp under real pressure. He was listed as ‘very insecure' in the jobs category after failing to add any silverware to the trophy cabinet at the Etihad, despite going on a spending spree in the market.
He spent £40million to reunite with Ivan Perišić, a one-time United transfer target in the real world, as well as spending £30million on Iñigo Martínez. They parted with £15million to secure the signing of defensive midfielder Lucas Romero while wonderkid Sander Berge, recently named in our top midfielders to buy on Football Manager 2018, arrived for £30million.
Analysing the 2018-2019 season
Arsenal pipped City to the title on goal difference in what was a season to remember. The Gunners bagged André Silva from AC Milan for £72million and it was his 22 league goals which turned out to be the difference maker.
United went from league champions to fourth position and Liverpool endured a similar drop, from second to fifth. Tottenham Hotspur once again finished in sixth position to miss out on Champions League football.
It's safe to say Klopp turned it around. Though he finished the season without a trophy, it was a much more dominant showing in all competitions from his side, but the runners-up curse someone cast on him is still active. A second-placed finish in the league was matched by finishing as runners-up in the Champions League . . . to Liverpool.
Somewhat of an unfamiliar feeling for Guardiola as he finishes the season without a trophy. His United side struggled in the league and put on a poor showing as they looked to retain the title. They dropped out of the Champions League in the round of 16, and a fourth-round FA Cup exit at the hands of Reading brought their participation in cup competitions to a premature end.
It's not as though he wasn't backed in the market, either – Daniel Rugani, Pizzi, Hirving Lozano and Danilo Pereira all moved to Old Trafford with Guardiola spending £100million on bolstering his title winning squad.
Mourinho etched his name into history. Liverpool fans adore managers who bring ol' big ears back to Anfield and the former Manchester United coach became the first manager ever to win the Champions League with three different clubs. A fifth-place finish, just four points short on fourth position, is a good achievement when you consider they went all the way in the Champions League.
For those wondering: it was Roberto Firmino, who scored 32 goals in all competitions, who notched the winner in a 1-0 win over Klopp's City side.
Mourinho again looked to reinforce his defence. Naby Keïta arrived in what was already a pre-agreed deal prior to The Portuguese taking charge. He signed Rúben Dias from Benfica for £32million and Clément Lenglet from Sevilla for £30million. He then spent a combined £24million on bringing ex-City players Scott Sinclair and John Guidetti to Merseyside.
Analysing the 2019-2020 season
It was third time lucky for Klopp as City won the Premier League title. Remarkably though they finished with one point fewer than they did during the 2018/19 campaign but it was enough with their rivals struggling to keep the pressure on at the top.
Spurs finished outside of the top four for a third consecutive season but did manage to improve on their back-to-back sixth place finishes. Liverpool finished in seventh position with Burnley the surprise team of the season in sixth.
Sean Dyche's team found the back on a regular basis with Chris Wood and new signing Hilal Soudani finishing as the two top scorers in the league with 19 and 20 goals respectively. Despite their forwards scoring a combined 39 goals the team finished with just a +7 goal difference which helps paint a picture of their season.
City's patience with Klopp in season one eventually paid off. Just one year on after missing out on the title on goal difference, the Stuttgart born manager delivered. Though they flopped in the FA Cup and crashed out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals to Atlético Madrid, it's safe to say the title win probably kept him in the job.
He was backed heavily yet again the market with Wallace arriving from Lazio for £55million, Emerson joining from Roma for £44million, Heung-Min Son switching White Hart Lane for the Etihad in a deal worth £30million and Saúl joining for a club record £89million.
A second successive trophyless season for Guardiola as the Red Devils improve on 2018/19's fourth place finish to end the season in third. His team amasses 10 more points and scores 14 more goals in the league but it's not enough to challenge their neighbours for the title.
It's disappointing given they spent big on upgrades. João Cancelo in a deal worth £26million, Matteo Muscacchio swapped Milan for Manchester with United paying £45million for his services, Alex Telles joined from Porto for £20million and Aaron Ramsey signed for the club on a free transfer.
Not finished there, however, Guardiola dipped into the market again in January to sign Emanuel Vignato for £22million and splashed the cash on Raphael Gurreiro with the left-back costing an eye-watering £67million.
Guardiola moved on to Atlético Madrid after the season come to an end.
Fresh off being crowned the champions of Europe for a sixth time in history, Liverpool went about building on these solid foundations by signing Simeone Zaza from Paris Saint-Germain in a £30million deal.
To the surprise of many, the West Ham flop finished as the club's top goal scorer with 25 goals. However, Liverpool's season was a disappointing one. They couldn't defend their crown in Europe, with German juggernauts Bayern Munich knocking them out in the round of 16. They finished seventh in the Premier League and lost to Preston North End in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Mourinho was dismissed at the end of the season.
All in all it's safe to say that a manager does have an impact on the team. Klopp, armed with the riches City have to offer, delivered a Premier League title and his teams finished as top scorers in every single season. They moved away from the 4-3-3 system Guardiola was using and went to more of a 4-2-3-1 shape.
Guardiola turned United into a dominate side but they failed to build on success in the first season. They averaged 62 per cent possession but too many draws prevented them from putting together a title challenge in the final two years.
Mourinho's three-year cycle continued. An impressive runners-up finish in his debut campaign at Anfield was followed up by a Champions League victory in his second. However, by the third year there were signs the club weren't building on their success. He spent the majority of the money at his disposal on defenders but the Reds continued to concede at an alarming rate.