EPL Pressure Power Rankings: Van Gaal, Manchester United facing heat

Friday December 11th, 2015

After the end of the Champions League group stage this week, the Premier League is back this weekend, and the storylines are in overdrive.

Swansea City searches for a new coach after firing Garry Monk; Manchester United’s current boss, Louis van Gaal feels the heat after his side's Champions League ouster; and Jose Mourinho is breathing a bit easier after Chelsea, which still sits in 14th place in England, defeated his former side, Porto, en route to winning its Champions League group. A test against first-place Leicester City on Monday could put him and the Blues right back under the microscope, though.

Here are the latest Premier League Pressure Power Rankings as matches resume this weekend:

Pressure Power Rankings
Who is feeling the most heat in the Premier League?
  • 10
    10Diego Costa
    Chelsea forward
    We saw more of the old Costa against Porto on Wednesday. He was as belligerent as ever, causing a needless row with his Spain teammate (and Mourinho nemesis) Iker Casillas though was still a little rusty in front of goal; Chelsea’s own-goal opener only came after he had missed a one-on-one with Casillas.
    But if Mourinho wanted a reaction from the striker whom he dropped for the last two games, he got one. Costa’s movement was good, his hold-up play participated in Willian’s goal and all that was missing from his performance was a goal. He has only scored once in the last 11 games and Monday at league leader Leicester would be a fine time to start.

  • 9
    9Ryan Giggs
    Manchester United assistant manager
    A penny for Ryan’s thoughts, anyone? This United side under van Gaal is a far cry from any that Giggs played in over the last 20 years; you even wonder if Giggs would have a place in such a dogged tactical setup. And so while his former United teammates, among them Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand, give United or LVG a bashing in the media, Giggs maintains a stone-faced silence.
    It was reported Friday that Swansea might consider offering him its head coach job; would Giggs take the risk? It’s a similar situation to that of Gary Neville, his friend and business partner who just took over at Valencia (although coaching in Spain gives Neville some distance from the hyper-critical English media). Will Neville’s choice encourage Giggs to take the plunge? If the ultimate ambition is to coach United, will staying increase those chances? Can he bear to watch United playing like this for another 18 months?

  • 8
    8Wilfried Bony
    Manchester City forward
    It must be tough for Bony, who was outstanding (and never really replaced) at Swansea. His job is as cover for the increasingly injury-prone Sergio Aguero, and while Bony is a sharp operator around the box, his style is different to Aguero.
    His 11 months at the Eithad have not been smooth, but there were signs the confidence is returning with a goal and some smart combination play with Raheem Sterling. If Aguero’s injury-hit campaign is to continue, then Bony needs to start winning over the doubters.

  • 7
    7Jose Mourinho
    Chelsea manager
    One win over a strangely-rotated FC Porto does not a crisis end, but the Chelsea boss seemed more positive in midweek. The irony of Monday’s opponent Leicester has been lost on no one: its coach, Claudio Ranieri, named Friday as Premier League’s Coach of the Month for November, was the "dead man walking" who was axed to make way for Mourinho back in 2004.
    Ranieri took that with good grace, as he usually does, but Mourinho made some unnecessarily offensive comments against the Italian during their time in Serie A (Mourinho was at Inter, Ranieri at Roma). Ranieri may have the moral high ground but Mourinho will only care about winning in Monday’s key game.

  • 6
    6Joel Campbell
    Arsenal forward
    Four and a half years after joining Arsenal, the Costa Rican forward is finally making his mark. After loan spells at Lorient, Real Betis, Olympiakos and Villarreal, coach Arsene Wenger said he “smelt something with him” this season that convinced him.
    Injuries have played their part–specifically with Arsenal’s midfield pair missing, and Aaron Ramsey moving to the center–but Campbell has seized his opportunity. He scored last week in the win over Sunderland and was outstanding against Olympiakos in midweek. With Theo Walcott back from injury and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost there, can Campbell keep his place in the side?

  • 5
    5Wayne Rooney
    Manchester United forward
    The United skipper missed the last two matches with an ankle injury and United, even on his current form, missed him too. He may have scored only three league goals this season–rendering ridiculous the decision to offload Javier Hernandez (12 in his last 11 for Bayer Leverkusen) after jettisoning Falcao and Robin van Persie last summer–but Rooney would surely have improved on United’s one shot on target in last week’s goalless draw against West Ham.
    Van Gaal has made Rooney his leader on the pitch, but this season the faith has not been repaid. Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson wants to sign Rooney for a lucrative contract in Shanghai. That’s the least of Rooney’s issues ahead of a potential banana-skin fixture against Bournemouth Saturday.

  • 4
    4Jack Grealish
    Aston Villa
    Grealish, 20, is back in the Villa squad after two weeks spent training with the Under-21s after he was pictured in a Manchester nightclub following a 4-0 defeat by Everton.
    The talented midfielder is growing up in the public eye, and it’s not easy for him: he was a teenager when pictures emerged of him sprawled in the street during a night out on holiday in Tenerife emerged last summer. New coach Remi Garde appears to have made his point.
    “I am pleased with how Jack trained over the past two weeks,” said Garde. “Jack is back. I am happy for that–and for the team.” Now it will be up to Grealish to prove himself again. The one problem? Sunday’s visitor is in-form Arsenal, Garde’s former club.

  • 3
    3Huw Jenkins
    Swansea City chairman
    Few club bosses understand the importance of succession planning more than Jenkins, who has an undoubted eye for a talented coach. His most recent appointments–Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk–prove that.
    Jenkins and Swansea did not want to sack Monk, but after one win in 11 games, felt it had no option. The players had not turned against him (as they had under Laudrup) even if there were some moans against the backroom staff. But with the fear of relegation getting greater, Jenkins made the call.
    His next decision will be the most important: will he go back in for Gus Poyet, whom he wanted back in 2010, or make an audacious effort for a first-timer, like Dennis Bergkamp, currently a coach at Ajax, or Giggs? For Swansea, the stakes could not be higher.

  • 2
    2Christian Benteke
    The big-money Belgian has been the biggest casualty of the Jurgen Klopp era. Not because Klopp doesn't like him, nor that he has been playing particularly badly; but that Liverpool’s new style of play does not suit him. His game is not about pressing defenses, and when he starred at Aston Villa it was because the team was geared to playing for him.
    That’s not the case at Anfield and it’s a curious stat (and with a very small sample) that this season, Liverpool averages 1.1 goals per game with Benteke starting, 1.9 with him not playing and 3.2 when he comes on as a sub. With Daniel Sturridge injured again, this could be a chance for Benteke to stake his claim. Will he get it, and will he take it? Next up is West Brom on Sunday at Anfield, where Liverpool’s form has been patchy.

  • 1
    1Louis van Gaal
    Manchester United manager
    It’s hard to know where you start with van Gaal and his work over the last 18 months at Old Trafford. He would point to the league table and say that three points off the top is better than anything David Moyes managed. Others would suggest that with 13 new players and over £280 million spent, you’d expect more.
    At the moment there is no pace and little tactical coherence. Some of the decisions he has made have been bizarre: not least to take off Juan Mata, United’s most creative player, for Nick Powell, whose last appearance was 16 months earlier in a 4-0 Cup defeat to lower-league MK Dons, with the team chasing (and ultimately losing) a key European game. And has anyone seen Ashley Young lately?
    Failure to get out of a Champions League group that contains PSV Eindhoven–the club Memphis Depay left for a tilt at European trophies–Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow is shambolic, but perhaps more worrying are the noises from the United boardroom that suggest van Gaal may be offered a contract extension. Van Gaal claims United knew what they were getting with him.
    Blaming the season so far on bad luck and high expectations, as he did Friday, does not help. The fans have seen through the emperor’s new clothes.

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