Spanish Managers Continue To Thrive In England’s Premier League

Last season in the English Premier League, Manchester City landed the title as they fought back to successfully overturn a large points deficit to Arsenal.

It was another major league title for boss Pep Guardiola, who went on to lead the Citizens to a treble by also winning the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.

The league title for Guardiola, a three-time La Liga winner at Barcelona, came after winning a duel with another Spaniard, Mikel Arteta.

Arteta had spent time as part of Guardiola’s coaching staff at City before stepping into his role in North London with Arsenal.

Pundits, fans and Match Center experts studying Next Manager markets, can’t ignore the current trend of the English league tempting the best of Spain.

While not all have enjoyed such a strong impact as Guardiola and Arteta, in total, there were a list of Spanish head coaches deployed across the Premier League last season.

An Addition to the Spanish Presence

One massively surprising move shortly after the close of the 2022/23 Premier League season was Bournemouth’s sacking of manager Gary O’Neil.

After guiding the Cherries away from a relegation battle with games to spare, the south coast club wasted little time in giving the promising young English manager the boot.

They turned to Andoni Iraola, tempting him from La Liga side Rayo Vallecano.

Rayo Vallecano finished 11th in last season’s La Liga. Iraola got them back up to the top flight and established their place with a good mid-table finish. Seen as a modern thinker of pressing tactics, he adds to the Spanish ranks in England.

But why was a mid-table finish in La Liga, and an unproven track record from such a short managerial career, a big enough pull for Bournemouth to make the move for the Spaniard?

What Sparked It All?

Perhaps the Bournemouth managerial change is part of a knock-on effect of the preceding wave of Spanish influence in the English top flight.

Having seen the success of Guardiola and Arteta last season may have influenced Bournemouth’s decision to go after Iraola.

Maybe there was the hope they could snap up someone who could down the line, be as successful as those two.

The influence and success of Guardiola, one of the greatest managers of all time, could be a factor on the other side of the coin too.

There has to be an appeal for the managers who want to make the move abroad.

Potentially following in Guardiola’s football is probably an underlying factor of inspiration for fellow Spaniards following suit.

Guardiola though wasn’t the first, as other Spaniards paved the way for him in England.

Roberto Martinez for example led Wigan to what was an underdog success in winning the FA Cup, despite being relegated from the top flight.

Rafa Benitez also guided Liverpool to the 2005 UEFA Champions League title and Chelsea to a Europa League success.

Emery Raises the Bar Further

Unai Emery was a big story of success at Aston Villa in last season’s EPL. The former Sevilla and Valencia manager, who won the UEFA Europa League three times with Sevilla and once with Valencia, is another success story of a Spanish manager in England.

With Aston Villa struggling with only two wins in their first eleven matches, the club turned to Emery, who flipped the club’s fortunes on their head. He secured a 7th-place finish in the table and took Villa to European football for the first time since 2010/11.

That’s three huge success stories for Spanish managers in last season’s Premier League. What about the others? While Ruben Selles couldn’t do his part in Southampton avoiding relegation, former Spain manager Julen Lopetugi steered Wolves clear of relegation.

Javi Gracia was sent to rescue Leeds from relegation, but couldn’t, while Bruno Saltor took an interim spell at troubled Chelsea without any time to prove himself.

Not All Good News?

Moving forward, there will continue to be a heavy Spanish influence in the Premier League. While that’s something to celebrate, it’s perhaps not all good news.

Will the steady raiding of La Liga clubs for the best upcoming Spanish managers weaken the status of La Liga over time?

The Premier League is the richest division in the world, the most supported and the pinnacle of Europe’s Big 5 leagues already. The money factor, the lure of huge salaries isn’t likely to stop the flood.

Whilst the inspiration of Guardiola, Arteta and Emery persists it will only add to the current trend – that Spanish is the way to go.

It’s not great news for young English managers trying to break onto the scene. In early June 2023, shortly after the close of the domestic season, there were just three English head coaches in the Premier League.

Tags Andoni Iraola Mikel Arteta Pep Guardiola Rafael Benitez Unai Emery
La Liga - Club News