The international break has provided a breather for Premier League managers, albeit while they had everything crossed that their star players return to their clubs unscathed.
Some were flying high before the hiatus, but others desperately needed to push the reset button and rethink their strategy.
We’re only four games into the top flight season but the Premier League title seems to be up for grabs after some shock results so far. Further down the table, there will be a desire to regroup. The likes of Fulham and Sheffield United have suffered terrible starts to the campaign but will be hoping to hit the ground running on their returns.
Sportsmail takes a look into Premier League managers’ thinking as we return for another chapter of this unpredictable season.
Premier League managers have plenty on their agenda as club football returns this week
Mikel Arteta – Arsenal
The Spaniard can have few complaints with how things have gone so far after three wins in four, and he’ll certainly be returning to training with a spring in his step after the club landed midfielder Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid on deadline day.
The Gunners had been after the Ghanaian star for the entire summer and Arteta finally got his man for £45million – a huge boost to a team that is already sparkling under his leadership.
With the highly-rated ball-winning midfielder in his ranks, Arsenal have a huge chance of continuing their rise up the table. Partey could be thrust straight into the action, but Arteta knows the Gunners have a stern task as they travel to Manchester City against his mentor Pep Guardiola on Saturday night. With City suffering an indifferent start to the season, Arteta will be quietly confident of getting a result.
Mikel Arteta will be pleased with Arsenal’s start to the season and has Thomas Partey to call on
Dean Smith – Aston Villa
Smith might still be floating around in the clouds after his players headed into the international break in the best possible fashion, demolishing champions Liverpool 7-2 at Villa Park.
Villa’s stock is exceptionally high at the moment after some smart transfer business saw them land names like Ollie Watkins, Ross Barkley and Emiliano Martinez, while the current hype around Jack Grealish – who was man of the match for England against Wales – can only be a positive for the club.
The Midlands outfit have only played three games so far but have won every single one of them. A big game against Leicester is coming up next – with Brendan Rodgers’ side level on points with them – a win would make quite the statement.
Smith will be keen to keep his troops grounded, however, and should remind his stars that securing their top-flight status has to be the priority.
Dean Smith must try to keep his Villa stars grounded after thumping Liverpool 7-2 last time out
Graham Potter – Brighton
Potter might be alarmed when he looks at the Premier League table and sees the Seagulls in a lowly 15th after just one win this season, but you have to sympathise with the club and concede they’ve had a tough start.
Starting against a Chelsea side that spent £240m this summer, beating Newcastle away before somehow losing at home to United after the final whistle had been blown (due to a VAR intervention) and hitting the post FIVE times, and then coming up against the league’s in-form side Everton.
He’s got two winnable games against Crystal Palace and West Brom coming up – offering a chance for his squad to show their real quality. For now Potter will be taking a cautious approach but certainly won’t be overhauling his squad.
Sean Dyche – Burnley
Every year Burnley are widely tipped to go down and every year their man in the dugout pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Despite spending hardly any cash at Turf Moor – which has been the same against this term – Dyche still manages to operate outside his means.
This year, however, his streak is in danger of coming to an end. The claret-and-blue join Sheffield United and Fulham in the ‘no wins’ club and are in the relegation zone as things stand. With Dale Stephens his only major arrival, his side may not have the resources to pull off another miracle.
With three goals scored and eight let in, Dyche will have been working hard on how his team will respond. He’ll be aware that the team’s best form may be yet to arrive as they prepare to travel to West Brom on Monday night. Lose there and the former Watford boss would start to lose a fair amount of sleep.
Sean Dyche is in danger of losing his magic touch with Burnley failing to pick up a win thus far
Frank Lampard – Chelsea
The 42-year-old Blues boss will be cursing his luck after his new goalkeeper Eduoard Mendy picked up a thigh injury while with Senegal – meaning its back to the drawing board and a forced pick between Willy Caballero and Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The £22m recruit from Rennes looked to have eased Lampard’s worries in between the sticks after some calamity displays from Kepa, while Caballero hardly inspires confidence either.
But with Mendy possibly out for around two weeks, he’ll have to decide which is the lesser of two evils as he faces the prospect of more chaos at the back. Mendy restored confidence to the back four in 4-0 win against Crystal Palace with a clean sheet, so his absence will be a huge worry to Lampard. Ben Chilwell’s own injury niggles have also made an unwelcome reappearance.
Southampton will smell blood when they arrive at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with Danny Ings a massive threat for the Saints. Many tipped Chelsea to be battling for the title after splashing out over £200m on seven signings but it’s been an up and down season so far.
Lampard’s main concern will be ensuring new arrivals like Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva and Timo Werner – who is yet to score in the league – continue to gel after a slow start to their Chelsea careers.
Frank Lampard could be forced to turn to Willy Caballero after losing Eduoard Mendy to injury
Roy Hodgson – Crystal Palace
After masterminding a 3-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on the opening day, Hodgson has been brought swiftly down to earth by back-to-back defeats against Everton and Chelsea.
But with some tough games to start the season, the veteran boss will remain optimistic after watching the potential of his side at Old Trafford. It was a 4-0 thrashing by the Blues last time out but the Eagles have a chance of recovery against Brighton, Fulham and Wolves next up.
Carlo Ancelotti – Everton
The Italian must feel as electric as his side’s form after watching Everton rise to the summit of the Premier League – even though he is sure to play it as cool as ever on the outside.
Four games, four wins and top performances from just about every member of his new side make for a very happy manager. Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s name is on everyone’s lips after bagging six goals in the league and scoring on his England debut against Wales. New signings James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan look to be thriving in Ancelotti’s recharged squad too.
Things have gone perfectly at Everton for Carlo Ancelotti but he’ll be wary of sterner tests
The three-time Champions League winner has been around the block a few times, however, and will be wary that while Everton have played some superb football, they are yet to be properly tested. That will come next against old rivals Liverpool.
Everton have a miserable record in the Merseyside derby but couldn’t have picked a better time to face Jurgen Klopp’s Reds after their 7-2 humbling against Villa, but the Premier League champions are a wounded animal, so it’s a perfect test to see whether Everton are the real deal.
Scott Parker – Fulham
Some bookmakers are already paying out on the Whites being relegated to the Championship and after four straight defeats and just three goals scored, it’s easy to see why. Parker won’t have spent his time away from his players relaxing – he’ll be determined to stop the rot and get performances out of the team.
His job is to settle the team after a season of crisis so far and rediscover the form from their promotion season in 2019-20 – starting with a trip to fellow strugglers Sheffield United.
Some optimism came before the international break as Ademola Lookman arrived on loan from Bundesliga side Leipzig to bolster the squad. Parker will hope he can provide the firepower his side needs to wrest them away from the foot of the table.
Scott Parker will have worked hard over the international break to rethink how Fulham set up
Marcelo Bielsa – Leeds United
El Loco will be pleased with how his side started the season having gone into the break with a morale-boosting 1-1 draw at Man City, when his side easily could have left with three points.
Striker Patrick Bamford has scored three already to boost the team, while the quality that has been added to the team was evident after two Leeds stars – Diego Llorente and Rodrigo – started for Spain last week.
Other signings like Robin Koch have slotted nicely into the line-up, and the Argentine’s aggressive tactics show his side are not willing to settle for a survival fight. The experienced manager will be hopeful of finishing in the top half but won’t be brushing off the threat of relegation altogether.
Brendan Rodgers – Leicester City
Talk about blowing hot and cold. Rodgers will be fuming after his squad’s fantastic early season form was cut short by West Ham, who ran away 3-0 victors at the King Power last time out in a shock result.
The Foxes had cruised to three successive wins beforehand – including a stunning 5-2 romp at Manchester City that earmarked his side as potential shock title contenders.
Brendan Rodgers and Leicester were brought back to earth after a shock 3-0 loss v West Ham
Now he’ll be hoping that loss to the Hammers was simply a blip, with a big test coming up at home to Dean Smith’s Aston Villa, who have enjoyed a perfect start to their season.
Jamie Vardy and James Maddison have been two standouts so far for Leicester, while new signing Timothy Castagne has slotted in seamlessly. Rodgers will be eager to get his players back in to steady the ship and let them know that one result doesn’t define their season.
Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
Just when we all thought Liverpool were cruising to another Premier League title, along came Aston Villa to crush our expectations and make the league crown anyone’s for the taking.
That crushing 7-2 defeat by the Villans was the worst possible way for Klopp’s men to head off into the international break and the German boss will have to work out just how his side put in such an abject display.
It might be impossible for him to get his side back to their scintillating form from last year in this strange new era, but the cracks have been beginning to show from the start of the campaign after conceding three to newly-promoted Leeds.
Liverpool’s 7-2 loss to Villa will have alarmed Jurgen Klopp ahead of the Merseyside derby
He’ll be concerned after some below-par recent displays from the previously reliable Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, but on the bright side he’ll be able to call upon the quality presence of Thiago after the £20m man recovered from COVID-19.
Klopp’s famously upbeat personality is rarely tamed too, and the international break will have given him time to recharge and fire up for a huge return game. New £45m signing Diogo Jota’s brilliant form for Portugal will also have greatly encouraged Klopp, whose magnificent front line is getting even stronger.
The Reds face inspired neighbours Everton in the Merseyside Derby on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
Just like Liverpool, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have worries of their own with just four points from three games and signs that they aren’t quite themselves at present.
Losing their first game at the Etihad 5-2 against Leicester was a real concern for the legendary Spanish boss, and he knows his side must be much improved when they welcome in-form Arsenal.
Despite splashing out hundreds of millions on defenders during his time at City, defence remains a problem area and something Pep would have been working on while his players jetted off to play for their countries.
Pep Guardiola will hope for better defensive displays from Man City when they return to action
Ruben Dias has come in from Benfica for a club-record £65m to add to his options alongside £40m Nathan Ake, but Guardiola won’t be able to fix their woes at the back by simply throwing money around.
He’ll also be anxious to resolve the future of Kevin De Bruyne, who says he is yet to be offered a new deal at the club. The Belgian is in sensational form and must be kept on at City.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United
Where to start? The Norwegian will be asking himself that same question after his side were humiliated 6-1 at home by Tottenham last time out. With the dust now settling on that result, he’ll be hoping to come up with a strategy to lift the spirits and pull the team away from a cloud of negativity.
The upside to the crisis at Old Trafford is that he’ll have fresh blood when his side return against Newcastle, with Edinson Cavani and Alex Telles arriving on deadline day – even if they weren’t the players Solskjaer was after.
He’ll be frustrated with the club’s hierarchy after the failure to bring in stars like Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish, but he has enough quality to work with for the time being to arrest their current slump.
The international break may have given him a chance to go over his line-up with several stars underperforming. Is this the chance for Donny van de Beek to prove his worth after his £40m move from Ajax?
And then there’s arguably his biggest headache: what to do with Harry Maguire. His captain’s form has been poor as one part of United’s dismal defence, but it descended into the shambolic while away with England. Time to take Maguire out of the firing line, surely?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must quickly improve the mood at Man United after a disastrous start
Steve Bruce – Newcastle
There’s been plenty of uncertainty around the club’s ownership throughout the season but Bruce has managed to crack on with managing the team and he’ll be delighted to see his side level on points with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham.
The Magpies have so far defied expectations for them to be relegation battlers with two wins and a draw at Spurs, while new forward Callum Wilson has given the side a new lease of life. They welcome out-of-sorts Manchester United next, with some tough games also coming against Everton and Chelsea. Bruce will hope his side can keep picking up results while flying under the radar.
Chris Wilder – Sheffield United
The Blades impressed us so much last year and made a bid for European football but look blunt so far this season. Four losses in a row has forced manager Wilder into the transfer window, bringing in Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster for £23.5m.
Having scored just one goal this term there will be no eyebrows raised that he’s decided to take action, with Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick not pulling up any trees as of yet. Of course, the move is a huge risk with Brewster not yet proving he can be a hit in the top flight. Other than keeper Aaron Ramsdale, there haven’t been too many other arrivals at Bramall Lane and Wilder may be forced to utilise his squad and rotate to find a winning formula.
Chris Wilder’s Blades aren’t the menacing force they were last season after a tough start
Ralph Hasenhuttl – Southampton
This time last year the Austrian boss’s head was on the chopping block after a horrendous start to the season, and he somehow survived despite a 9-0 thrashing by Leicester.
Since then he’s transformed their form and kept the Saints in the league, and has now overseen a stable start to the season. He should feel confident after back-to-back wins against West Brom and Burnley, but Hasenhuttl will be aware the toughest days are yet to come as they prepare to play Chelsea, Everton and in-form Aston Villa.
Jose Mourinho – Tottenham
The Special One rarely puts on a smile these days, but he’ll have spent most of the last two weeks grinning from ear to ear – in private at least – after destroying his former employers 6-1 on their own patch.
That game saw Harry Kane score twice and continue his brilliant start to the season, and Mourinho pleaded with England boss Gareth Southgate to rest his star forward Harry Kane for the games against Wales, Belgium and Denmark.
Jose Mourinho has been left sweating over Harry Kane after an injury scare on England duty
His feelings would only have intensified after hearing that his talisman had pulled up with a muscle problem in England training, and Southgate risked the wrath of Mourinho by playing Kane for the entire match against the Danes.
He was involved in a fair bit of rough and tumble at Wembley, and if he returns to Spurs unfit or injured then it would be a big blow for the Portuguese boss, who is looking to keep the momentum going after Spurs hit 13 goals in the last two games alone.
Kane has played a key role so far – scoring three goals and laying on six assists. But what will help Mourinho feel bullish – yes, even more so than usual – is that he finally has an understudy after the club brought in forward Carlos Vinicius on loan from Benfica.
And that passive-aggressive public argument with Southgate showed Mourinho very much has his mojo back – and is always spoiling for a fight.
David Moyes – West Ham
The former Manchester United boss has recovered from coronavirus after being forced away from West Ham’s last two games, but he might be tempted to continue staying at home after the team secured back-to-back wins without him.
His assistant Alan Irvine claimed Moyes was ‘dancing around his apartment’ after their recent 3-0 win away at Leicester, but he’ll be keen to ensure his players keep up their attention levels after returning to the fold.
Moyes will have a tough job of prolonging their run, however, with the Hammers facing three daunting fixtures – away at Spurs, at home to Man City and then a trip to Liverpool.
David Moyes was ‘dancing around his apartment’ as West Ham beat Leicester in his absence
Slaven Bilic – West Brom
Bilic has had a rude awakening back in the top flight, with the Baggies finding things tough after winning just one point in four games. The Croatian has seen glimpses of ability from his unfancied players, particularly from the likes of Mathias Pereira and Grady Diangana, but his side still look like a work in progress.
He knows his side are in for a relegation scrap this season but will look to rediscover the team that scored 77 goals en route to promotion. Bilic has Premier League experience behind him, which should be crucial in a dogfight.
When he looks at the fixture list and sees upcoming games against Burnley, Brighton and Fulham – that should provide a morale boost.
Slaven Bilic will have to find West Brom’s promotion form as they struggle back in the top flight
Nuno Espirito Santo – Wolves
Last season Wolves were a shining example to clubs after a swashbuckling year that saw them establish themselves as a staple in the Premier League while also narrowly missing out on a place in the Europa League.
This term, however, has served as a reality check for Santo and his players. Starting the season with a win at Sheffield United and recently beating basement boys Fulham, Wolves have, however, faltered in between and were well beaten by West Ham in a surprise 4-0 loss.
Wolves had a late finish to last term as they took part in the Europa League finals, which could have impacted fitness levels. This season the club have added more proven European pedigree to their ranks, including Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo and Lyon star Marcal, which will be a big help to Santo moving forward.