Pellegrini will bring order, Moyes and Hughes familiarity, Mourinho a new system and Martínez a change of style
On the evidence of Manchester United's pre-season friendlies and their 2-0 Community Shield victory over Wigan last weekend, David Moyes is largely sticking to the Sir Alex Ferguson blueprint. That means defending with two banks of four, using a second forward to link midfield and Robin van Persie, and playing with plenty of width.
After United topped the Premier League last season, there's hardly a need to introduce an entirely new philosophy at the club – although even if Moyes desired such a revolution, the lack of new arrivals would have made that difficult. The continued pursuit of wildly contrasting midfielders – an attacking playmaker like Cesc Fábregas, a powerful, strong all-rounder like Marouane Fellaini and a calm deep-lying passer like Luka Modric – suggests quality is more important than style for Moyes, but the identity of United's new midfielder could define the character of his side.
While Roberto Mancini always had a Plan B, C and D at Manchester City – shifting Yaya Touré higher, using Edin Dzeko as a supersub, switching to a 3-5-2 midway through matches – his first-choice system often lacked cohesion. Manuel Pellegrini is the opposite – he won't have as many tactical variations, but his first XI will play with structure and purpose.
Throughout Pellegrini's career his favoured formation has frequently changed, but there are many common themes – he likes intelligent, integrated movement between attackers, and has always embraced talented playmakers. Although City will play possession football this season, Pellegrini also drills his players expertly in the defensive phase, and his sides often play cautiously away from home.
City's new recruits include an old-fashioned winger in Jesús Navas, his former Sevilla team-mate Alvaro Negredo, a target man, and the intelligent, versatile Stevan Jovetic – so Pellegrini has a fantastic array of different attacking weapons.
During his first spell at Chelsea José Mourinho achieved great success with a strict 4-3-3 system, but at Internazionale and Real Madrid he more commonly used a 4-2-3-1, which he now describes as his favourite formation. He has experimented with both shapes during Chelsea's pre-season tour, but with the plethora of attacking midfielders at his disposal, the latter appears more likely.
Mourinho retains a love of counterattacking football, which means that Eden Hazard and André Schürrle – both capable of running with the ball at speed – will be favoured, especially as they can play wide in either system. Oscar's tenacity and defensive commitment, both surprising for a predominantly attacking player, means Mourinho might use him in a variety of positions. Questions remain about Juan Mata's role – he wants to play as a No10, but Mourinho has stated his preference for a left-footer on the right wing, and Mata is the only player who fits into that category.
Roberto Martínez looks set to introduce a new style of football at Everton – whereas his predecessor David Moyes favoured a defensive-minded, structured approach, Martínez wants possession football and flexibility. Last season Everton played the highest percentage of their passes in the final third, but buildup play will become more patient.
Throughout pre-season, Martínez has used Johnny Heitinga as a holding midfielder, but asked him to drop into defence regularly, turning a back four into a back three, with Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines charging forward from full-back to provide overlapping runs.
Equally interesting will be Martínez's use of attackers. Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas will be pushed higher up into a wide front three – the Belgian, in particular, should thrive by using his pace in behind opposition defences. Of all the new managers, Martínez looks ready to make the most sweeping changes, and the transition could take time.
Tony Pulis was dismissed at the end of last season because of the increasing feeling that Stoke needed to play more positive, technical football – but Mark Hughes is hardly a manager renowned for his insistence upon adventurous, attacking play. The Potters committed the most fouls and collected the most bookings last season, and Hughes will demand his midfielders retain that tenacity.
Interestingly, however, Hughes's first two signings were both technically skilled defenders – Dutchman Erik Pieters and Barcelona's Marc Muniesa, suggesting he wants more sophisticated distribution from the back four. That means Stoke's attacking moves should flow into midfield smoothly, rather than bypassing that zone and hitting Peter Crouch immediately.
Otherwise, Stoke's style should be somewhat familiar – they'll spread the play wide before launching a stream of crosses into the penalty box. The talented American winger Brek Shea should receive more chances to impress, but without major new arrivals, this remains a squad suited to rather basic, traditional English football.
Michael Cox is the editor of tactics website zonalmarking.net