In a widely reported recent interview, Arsenal’s CEO Ivan Gazidis said of Arsène Wengrer,
“He has always put the long-term health of the club first. He wants to hand over a football club, whenever that it is, that is in great shape. He views that as a massively important part of his legacy. But we are just not in that mode. I know Arsène wouldn’t stay on if he thought the club wasn’t heading in a good direction and thought he wouldn’t be able to deliver what the fans want.”
So just what does happen when a manager who has had success leaves a club?
We know that managers turn over at a very high rate indeed – 56 managers across the top four divisions left in 2015/16, 11 of those within the Premier League. So over half the PL managers had left their club by mid-May. More than the year before (when it was just five) but fewer than 2013/14 when it was 12.
The average length of stay in a Premier League club is 2.02 years – higher than 2013-14 when it was 1.22 years but lower than 2012-13 when it was 2.81 years. (The overall average across the four leagues is 1.31 years).
The average tenure of all the managers who were in place by mid-May this year in the Premier League was 1.91 years. So as we can immediately see, during the Premier League era, Man U and Arsenal have been the great exceptions – holding on to their managers.
But I wanted to know a little more, so I tried looking at Champions in the PL and when their managers left. Then I looked at what happened the next season, and the season after. Where a manager has left mid-season I’ve tried to decide (somewhat arbitrarily) whether to include the season he left or the next one as the season to be measured in Next. However it actually doesn’t make too much difference to the overall picture.
Obviously Man U were champions multiple times without their manager leaving, so I’ve left them until 2013 when Sir Alex Ferguson did leave.
|Year||Champions||Manager Left||Next year||Year after|
So in 2007 when Mourinho left Chelsea held on to their top two status, but other teams (and Chelsea after 2011 and 2015) have found it impossible to stay at the top. The best a new manager has achieved after replacing a previous league winner is fourth for Man U and in the following year (this season just gone) that slipped to fifth.
Of course that is a very small sample, so I did the same exercise with second place clubs who lost their manager subsequently.
Here the collapse was more spectacular with none of the new managers winning the league or coming second, only Benitez getting a third with Liverpool.
|Year||Runners-up||Manager Left||Next year||Year after|
Mr Gazidis went on, in the interview, to say that (in the words of the Telegraph) “one of the lessons throughout football last season was the gains that could be made not in the “messiah complex” of a manager or star player but the structures inside a club.”
Now I found that very interesting since Untold has been arguing all season that buying players and changing managers is not the way to win titles. Our analysis on players, you may recall, showed that only 25% of players brought in for a big fee, became top players at their new club in the first year. 25% at the other end, never recovered their earlier form. The rest did deliver, but only by their second or third year.
Mr Gazidis is quoted further as saying, “What is clear is that the big spending was not the solution to all problems. It was clever spending and a lot of ‘difference makers’ underneath the surface.”
The newspaper adds that those ‘difference makers’ include fitness and medical departments, psychology, analytics and youth development.
Speaking of injuries Mr Gazidis said that the soft tissue problems were actually at “historically low levels” and that more freakish impacts were the bigger issue. “But we still have to ask ourselves difficult questions: Did we have the right squad depth for certain difficult functions? We have a good idea of where we feel we fell short and where we feel we did well.
“Because we have a highly-visible manager who represents so much continuity, there is a misplaced belief that things don’t change. There has been tremendous change within, fully embraced and led by Arsène.”
I don’t have detailed analyses of all Arsenal’s injuries for the season, but the injury league table from InjuryLeague.com showed these figures based on the simple notion of one player out for one week is one point on the chart.
|Pos||Club||No of injury points||Final League pos|
|11||West Ham Utd||185||7|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||127||14|
There is little evidence of a link between injuries and league position although Leicester’s success might well be down to injury luck, and Newcastle’s relegation to a lack of luck. Three of the top seven teams in terms of injuries were in the top five in league positions. The three relegated clubs were 1st, 8th and 18th in the injury league table. It’s hard to find a link.
Mr Gazidis also said that Stan Kroenke encouraged squad investment and noted the arrival of Özil, Sánchez, Petr Cech and now Xhaka in successive summers. “We have very high aspirations and care deeply,” he said. “But we don’t have an owner who storms the corridors on a Monday, who calls the manager and says, ‘Why aren’t you starting this player?’ and enjoys high-fiving 26-year-old athletes. To me, that’s good.”
“Our renewal rate on season tickets is higher historically this year than ever. I don’t use that to say all fans are happy, but most people are not engaging daily on social media and their opinions are much more nuanced than it might seem.
“What’s quite difficult is that once people have created a story in their own mind, their own confirmation biases will kick in. It’s true of all of us. My confirmation bias is we are a club making progress. Our ambition is to win the Premier League but we have had our best finish in years and two FA Cups in three seasons.”
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