Premier League manager of the season: not one vote for Arteta




By Tony Attwood and a calculator

Newspapers and magazines are now coming out with their “manager of the season” commentaries following the launch of the Premier League’s own voting system for such a person.  Jürgen Klopp won it last year.

Interestingly, there have been more managerial changes this season in the Premier League than ever before.  And indeed so crazy has this process been that some clubs have appointed and sacked two permanent managers in the course of one season!  So presumably the manager of the year is going to be one of the four or five survivors.

Now this is getting so bonkers that I may well have lost the plot somewhere along the line, (although of course many readers would argue this happened long ago) but I am going to see if I can create a chart showing not just who changed managers but what their resultant league position is.  And I want to add in how much was spent on transfers this season.  All in one.  Just to see if there are any links.

And I do this remembering that we have already shown that there really is no direct link between spending lots of money and quickly going up the league, and I suspect little link between achieving anything and changing managers all the time.

Those who really thought the idea of managerial change was so great that they would seriously do it twice in a season were, as far as I can work out, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Leicester City and Chelsea.

And of course this wasn’t always the club’s fault.  Brighton and Hove for example would have loved to have held on to their manager, but he was tempted to go to Chelsea (and yes I know that seems utterly stupid, but that is what happened) and so they were forced to bring in a new man.  And just look at the result.

So I thought it might be worth looking at a league table which included the number of managers each club had in a season.  And where a club has sacked a manager and I’m not sure if there is a new person in place, I’ve still counted that as an extra manager.  And I have added the net spend for this season on transfers.  Figures for that come from Squawka

And the most obvious point is that five of the six clubs that knocked up three managers are in the bottom half of the table.  The top five clubs each had only one manager.

In terms of spending, three of the top five spenders are in lower mid-table positions.


Now of course it could be argued that the teams at the bottom of the league are likely to be on their third manager by now because they are near the bottom of the league.  And of course cause and effect are not proven here – but what this table also hints at is that sacking the manager quite often doesn’t always work.  No more than letting your incoming manager spend a fortune and then sacking him.

For as far as I can see (and reports do seem to have got a bit confusing this season) all three clubs likely to go down are currently on their third manager – which does suggest that this process possibly doesn’t work very well in terms of aiding survival.

And this is particularly interesting given that in the early days of Arteta there were calls for him to be sacked as Arsenal headed for an eighth place finish in successive seasons, including having one season without any European football.

What seems to work best, is bringing in a manager who has a clear plan which goes beyond spending lots of dosh.  What works worst is bringing in a manager, spending lots of money, sacking the manager, and bringing in a new manager, and then sacking him and…  well you get the idea.

But I do think there is something else here.   If you are a regular reader you will already be bored out of your mind by my references to our two in-depth case studies on Arsenal and Leicester.   Put briefly, at Arsenal, Arteta having found a club that was top of the yellow card league decided to copy the Manchester City style, cutting down tackles, so cutting down fouls, so cutting down yellow cards.

Leicester went the opposite way and looked to exploit an oddity in the referee statistics that showed the more a club tackled the lower the percentage of those tackles that would earn yellow cards.  When that started getting publicity, they changed to a second tactic of the induced penalty, and for a while they were heading for an all-time record number of penalties in one season, before that approach started to get publicity.

The trouble with the Leciester-style tactics is they were all based on conning the refs, and ultimately were bound to fail, as they have this season.  The Manchester City and Arsenal tactics work through legitimate means – but again by studying the referee data.

And what have we learned?

  1.  Spending can help but is not guaranteed
  2. Changing managers doesn’t seem to do much to help
  3. Changing managers twice seems particularly silly
  4. Tactical changes really can work, but if they are based exploiting a flaw in refereeing they get found out in the end.



2 Replies to “Premier League manager of the season: not one vote for Arteta”

  1. An illustration of your points is West Ham United. A complete cock up and they don’t even have to pay for the stadium. Add that cost on and they might be in the Championship sooner rather than later.

  2. Talking about net spending must include discussion of wages and be over a period of at least 3-5 years. Man City is being disengenious by half when they crow about a low net spend…the spending happened in previous years and players are willing to go there because of the amazing wages they’ll get.

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