By Tony Attwood
More than half of coaches or managers in professional clubs in sixty top divisions around the world did not finish the season with the club they started with. Indeed in the clearly utterly bonkers Tunisian League all 16 of the clubs replaced their coaches / managers during the course of the season.
At the other extreme, the Swiss Super League showed only 30% of its clubs changed managers, but this list did include FC Sion who took managerial changes to another level by having as their manager, in order of succession, Tramezzani, Celestini, Constantin, Bettoni, Tramezzani. And that isn’t one of my mistakes: they sacked Tramezzani, went through three others, and then appointed Tramezzani according to the 20.min the website. Tramezzani’s average length of stay at a club is five months. In England the last count I saw was 13 clubs out of 20 changing managers at least once this season.
Yet of the top seven clubs in the league, only one changed its manager, and that was Brighton. And that change was hardly their fault – their manager was purloined away by multiple changers Chelsea – who finished the season in 12th.
So quite clearly changing managers doesn’t work – or at least doesn’t work much of the time. And yet clubs go on and on doing it over and over again.
I guess the explanation that they would give is that it is hard to know if a manager is going to work or not. My explanation is that the owners have to blame someone so he’s the obvious one.
But it is not just that a new manager is quite likely to fail to produce the rise to the top that clubs demand, it is worse than that because each new manager will demand in return that he is able to bring in his own players and that means not just spending a lot of money there and then, but also bringing in players that the next manager will not want.
And although there is no absolute rule about success that comes from spending money on players, one can say that a lot of the time it really doesn’t work.
What Arsenal clearly has, as I have tried to argue on a number of occasions, is a manager who has a clear plan as to how the game is to be played, and who can play in that way. Thus we have the news today in the Athletic that Nelson has been re-signed and that Mr Arteta has no plan to let Smith Rowe depart. Clearly, he has a vision and is seeing it through, and he is not being thrown off course by what anyone else might say.
Also, I suspect that when we hear comments about Arteta being lucky to have been given time, there was no luck in this at all, for I am utterly convinced that when he first talked with Arsenal he outlined his plan and has been delivering on that ever since.
In this regard professional football on a worldwide basis seems to have diverted from the path a few other countries take. In North America for example, there is nothing like the churn rate of managers that we see in Europe – although quite possibly that is because there is no relegation from the two “Conferences” that make up the overall league.
And as was recently pointed out to me, “Americans see major sports as a business, not as a casino, so they take the longer view (contrary to Wall Street where success or otherwise relates to the last couple of months).
So in America, football (soccer) is an investment for the longer term – and certainly, Arsenal have seen that with its American owners, of whom I must admit I was particularly uncertain at the start.
It has also been put to me that the Chelsea owners come from the hedge fund industry. This is to say that their money comes from several high-net-worth investors and large companies with the goal of maximizing returns and reducing risk. As I recently saw in one definition of this type of operation, hedge funds might often make two investments that respond in opposite ways so they might buy a club that offers stable management and another that offers chaotic management with the view that one of them will work and will wipe out the debts of the other.
Except that we know which one works: stable management. Of the top seven clubs from the season just finished (which is to say the clubs going into Europe next season), the majority have managers that have been at the club for two or more years.
||Brighton and Hove Albion