Why don’t clubs look at evidence or act rationally as they seek to improve?



By Tony Attwood

What I have been trying to show is that there are ways of developing a football team that work, and which are known, but which many clubs are not using.  And the question becomes “why?”   Why won’t the clubs adopt the approaches which statistically seem to work so well?  Approaches such as cutting the number of tackles, and focussing on passing into players in or around the opposition penalty area.

Of course you might argue that the methods that Untold has been covering for several years are irrelevant, or don’t work.  Or that the players required to achieve such tactical development, simply don’t exist.  And yet the evidence is there – these are the tactics that successful clubs are increasingly using.

We have also noted how some clubs have gone down opposite routes, such as increasing the tackling.  And indeed as the table below shows.   Clubs that tackle the most are the most likely to get into trouble.

Leeds, Southampton and Leicester were relegated this last season, and come first, third and fifth in the tackling chart.   Chelsea and Everton underperformed in reference to the money that they spent on transfers and come second and fourth in the tackling chart.


Team Tackles pg Tackles pos Fouls pg Fouls Pos Yellow PG Yellow pos
1. Leeds Utd 22.1 1 12.3 1 2.21 1
2. Chelsea 19.5 2 10.4 14 2.03 9
3. Southampton 18.8 3 11.3 5 2.08 11
4. Everton 18.6 4 10.4 15 2.08 6
5. Leicester C. 18.4 5 10.8 11 1.55 14


So all the evidence is there.   But instead of using it clubs have instead focussed on changing managers when they want an improvement – a method that has been shown not to work, at least not with any regularity.  It can work, but mostly it doesn’t.

To make this point let’s take a look at the number of managers certain Premier League clubs have had since the Premier League started.

As ever the link between having a low number of managers and success is not perfect but that is not the point.  The point is that generally, the more successful clubs have fewer managers.  You particularly might like to note the position of Tottenham in this chart.


Club Number of managers in PL era Titles
Arsenal 9 3
Manchester United 9 13
Leeds United 10
Liverpool 10 1
Manchester City 13 6
Fulham 14
West Ham United 16
Leicester City 18
Everton 20
Crystal Palace 21
Aston Villa 22
Southampton 23
Newcastle United 24
Chelsea 27 5
Tottenham Hotspur 27


Of course the pattern is not absolute – the position of Chelsea shows that given enough money a club can change managers and still win titles.  But we can also note that these issues and tactics are mentioned in any detail by football commentators on TV, radio, in the press or on websites.  Why is that?

It can’t be because the statistics are too obscure.  After all apart from the statistics themselves covering tackles etc, we can see the progress Arsenal have made.  In the last four seasons, goals scored have increased year on year, goals conceded have reduced although there was one blip, and the goal difference has risen.  But most importantly year by year the number of points accumulated by Arsenals has risen by 50% over four seasons.



Pos Season P W D L F A GD Pts
2 2022/3 38 26 6 6 88 43 45 84
5 2021/2 38 22 3 13 61 48 13 69
8 2020/1 38 18 7 13 55 39 16 61
8 2019/20* 38 14 14 10 56 48 8 56
5 2018/19 38 21 7 10 73 51 22 70
6 2017/18 38 19 6 13 74 51 23 63


Of course, on looking closely at Arsenal’s figures above we can see a sudden drop in the number of points in 2019/20 – the season in which Emery was sacked and Arteta moved in – which rather adds to the point that sacking a manager is rarely about achieving instant success.   

But after that, year on year, there has been progress in the number of points gained.  Four solid years of growth and regular growth in goals scored, and improvement in goal difference.  The direction is clear.

Tottenham however show a different pattern: two years of decline from 2017/18, then a couple of years of growth in the number of points, and then a major slip back again.

Having reached a low point in 2020 the number of goals scored has risen but only slightly, and this season the defence fell apart.

Tottenham Hotspur


Pos Season P W D L F A GD Pts
8 2022/3 38 18 6 14 70 63 7 60
4 2021/2 38 22 5 11 69 40 29 71
7 2020/1 38 18 8 12 68 45 23 62
6 2019/20 38 16 11 11 61 47 14 59
4 2018/19 38 23 2 13 67 39 28 71
3 2017/18 38 23 8 7 74 36 38 77


So we can recognise Tottenham as going on a zig zag path: down, down, up, up, down.   This last season they were back at the level of 2019/20.

But Arsenal having reached the nadir in 2019/20 has been up, up, up all the way which is what brings a certain amount of confidence for next season.

Thus my point is that working out what a club needs to do tactically is not difficult, nor is it difficult to see that constantly changing managers doesn’t tend to work very well.  But some clubs keep getting it wrong.

So the next question is “why?”


One Reply to “Why don’t clubs look at evidence or act rationally as they seek to improve?”

  1. I think it’s seven titles for MCFC – Mancini (1), Pellegrini (1) and Guardiola (5).

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