Managers sacked, players banned, points deducted: it’s the groundwork that counts



By Tony Attwood

This being a time when Arsenal are not playing, I’ve been looking around at other topics that I find fascinating, in the hope that maybe you might be interested too, and not least because sometimes we can learn things from elsewhere.

My starting point this time was that as far as I can work out, last season 14 Premier League managers were sacked across 12 of the 20 Premier League clubs (two clubs sacking managers twice in one season).   But whichever way we look at it, that is the majority.  12 clubs out of 20, is 60% (just in case there’s any doubt).

Some of the clubs improved as a result, some didn’t, and of course nothing changed the fact that there were always going to be three clubs going down to the Championship.

The bottom five last season were


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
16 Nottingham Forest 38 9 11 18 38 68 -30 38
17 Everton 38 8 12 18 34 57 -23 36
18 Leicester City 38 9 7 22 51 68 -17 34
19 Leeds United 38 7 10 21 48 78 -30 31
20 Southampton 38 6 7 25 36 73 -37 25


And that is an interesting table since Forest and Everton have just had points deducted as a result of what they got up to recently in terms of their finances.

But what of the three clubs that went down… Leicester City, Leeds United and Southampton?

As matters stand today the table for what we used to call Division 2 reads


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Leicester City 27 21 2 4 55 21 34 65
2 Ipswich Town 27 17 7 3 50 34 16 58
3 Southampton 27 16 7 4 50 31 19 55
4 Leeds United 27 15 6 6 48 25 23 51
5 West Bromwich Albion 27 13 6 8 40 25 15 45
6 Coventry City 27 10 10 7 41 29 12 40


So the three teams that came down last season are in the top four positions in the Championship at the moment, with the interloper being Ipswich Town who two seasons ago were in League One (the third tier).  In fact in 2021/22 the club came 11th in the league, were knocked out of the FA Cup in round one and the League Cup in round two.

One other interesting fact about Ipswich is that in 2021/22 they scored 67 goals which was mid-table for goal scoring.   Last season they were way out at the top with 101 goals and a goal difference of +66.

So while we have been noting the failure of clubs like Nottingham Forest and Everton to sort out their finances, and all those managerial changes, it is worth contemplating one comparative success story, in terms of Ipswich Town.

Their last manager was sacked in December 2021 with the club 12th in the league having won two of their previous 11 fixtures in all competitions.  On 16 December 2021, Kieran McKenna, first-team coach at Manchester United, was appointed to replace Cook.  The club finished the season one place better off in 11th.  That was hardly an improvement although the club did lose just two of their last 17 games.

Then in the summer McKenna brought in four new signings and three loan players (one each from Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea). The improvement was extraordinary.  


2020–21 46 19 12 15 46 46 69 9th J Norwood 10
2021–22 46 18 16 12 67 46 70 11th W Burns 13
2022–23 46 28 14 4 101 35 98 2nd C Chaplin 29


So what we have is a new manager in his first-ever position as a league manager, transforming the club and getting promotion.

But there is a problem that Ipswich Town share with other promotion-seeking clubs in the Championship – the size of their ground.   The clubs looking for promotion to the Premier League this season are

  • Leicester City: capacity 32,273
  • Ipswich Town: capacity 29,673
  • Southampton: capacity 32,384
  • Leeds United: capacity 37,890

This puts all these clubs in line with the smallest clubs in the league – here are the capacities for the bottom half of the Premier league, in terms of ground size.

  • Sheffield United: capacity 32,702
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers: capacity 32,050
  • Brighton and Hove Albion: capacity 31,800
  • The City Ground, Nottingham: capacity 30,445
  • Selhurst Park: capacity 26,047
  • Craven Cottage: capacity 25,700
  • Turf Moor: capacity 21,994
  • GTech Community Stadium, Brentford: capacity 17,250
  • Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, capacity: 11329
  • Kenilworth Road, Luton, capacity: 11050

In short, it can be argued that the winners and losers in the Premier League are as much defined by the size of their stadium (and hence matchday income) as anything else.

Of course a club with a smaller ground can have occasional success, but it is going to be occasional.   And few will want to build a bigger stadium, for fear of the club slipping down the league table before the stadium is opened.  Leeds are the exception having the largest of the smaller grounds with a capacity of 37,890.  That’s just a bit smaller than Goodison Park at 39,571 and Stamford Bridge at 40,853.

And it does show why Everton have been so keen to get their new stadium (although perhaps the location, which pushed the price up a lot, was not the best move in retrospect, although it looks wonderful on the architectural illustrations.)

2 Replies to “Managers sacked, players banned, points deducted: it’s the groundwork that counts”

  1. How did stadium building skyrocket in costs between the time we built the Emirates and Spurs built their toilet?

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