By Tony Attwood
We have been exploring over a series of articles what actually brings success to premier league clubs. Is it buying in new players, or is it endlessly changing managers? Or is it on the other hand stability? Or maybe something else?
Our examinations of clubs and their purchases have suggested that spending more and more money on transfers more often causes decline than it brings the club up the league table. And indeed when it does bring the club up the league that can take a lot of time.
But “new players” is what the media demand all the time, largely it seems because writing and broadcasting such articles costs next to nothing.
However, if it is not new players that generate success, what is it? Could it be a new manager?
Interestingly just as most media outlets do not discuss the number of new players brought into a club (because it would reveal that bringing in new players is no guarantee of success) so although they often encourage supporters to demand a change of manager, they don’t discuss how often this ploy is a success either.
There have been 431 managers in charge of clubs which have played in the Premier League since it started in 1992 and as you will know Arsène Wenger holds the record for most games managed in the Premier League with 828, all with Arsenal. At the other extreme Sam Allardyce has managed more PL clubs than anyone else, (eight). Yet he won nothing in the Premier League.
Arsenal have had just five permanent managers in the Premier League; the smallest number. But which team has had the most? And has that team’s constant change of managers given them the success they crave?
Since calling for a new manager is as common as calling for players to be removed and new players brought in, it is interesting that just as no one analyses how many trasfers work so no one has looked to see if bringing in a new manager actually works.
A hint as to the answer comes when we ask which club has had the most managers in the Premier League era. The answer for the most managers is Tottenham Hotspur with 25 men in the job since 1992/93 and a total of two league cup wins.
Here is the league table of club managers down to Arsenal excluding the temporary managers, and worked out the average stay of permanent managers
|Club||Total managers||Total minus temp managers||Seasons in Premier League||Average stay of permanent managers|
|Tottenham Hotspur||25||15||30||2.00 years|
|Newcastle United||24||15||27||1.80 years|
|Aston Villa||20||12||27||1.66 years|
|Crystal Palace||19||12||13||1.08 years|
|West Bromwich Albion||18||13||13||1.00 year|
|West Ham United||16||13||26||2.00 years|
|Leicester City||15||11||16||1.54 years|
|Manchester City||13||11||25||2.27 years|
|Blackburn Rovers||10||10||18||1.80 years|
|Swansea City||10||7||7||1.00 years|
|Norwich City||9||8||10||1.25 years|
|Queens Park Rangers||9||7||7||1.00 years|
|Manchester United||8||5||30||3.75 years|
Obviously, changing managers a lot does not bring more success. It is more a case of spending a vast amount of money (compensation to his old club, big salary, pay off when sacked); that’s what you get.
Indeed even the media is starting to realise that just sacking a manager is not a solution to a club’s problems, as in the story from the Telegraph headlined The worrying decline of trophyless Manchester United – and why this behemoth is too big for one new coach to fix
Indeed as the article, Mauricio Pochettino saw it coming in 2019 makes clear, what Pochettino wanted and didn’t manage to get at Tottenham was a clear plan. And that I think is the key to footballing success. Indeed it is the antithesis of the “spend spend spend” and “sack the manager” approach.
And the big problem is that when a club is slipping and wants to rebuild they tend to pick up a manager to see how he will do, rather than bring in a manager with a clear plan that the club directors buy into.
There will normally be some player purchases, of course, but rarely (as Mr Arteta proposed) a new set of tactics that would stop the PGMO referees from giving Arsenal more yellow cards than every other team in the league.
It is interesting to see how rarely some media outlets touch on tactics unless it is to say that the manager got the tactics wrong. And yet these tactics can be at the very heart of a club’s success, as we saw last season with the “stop tackling” approach at Arsenal. Instead, for the media, it is invariably “new manager” and “new players” – an approach that fails more often than it succeeds.
So what can a club do? I’ll try and explore this further in the next piece.