- How the media got their predictions so wrong, but no one apologised.
By Tony Attwood
It seems that football loves simple solutions. Take the notion of the long ball game. The theory that clubs that played the long ball did well, was developed by an amateur statistician Charles Reep who took the simple idea of counting the number of passes that led to a goal.
Some clubs took up the notion and started playing long punts upfield thinking this might guarantee success. But it didn’t, because although clubs doing well at the time were putting in a lot of long ball passes, there was no causal link between the number of long balls and the number of victories. This is in contrast to smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, where there is a proven cause and effect.
Ever since Charles Reep’s ideas became fashionable clubs have been trying to find a simple solution to the problem of how to overcome failure and turn it into success. A current popular approach is sacking the manager – something that is done so often in England that it is simply assumed it can work.
But in fact not only can it lead to further failure, it can also seriously damage a club. Take for example the calls for Arteta to be sacked. Talk Sport reported in August 2021 that Arsenal fans en masse were demanding he be sacked. Piers Morgan was at it in November 2021 while Rio Ferdinand was saying it in March of this year. But by and large moving on the manager doesn’t help, and such a move is as likely to make things worse as it is to make things better.
Of course it does work sometimes, and then that success (such as bringing in Arteta) is remembered and all the calls for him to be sacked last season and the season before were ignored.
Most seasons in the Premier League about half the managers are sacked. This season we’ve already had Scott Parker at Bournemouth, Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea and Bruno Lage at Wolverhampton each being thrown out. The justification is invariably the poor showing of the club thus far, not the certainty that a new person in the job will do better.
Indeed quite often the managers who go can be men who have recently been a success. Tuchel is a perfect example: he wins the Champions League, and then 15 months on he is worthy of dismissal.
And it is often forgotten just how expensive such moves can be for the manager will demand compensation for his dismissal, (which is of course a breach of contract), and the new manager will then often state that he needs to do some serious rebuilding of the squad. Just think of the cost to Arsenal of removing Unai Emery – a man who we may note has the second highest percentage win rate of any long-term Arsenal manager. Not just the compensation for him but the removal of players who had cost a lot of money to buy in the first place.
Now imagine the cost to Arsenal if the advice of so many pundits had been followed and Arteta had been removed. Not just the cost of his compensation, but of getting rid of his squad and bringing in a new one.
And we might also throw into this mix the fact that Arteta transformed Arsenal. The revolutions in the club of the last two seasons, which we have charted both in terms of statistics and playing style have been ignored by the media utterly.
Indeed quite possibly other revolutions are going on in other clubs, but they too are hampered by the ceaseless demand to change managers and buy new players.
Last season, 10 managers were sacked in the Premier League (one club sacked two managers in one season), this season it will probably be the same – half the clubs will do it. And indeed it is not just the Premier League that does it, as last season, 10 managers were moved along in Serie A in Italy. This season the first manager there was moved on after three games. And the Bundesliga has already seen two managers go out the door. Although last season they only saw five managers leave in total.
The main league that stands out against all this is Ligue 1 in France. As far as I can see, no one has been moved on thus far, and last season it was only four.
In the PL however, more managers will go. The list of clubs that haven’t moved their manager of late includes Crystal Palace (currently 17th), Leicester (20th), Liverpool (9th), Southampton (16th), and West Ham (15th).
Let us all be thankful that the resourceless calls for Arteta to be removed, from people who utterly failed to see the change in style to cut the yellow cards in half, and who were utterly unable to focus on the last 35 games of last season but instead could only notice the first three, were all ignored.
Congratulations to Arteta, and the Arsenal board, for resisting this idiotic incessant pressure from journalists too lazy to find a proper story, are, I think, in order.
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