With 26 games played in the Premier League, 7 clubs have already taken the decision to sack their manager. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the clubs have fared before and after these important decisions, and to try to answer the question, is it a good idea to sack your manager mid-season?
Sacked Premier League managers to date
Seven Premier League clubs have chosen to sack/parted company with their managers to date. Here’s a list of the clubs, their sacked managers and their new/interim managers.
|Club||Sacked manager||Sacked||New manager||Appointed|
|Swansea City||Michael Laudrup||4 Feb 14||Garry Monk (interim)||4 Feb 14|
|Cardiff||Malky Mackay||27 Dec 13||Ole Gunnar Solskjaer||2 Jan 14|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Andre Villas Boas||16 Dec 13||Tim Sherwood||16 Dec 13|
|West Bromwich Albion||Steve Clarke||14 Dec 13||Pepe Mel||9 Jan 14|
|Fulham||Martin Jol||1 Dec 13||René Meulensteen||1 Dec 13|
|Crystal Palace||Ian Holloway*||23 Oct 13||Tony Pulis||23 Nov 13|
|Sunderland||Paolo di Canio||22 Sep 13||Gus Poyet||8 Oct 13|
*Ian Holloway is the only manager in the list not to have been sacked, having left his club “by mutual consent”.
As you can see, Sunderland got started early in the manager-sacking race, relieving Italian fascist and general nut-job Paoli di Canio of his duties after only five games. Five more clubs followed suit before the latest dismissal, when Swansea sacked Michael Laudrup. There’s still almost a quarter of the season left to play, do you think we will see more managerial sackings?
So let’s get onto the data! For Swansea, Tottenham, and Fulham, this data reflects completely the new manager’s performance, as their current managers were appointed immediately after the sacking. For the other teams, there was a delay before appointing a new manager. We’ve used the date when the club sacked the manager and not when the new manager was appointed to keep everything simple. It should also be noted that for Swansea, we shouldn’t conclude too much from the data at this point, as they have only played two games under interim manager Garry Monk since sacking Michael Laudrup.
Points per game
A fairly natural way to judge if sacking the manager was a good idea is to compare the points earned per game before and after the sacking.
Here’s how the seven clubs did before and after sackings :
So leaving Swansea aside, we can see that Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Sunderland have experienced significant upticks in form since changing their manager. Fulham and West Bromwich Albion needn’t have bothered as their results remain roughly the same (Fulham’s is exactly the same in fact – 0.8 points per game under both René Meulensteen and Martin Jol), while Cardiff have in fact deteriorated since sacking Malky Mackay. We’re not sure Ole Gunnar Solskjær is to blame for this yet though, here’s looking at you Vincent Tan.
Of all the teams listed, Swansea are the only club to have sacked their manager since the January transfer window closed. That is to say that all of the new managers with the exception of Garry Monk had the chance to improve their squads in the January window, and many jumped at the opportunity. Unsurprisingly, with the exception of Tottenham and West Brom, the five other clubs who were disgruntled enough with their Premier League position to sack their managers were some of the busiest in the January window.
Cardiff’s signings in particular look to have been at the behest of the new manager, with Mats Moller Daehli and Jo Inge Berget joining from Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s previous club Molde, while Fabio da Silva and Wilfried Zaha (loan) joined from Manchester United, where Solskjær remains a much-loved ex player.
Tony Pulis sought to shore up the Palace defence, his two biggest signings being a goalkeeper in Wayne Hennessey and central defender Scott Dann. Fulham were no spendthrifts, bringing in Kostas Mitroglou for £12million amongst a host of loan signings – the likes of Clint Dempsey, William Kvist, Lewis Holtby and John Heitinga all joining the Cottagers until the end of the season.
It’s too early to judge if these January signings will have a positive effect for their clubs, Fulham in particular look to have been aided by their new recruits, having gained a point at Old Trafford, and only losing to rampant Liverpool very late on in the game.
Goals scored per game
Sometimes clubs decide to sack their managers to change the style of play at the club – to play a more attacking style of football, or sometimes just to ‘stop the rot’ in hopes of avoiding relegation. Lets see which teams have improved their goalscoring record under their new coaches:
Here we can see that all of the teams with the exception of Crystal Palace are scoring more freely under their new managers. Tottenham in particular have seen a big improvement since appointing Tim Sherwood. Under André Villas-Boas, Tottenham were averaging less than a goal per game, scoring only 15 goals in 16 matches – dire form for self-proclaimed title contenders. Since swapping AVB for Sherwood, Tottenham have scored 21 goals in 10 games, thanks in large part to Sherwood’s decision to reinstate a reinvigorated Emmanuel Adebayor to the starting line-up – the Togolese striker has scored 8 goals in those 10 games since AVB left, having only played 45 minutes of football all season under his old manager.
Sunderland are another team who have had their scoring boots on since their change of entraîneur. Paolo di Canio’s five games in charge brought only three goals for the Wearside club, a paltry average of only 0.6 goals per game. Since sacking di Canio, Gus Poyet’s Sunderland have scored 22 goals in 20 matches, bringing their average up to 1.1 goals per game.
Crystal Palace have actually decreased their goalscoring rate from 0.8 to 0.7 goals per game, but we shall see in the next section why their points per game has increased from 0.4 under Holloway to 1.4 points per game since his dismissal.
Goals conceded per game
On to our final group of statistics, has the change of manager shored up the defences of the manager-swappers?
While the majority of clubs are scoring more goals than before they parted company with their old managers, from this data we can see that the goals conceded figures have a higher variance between the teams.
Cardiff, West Brom and Fulham are now actually letting in more goals than previously, while Sunderland and Tottenham’s changes to more attacking styles have actually helped them concede fewer goals.
The big winners in this department are Crystal Palace. Ian Holloway’s Palace side were shipping 2.1 goals a game – 17 goals in only 8 matches. Since his departure, they have conceded 17 goals in 17 matches. Maths fans will have spotted that that adds up to an average of one goal conceded per game. Despite now scoring an average of 0.7 goals per game and conceding one goal a game, Palace’s points per game has improved greatly – up to 1.4 points per game from 0.4.
This can be explained if we look at Palace’s clean sheet record. Up until Holloway’s departure, Palace did not manage to keep a single clean sheet. Since the 23rd of October, Palace tend to either concede two or three goals, or keep a clean sheet. Crystal Palace have now notched up 7 clean sheets, Tony Pulis’s mastery of the defensive side of the game helping them to climb out of the relegation spots. Their last game, a 3-1 home win over fellow struggling manager-swappers West Brom was only the second game in which Crystal Palace have scored more than one goal all season, the only other time Palace scored a brace was at home to Cardiff on the 7th of December. One thing is clear, if Pulis’ Palace are to avoid the drop to the Championship this season, it is going to be on the back of gritty 1-0 victories.
Obviously, there are still at least 12 games left to play for each of these teams, and a proper conclusion on the club’s decisions to sack their managers cannot be drawn until the end of the season. We’re going to keep the data updated and will be back at the end of the season to see how it worked out for each of the clubs. As it stands though, it looks like Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Sunderland all made great decisions to change their managers. In the unlikely event that André Villas-Boas, Ian Holloway or Paolo Di Canio are reading, don’t shoot the messenger because them’s the facts. We’re sorry, but as it turns out you were pretty bad at managing Premier League football clubs.
If you’re a fan of spreadsheets/want to check our working, or are a journalist wishing to use our data, the spreadsheet is available here. If you use the data we have compiled, we’d love to hear from you, and if you could credit/link us, that’d be grand!
Finally, if you’re new to Proven Quality, we’re a football blog dedicated to in-depth analysis of football. So if you’re into that that sort of thing, you should definitely follow us on twitter, facebook or google+ or subscribe to our RSS feed to make sure you keep up.