Friday, 7 February 2014

Does Sacking Your Manager Make A Difference?

This week Swansea became the seventh Premier League club to change manager this season when they dispensed with the services of Michael Laudrup. Laudrup had been in charge less than two seasons (average by today's Premier League standards) and in that time had brought Swansea to their first major trophy in their history and a first venture into European football. This did not prove enough to save him from the chop after one win in eleven league games and a slide towards the relegation zone which Gary Monk is now charged with arresting.

Football management is a cut-throat business and the average tenure of a Premier League manager these days is barely one year. Brendan Rodgers, appointed by Liverpool in the summer of 2012 now finds himself to be the third longest serving manager in the Premier League. Most clubs seem very quick to instigate change if results aren't going their way. Others prefer to stand by their man and show a little faith that he will fix it. This article examines the effects some clubs have experienced as a result of changing manager this season.

Of the six managers to leave their post prior to Laudrup, five were explicitly sacked and Ian Holloway left Crystal Palace by 'mutual consent'. Let's examine what difference, if any, the change in manager has made at these clubs:


Sunderland were the first side to change manager this season, sacking the eccentric Paolo Di Canio after just five games. Getting rid of Di Canio was a no-brainer. His results on the pitch throughout his tenure were mediocre, disguised only by the 3-0 derby victory over Newcastle towards the end of the 2012/13 season which helped secure their Premier League status for another season. Off the pitch he was even more of a shambles, falling out with players, criticising them in public and ostracising some from the squad like fans favourites Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley, both of whom have been excellent upon their recalls to the squad.

Poyet has changed The Black Cats fortunes for the better

Sunderland sacked Di Canio in September and replaced him with the seemingly equally fiery Gus Poyet. Things didn't get off to a great start for Poyet and results didn't really take much of an upturn until the Christmas period. As of this moment Sunderland currently sit top of the Premier League's form table for the past four games and Adam Johnson has just been awarded the Player of the Month award for January.

With Di Canio at the helm Sunderland averaged 0.2 points per game (PPG) and were rooted to the bottom of the table with just 1 point. Under Gus Poyet they have improved this average to 1.2 PPG and sit 14th in the table.

Tough bedding in period for Poyet but it's working out wonderfully now. Definitely a good call by Sunderland.

Crystal Palace

Ian Holloway's second spell as a Premier League manager ended disappointingly by 'mutual consent' after eight games of the season. Holloway is an incredibly popular figure in the game, particularly during his last spell in the Premier League at Blackpool in 2010/11. There was something different this time however. Holloway never looked happy, never looked his bubbly self this time around and there was definitely some of that contagious charisma lacking.

Keith Millen took over the role while Palace searched for a successor. Tony Pulis eventually arrived and was in the stands for Millen's fourth and final game as caretaker boss. Perhaps buoyed by his appointment, Palace managed to chalk up their second win of the season that day at Hull. Pulis can't put that one on his record however.

Under Ian Holloway, Palace averaged 0.38 PPG and were 19th in the table. His caretaker Keith Millen averaged 1 PPG for his four games and since then Tony Pulis has increased that further to 1.33 PPG. Crystal Palace now sit 17th in the table but in a much less precarious position than they were previously.

Brilliant decision to change manager. Palace looked hopeless under Holloway, now they look genuinely like they will survive.


Martin Jol must have felt like a sick dog on the way to the vet when Fulham appointed Rene Meulensteen as 'head coach'. He surely knew the end was coming soon and sure enough within three weeks he was sacked and his compatriot was installed as manager almost immediately. Meulensteen had been part of Sir Alex Ferguson's backroom staff at Man United and was held in high regard by some of the senior players there but found himself out of a job under the new David Moyes regime during the summer.

A blind man could have seen that succession coming

Whatever way you look at it Fulham have had a difficult year. Martin Jol managed 0.77 PPG and left the club 18th in the table. Under Meulensteen this has increased slightly to 0.82 PPG but they now sit bottom of the table. The managerial change did not produce an initial good run of results as it often does and Fulham have continued to be incredibly mediocre.

No effect. Bad before and bad after. Another change might be required soon.

West Brom

Steve Clarke was dismissed as West Brom manager rather hastily. He led them to a wonderful 8th place finish and had more than his fare share of bad luck earlier this season with regards to refereeing decisions. Nonetheless he was dismissed on December 14th following a 1-0 loss at Cardiff, their fourth in a row.

West Brom took their time in appointing a successor to Clarke with Keith Downing being in charge for six games over the Christmas and New Year period and they remained unbeaten for four games, picking up a win over Newcastle on New Year's Day. Pepe Mel was appointed on January 11th and has since had three games in which he has thus far failed to record a win.

Steve Clarke this season managed an average of 0.94 PPG and left West Brom 16th in the league table. Keith Downing managed an average of 1.2 PPG during his month long caretaker stay. Pepe Mel has only had three league games in charge which gives him the fairly meaningless statistic of 0.67 PPG. West Brom remain 16th in the Premier League table and are by no means safe from relegation.

Harsh to sack Clarke I think and jury is still very much out on whether Mel can be a success.


Two days after West Brom and 24 hours after a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool, Spurs showed Andre Villas-Boas the door after seventeen months in charge at White Hart Lane. AVB arrived in England with a glowing reputation having spent years sat under the learning tree of Jose Mourinho and achieved an unbeaten league season with Porto, topped off with Europa League success.

Things went badly wrong for him both at Chelsea and later at Spurs. His man-management, media-handling and tactical nous were all exposed greatly. Once the golden boy of football management, he left Spurs with his reputation in tatters and is unlikely to find work in England again.

AVB has no superstar to Bale him out this season

Spurs didn't really have a caretaker period as such. Tim Sherwood was interim manager for one game but was given the job permanently the very next day.

Overall, Spurs' results under AVB weren't that bad. It was the 6-0 defeat to City and the 5-0 humbling by Liverpool which sealed his fate. He managed 1.69 PPG this season as Tottenham boss. Sherwood, including his one game as caretaker, has managed 2.13 PPG and made Spurs much more exciting to watch.

Personally I'm not convinced by Sherwood as a manager. But it's hard to argue with results. Good call by Spurs. Ask Emmanuel Adebayor.


Malky Mackay refused to quit under very public pressure to do from Cardiff's eccentric owner Vincent Tan but was eventually sacked on December 27th with the club in 16th place in the table. To say Mackay had been treated harshly was a massive understatement. In his two full seasons in charge he had taken Cardiff to a League Cup final, Play-Off semi-final and the Championship title the following season. He followed this up with a reasonable start to Premier League life but his falling out with Tan proved the end of him.

Mackay managed 0.94 PPG during his 18 Premier League games as Cardiff boss. David Kerslake took charge of the two games in the gap between Mackay's dismissal and the appointment of one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager. In his four league games since Solskjaer has managed just one win and three defeats leaving him with an average of 0.25 PPG. To be fair to him, two of those games were away in Manchester. Not an easy place to bring a struggling team.

Too early to tell. Solskjaer did lose his first three league games but managed wins in two cup ties during that spell. He's also brought in a few good signings who impressed in their recent win over Norwich. The next few months will go a long way to determining whether or not he makes it as a successful manager in the Premier League.

So, out of the six clubs to have already changed managers, three have been proved undoubtedly correct to do so. One has seen very little change and two are in the job less than a month so judgement is not yet decided. These odds suggest that Swansea's fortunes are more likely than not to improve over the remaining months of the season and while chopping and changing managers often may seem harsh, often it is more beneficial to a team's fortunes than admirable loyalty.

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