Monday Musings – Premier League Managerial Tenure

As more and more money plows into professional soccer, gone are the days of giving managers time to build a program. There are no such thing as managers who get time to “change the culture” or “build a program;” it’s become a perform now, or leave mentality.
For the 26 years of the Premier Leagues existence, there are only 14 managers who have managed to accrue over 300 games in charge. Of those, only two spent their careers with one club, the first and longest-tenured (though his tenure began before the Premier League) was Sir Alex Ferguson who spent nearly 26.5 years with Manchester United followed by Arsène Wenger of Arsenal (who actually managed more games in the Premier League) with just shy of 17 years.
Both legendary managers amassed over 800 Premier League games for their respective clubs and the next closest manager with a single club is David Moyes. Moyes amassed 427 with Everton, but barely surpasses 500 games. Although substantially less games with a single club, Harry Redknapp is actually 3rd on the list with 639 Premier League games managed. Redknapp’s longest tenure in charge was 269 with West Ham, but it took his time at 4 other clubs to reach this number.
In the era of immediate gratification, it seems like the boards of Premier Clubs (in particular) have opted to follow suit. Rising revenues and the substantial gap between the Championship and the Premier League have no doubt contributed to the increasingly short-term thinking. Clubs that fail to remain in the Premier League (after one or more seasons there) regularly experience substantial financial hardship and sometimes even administration.
Less than half of the clubs that participated in the Premier League in 2017-2018 ended the season with the same manager they started it with, specifically 9 teams. Ironically, a study done several years ago suggests that sacking a manager may only have an impact in terms of the events leading up to the sacking (poor performance) and then the return to the normal level of performance. They found that once teams reach 1 point or less per game on average the manager tends to be sacked, followed by a short buoyant bounce back to the norm of 1.3 points per game. They also found that generally the manager’s influence on overall outcomes of the season is exaggerated and found that wage bill is a much better predictor of final standing. Furthermore they comment on the substantial amount of money spent related to sackings, could be put to far better use elsewhere.
So far in 2018-2019, 2 managers have been sacked, Sam Allardyce and Antonio Conte. Allardyce’s contract with Everton was reported to be for 18-months at £6M/year, and he served only 6 months of this contract, meaning Everton is still on the hook for £6M. Antonio Conte signed a new deal with Chelsea in July 2017 for 2 years expected to be worth £19.2M, meaning the club is likely on the hook for approximately £9.5M. That means that in less than 4 games this season, nearly £20M (plus legal fees, potential contract buyouts (for incoming managers), and potentially paying for a new manager and the existing contract at the same time).
How quickly is reasonable to expect managers to get results? Is it really reasonable to expect material changes in the clubs fortunes after 6 months? How many transfer windows should managers be given? We’ve seen even highly touted managers, like Unai Emery, suffer some while they are adjusting tactics. Is it realistic for us to expect overnight improvement unless the manager has the ability to retool “his” team? Would love to hear your thoughts on my muses….
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