Sacking Season and Premier League Manager Loyalty

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Premier League Manager
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Chris Wilder, Manager of Sheffield United reacts during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Sheffield United at St Mary's Stadium on July 26, 2020 in Southampton, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/Pool via Getty Images)

Yes, that’s right. We’re slap, bang in the middle of Premier League sacking season once more. It is an odd tradition, where the bosses at England’s biggest clubs regularly make a New Year’s resolution to reverse their fortunes on the pitch, leaving some managers with a redder nose than Rudolph!

It’s not Santa’s sack on the minds of many Premier League Managers

I, for one, have never been a fan of bringing the tenure of a Head Coach to an end before they have had a proper chance to implement the vision that got them their job in the first place. As a result, the Pozzo family, who have recently announced the departure of yet another manager at Watford – bringing them up to a whopping 12 sackings since they arrived in 2012 – are not owners that I hold in particularly high regard.

Most people in favour of sacking a manager will point to the temporary bump in form that it is likely to lead to. Indeed, in an analysis of 10 mid-season managerial causalities carried out by Sky Sports, it was found that results tend to improve in the first 6 games following a manager’s dismissal. However, I would be keen to note that, following this, results diminish, returning to the rates recorded 9 games prior to the manager’s sacking, highlighting how short-lived the benefits from this often very expensive change in personnel can be.

Furthermore, the upturn in form cannot be attributed to the change in manager alone, for the data suggests that clubs experiencing similar slumps tend to bounce back when they stick by their boss. Perhaps the best man to evaluate here is the Premier League’s longest-ever serving manager: Arsène Wenger. Wenger experienced countless fluctuations in form during his 22-year stay at Arsenal, but the evidence suggests that each notable low in his spell there was followed by a considerable high.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/987315896791322625

Now it is true that loyalty and affection for a club, born out of several successful years at the helm, can lead to some managers overstaying their welcome. A prime example of this is Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, who, after achieving all that he realistically could be expected to with the resources available to him, should have moved on to pastures new, but instead remained put and the Cherries’ inevitable demise eventually came. However, for the most part, I would advise that sticking with a tried-and-tested manager is the best course of action.

Consistency in coaching over the long-term is paramount to providing the sort of stable environment which is best for players to improve their game. Sure, results and performances were far from consistent in Jürgen Klopp’s first year in charge of Liverpool, but look at them now!

Would Watford be in the Premier League today had they not jumped the gun and sacked Nigel Pearson with only 2 games of the season – against Manchester City and Arsenal – to go? Perhaps not, but regardless, sacking the man who brought them to the verge of survival having taken over with the club being 7 points adrift of safety, with a miserly return of only 8 points from 15 games, cannot have been the Pozzo family’s wisest decision.

This was an even weirder move when it is considered that the man they replaced him with – Hayden Mullins – was their under-23 coach, whose only previous top-level experience was a similar two-game spell as Watford’s interim manager in which he failed to register a win against Leicester and Crystal Palace. How can Mullins, with no disrespect to him, have been better placed than Pearson to guide Watford to safety?

I acknowledge that changing room discontent or disagreements with the boardroom can serve as legitimate reasons to let a manager go, but overall, I believe that the general panic that we all feel around Christmastime should not be one also experienced by the owners of England’s top clubs.

Yes, they may wish to provide backing in the January transfer window to salvage their season, but who is there better to back than the individual who knows the players inside out having worked with them for at least the past 6 months, so has identified the gaps in the squad? Who better than the very same individual who at the beginning of the season was deemed fit to manage the club to their objectives over the next several campaigns, yet alone just this one?

Nonetheless, in this modern era, sackings fail to surprise me. If Claudio Ranieri can be sacked less than a season after he led the Foxes to their historic Premier League title, which they begun as 5000-1 outsiders, then realistically anyone can be let go at any time.

Therefore, while I shall not be among those to call for Chris Wilder’s head at Sheffield United, I would not be at all shocked to see him go.

However, I would like to leave Blades fans who no longer trust in the process with one statistic from the beginning of Wilder’s tenure. After his first 4 games in charge, Sheffield United had just a single point, leaving them languishing at the bottom of League One.

If you’d sacked him then, would you really be where you are now?

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