Premier League Manager Bounce Study, 2014 - 2019: How successful are managerial changes?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 20 September 2019, 09:37

The 2019/20 Premier League Sack Race has already gobbled up its first victim in Javi Gracia who was sent packing by Watford at the start of September following a winless start to the new season.

The Hornets wasted no time in appointing a new manager - 30 minutes to be precise - as a familiar face in Quique Sanchez Flores returned to Vicarage Road for a second-spell.

Over the course of the last five seasons - 2014/15 through to 2018/19 - 36 top-flight managerial changes have taken change; either as a result of sacking, resignation, or the good old ambiguous method of ‘mutual consent’.

Whatever manner, it’s an alarming figure that doesn’t even include gaffers that vacated their posts during the summer months; between the end of one season and the start of the next.

So, with this in mind, The Sack Race slipped into a lab coat, donned a pair of data goggles, and then conducted a study into the effectiveness of an in-season managerial change in the Premier League...

Purpose and Methodology

The data sandwiched in this article has been collated from the previous five Premier League seasons - that’s the 2014/15 campaign through to the end of last season, 2018/19 - and has been used to determine which clubs benefited most/least when it came to making an in-season managerial change.

The term ‘in-season’ refers to managerial changes that took place during the course of the season, not the summer months. For example, Frank Lampard replacing Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea doesn’t count as it occurred after the season came to a close.

For the study we’ve analysed:

  • The increase/decrease in a club’s league position before/after an in-season appointment was implemented.
  • The win/loss % of both the outgoing and incoming managers.
  • The impact the average in-season appointment had at their new club.
  • The in-season month that was the most/least effective when it came to replacing a manager.

Which clubs have benefited the most from an in-season managerial departure?

In terms of improving upon your league position, on statistics alone it’s Everton who are the stand-out beneficiary of an in-season change.

When the Toffees sacked Ronald Koeman in October 2017 they were stuck in the relegation zone (18th) following a wretched run of two wins from their opening nine matches.

The club’s U23 manager David Unsworth was placed in caretaker charge for five matches, before Sam Allardyce was unveiled as their new permanent manager.

Come the end of the season Everton had jumped from 18th upon Koeman’s exit, to 8th under Big Sam, who won 37.5% of his league games. However, it must be noted that when Allardyce took over Everton had already moved up to 13th due to a win in Unsworth’s final game in caretaker charge - Big Sam was in the stands.

It wasn’t all good news for the veteran boss, who was then dispensed of in the summer.

There have been nine examples of a club situated in the relegation zone at the time of a manager’s departure, that were then saved from the dreaded drop by their next manager: this was the case with both Crystal Palace and Swansea City who experienced this feat two occasions apiece.

Crystal Palace arguably represent the most dependable indicator in the beneficial category, as during the highlighted five-year period the club orchestrated three in-season managerial changes, and come the end of each campaign had enhanced their league position by an average of 6.3 places.

When Neil Warnock left Palace in December 2014 the club were 18th in the table, only to end the season in 10th under Alan Pardew.

Two years later Pardew was axed when the club were struggling down in 17th, so in came ‘firefighter’ Allardyce who led the club clear of safety to 14th.

More recently, 19th-placed Palace sent Frank De Boer packing in September 2017, a standing which was propelled to 11th under his replacement Roy Hodgson, who is still in charge now.

Elsewhere, each time Leicester made an in-season change they enjoyed a rise up the table; the most notable being Claude Puel who led the Foxes to 9th, with the club previously 18th at the time of Craig Shakespeare’s exit.

Average league position increase after changing manager

Everton: 10

Crystal Palace: 6.3

Chelsea: 6

Leicester City: 5.7

West Ham United: 5

Which clubs have benefited least from an in-season managerial departure?

10 of the 36 Premier League that were appointed subsequently suffered relegation at the end of the season, although four were caretaker managers. All 10 managers were different, as were the clubs.

However, it must be said that six in-season appointments that were made during this five-year span didn’t even make it to the end of the season, three of which were lingering in the relegation zone at the time of their departure: Claudio Ranieri (Fulham), Rémi Garde and Tim Sherwood (Aston Villa). Therefore all three managed to avoid adding a relegation to their respective CVs.

No particular club stood out in this category but when Watford axed Marco Silva in January 2018 the club was 10th in the table. In came Javi Gracia who finished 14th, a drop of four places. However, the following season Gracia guided the Hornets to 11th - their best-ever finish - and also bagged an FA Cup runners-up medal.

Newcastle dropped on average of two places in the table from two managerial changes, although while they slipped five standings under John Carver, whereas Rafa Benitez improved the club’s position by one place, but was still relegated.

Average league position decrease after appointing a manager

Watford: -4

Newcastle: -2

QPR: -1

Stoke: -1

Which incoming manager enjoyed the best Win Rate?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is top of the managerial pile after winning 57.1% of his 26 games after replacing Jose Mourinho in December 2018, although he was unable to improve upon Man Utd’s 6th place standing.

Credit to Alan Pardew who was victorious in 55.6% of his games after he succeeded Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace, with whom he cannonballed from 18th to 10th.

Top-5 Managerial Win Rates

57.1%: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Man Utd)

55.6%: Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace)

53.8%: Craig Shakespeare (Leicester)

50%: Brendan Rodgers (Leicester)

50%: Darren Moore (West Brom)*

*caretaker

Leicester City were heavily panned after they axed Claudio Ranieri nine months after he miraculously led the 5,000/1 shots to Premier League glory.

However, the decision worked in the short-term with his February 2017 replacement, Craig Shakespeare, going on to win 53.8% of his league matches through to the end of the season - in the process he became the first English manager to ever win his first five Premier League games - taking the club from 17th to 12th.

Leicester also wielded the metaphorical manager axe last season upon Claude Puel, whose replacement Brendan Rodgers carved out a 50% win rate, the same as West Brom caretaker Darren Moore - who even beat Man Utd at Old Trafford - who enjoyed the Best Win% Increase (44.4%) of any manager, although given that he was only handed the job in April (2018) it wasn’t enough to keep the club in the league.

Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson improved Crystal Palace’s win rate from 0% to 32.4%, which equates to the Best Loss Percentage Decrease: -64.7%.

Incoming managers who struggled to make an impact

Caretaker Eric Black failed to win any of his seven games after he replaced Remi Garde at Aston Villa in March 2016, six of which he lost. Prior to that Tim Sherwood only won 10% of his games - as did Garde - in what was a wretched season for Villa fans, which unsurprisingly ended in relegation.

Alan Pardew endured somewhat of a stinker after he replaced Tony Pulis at West Brom in November 2017. The Silver Fox could only win 5.6% of his matches and was subsequently sacked in April 2018.

Pardew’s replacement at Newcastle, John Carver, won just 15% of his 19 league matches, and lost a staggering 65%, figures which saw the Toon plummet five places down the table - they were 10th when Pardew departure - no manager slumped further down the table.

Worst Manager Win Rates

0%: Eric Black (Aston Villa)*

5.6%: Alan Pardew (West Brom)

6.7%: Jan Siewert (Huddersfield)

9.1%: Steve Agnew (Middlesbrough)*

10%: Remi Garde (Aston Villa)

*caretaker

One manager that had nowhere to drop, as he took charge of a Huddersfield side rooted to the bottom of the table, was Jan Siewert. David Wagner’s replacement could only register one win (6.7%) from January through to the end of the campaign.

Back in 2017 Steve Agnew won 9.1% of his matches as Middlesbrough slumped back down to the Championship.

In-season appointments who then suffered relegation

Jan Siewert (Huddersfield Town)

Scott Parker (Fulham)*

Carlos Carvalhal (Swansea)

Paul Lambert (Stoke City)

Darren Moore (West Bromwich Albion)*

Marco Silva (Hull City)

Steve Agnew (Middlesbrough)*

Rafael Benítez (Newcastle United)

Eric Black (Aston Villa)*

Chris Ramsey (QPR)

*caretaker

What’s the best month to sack a manager?

In terms of improving upon a league position, data from the last five seasons reveals that the best month to sack a manager is September, with the average climb eight places up the table.

However, this has to be taken with a pinch of salt as during this five-year period only one managerial change took place in September; back during the start of the 2017/18 season when Crystal Palace sacked Frank de Boer when they were pointless and down in 19th. Roy Hodgson came over in the other direction and come the end of the season had soared the Eagles to 11th.

With this in mind, Watford, who were 20th when they axed Gracia in September 2019, will hope their decision to make a managerial change so early on in the season pays off.

April resulted in a Win% Increase of 44.4% but this, again, results from just the one change in this particular month. West Brom caretaker Darren Moore would go on to win half of his six league games, which represented that 44.4% increase upon Alan Pardew’s win rate which was a miniscule 5.6%.

- Best month to change manager for League Position Increase: September (8 Places)

- Best month to change manager for Win% Increase: September (32.4%)

- Best month to change manager for Loss% Decrease: September (-64.7%)

What’s the worst month to sack a manager?

January witnessed six managerial changes over the five-year period, and on average the Win% Increase from a managerial replacement was -1%.

Three of the six incoming managers on the back of a January departure subsequently failed to keep their new side in the division: Jan Siewert (Huddersfield), Paul Lambert (Stoke), and Marco Silva (Hull). Meanwhile, on average a sacking in January saw a 0.3 drop in league standings.

Three clubs that made a late change in March were also relegated but two of the incoming managers were caretaker. This particular month also saw an average of 4.3% in the Loss Percentage Decrease category, the worst of any month.

- Worst month to change manager for League Position Increase: January (-0.3 Places)

- Worst month to change manager for Win% Increase: January (-1%)

- Worst month to change manager for Loss% Decrease: March (4.3%)

Managers Departed

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