Experience v Progressive - Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

Experience v Progressive - Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

At some stage, within every single club forum, there will be a comment that states “…we need an experienced manager” or a version thereof.  This got me thinking, and caused me to ponder a few questions:

  1. Does experience really matter when recruiting a manager?
  2. Are modern methods more relevant than experience?
  3. Does managerial performance improve with experience?

What i’m trying to do is raise some debate around whether modern management / coaching methods & a deeper academic knowledge of the game are as valuable as experience or does experience trump all?

There are a number of things to consider before I start trying to tackle the questions.

Firstly, from being children we are taught that “practice makes perfect”, which is an adage that I wholeheartedly agree with.  However, when preparing for a maths test for instance, is it better to spend 10 hours taking similar tests or spend 10 hours learning the formulas required to take the test?  I’m afraid I don’t have the answer but hopefully you’ll see where i’m coming from.

Secondly, my dad has 30 years more experience of maths than me.  If we were to take the test together, he would use his experience and knowledge to tackle the questions, whereas I would use a calculator.  I wouldn’t like to speculate who would score higher, but IN YOUR FACE DAD!

Finally, what would happen if I gave my dad the calculator?  Would he use it?  Would he be able to use it?  Or would it sit unused on the desk?

Lets take a look at the experience of the coming seasons Premier League managers:

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The average length of experience for Premier League managers next year will be 11.9 years.  In my opinion, and for the purpose of this post, an experienced manager is one who has over 10 years experience, .  Therefore, 11 of the 20 managers can be classed as experienced.

By the way, if experience was the be all and end all, the table above is also the final Premier League table for the 2013/14 season.

Of course, football doesn’t work like that.  Which reinforces question 1, does experience really matter when recruiting a manager?

The chart below shows next seasons Premier League managers in the order that they finished this season:

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7 of the 11 experienced managers (with 10 or more years as a manager) finished in the top 6 of their respective leagues last season.  That’s 64%, whereas only 2 (34%) of the ‘inexperienced’ managers managed the same feat.

Does this mean that experience wins?  It almost does, however clubs that are expected to be challenging for major honours are more likely to be risk averse and rely on the traditional ways of appointing managers meaning that opportunities for inexperienced managers to join a club that is expected to challenge (and has the resources to) are reduced.

Is the nervousness of the so called ‘big clubs’ justified?  After all, both Spurs & Liverpool were brave enough to appoint inexperienced managers with a modern football approach and the general consensus is that they have both done decent jobs last season.  Their level of success next season will be interesting to see and they both have room to have better seasons without having to challenge for the top 2.

But, (frustratingly) this then raises another question.  Will any improvements next season be as a result of their modern approach to football or because of their extra years experience?

My view is that the only way to gauge whether a manager has been successful or not is to look at their final place v pre-season (or pre-employment) objective.  6 (54%) of next seasons 11 experienced managers either achieved or over achieved in 2012/13 (including Laudrup at Swansea, Allardyce at West Ham and Bruce at Hull City).  However, 6 (67%) of the 9 inexperienced managers at least achieved their objective (Steve Clarke at West Brom, Pochettino at Southampton and MacKay at Cardiff for example).

I’m coming to the conclusion that a mixture of both is the right answer which is a real wimps way out!  As a believer in modern techniques in football and making full use of technical advances I will always favour a thoughtful, educated manager with a background in the deeper side of the game rather than a blood and thunder ex-pro who relies on his many years of management experience to get him a job.

Nick Levett (@nlevett), the FA National Development Manager for Youth Football posted the following on twitter a couple of days ago:

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Having considered his points, its hard to disagree with him.

In essence, the appointment of a manager has to be based on a number of things, experience & management / coaching style being just 2 of the considerations.  I think we are certainly going to see a new breed of manager coming through in the next 5 to 10 years with a complete understanding, and appreciation, of technology, statistical analysis and modern coaching styles and maybe some of the ‘dinosaurs’ will disappear.  There will be less & less demand from fans for an experienced manager, and more for an educated, innovative and progressive type that will help lead (or drag) clubs into the future.

Personally my natural instinct is leaning towards the Villas-Boas / Rodgers type of manager rather than a Pardew or Hughes.

Which kills me as a Hull City fan!