By Christopher WinnProgramme Leader for MSc Football Business

As the saying goes, football is a results business. And as we have seen in recent weeks with the departures of Mauricio Pochettino, Unai Emery and Marco Silva, it is inevitably the manager that pays the price when their players fail to deliver on the pitch.

However, the culture of the managerial merry-go-round is not new to the Premier League; between the start of the 2014/15 season and present day, over 60 Premier League managerial positions have changed hands – that’s an average of over three times per team over the space of five and a half seasons. The 2017/18 season itself saw a record 16 managers depart their incumbent clubs.

With so many Premier League clubs seeking further competitive advantage (or simply enhanced chances of survival) through managerial turnover, the key question that comes to mind is: Short term fix or long term improvement?

We analysed the final ten Premier League games of managerial tenures in the last five seasons and compared the points returns to the first ten league games (short term) and subsequent ten league games (long term) of incoming managers to identify whether such a strategy does indeed reap rewards.


Taking the final ten league games of managerial tenures, the average points gained by departing managers has steadily fallen over the period, from ten points (one point per game) in 2014/15 and 2015/16, to just eight points (0.8 points per game) across more recent seasons, suggesting a possible lowering in expectations, an increased unwillingness by owners to make changes, or perhaps simply an indication of increased levels of competitiveness in the Premier League.

It’s important however to note that not all managerial changes are sackings. At the end of the 2015/16 season, Ronald Koeman departed Southampton for Everton with the best ‘final ten Premier League games’ record across the period analysed, taking 23 points from the possible 30. Nigel Pearson also collected a notable 22 points from his final ten Premier League games with Leicester City in 2014/15, before a reported breakdown in relationship with the club’s board led to his departure and the arrival of Claudio Ranieri.

However, at the other end of the scale Paul Lambert delivered a return of just three points in his final ten Premier League games with Aston Villa in 2014/15, whilst Frank de Boer’s ill-fated spell at Crystal Palace failed to deliver any points over his four games at the start of the 2017/18 season, demonstrating intervention can be a necessity.

Mauricio Pochettino was relieved on his duties at Tottenham Hotspur in November 2019

Generally, the hiring of a new manager reaped short term rewards for clubs across the 2014/15 to 2018/19 period, with the average points picked up in the first ten games increasing to 13 (1.3 points per game). Around 70% of consistent Premier League clubs analysed over the period saw upturns in short term performance, the greatest being at Leicester City in 2016/17 when Craig Shakespeare oversaw a return of 22 points following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri after a prior run of just five points in his final ten games.

The longer term effect is also positive, albeit slightly less pronounced. Analysing the subsequent ten games (or less depending on length of tenure/status as Premier League team) in the same period, the average points yielded fell to 12 (1.2 points per game).

This suggests there is more of a short term positive impact to replacing a manager than longer term, however on average teams are still better off by 0.3 points per game compared to the closing form of their previous managers, with 60% of consistent Premier League teams analysed better off longer term.

Craig Shakespeare oversaw a return of 22 points following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City

Interestingly, there were only seven occurrences of managers improving results in their first ten games but then enhancing that position in their subsequent ten games. Remarkably almost half of those were the same man, with Sam Allardyce coming to the rescue of Sunderland in 2015/16, Crystal Palace in 2016/17 and Everton in 2017/18.

As such, while no one wants to see anyone lose their job, the average trends over the past five seasons suggest both a short term boost followed by lesser longer term gains when Premier League clubs play the managerial merry-go-round, demonstrating that compensation packages aside, is it a strategy that can reap rewards if traditional wage expenditure is not delivering the expected returns.

Sam Allardyce is known as a Premier League survival expert