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Did you exceed expectations?

In August, we presented a framework to set expectations for the new season.

Instead of setting a league position benchmark, we suggested clubs set a points benchmark to assess themselves against in May (or December, for many Scandinavian and American clubs). The reasoning followed that whilst league position is sometimes at the mercy of rivals’ form, points tally is something entirely within a club’s control.

Take Sevilla as an example, a club perennially on the fringes of Spain’s top four. Pre-season, the club might have looked at what it has historically taken to finish in the Champions League places. In the previous 10 years, fourth place had averaged 65 points, with a maximum of 70.

What Sevilla hadn’t reckoned with – and what was largely beyond their control – was a resurgent Valencia who, like themselves, consistently swept aside bottom-half teams en route to their second-highest ever points total in La Liga. Sevilla eventually finished fifth with 76 points, better than most third – let alone fourth – placed teams have managed in the last ten years.

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Of course Sevilla ultimately secured their Champions League place via the Europa League, but were worth their position on merit in the league based on points alone.

Whilst it is important to consider changing league and opponent dynamics, reassessing expectations relative to points is critical in long-term planning. A club that has fallen short on position but exceeded expectations on points may make unnecessary changes over the summer, because the league table was potentially an unfair reflection of their output. Similarly, a club in the opposite situation may have simply found themselves the beneficiaries of underachieving rivals. Points can also be a better metric of comparison to previous seasons.

It is already the time to begin shaping and communicating expectations for next season, but before then it’s perhaps best to reflect on how well targets were set in the last campaign. Were they the right expectations, and what can we do to exceed the new benchmark next season?

About Omar Chaudhuri

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