Heads or tails?
It’s natural in life to want new things; such is the world we live in today. But as football’s summer transfer window reaches its climax, I wanted to know how many new signings actually turn out to be an immediate success.
“Less than half” was the prompt response from one of the analysts in our office, having quickly queried our database. He had run a search on the percentage of possible minutes played by new signings and found that only 40% of them played more than half of the available first team minutes in their first season (for context, ‘core’ players in a squad typically play between 50-100% of first team minutes according to our research, so that’s the benchmark for success given that the purpose of making new signings is to improve the team).
Granted some clubs bring in young talent as a long-term investment for the future or more experienced players as backup, but even when you control for this by looking at 24-30 year olds the new players signed with the intention of making an immediate impact still only played 48% of minutes.
In short: the chance of a new signing being successful essentially boils down to a coin toss.
Football is not uniquely bad at recruitment. The cofounder and CEO at Capital One, Richard Fairbank once said: “at most companies, people spend 2% of their time recruiting and 75% managing their recruiting mistakes.”
Recruitment is hard. Although in football we should arguably be better at finding new talent than other industries. Why? Because we are able to freely watch potential new hires perform (traditional scouting) and we have remote access to data and video (modern recruitment approaches) to help us make our decisions.
There is no silver bullet. Often it’s simply about shifting the odds in your favour through adopting smart approaches and deciding who not to buy.