The impact manager
We know from our research that, in the long run, managerial changes on average make little difference to the performance of a team. That isn’t to say, however, that smart hires can’t turn a struggling team around.
When we look through our database of managers who did improve performance in their first 20 matches in charge, one clear thing stands out: the biggest improvements tended to be in defence rather than in attack.
The biggest improvements in defence were worth about 6-10 points to the team over a season, whereas the biggest improvements in attack were worth around 4-6 points.
This is in line with most people’s intuition; a club in crisis often needs better defensive organisation, something that can be coached over a relatively short period of time. Attacking performance, however, is much more reliant on the individual talent at a manager’s disposal, and therefore more likely to be improved via promotions from the academy or through player trading.
This has implications for our approach to both manager and player recruitment. Clubs that desire an attacking, free-flowing style of football need to either be patient with a new head coach as he tries to change things with existing resources, or be prepared to spend in order to improve the squad’s attacking output.
This of course should also be done in the context of whether being a good defensive team or a good attacking team gives us a better chance of reaching our targets. New managers can make a strong, positive impact, but expectations need to be aligned with the reality of what can and is likely to be achieved.