A Proven Strategy
Football sometimes provides too many blueprints for success. In any given season, a team we’re looking to emulate might succeed for many different reasons, so it helps to look at how a typical benchmark club achieves success, and use that as a basis for our strategy.
For example, we are often asked by boardrooms of promoted clubs what it takes to survive in a higher division: including how to approach squad composition, spending and playing style.
The anecdotal evidence often points in different directions. In recent Premier League seasons, for example, Bournemouth and Burnley have stayed up with minimal change from their promoted team, whereas Brighton and Crystal Palace achieved the same with barely half of their promoted team. As a key decision maker at a club, it can be hard to know which approach – if any in particular – best tilts the odds in our favour.
This is where properly reviewing all the evidence helps. Take playing styles; promoted teams increasingly come up with open, attacking styles – but does this style translate well to the top flight? While there are positive and negative case studies on both sides, the research suggests that attacking football is less likely to work; teams that have disproportionately good defences tend to be more successful than teams that have disproportionately good attacks (which supports the theory of controlling variance in football). Indeed, the difference in goalscoring record between those that survived and those that went down was relatively minimal – about 3 league places – whereas the difference in defensive record was huge – around 6 league places.
That isn’t to say that all promoted teams should adopt a defensive playing style when they come up – every team has its own unique context. However, information like the above should underpin conversations on strategy, especially if quick changes are required mid-season.
Of course, this type of analysis isn’t exclusive to promoted teams; each club has its own ambitions, and usually there are a set of teams that have blazed a trail before us. It would be irresponsible to not find a strategy that history has proven to be most likely to work.
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