Just who will become Chelsea’s new manager? The newspapers seem to splash a new rumour each day but does anyone really know at this stage? Does Roman even have an idea? Probably not. So this article is intended as a handy tool to help Roman make his mind up. Perhaps it may allow the rest of us to form (or confirm) an opinion too. And maybe it will also be able to cut through a few football myths and undermine some barely deserved reputations. That is the intention anyway.
Looking at football through the prism of statistics should always come with a health warning. But I’m an advocate of the careful use of statistics and indicators providing they are properly put into context. This article attempts to do that: presenting useful data for everyone to chew over without ever trying to suggest that this is the last word on the subject.
So this is a bringing together of some key facts about all the relevant candidates for the post of Chelsea manager. Not daft suggestions like John Terry (or indeed Avram Grant). But all the names that have emerged since Robbie Di Matteo collected his cards and the ‘Interim One’ finally spotted his job title on his office door. 22 candidates in total plus the last four Chelsea managers including the incumbent (shaded in blue) along with four eminent managers (shaded in red) who, though they will not be getting the job under any circumstances, are included for comparison purposes only.
So, 30 names in all – rated and ranked on some of the key criteria. They are (in alphabetical order):
|Massimiliano Allegri – AC Milan||Manuel Pellegrini – Malaga|
|Marcelo Bielsa – Athletic Bilbao||Dan Petrescu – D. Moscow|
|Laurent Blanc – Unattached||Gus Poyet – Brighton & HA|
|Fabio Capello – Russia||Diego Simeone – Atletico M.|
|Antonio Conte – Juventus||Luciano Spalletti – Zenit St.P|
|Frank De Boer – Ajax||Ernesto Valverde – Valencia|
|Didier Deschamps – France||Gianfranco Zola – Watford|
|Jupp Heynckes – Bayern M.||Carlo Ancelotti – Paris St.G|
|Guus Hiddink – Anzhi M.||Rafa Benitez – Chelsea|
|Jurgen Klopp – B. Dortmund||Roberto Di Matteo – Unattached|
|Michael Laudrup – Swansea C||Andre Villas-Boas – Spurs|
|Joachim Löw – Germany||Alex Ferguson – Man United|
|Roberto Martinez – Wigan A||Pep Guardiola – Bayern M (pre-contract)|
|Jose Mourinho – Real Madrid||Roberto Mancini – Man City|
|David Moyes – Everton||Arsene Wenger – Arsenal|
The aim here is not for me to analyse the facts to death. Instead, the facts and figures will be presented here for other people to read and interpret as they wish. I have grouped the facts and figures into related groups each of which relate to important questions about what kind of manager we (and Roman) really want:
- Key Facts About the Candidates
- Level of Success on the Field
- Preference for Attacking Football
- Style of Play
- Willingness to Pick Younger Players
Key Facts About the Candidates
The following table lays out some basic information about the possible candidates.
- The ‘Age’ column speaks for itself but it is included because some people may wish to exclude certain managers for being ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ for the Chelsea job.
- ‘Speaks English?’ simply indicates whether each candidate speaks a reasonable level of English (something which many people would argue is a prerequisite). Where their level of English is very limited this is indicated as Poor. There are two managers whose English language skills are ‘Unknown’ at present but please let me know if you can fill the gaps for Allegri and Heynckes.
- The ‘Level of Investment’ column uses data from Transfermarkt to show what the average annual investment (or otherwise) in players that the manager’s current or most recent club has made over the past three seasons. This figure when considered in context could indicate whether a manager has been under- or over performing compared to the investment made in their team over the period. n.b. The Transfermarkt figures are not quite equivalent to transfer fees as they attempt to represent the ‘market value’ of players joining or leaving the clubs in question (and therefore take into account Bosman signings for example). Obviously, no figure is available for the international managers on the list.
- Finally, the ‘Career Honours’ column notes the trophies won through each candidate’s career. The codes are as follows: ‘E’ equals European or other International trophies won. ‘L’ indicates the number of League titles won and ‘C’ represents the number of cups won during the course of each manager’s career. Some people may consider it a basic requirement that the new Chelsea manager should have a track record of winning trophies.
|Rank||Name||Club||Age||Speaks English?||Level of Investment||Career Honours|
* Includes Loans
Level of Success on the Field
This table looks at the tangible success each of the managers has achieved on the field over the past three seasons. It provides an indication of success over the whole period even if, as is true in many cases, the managers have switched jobs in that period – sometimes more than once.
- The columns should be reasonable self-explanatory this time. ‘Win%’ is simply the percentage of all the matches played over the past three seasons that each manager has won.
- The column ‘Goals For Ave’ indicates the average number of goals scored by the teams managed by each candidate over the same period. Notably, the most successful managers over the past few seasons average more than two goals a game (Wenger is the exception here).
- Finally, as expected, ‘Goals Aagainst Ave’ shows the number of goals conceded by the teams managed by the managers concerned over the same period. Again, the teams managed by the most successful managers tend to concede less than a goal a game on average.
n.b. Figures for season 2012/13 are accurate up to 16th April 2013.
|Rank||Name||Clubs||Win %||Goals For Ave||Goals Against Ave|
|22||Di Matteo||West Brom/Chelsea||49.21%||1.88||1.47|
|26||Poyet||Brighton & HA||44.06%||1.42||1.06|
Preference for Attacking Football
As we know, Roman is said to want Chelsea to play an attractive, attacking style of football. Whether this means he wants the club to be ‘Barcelona in Blue’ like journalists would have us believe is questionable but Roman’s preference for Chelsea to approach games with an attacking mentality seems real enough. This table attempts to measure whether the management candidates have demonstrated an attacking mentality over the past three seasons:
n.b. Unfortunately, these figures, derived from information on the WhoScored website, are only available for clubs in the top five European Leagues (Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France) and also do not cover international teams so they are unavoidably incomplete.
- The ‘Shots per match’ column indicates the total number of shots taken per game on average over the past three years by teams managed by the list of candidates for which data is available. This can perhaps be taken as a signifier to indicate the general level of attacking play by the teams concerned.
- The ‘Shots OT per match’ figure is the number of shots on target taken per game on average over the past three years by teams managed by the list of candidates for which data is available. This figure is perhaps an indication of how well the teams included are able to carve out genuine opportunities to score goals.
- The ‘GF Ave’ column is repeated from the previous table and indicates the average number of goals scored by the teams managed by each candidate over the same period. This figure is included to provide a context to the question of how effective the teams were in their attacking approach.
- The final two columns, ‘%Shots On Target’ and ‘%Shots Converted’ are really included for information only and show how accurate the teams concerned were in getting their shots ‘on target’ and their strike rate in converting these shots to goals. As such they are probably better indicators of the quality of the strikers playing for these teams than they are in providing insight into the respective quality of the managers.
|Rank||Name||Shots/g||Shots on/g||GF ave||Shots on %||% GF converted|
Style of Play
Beyond just an ‘attacking style’ the evidence suggests that Roman and the Chelsea Football Board also favour a more technical style of football based on ball retention and fast intricate passing. It also appears, based on the formation adopted throughout the Academy and for the U18 and U21 teams, that Chelsea have made a strategic club decision to play the 4-2-3-1 formation. This table sets out some key facts about how the candidates listed have chosen to play their football.
n.b. As before, some of the statistics are derived from data on the WhoScored website, and are only available for clubs in the top five European Leagues (Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France) and also do not cover international teams so they are incomplete.
- The ‘Possession’ column shows the average possession percentage for all the teams managed by the list of candidates over the past three seasons. Although we would all agree that winning the battle for possession is not an end in itself, it does help illustrate the extent to which the managers concerned favour ball retention and patient play.
- The ‘Passing Accuracy’ column is probably self-explanatory. Just an average of that figure for all the teams managed by the list of managers over the past three seasons. What exactly does it indicate about the managers concerned or is it more an indicator of the quality of the players they coach?
- ‘Passes per match’ is simply the average number of passes that the teams managed by the list of candidates have attempted in each game over the past three seasons. Again, what we can learn from the figures is debatable but given that Guardiola’s Barcelona has by far the highest figure here and David Moyes’s Everton one of the lowest we can probably assume that the Chelsea board would have a general preference for managers whose teams pass more than the average.
- The next column, ‘% Long Passes’ is related to the previous one in that it is the percentage of the total number of passes by the teams managed by the listed managers in the past three seasons which can be defined as ‘Long Passes’ (i.e. a pass of over 25 yards as defined by WhoScored). Again, the assumption is that Chelsea will favour managers whose teams prefer the short passing game but that is perhaps an over-simplification as an ‘long pass’ does not necessarily indicate a manager’s preference for ‘hoofball’.
- Finally, where the manager’s concerned have shown a clear preference for one formation over the past three years then this is indicated in the ‘Formation’ column. As you will see, 16 of the 30 managers listed have mostly played 4-2-3-1 over the period with others having played it alongside other options. Would Chelsea have a preference for managers who are experienced advocates for 4-2-3-1? That may be one of the criteria the club will use.
|Rank||Name||Possession||Passing Accuracy||Passes per match||% Long Passes||Preferred Formation|
Willingness to Pick Younger Players
This final table is possibly the most interesting and instructive of all. We all know that the club has an unprecedented amount of young talent coming through at the moment. And most of us are concerned about whether these superb young talents will ever get the opportunity to play for the first team. Obviously the new manager will play a crucial role in whether they will get the opportunity to prove themselves and this table sets out a range of indicators to show whether each of the candidates has a track record of trusting and bringing through young talents.
n.b. Unfortunately, no data on the average age of the squads of the international managers on the list was available.
- The first column, ‘Average Age’, represents the average age of the club team squads the list of managers have coached over the past three seasons. Of course, this figure may not be down to the managers concerned at all but the bias towards older players in Italian football (and, to a lesser extent, Italian managers) is noticeable.
- The next column, ‘U23s per match’ will take a little explaining. What this figure represents is the average number of players who are 23 or under who played some part in each of the matches played under the listed managers. So, in a typical match there are 11 starting spots and up to 3 substitutes which means that there are a maximum of 14 players involved in the game. Therefore, what Frank De Boer’s figure signifies is that, on average, he played 9.08 players aged 23 or under in each of the matches he managed over the past three seasons (remember, out of an absolute maximum of 14). In contrast, Luciano Spalletti’s figure is 0.92 meaning that on average he played less than one 23 or under player per game over the past three years.
- Next, the ‘U21s per match’ column should make sense providing you’ve got your head around the previous one as it’s essentially the same apart from it measures the average number of player who are 21 or under who played in the listed candidates’ matches over the past three seasons. What do particularly high or low figures in these columns mean? Of course some managers may have been forced into picking a young team because of circumstances outside their control but perhaps these statistics do provide a little insight into the attitude of the managers concerned to young players.
- Finally, the ‘U21 debuts’ notes the average number of players who are 21 or under that each of the managers have given first team debuts to over the past three seasons. As with this whole table, these figures cannot fully represent all the factors involved in a manager choosing to play an U21 player in a certain match, but it should be possible to get a general impression of how open each manager is to giving younger players a chance. That said, bringing on an 18 year old for the last five minutes of a cup game then discarding him still counts as a debut so perhaps the previous column provides a more useful insight. Please note that the figures in this column do not distinguish between youth team products and U21 players who were purchased by the clubs concerned.
|Rank||Name||Ave Age||U23s/g||U21s/g||U21 debuts|
I’m not going to try and tell anyone who the manager should be or predict who will be chosen. On balance my preference would probably still be for Jose although I do have some misgivings about ‘going back’ and also about whether he is really what Chelsea as a club needs right now. But these figures have helped me decide who I definitely don’t want for the role. If one name has surprisingly emerged from the pack then I would pick out Frank De Boer from Ajax. He has led an apparently attractive Ajax side which has been ripped apart through player sales these past few seasons into ongoing success domestically and a respectable showing in Europe all while playing by far the youngest team of anyone on our list. So if it isn’t going to be Mourinho, I hope Chelsea and Roman at least take a look at what De Boer has achieved at Ajax in recent seasons.
A Note on Sources
This statistical analysis was derived from a range of sources, most notably WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Soccerbase and Football-Lineups.com. This article could not exist without their excellent data being made publically available so our sincere thanks go to them.