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Is The New Coach Effect A Real Phenomenon?
At the time of writing, ten Bundesliga coaches have been sacked and replaced mid-season, with at least three more already set to leave after the season. Often this is due to poor work, but it can also be for a breath of fresh air. Starting with a clean sheet and giving the team new confidence.
I’ve heard the old cliché about a new coach’s first game many times when talking to bookies. Being dropped from the team and having to prove yourself to the new coach and the team being underestimated by the opposition makes the first game with the new coach a great time to support the team.
This is something I’ve noticed for a while, but haven’t gotten around to checking its accuracy. This morning, I gathered a complete list of all the mid-season sacked managers in the Big Four (Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga and Serie A) leagues and checked how the teams fared in their first game with a new manager.
Here is the full list:
* Steve McLaren -> Pierre Litbarsky (February 7)
* Pierre Litbarsky -> Felix Magath (March 15)
* Armin Weah -> Michael Oning (March 14)
* Christian Gross -> Jens Keller (Oct 13)
* Jens Keller -> Bruno Labbadia (Dec 12)
* Zvonimir Soldo -> Frank Schaefer (Oct 24)
* Schalke 04
* Felix Magath -> Ralph Rangnick (March 15)
* Ralph Rangnick -> Mario Pezzaulli (Jan 1)
* Michael Frontzek -> Lucien Favre (February 13)
* Martin O’Neill -> Gerard Houllier (9 Sep)
* Chris Houghton -> Alan Pardew (Dec 8)
* Sam Allardyce -> Steve Keane (December 13)
* Roy Hodgson -> Kenny Daglish (Jan 7)
* Franco Colombo -> Alberto Malesani (August 29)
* Gian Piero Gasperini -> Davide Ballardini (Nov 8)
Giuseppe Icchini -> Mario Beretta (December 6)
o Mario Beretta -> Giuseppe Icchini (Jan 30)
o Rafael Benitez – Leonardo (December 23)
o Marco Giampaolo -> Diego Simeone (Jan 18)
o Giampiero Ventura -> Bortolo Mutti (February 10)
o Claudio Ranieri -> Vincenzo Montanella (February 20)
o Delio Rossi -> Serse Cosmi (February 28)
o Domenico Di Carlo -> Alberto Cavacin (March 7)
o Jose Antonio Camacho -> Jose Luis Medilibar (February 14)
o Miguel Angel Portugal -> Marcelino Garcia Toral (February 7)
o Juanma Lillo -> Jose Luis Oltra (November)
o Jose Gay -> Javier Aguirre (Nov 18)
o Jesualdo Ferreira -> Manuel Pellegrini (Nov 2)
o Antonio Alvarez -> Gregorio Manzano (Sept 30)
There are one or two instances where the new coach hasn’t had time to play any games yet, such as Eintracht Frankfurt.
There are 29 cases in this list. While this is certainly not enough to draw any absolute conclusions, it should still yield some interesting results. If, in fact, the new coach effect is complete nonsense, the numbers should reflect that.
But they don’t. Out of these 29 matches, the team under the new coach won 13, drew six and lost ten.
That’s a W/D/L percentage of 44.8%/20.7%/34.5%, or an average of 1.55 league points per game. Considering the managerial mess and terrible nature of every team on the list, and considering that roughly half the games were played, taking 1.55 points per game is incredibly impressive.
The performance is equivalent to a top quarter table in any league. For your comparison, here are some teams that have averaged less than 1.55 points per game this season:
o Hamburger SV
o Schalke 04
o Atletico Madrid
Differences could certainly be a major reason for these staggering numbers, but I doubt it. But if the theory isn’t entirely true, then we really shouldn’t see a team portfolio that includes the likes of Almeria, Brescia, Blackburn and Borussia Mönchengladbach with a portfolio of over thirty games for Hamburg, Liverpool, Sevilla and Juventus.
When Eintracht Frankfurt face Wolfsburg on March 4, both sides will have new managers. Even though Felix Magath has already completed one game for his new side, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the impression he’s left on Wolfsburg’s morale won’t go away easily.
Magath has been described as a “short-term coach”, implying that he is good at shaping a disciplined, uncompromising team, but in the long term, his autocratic leadership style makes it very difficult to maintain morale due to relationship tensions.
In this case, I think Magath’s effect on Wolfsburg is Christoph Damm’s effect on Frankfurt. But then again, who am I to question such a seemingly powerful phenomenon?
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