Some are called ‘managers’, others are called ‘head coaches’. Whatever the specifics of their position, or the term used to describe their position, they – let’s call them ‘Misters’, in respect to those who first left Britain to teach the game abroad – are more influential within modern football than ever before.
Alongside a heightened awareness of tactics and analysis has come an increased interest in coaching philosophies. The players are no longer the only stars – nowadays, those organising and gesticulating on the touchline are given equal amounts of praise, criticism, respect and scrutiny. This development has been most obvious within the English Premier League, where the importation of top tactical knowledge from abroad has been integral to a recent upsurge in the quality of play.
Football lists are invariably deeply subjective, particularly when it comes to ranking players. But there is no real need for this when it comes to rating managerial performance. With this in mind, we at Tifo Football present The Misters Awards, a series in which we set out to assess and rank managers and head coaches within Europe’s supposed top four leagues, the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, and Germany’s Bundesliga, based on their performance in 2017/18.
Fear not: these won’t be any old rankings. Indeed, the whole point of this series is to be more scientific in our approach to assessing managerial performance in a given season. In order to do this we will be utilising several metrics, which we will discuss in detail shortly. With these metrics established there was no need for argument, opinion or discussion, all of which would only open us up to biases, such as…
1 – Playing style
Just because you like the way Manager X gets his/her team playing football doesn’t mean Manager X had a good season.
2 – Manner of speaking
Okay, you think Manager X made himself/herself look stupid by putting on that Dutch accent in a press conference. It’s not relevant when judging Manager X’s performance.
3 – Age
Manager X is ‘old school’, you say? He/she has been out of the game for a while? Irrelevant. Manager Y is only 27 years old? He/she is full of promise and/or interesting theories? Again, irrelevant.
4 – Appearance
It doesn’t matter that Manager X looks trendy on the touchline. So what if he/she prefers a tracksuit to business attire? Style is a matter of taste, and taste is subjective.
5 – Past achievements
Manager X may have a wonderful reputation, and quite rightly, too. Unfortunately for them, we’re assessing their performance in the most recent season, so we don’t care about that miraculous Champions League win 15 years ago.
Now you know what The Misters Awards is and why we’re doing it, so let’s now discuss how we’re doing it.
A – Win percentage
The league position column on its own doesn’t tell us very much – two teams in different countries can both win their leagues but possess vastly different win percentages. A high win percentage doesn’t always guarantee quality, but it’s a more accurate reflection of how a team performed under a manager’s auspices than the league position.
In order to obtain the points total allocated here, the win percentage will be rounded to the nearest five per cent and then divided by 10. So a win percentage of 76% will be rounded to 75%, giving the manager in question 7.5 points.
B – Position change
In order to understand how well a team performed this season, we need to take into account how they performed last season. The change in said team’s league position will be used to measure this, giving us important historical context when measuring managerial performance.
Points will be awarded to each manager based on the positional change of their team from last season to this. So, if Manager X leads their team to second after finishing sixth last season, they will be awarded four points in this category.
NB. Newly promoted teams will be assigned the previous season’s relegation positions when calculating their positional change. So, if a team finished 19th in the Premier League after being the last promoted side (i.e. via the play-offs), their manager will be awarded one point.
C – Position to squad value
There are huge discrepancies in financial power between clubs within the same league. Considering this, it is not necessarily true that a manager winning the league has performed better than another manager leading their team to safety. By taking into account the valuation of a manager’s playing squad we hope to add important financial context when assessing their performance.
Points will be awarded to each manager based on their team’s league position relative to their squad’s value. These valuations are based on Transfermarkt’s club values at the end of both pre-season and mid-season transfer windows. So, if a club has the highest valuation in their league but finishes sixth in the table, their manager will be assigned -5 points in this category.
D – Knockout points
The league may well be a football club’s ‘bread and butter’, but cup competitions should not be overlooked. Indeed, going deep in a knockout tournament can at times impact on a team’s league results.
Here, points will be awarded to managers based on their team’s performance in the major domestic cup competition (i.e. the FA Cup in England) as well as the two major European competitions (Champions League and Europa League). Each domestic cup win earns the team’s manager one point, each Europa League progression from the group stages onward earns them two points, and each Champions League progression from the group stages onward earns them three points.
NB. Teams who drop out of the Champions League group stages in third place will not be awarded points for ‘progressing’ into the Europa League knockout stages. Their dropping down will be treated as an elimination, and no points will be awarded.
E – Percentage of time in charge
In cases where a team has changed managers during the season, the manager who was in charge for the highest percentage of league matches will be chosen for assessment. They will be scored as per the above metrics, but their total score will then be changed according to the percentage of the league season they were in charge for. So if a manager is only in charge for 79 per cent of 38 league games, their score will be multiplied by 0.79, and then rounded to the nearest .5, to get a fairer reflection of their performance.
NB. Only managers who have been charge for over three quarters of the league season will be considered for ranking in these awards. This is to reduce the possibility of a manager finishing highly in the rankings based on the good performance of their predecessor or successor.
An introduction to the ranking system - how are we weighting the different managerial qualities?2
The best of the rest - those who were not considered, were ineligible, or who just missed out.3
The list begins: Our rankings from 20 to 16.4
Two former European Cup winners feature as the list continues. Here are managers 15 to 11.5
Moving towards 2018's truly elite: 10 to 6.6
A third European Cup in successive years gave Zinedine Zidane the perfect exit at Real Madrid; he's in at Five.7
Diego Simeone enters at Four, having guided Atletico Madrid through their stadium move, beyond a transfer ban, and back into…8
And now Number Three: Domenico Tedesco, FC Schalke's Antonio Conte acolyte9
Burnley have had a difficult start to 2018-19, but the season before was the finest in their modern history -…10
And your winner... Getafe's hard-liner, Jose Bordalas.