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Which Premier League manager has performed most above expectations so far?

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An attempt to quantify the effectiveness of Premier League managers

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The turnaround engineered by Antonio Conte at Chelsea has been nothing short of impressive. From the disaster of Jose Mourinho’s third season to the mediocrity of Guus Hiddink, to the mixed start under Conte himself, the last thing we would’ve expected just a couple months ago, amid early rumors of a Conte sacking already, was to be top of the table heading into December. Considering how Chelsea and Conte are doing, and ahead of this weekend’s match against Manchester City, this is probably a good time to see how Conte has performed in comparison with Guardiola, Mourinho, Wenger, Klopp, Pochettino and all the other Premier League managers.

To statistically calculate the effectiveness of a manager I am considering three parameters: net transfer spend, wage bill and last season’s performance. These parameters are multiplied by the results obtained considering the venue, importance of match and goal difference between the two teams. So a win against Manchester City away from home will earn Conte significantly more rating points than a home win against Hull City. In short, the rating is based on the efficiency formula which is Actual performance/Expected performance.

Based on those parameters, the expectation at the start of the season, before any managers had a chance to affect the proceedings, would have been to have the two Manchester clubs at the top, followed by Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, and Liverpool.

So, if all managers had zero effect on the performance of their teams, that would also be the current Premier League table. But those are not the positions the teams currently occupy (except for Spurs) and the difference here is performance of manager. After game week 13, the current expectations still have Manchester City top, but now followed by Chelsea, Arsenal, United, Liverpool, and Spurs in sixth.

Manchester United is the obvious outlier here, but having spent €177m (net) over the summer, expectations will have been raised. Spending €100m on Paul Pogba should undoubtedly raise expectations.

The change from initial to current expectation can be directly attributed to the performance of the manager so far. Chelsea were hoping to finish top four at the start of the season but now may be hoping to win the league while Manchester United, who had been hoping to win the league at the start, are now hoping for a top four finish. Watford were fearing a relegation fight this season but now may be dreaming about Europe while Sunderland, who were hoping for a new era under Moyes, are fearing the worst.

Considering the parameters mentioned above, Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp is the runaway leader of the performance ratings so far this season, with Spurs’ Pochettino second and Conte third. At the other end, we find the likes of Moyes, Bilić, and Mourinho, while Pep Guardiola is basically mid-table, with Manchester City performing more or less to expectations. Claudio Ranieri, after a most amazing season is also well down in these standings, just as Leicester City are in the league table.

Note: Francesco Guidolin had an average rating of 0.783 while Bob Bradley has an average rating of 1.090. When Francesco Guidolin was sacked he didn’t have the lowest average rating. Moyes and Bilić both had lower ratings of 0.330 and 0.439, respectively. Unfortunately for Guidolin, he wasn’t a big-name manager with Premier League experience like the other two below him which resulted in his sacking.

Based on the parameters used, Klopp has been the most efficient manager in the league, without a doubt. He has made optimal use of the resources available at his disposal. He’s made Liverpool a force to be reckoned with, despite zero net spend, playing beautiful, efficient football following last season’s eighth place finish. Conte always talks about improving players — along similar lines, Coutinho’s stock (or Firmino’s, for example) under Klopp has increased markedly. Liverpool have claimed excellent results against title rivals with victories over Arsenal and Chelsea away from home, which fetched Klopp 5.437 and 5.391 points, respectively, along with draws away at Spurs and home to Manchester United.

Klopp’s only loss has come against Burnley, which has probably been his only low point this season. The victory would have only fetched Klopp 2.38 points, which would’ve been second lowest of all Liverpool victories this season (Sunderland 2.37), but could have significant consequences in what is turning out to be a closely contested premier league title race.

Another major factor that both Klopp (and Conte) are benefiting from is lack of European football. Liverpool and Chelsea have the luxury of fully focusing on the Premier League, with the players able to prepare and give it their all each weekend. Considering Liverpool’s high pressing game, would Klopp (or Conte) be this efficient if they had to play two-three matches a week?

Klopp’s contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. He was the Premier League Manager of the Month for September, winning three of three, including a 4-1 victory over defending champions Leicester, a 2-1 victory away from home against fellow title rivals Chelsea and a 5-1 demolition of Hull City. The ratings method outlined in this post backs up this award.

Note: This was Chelsea’s worst month as the Blues grabbed only 1 point out of possible 9 while Conte fetched only 1.96 which was 17th lowest that month. It was only 17th lowest because Middlesbrough, West Ham and Sunderland lost all their matches in that month.

In the next post (tomorrow), I will look closer at Guardiola vs. Conte. If there are any questions in the meantime, please let me know in the comments section.