We collected data on 815 different managerial spells in the top five major European Football leagues from the last decade. Our aim was to understand how various top leagues behave when it comes to hiring and sacking of team managers/coaches.
- The average Serie A manager is not expected to last an entire season with an average of 35.1 league games.
During the past decade, a total of 44 managerial spells in Serie A have lasted less than 10 league games.
Premier League clubs afforded their managers more time than any other top league with an average of 69.4 league games.
Ligue 1 was responsible for the fewest number of managerial spells coming to an end during the past decade - 130.
Relegation-threatened mid-season changes usually end in failures with a success rate of 35.5% and 39.7% in Serie A and La Liga respectively.
Among top five leagues, Premier League clubs are least likely to make a mid-season managerial change if they are not facing a relegation threat.
Managerial stability in various leagues
We considered all managers/coaches, excluding current managers, to have worked in these leagues during 2010-2020 and found averages of lengths of their respective stints.
Premier League clearly provides the best job-security to managers among all top leagues. In the English top tier, a manager lasts for 69.4 league games on average. Whereas, at the other end, an average managerial span in Serie A stands at 35.1 league games - nearly half of the Premier League. In La Liga, the average length is just 39.6 games -- just over 1 season.
Two exceptional cases in the Premier League skew the data a bit. Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) managed 1033 and 828 league games respectively. Without these two cases, Premier League managers average 56.1 games, thus putting Ligue 1 on top.
Serie A leads the table with 220 different managerial stints coming to an end during the past decade. The Italian league is closely followed by Spanish La Liga at 185 managerial spells.
Ligue 1 and Premier League are at the other end resulting in the termination of 130 and 131 managerial stints respectively.
Distribution of managers as per number of games managed
We mapped the number of managerial spells during the last decade against their respective duration in league games.
We see that various leagues peaked at the 10-19 range, but not the Premier League, which peaks at 20-29. The majority of managers in Serie A get sacked within 20 games. In fact, a total of 44 managers were in their jobs for less than 10 games in the league in the last decade. The league is also unique as it is responsible for two managers having to leave their jobs without managing a single league game - Marcelo Bielsa (Lazio) and Stefano Pioli (Palermo).
Another interesting characteristic of this graph is season-ending bumps. In Ligue 1, we clearly see these bumps at 30-39, 70-79, 100-119 and 150-159 bars indicating that clubs prefer to change managers either after the conclusion of football seasons or following the conclusion of managers’ contracts.
These bumps are less apparent in other leagues and almost absent from Serie A, further indicating that managerial changes during ongoing seasons are as common as off-season ones.
Reasons for change in managers
Out of possible reasons for departures, sacking accounts for the majority of managerial changes.
On the other hand, only a select few managers quit their jobs in-between contracts to take another position.
The percentage of managers who were sacked is nearly identical for Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga with figures ranging between 61.4% and 65.7%.
However, the numbers of Ligue 1 are surprising as only 42% of departing managers were sacked. The league also shows a significantly higher share of managers departing upon the end of their contracts (17.3%) and resigning (20%).
When are managers sacked?
These graphs display the importance of the January transfer window in the European football season. This transfer window causes a lot of upheaval at the management level in football during the months of December and January.
In four out of five leagues, most managers have been sacked in either December or January. Serie A is the only exception to this trend, but even in the Italian league, a significant number of changes have happened in December. During the regular football season, August has been the safest month for managers.
Relegation battles and managers
The relationship between relegation battles and managerial changes is quite obvious. Being in a relegation battle is the biggest contributor to a managerial change.
We qualified managerial changes made by teams placed in the bottom quarter of various leagues in the middle of a football season as a relegation-threatened change.
Premier League clubs are least likely to change their managers mid-season unless they are in a relegation battle.
75.40% of managerial changes during ongoing seasons during the last decade in Premier League were made by clubs placed in the bottom quarter or the bottom-five of the league.
For the other leagues, this figure ranged between 60% and 65.6%.
We see the success rate of relegation-inspired changes in various leagues.
Serie A and La Liga trail the other three leagues by a considerable margin. In the Premier League, Bundesliga and Ligue 1, 50%-51% of newly-appointed managers led their respective sides to safety from relegation. However, in most seasons, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 only witness two relegations due to the presence of play-offs.
Serie A and La Liga have provided the least amount of stability to their managers during the past decade. Ligue 1 and Premier League sides are comparatively patient with their managers and refrain from making mid-season changes.
What was even more striking about Serie A was the fact that relegation-threatened clubs often make multiple managerial changes in a single season. Our analysis suggests that the majority of these changes end in failures.
When it comes to relegation battles, Premier League clubs are more likely to make good managerial decisions than their counterparts in other leagues.
The January transfer window might be controversial, but it plays a major role in managerial recruitment. Clubs forced to make mid-season managerial changes are most likely to do so during the months of December and January.
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