There are 101 ways to calculate and then rank one player alongside another. Strikers score…
Here we go again. It doesn’t feel that long ago that the 2017/18 campaign came to an end and now, with the League Cup well and truly underway the season is too. Managers have a pre-season under their belts and will no doubt have strategies and plans for the upcoming campaign, ready to face each other in a bid to improve their team’s fortunes.
It can sometimes be difficult to judge how well any given manager is getting on at his club. At Celtic, for instance, Brendan Rodgers is expected to win pretty much every game, and does so most of the time. And rightly so – Rodgers works with the best squad in the league, who have won the Premiership on seven consecutive occasions. Celtic should win most games. Yet Steve Clarke won PFA Manager of the Year and finished in fifth place. Why? Because he exceeded expectations. So if the league table isn’t always representative of a manager’s performance, how best to rate them?
We think we have a solution. The best way to evaluate a manager is by comparing their results to their respective clubs’ expectations. To do this, we’ve created our manager power rankings. We use odds from the betting markets do determine favourites for each fixture a side plays in, then allocate or deduct points based on whether or not a team were favourites for an encounter. If Celtic were to beat Livingston, for example, Rodgers would gain a point. But if Livingston were to emerge victorious, Kenny Miller would pick up three points, as his side were expected to lose.
Our manager power rankings judge managers not on their overall points tally in the Premiership, but on how well they’re doing respective to how the club is expected to do before each fixture. This way, we can compare how each coach is getting on and rank managers based on their performances.
This might all sound a little familiar. We ran a power rankings series last year and for the most part it worked, albeit with a few anomalies. Mainly, the fact that managers at the lower end of the table – like Alan Archibald or Martin Canning – found themselves in the fortuitous position of being virtually unable to drop points, as they went into most games as favourites to lose. At the top end, we were punishing managers a little harshly for drawing games they were expected to win; Neil Lennon, Craig Levein and Rodgers all look a little undervalued in hindsight.
So we’ve re-jigged our system and giving it another bash. Points are allocated as follows. If a side is favourite to win then their manager will gain a point if they do so, lose a single point if they draw and lose three if their side loses. If a team is expected to lose but goes on to win, the coach will gain three points. A draw will earn them one point, and a defeat will cost them one.
Our new system means that managers of teams who are favourites are punished more leniently than before and that a defeat always costs a coach, regardless of the stature of the opposition. Some defeats will hurt more than others but all will have consequences to our table. We ran last season’s numbers through the new system, which produced the totals below.
As we can see, there are a few interesting changes. Neil Lennon, for example, moves up to second place overall – gaining an additional seven points. The effect is more pronounced on smaller clubs, however. Alan Archibald is 16 points worse off, while Canning lost 20 points. Clarke still runs away with it at the summit, but this is probably fair: after all, he turned a team that looked destined for relegation into European challengers.
Rodgers finds himself a little low for a manager that just won the title but in terms of the Premiership he hasn’t exactly exceeded his brief. Celtic won the title, as expected, with a total of 82 points. That’s 22 fewer points than last season and lower than either of the points totals accrued under Ronny Deila in his two years in charge – a man who is generally considered to have underwhelmed at Celtic Park. It was a decent season for Rodgers, which is reflected in his positive score, but it’s difficult to argue that Rodgers exceeded expectations.
Coaches like Tommy Wright and Stephen Robinson are rewarded for keeping out of the relegation battle and find themselves near the top of our 2017/18 rankings. Only three managers had a negative impact on their side’s predicted chances – Craig Levein, Stuart Kettlewell and Graeme Murty. By our rankings, all three underperformed at their respective clubs last season.
Going forward, we’ll be updating our rankings on a weekly basis so you can monitor each Premiership manager’s form and decide who’s having the best season. Last season, we focused solely on the Premiership but this year we’ll have two sets of rankings on the go: one for all competitions, including Europe, and another focusing on the league. The same scoring system will be used across all competitions and wins in extra time or penalties will qualify as victories for the winning side.
So keep an eye out in the coming weeks for our power rankings to see which managers get off to the best start and to see how your team’s coach is getting on compared to the rest. With the League Cup and European qualifiers underway points are already on the board, but any manager could be top by the time the season concludes.