There may not be any sport which is drawn so magnetically to the apocryphal as football. The idea that marquee signings recoup their value through shirt sales. Pundits citing win-loss records from the last 50 years in games between two teams who are now made up of entirely different players. The idea that there is such a thing as a ‘ball to hand’ rule. And then there is the New Manager Bounce.
It seems obvious enough: you get rid of your old manager; bring in a new one; the results are almost certain to turn around at once (even if only for a short period). There is only one problem: it’s almost certainly not true.
When Omar Chaudhuri, head of football intelligence at the London-based sports consultants 21st Club spoke to Reuters about the New Manager Bounce, he was quite clear — there is no evidence that it exists:
“What we see is that when managers are sacked, a lot of the times their teams have been playing okay, but without luck. It only needs one crucial moment per game to go against you and that is the difference between three points and one or one point and no points. In most cases sacked managers are unlucky.
“It’s like calling tails five times in a row in a coin toss and losing each one. The next person calls tails and wins. It’s the same with a football manager.”
Bring in a new manager and any reversal of fortunes is likely down to luck, then. Chaudhuri estimates that 75% of the New Manager Bounce is down to luck with the other 25% to do with fixtures, players returning from injury or a lift in spirits in dressing room.
This is bad news enough for Huddersfield, whose manager, David Wagner, left the club through mutual consent this week. But there is a double jeopardy here for fans of the Terriers: Wagner didn’t actually leave because of performance. His club were not unhappy with the way he was coaching the team. He simply wanted to take time out from football.
Those fans looking for a New Manager Bounce are unlikely to find one, then. Not least because their first opponents under caretaker manager Mark Hudson are Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
As things go, there is hardly a ‘good time’ to play the Premier League champions. However, Huddersfield might have been looking forward to playing Manchester City of late given their dip in form over the course of the Christmas period.
This shows up well with Twelve‘s xG timeline. As you can see, after the Watford game, City’s xG For drops well below the season-long average for the games against Chelsea (perhaps understandable), Everton, Crystal Palace and Leicester City (less understandable). Worryingly, that trend was mirrored in the xG Against timeline.
Since then, though, with the exception of league leaders Liverpool, City have returned to their early season form: dominating in terms of xG For and stifling oppositions in terms of xG against.
This also shows up well in Twelve’s match momentum tool. Compare the dominance asserted over Wolves by City in their most recent Premier League fixture:
Looking at the yellow areas below the line, you can see how little territory City allowed to their opponents in the game over against the dominance they asserted in Wolves half. The visitors being down to 10 men for over an hour will have had an impact of course.
Against Leicester City, however, Pep Guardiola’s side failed to control the game in quite the same way:
As you can see, Leicester City were able to advance deeper into the City half and more regularly, resulting in more chances than they allowed Wolves.
Huddersfield, then, won’t be feeling entirely sanguine about their chances on Sunday. But they are not without their own ammunition. One of the stars of their season so far has been Danish midfielder Philip Billing, as this graphic from Luke Griffin shows:
Billing shows up prominently in Twelve’s data too: appearing in the top three in every metric over the course of the last six games.
The midfielder has played in a double pivot in either a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-5-2 this season, making his contribution predominantly defensive as you can see from his top-twenty-percentile numbers in both tackles, interceptions and aerial duels won.
However, perhaps surprisingly, he has also shown up as Huddersfield’s most important attacking player in the absence of Aaron Mooy.
No one is expecting Huddersfield to take anything away from City in their match at the weekend. But Billing is certainly one to watch. Expect to see him moving on to bigger and better things if the Terriers do go down this summer.