There are lies, damned lies, and statistics, as idiots are fond of saying more often than they ought to.
The real problem with statistics is not that they lie so much as they often hide a lot more nuance than they initially suggest. As such, we’re not saying that Avram Grant is actually better than Antonio Conte, or that Liverpool would be better off ditching Jurgen Klopp to bring in Big Phil Scolari; each of those managers were hired at different stages of a club’s life-cycle, with different expectations and different levels of expectation. Of course the jammy sod who inherits an entire lemon grove can make more lemonade than the guy who only had access to whatever the Tesco Metro had in stock at 9pm on a Sunday night.
Nonetheless, we thought that on the face of things, these five managers’ percentages (in all competitions during their respective spells, not just Premier League games) were interesting and deserved a closer look to see just what the hell is going on…
5. Avram Grant: better at Chelsea than Antonio Conte
Grant: P54, W36, D13, L5 (win percentage 66.67%, 2.24 points per game)
Conte: P106, W69, D17, L20 (win percentage 65.09%, 2.11 points per game)
The triumphs: Grant took over from Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge in September 2007 after the Portuguese fell out with the Chelsea board.
The Israeli stepped down into the dugout from his Director of Football position and did surprisingly well, despite the protests of the Chelsea fans who felt aggrieved that they had lost their special one.
Grant’s Chelsea lost 2-0 at Old Trafford in his first game in charge on 23rd September, but didn’t lose another game in any competition until a William Gallas goal gave Arsenal a 1-0 win at the Emirates on 16th December.
That was Chelsea’s final league defeat of the season, with Grant Chelsea managed 15 wins and six draws in their last 21 league games, as well charging to both the League Cup and Champions League finals – both of which they lost (the former to Spurs in extra time, the latter to Manchester United on penalties).
If he’s so great how come he got the boot? Grant was unpopular throughout his time at Chelsea despite his excellent record. A dour man by nature – at least in front of the cameras – Grant stood in stark contrast to his then-bright eyed and charismatic predecessor.
Losing 1-0 to Barnsley in an FA Cup quarter-final certainly didn’t help, but it’s very hard to say Grant could realistically have achieved any more than he did. Well, except for maybe telling John Terry to try really hard not to slip on his f***ing arse in the Champions League final shootout. Grant was dismissed just three days later.
Did he prove them wrong? Unequivocally not. He took administration-stricken Portsmouth to both the FA Cup final and relegation in 2009/10 after repeating his ‘start of Director of Football, take over after we sack the manager’ trick on Paul Hart.
The following year he took West Ham United down, too, bringing his Premier League career to an end.
4. Luiz Felipe Scolari: better at Chelsea than Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool
Scolari: P36, W20, D11, L5 (win percentage 55.56%, 1.97 points per game)
Klopp: P166, W88, D46, L32 (win percentage 53.01%, 1.87 points per game)
The triumphs: The man who replaced Grant at Chelsea in the summer of 2008, and the second of four former Chelsea managers to appear on this list – but don’t worry, we won’t be talking about Chelsea for the other two.
Scolari had led Brazil to a World Cup win in 2002 and then taken Portugal to the Euro 2004 final, the 2006 World Cup semi-finals, and the Euro 2008 quarter-finals. Expectations were high for big Phil: his appointment made him the first ever World Cup winning manager to take charge of a Premier League side.
If he’s so great how come he got the boot? As the win percentage suggests, Chelsea won more often than not under Scolari, but a complete inability to win against high-calibre opposition did for him.
Under Scolari, Chelsea played five games against the rest of what was then the Big Four, and took just a single point from them: they lost to Liverpool twice, lost to Arsenal, and both drew and lost against Manchester United.
By the time he was dismissed on 9th February 2009 Chelsea were sitting in fourth, two points behind Aston Villa.
Did he prove them wrong? He won three Chinese Super Leagues and an Asian Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrande, for what that’s worth. He’s also won the league in Uzbekistan, and there’s not too many managers who can say that.
However, he was also the man in charge when Brazil lost 7-1 on home soil in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup. That probably cancels out at league the Uzbek league win at very least.
3. Roberto Martinez: Everton’s greatest manager of the Premier League era
Martinez: P140, W60, D39, L41 (win percentage 42.9%, 1.56 points per game)
Next best: David Moyes: P516, W217, D139, L160 (win percentage 42.05%, 1.53 points per game)
The triumphs: Arriving at Everton with both an FA Cup and a…whatever trophy you get for getting relegated…from his final season at Wigan, Martinez’s new side lost just once in the league before Christmas, and that was away to eventual champions Manchester City.
A 1-0 win away to Manchester United in December 2013 was the highlight. Not only did it come against Everton’s former manager, the United legend David Moyes, but it was the first time Everton had won at Old Trafford since 1992. In April, they made it their first league double over United since 1970, in what would be Moyes’ last game in charge of United.
Everton finished Martinez’s debut season with 72 points, easily their best tally of the Premier League era: their next best is 65
If he’s so great how come he got the boot? As ever with Martinez, you need only look at the goals against column to find his achilles heel.
The defensive solidity he had inherited vanished after that first season: In his three years in charge, they conceded 39 goals, then 50, then 55. They weren’t truly awful, most of the time, at least at the beginning; just frustratingly capable of so much more.
An awful run of six defeats and three draws in 10 games towards the end of the 2015/16 season – including a 3-2 home defeat to West Ham, a 4-0 thrashing at Anfield in the derby, and finally a 3-0 loss to Sunderland, who would otherwise have been relegated – were the final straw for Martinez, who had increasingly looked like a man out of his depth.
Did he prove them wrong? Too early to say. Coming third in the World Cup as manager of Belgium certainly doesn’t hurt his argument, but there has always been a sense that Martinez is much better suited to cup competition than to the league.
2. Andre Villas-Boas: better at Spurs than any Premier League-era Liverpool manager (except Rafa Benitez)
Villas Boas: P80, W44, D20, L16 (win percentage 55.00%, 1.90 points per game)
The triumphs: Poor Andre. He never could get a fair shake in England, with his maths and his thinking and his proto-Sean Dyche voice and his unorthodox approach to the ways he chose to bend his legs. You know, all the really important stuff.
He never really won over the Chelsea dressing room, so his move to Spurs in 2012 was something of a second chance for the Portuguese. Becoming the first Spurs manager to win at Old Trafford in September certainly helped; losing 5-2 away to Arsenal seven weeks later just a little bit of a setback in counterbalance.
If he’s so great how come he got the boot? That last paragraph about sums it up. Taken as a whole, Villas-Boas’s record at Spurs is excellent, but as at Chelsea, he was rather prone to humiliating and high-profile defeats.
In Villas-Boas’s first and only full season as Tottenham manager, they were knocked out of both the League Cup and the FA Cup embarrassingly early by Norwich and Leeds respectively. They lost 4-2 at home to Chelsea and 1-0 at home to Wigan and Fulham (in separate games, they weren’t just ganging up on Spurs).
Finally, though, it was Villas-Boas who carried the can for one of the most notoriously disastrous transfer windows of all time, with Spurs replacing the departed Gareth Bale with seven players including Paulinho and Roberto Soldado (but, in mitigation, also including Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen).
To say they failed to gel immediately would be an understatement; in Villas-Boas’ last four months in charge, they lost 3-0 at home to West Ham, 1-0 at home to Newcastle, 6-0 away to Manchester City, and 5-0 at home to Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, that last one broke the camel’s back.
Did he prove them wrong? Last seen dropping out of football management to take part in the Dakar Rally, which he literally crashed out of in the fourth of 13 stages. So we’re going to go with ‘no’.
1. Jose Mourinho: better at Manchester United than Sir Alex Ferguson
Mourinho: P131, W79, D28, L24 (win percentage 60.31%, 2.02 points per game)
Ferguson: P1,500, W895, D338, L267 (win percentage 59.67%, 2.02 PPG)
The triumphs: Helped United cast off the mind-numbing tedium of Louis Van Gaal in order to introduce…well, it’s still mind-numbingly tedious at times, particularly against high-profile opposition. But it’s still just about preferable to the style Van Gaal played.
Managed United to a League Cup and, crucially, the Europa League in his debut season two years ago. We say ‘crucially’, because United tanked the league, finishing 6th, eight points short of the Champions Leagues places, but the Europa League trophy bought them entry to Champions League for 2017/18.
To their credit, United were City’s closest challengers last season, memorably spoiling what was meant to be their noisy neighbours’ coronation with a 3-2 away win in April. United also remain a thorn in Jurgen Klopp’s side: they’re the only Premier League team he is yet to beat as Liverpool manager.
If he’s so great how come he got the boot? He hasn’t. Not yet. But if you’re asking why he’s so unpopular with large parts of the Old Trafford faithful: a woeful start to his third season (where have we heard that before?), the seemingly intentional alienation of key players, and a host of bizarre selection decisions.
We summed it up here a couple of weeks ago, basically. Go read that if you’re interested, we’re pretty much finished here anyway.
Did he prove them wrong? That, young 55-year-old Jose, is rather up to you…