‘Style’ has cost Sam Allardyce his job at Everton apparently. Despite being quite forward thinking throughout his career and doing a sterling job (in terms of points accumulated) since taking over at Everton, Sam has found it hard to shake his managerial identity.
It seems fans and owners of traditionally elite clubs want their team to not only win, but to win well. Such are the demands of modern management.
Measuring style can be tricky. Goals scored from set pieces is one way that comes to mind. Another is passes completed by a team. Typically, teams that are easier on the eye can effortlessly string together passes into neat moves. Arsenal’s invincibles come to mind and so to do the Barcelona and Spain teams that adopted ‘tiki-taka’ so successfully.
The graph below shows passes per match (PPM) plotted against points for premier league clubs this season. Maybe a more granular measure would be a count of strings of forward passes.
Manchester City were outstanding to watch this season. Manchester United on the other hand, while second, were criticised for effective but boring performances – Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea all ‘outpassed’ Manchester United. Arsenal’s style also stands out. Wenger’s team had the second highest PPM in the league at 619.05 but it was accompanied by a leaky defence.
What about Sam and Everton? Their PPM is wedged between Brighton and Huddersfield. While Sam delivered in terms of points accumulation, the ‘product’ he delivered, as measured by PPM, was no more attractive than that provided by the promoted teams.
Burnley are an interesting case. The fans seem happy with Sean Dyche despite their relatively unattractive football. They have the 3rd lowest PPM 357.16 in the league. Burnley are only ahead of two relegated teams on the PPM stat - Stoke and West Brom. Expectations are important – managers not afforded big budgets or those freed from the anticipations of free-flowing football are lauded once things go right with a relatively abrasive style.
Trying to play beautiful football when you’re stuck in the trenches may not be the best idea either. Southampton have a relatively high PPM of 451.95. The Southampton fans were arguably offered a more attractive style than plenty of other club but Pellegrino still got the sack. Would they trade off the style value for a season like Burnley’s?