The Everton Diary Game Week 9 – Whittling Down the Shortlist

In the last piece I eliminated managers from the top 5 European leagues using my pressing metric. Today, the humble xG metric gets its chance to whittle down the candidates. Let’s go.

Eddie Howe. Bournemouth finished last year with -7xGD, with the same attacking output As Everton but a much worse defensive performance. Despite being an extremely hard-working side and one that likes to press, Howe has never got his defence tight in the Premier League. His Bournemouth side continuously leaks shots and look vulnerable. It’s the same story on the underlying numbers every season. Me? I’d pass because of this glaring weakness that Howe refuses to address.

Jose Luis Mendilibar. Eibar smashed up La Liga in the xG stakes last year finishing second only to Barcelona with an impressive xGD of 19. In reality, however, they finished only 12th, which immediately raises two questions. Firstly: ‘If he had the players to play this system how good could he get a team to be’. Alternatively: ‘This xG lark is a load of old bollocks, innit?’

That 12th place finish was one of the biggest underperformances I’ve seen in top league numbers. Eibar were 5th in my xG numbers the season before, and 8th before that. Each time with a positive xGD. Each time under Mendilibar. Both times they finished top 10 in reality.

Mendilibar spoke last year of learning English well enough to come and manage here. Eibar is a small town club with a small town budget that has played lower tier football until this decade. Mendilibar would definitely be on my shortlist.

Adi Hutter. Eintracht finished last season 8th in my xGD table (on -1xGD) for Bundesliga but 7th in reality. Pretty decent in attack on the numbers and ok in defence, Hutter’s side smashed it on both sides, scoring more than xG suggested and conceding less than it suggested it should too. I have no other underlying data for Hutter but won league titles with RB Salzburg and Young Boys since 2015 (and several times in Austira before that). Eintracht are going well again both on the numbers and in reality this season. Hutter definitely goes on the shortlist, although I can’t find a video of the man speaking English.

Bruno Labaddia. After a couple of years out of the management game, Labaddia returned to football as manager of Wolfsburg last year. A traditionally well-funded outfit, they finished 6th in my Bundesliga xG table and 6th in reality. They’re going ok again this season and are about as good as Eintracht over the last 12 months or so. Labaddia has had several decent sized clubs in Germany but never massively achieved. Not for me, Clive.

Both Pal Dardai and Sandro Schwarz don’t do anything for me in the xG takes. Bottom half there, bottom half finishes for Hertha and Mainz respectively over the last few years. Nothing sticks out as being particularly special about their teams. Pass.

Walter Mazzarri. Middling xG numbers last year for Torino. Fairly poor attack, ok defensively, but smashed xGA against in reality conceding a whopping 13-14 goals less than expected. Poor numbers at Watford, especially on the attack front. We’ve had enough of bad attacking thanks. But no thanks.

Gian Piero Gasperini. Atalanta have been a top 3 xGD team in Serie A for the last two seasons. Good offensively which is what we’re all desperate for at Everton. The best manager here on that score so far doing enough to get around 70 xGF in both those seasons. Tough gig in the Champions League so far this year and not looking likely to advance from the group makes it slightly more possible that he’d actually come. If you don’t ask you don’t get. Again, I can’t find an interview with him in English, but haven’t looked that hard.

Claudio Ranieri. Well we know he speaks dilly ding dilly dong so we’re ok on that score. Solid season with Roma last season on the xG front. Good attacking numbers let down by conceding plenty of chances too. Lasted 5 minutes at Fulham and completely unable to turn them round after Jokanovic’s exit last year. Looking for his fourth club already since taking Leicester to the title. His CV has some huge clubs on it and is not to be completely sniffed at. He’s also available.

Luciano Spalletti. Two very good seasons of xGD with Inter since 2017 having finished 2nd in his season back at Roma in 2016-17. I have to admit, I loved this guy in his first spell at Roma but he’s always fallen slightly short since. I have seen it said that Spalletti was the ‘inventor’ of 4-2-3-1 so he’d fit right in at Goodison straight away even if he doesn’t appear to speak the Queens’. And he’s also available.

Stefano Pioli. Solid if unspectacular xG numbers with Fiorentina the last two seasons and not as good as the underlying numbers of Gasperini or Spalletti. Again, doesn’t appear to speak English but he’s a lot younger than those two while still having big clubs on his CV and he’s available. That said, he’s never won anything. So he’s not going on my list.

Rudi Garcia. Ok xGD numbers at Marseille in two of the last three seasons (and one good xGD season) but the numbers suggest he’s not an attacking, aggressive manager hunting for wins. So he’s not going on my list either.

The last two guys picked up on from France, Christophe Pelissier and Alain Casanova are non-starters realistically and their names will not wash with fans.

Right then.

My final shortlist of potential managerial hires from the top 5 European Leagues having used just two metrics – one for the high press, one for xG leaves the shortlist pretty short:

Jose Luis Mendilibar, Adi Hutter, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri and Luciano Spalletti. Only one with Premier League experience (and a title under his belt) but he’s probably the one you wouldn’t want because of familiarity and ageism.

Gasperini and Spalletti may think they’re out of our league (with some justification).

Mendilibar would be fairly bonkers and left field but he truly is pioneering an entirely different style of play in La Liga.

That leaves us with Hutter. The youngest of this crew, a serial winner so far albeit in lesser leagues and perhaps importantly, he’d likely jump at the chance to move to Everton to test himself against the greatest managers of the day knowing he’d get backed with some money.

Jurgen a Red. Adolf a Blue. Both in the same city? Even Stan Boardman couldn’t make that up.

It’ll be interesting to see who will be on Everton’s actual shortlist should Silva go. Do you think there’ll be any overlap?

 

 

 

 

 

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The Everton Diary – Game Week 8 – New Manager Shortlists

It’s that time of year again where Everton fans pose the question: “Well if you want him gone, who do you want instead?”

The correct response to this is of course: “I’m not on the Everton board, it’s not my job to know the managerial market.”

Let’s face facts, fact fans. Everton clearly doesn’t know the managerial market either as evidenced by the shenanigans since David Moyes left.

But we have a Director of Football now don’t we.

Marcel Brands.

Hailed as a Messiah until a few weeks ago when we started getting beat again after another wodge of summer spending, he’s now started being hailed as a possible Pariah.

You have to assume that next time (should there be one) picking the manager will be entirely on him. Don’t mess it up, Marcel.

I’ve written before about boards of football clubs needing to have a better handle on the market. Instead of starting from scratch once a manager has been sacked, and panicking to get the job sorted quickly, a better approach might be…data!

Football clubs have a load of data. They don’t use most of it. And the bits they do use, they mostly use badly.

This is often because it’s been packaged up like a last minute Christmas present when you’ve run out of wrap, by those dastardly data providers who know said club hasn’t got the time, expertise or patience to do work with the data inside.

So that original question of “Who next?” has been asked of me by several Evertonian’s on twitter. I haven’t got time to watch hundreds of games over the last year or so, but I know one or two databases that have.

Mine.

When I say “watched” I of course mean in the digital sense of “recording every important touch of the football” that’s happened in the top European Leagues. As I say, every Premier League club has a way to do the same. They just don’t.

When I’ve been asked the question about who Everton should be after, I ask for criteria. General first replies are along the lines of “a manager that wants to press the ball high,” as a starting point.

This is understandable, as we all now Blues fans love a player that puts a shift in and leaves it all on the pitch. It’s also how Marco Silva has us playing now. In fact, Everton are the highest pressing team of all the high pressy teams in the top European leagues this season.

For comparison here’s a little viz comparing Everton to Guardiola’s Manchester City side:

I’ve got my database handy for this year’s Premier League and last season for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga. How long does it take to churn out names of teams that press anywhere near like Everton do over the middle and final thirds of the pitch? Seconds.

Let’s start with current Premier League teams who are remotely near the pressing mark that Everton get to.

Brighton. Graham Potter. Trendy name amongst football hipsters after deeds in Sweden and now on these shores after stabilising Swansea in the Championship last year. Only just become manager of the Seagulls, so maybe an unlikely appointment, but could be tempted.

Manchester City. Pep Guardiola. Not coming. The end.

Southampton. Ralph Hassenhuttl. Another hipster choice having been manager at RB Leipzig in Germany. Only just become manager of the Saints, so maybe an unlikely appointment, but could be tempted.

Bournemouth. Eddie Howe. Perennially linked with the hotseat at Goodison. One imagines he would eagerly take the step up.

Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp. Not coming. The end.

Chelsea. Frank Lampard. Not coming. The end.

Leicester. Brendan Rodgers. Only just become manager of Leicester, and previously manager of Liverpool (shudder). Highly, unlikely he’d move at this stage.

Basically, from the Premier League, you’re looking at Howe as the most realistic candidate here to take charge of a high pressing Everton. Shall we move on?

 

La Liga

Why? Because it’s the easiest one to sort.

Why? Because they don’t press the ball anywhere near like they do in the other top leagues over there. There’s one team:

Eibar. Jose Luis Mendilibar. You may have heard us talking about Eibar on the pod. A stick out team in La Liga to watch. Mendilibar’s biggest gig was at Athletic Bilbao in 2005, where he lasted about 5 minutes. Since then he’s been flitting about the top two leagues in Spain with smaller clubs.

Mendilibar would bite someone’s hand off to join a team like Everton, so that’s him and Howe after going through two top leagues…

 

Bundesliga

Germany is swamped with teams that press high. Who’ve we got then?

Bayern. Niko Kovac. Won the double last year. Not coming. The end.

RB Leipzig. Ralph Rangnick. Flitting between Sporting Director role and Manager role over the last couple of years it’s difficult to see Rangnick leaving the Red Bull stable to work under a relative snot-nose DoF. Not coming.

Leverkusen. Peter Bosz. The Dutchman has some decent clubs in his CV in recent years having taken the reigns at Ajax and Dortmund. Flopped at the latter but in the job less than a year at Leverkusen and doing a decent job. In the Champions League. Not coming.

Eintracht Frankfurt. Adi Hutter. An interesting one, and would likely come. A third one for our shortlist.

Wolfsburg. Bruno Labbadia. Bit of a Bundesliga merry-go-round manager and could probably be tempted. I’ll add him to the list but would you really want to go there?

Hertha Berlin. Pal Dardai. Managed Hertha for several seasons before being relegated back to youth team coach this year. I’ll add him to the list but would you really want to go there?

Dortmund. Lucien Favre. Linked previously to Everton. Second with Dortmund last year, still in the mix for top finish again this year. In the Champions League. File under not coming.

Mainz. Sandro Schwarz. Just 40 years old. Mainz are a bottom half Bundesliga side. I’ll add him to the list but would you really want to go there?

Plenty of choice there in Germany as we can see. But the decent, more high profile choices are unlikely to come right now.

 

Serie A

Torino. Walter Mazzarri. A merry-go-round manager in Serie A. Lasted a year at Watford. I’ll add him to the list but would you really want to go there?

Atalanta. Gian Piero Gasperini. A merry-go-round manager in Serie A before settling with Atalanta and has enjoyed 3-4 yrs of good league finishes and European football. Yep, worth a look.

Roma. Claudio Ranieri. Loveable man who’s had more clubs than Tony Jacklin. Roma got rid and hired Paulo Fonseca (again a previous Everton link) in the summer. He meets the criteria so he’s got to go on the list.

Inter. Luciano Spalletti. Sacked by Inter in the summer so available. Huge amount of experience at various big teams. One for the list.

Sampdoria. Marco Giampaolo. Snapped up by Milan in the summer. Not coming.

Fiorentina. Stefano Pioli. Another merry-go-round Serie A manager. Resigned in the spring and available. I’ll add him to the list but would you really want to go there?

Napoli. Carlo Ancelotti. Not coming. End of.

 

Ligue 1

Lyon. Bruno Genesio. Just signed for Beijing Guoan in China so likely on a huge contract. Not coming.

Marseille. Rudi Garcia. Available after being released. Previous experience at Lille and Roma. One for the list.

Amiens. Christophe Pelissier. Joined Ligue 2 Lorient in the summer after getting binned by Amiens.

Toulouse. Alain Casanova. Previously managed Lens.

 

The ‘shortlist’ of managers setting their teams up to press high up the pitch in Europe’s top 5 leagues that Everton could realistically get:

Howe, Mendilibar, Hutter, Labbadia, Dardai, Schwarz, Mazzarri, Gasperini, Ranieri, Spaletti, Pioli, Garcia, Pelissier and Casanova.

We’ve not even wheedled out for style on the ball yet.

You could maybe add Potter and Hassenhuttl to the list. But you’re still not excited are you?

Would you start to maybe forget the stipulation that the manager must press high, or widen the net to lesser leagues and be more pragmatic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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