When things are going wrong for a club, there is usually only one place where the buck stops. The fans might point their finger at the players or chant their frustration at the board, but whether it is out of desperation or self-preservation, it is the manager who inevitably pays the ultimate price. This is an issue that has been going on for many a season—many a decade even—but with the increased pressure that comes with the modern game, it seems to be a lot more prevalent now. Is that actually the case, though, and how does Serie A compare with Europe’s other major leagues? First, though, there is another (maybe more important) question.
Is it actually a problem at all?
There are two issues here. Firstly, when the axe is hanging over the manager’s head—when every game is played out under the scenario of it being a must-win or must-not-lose—it can’t help but have profound effects on a team’s performance. The players will be aware of the pressure, and there are circumstances when they may or may not want the manager to get the sack. The manager himself will undoubtedly react in a different way, adopting tactics or strategies he normally would not. Games that they would normally expect to win suddenly become incredibly tricky. This, of course, has its advantages for punters and gives an added incentive to pick the underdog, but it will not help the manager or his team.
Sometimes there is no doubt that a manager’s time is up. He may have lost the dressing room, be out of his depth, or just not be capable of playing the type of football required in that situation. Let us not kid ourselves, though; those scenarios do not make up the majority of the cases where a manager loses his job, and the statistics show that sacking your manager does not have any effect past the immediate short term, in most cases. So, if that is the case, the constant upheaval in coaching staff, along with the inevitable changes in playing personnel and the financial implications of both of those, are surely bad things for the game in general and the clubs involved specifically.
Serie A Managerial Sackings Statistics
Let’s take a look at the stats for Serie A. Of course, it is a league that also sees a high number of changes in the boardroom, but that is an issue for another day. The following table shows the number of managerial changes clubs made during that season and postseason.
That averages out as 23.4 managerial changes every season in a league that has 20 clubs, one of which will have won the league. During that period, the number of clubs that changed their managers ranged between 10 and 18.
If you were to compare that with any other industry, it would show a remarkable difference. I know football is a special case, but all businesses deal with people—highly-skilled, specialised people who work within a management system that’s been put in place to get the best results from that workforce.
Comparison with Other Leagues
Now let us see if this differs widely from other top-tier leagues in Europe.
That is an average of 15 changes a season—again out of a league with 20 teams. The number of clubs involved in the merry-go-round ranged from 8 to 11.
That is an average of 10.7 in a league with 18 teams, with a range between 7 and 12 undergoing changes in the dugout.
The Spanish top tier averages 12.3 changes a season, with 20 teams in the league. The spread of teams changing their managers in that period was from 8 to16.
Those stats are quite damning. They are significantly higher for Serie A than in the other leagues and almost double in some cases. Whichever way you look at it, that is not a good thing, and there is no argument that there is more pressure or scrutiny in Serie A than in the other leagues in this survey.