The 2017/18 campaign could be the defining moment in the careers of some of the game’s top managers: the pivotal ‘second season’ at their current clubs.
This is particularly true in Manchester, where rivals Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho need to improve upon their debut seasons, but they are far from alone in needing to keep a demanding board and glory-hungry fans placated.
We have crunched the numbers for every manager who has embarked upon a second season in one of Europe’s big five leagues in the last decade to work out just how tough it can be.
Tough task to improve
First of all, a cold dose of reality is needed: most managers will not improve on their first season at a club. Of the 191 bosses we looked at – those who had managed at a club for at least half of a season and were still in their post when the next one began – just over a third (71) were able to win more points per match in their second campaign than their first.
Some managers will have been a victim of their own success, as Antonio Conte may prove to be at Chelsea. Having stormed to the title in his first season, he will need to repeat his successful title defence from his Juventus days to keep the notoriously fickle Roman Abramovich happy and avoid the second season syndrome.
Conte is one of seven bosses in the last decade to have won the title in his debut campaign and successfully retained it the following year, but nobody has achieved it in the Premier League in this period.
Another manager looking to emulate past achievements will be Mourinho, who is also a member of a select group of seven managers: those who have won the title at the second attempt. This is a signature Mourinho move. Not only does he feature twice on this list for his successes at Real Madrid and in his second stint at Chelsea, but he has won the title in his second season in every job he has had since he burst onto the scene at Porto.
Some of the most interesting numbers in our analysis came from looking at where managers were operating in the league table. Those who claimed a top-five finish in their first season did so again at the second attempt two times out of three, which is good news for those looking to build on a strong start.
For those who just missed the cut at the first attempt, though, the prospects are far bleaker: fewer than one in four bosses who guided their new charges to a top-half finish outside the top five were able to break in to it at the second time of asking, with half of them ending up in the bottom half of the table.
On the up
There is far brighter news for managers who took charge of struggling sides: those who finished within three places of the relegation zone in their first season in charge – and survived to oversee a second term – were twice as likely to rise into the top half than be relegated. This will be music to the ears of Paul Clement after his rescue of Swansea last season.
Further good news for Clement came in the shape of a surprising statistic concerning when managers are appointed. We expected to find that managers who were in charge at the club for the entire of their first season would perform better in their second compared with those who had been parachuted in mid-season, but the opposite is true.
Only around a third of managers who took control of every league game in their first season guided their club to a higher position in the table at the second attempt, compared with over half of those who – like the Swansea boss – joined their clubs part-way through a season.
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