Pellegrini or Mancini? Does it really matter?

Like thousands of other fans I belted out the Mancini song at Wembley as an inept team display meant an end to my run of Wembley successes. Whilst there had been rumours for most of the season, I felt that it would be foolish to get rid of the man who had guided City to the first trophy in my lifetime.

I suppose it’s like a first girlfriend in that it’s difficult to separate despite the obvious problems. Like the split from my first girlfriend I took the lose of Mancini hard. How could these callous Spaniards (who we’d heard precious little from!) carry out such a dreadful deed?

Unlike the split from my first girlfriend, I didn’t take to alcohol (I’m getting too old for that!). Instead I found comfort in statistics! Now before I have you all grabbing the hard stuff yourself , let me explain.

In the summer of 2010, shortly after England had been knocked out of the South African World Cup, I went on holiday. Whilst wasting my time wandering around terminal 1 at Manchester Airport, I found a book called “Why England lose and other curious football phenomenon explained”.

Described across the top of the front cover as “An Arsene Wenger of a book” (Doesn’t win any trophies then?). The book intrigued me as it described itself as “reaching beyond the lazy clichés and so-called accepted wisdom” . As I was looking for a holiday read (and it was on offer!) I decided to go for it.

It is this book which during the lose of Mancini, I turned to for comfort.


From a City perspective, the book describes at lengths, highlighting studies and using statistical data, that the amount of money a club pays in transfer fees bears no significance to the position a club finishes.

The reasons:

  • A new manager wastes money bringing in players and getting rid of players he doesn’t want, usually for less than they were bought for. Mancini got rid (or at least tried) of Adebayhor, Bellamy, Santa Cruz and Wayne Bridge for a lot less than they were bought for.
  • Stars of recent World Cups or European Championships are overvalued. Andrei Arsharvin at Arsenal comes to mind, although we could have got a lot more for Balotelli if we’d sold him after the 2012 World Cup.
  • Certain nationalities are overvalued – Brazilians Jo, Robiniho and Berti (Need I say more?)

The book states that instead players wages are what counts and the better paid a player is generally the better the player. The more a team pays its players the higher they finish!

The authors go on to suggest that the most successful teams use the power of crowds to pick players rather than relying on the manager (as a new manager wastes money). The best teams also use human resources more to settle players in rather than expecting them to perform when they can’t find home comforts.

References are made to Olympic Lyon who won 7 successive French league titles with 4 different head coaches. Jacques Santini, Paul Le Guen, Gerrard Houlier and Alan Perrin all failed when confronted with the British system of management but won trophies with a Sporting Director. When the coach left the team style stayed the same, not much changed.

It is my opinion that there has been a successful Director of Football in the English game. And whilst it hurts me to say it the best Director of football was Sir Alex Ferguson! Now whilst many of you will have considered him as a manager, he controlled the club. The style of play stayed the same whilst (like Lyon) continuously changing the head coach. First there was Brian Kidd, then Carlos Queiroz, Steve McClaren, Queriroz again and Rene Meulensteen.

Ferguson set the style of play and controlled the club. If he didn’t why was he knocking on Paul Lake’s door with a contract on Paul’s 16th birthday? It is this control of the style of play that we have heard that Tixi Bergiristain will have under City’s plan for the future.

Why England lose states that the stability will not be with the manager but with the sporting director. For a football manager is merely a middle manger in other organisations, focused on short term gains whilst the sporting director oversees the long term plans.

The role of the manager is to keep the players, fans and media happy in order to achieve the overall object of winning. The people above him earn the club more money in order to pay the players higher wages. Higher wages mean the ability to attract better talent. A group of people around the sporting director help pick the players and the coach must keep them happy!

It is this then which is the reason why I found comfort from the book following Mancini’s sacking. It has become apparent that the players weren’t really happy with Mancini. Vincent Kompany has stated that Manuel Pelligrini is a “decent human being”, whilst Gael Clichy, Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta have all said he is a good man. Even legendary kit-man Les Chapman has said there was something wrong with training last year.

So as long as Pelligrini can keep this lot happy he’ll do for me!

Why England lose has been retitled since I read the book the book is now called Soccernomics. It is a great read for footie fans used to reading academic style books. It includes such chapters as

  • gentlemen prefer blondes : how to avoid silly mistakes in the transfer market
  • need not apply: does English football discriminate against black people
  • core to periphery: the future map of global football

Chairmen of football clubs would learn a hell of a lot from this book and those that do will see the benefits. Copy to Greg Dyke me thinks!

To buy the book click Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the US, Japan, Australia, Turkey-And Even Iraq-Are Dest