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Rafa Benitez incredible position in ELO ratings of all Newcastle managers in Premier League – Despite biggest transfer profit

12 months ago
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Rafa Benitez is flying high when it comes to his position amongst Newcastle United’s managers in the Premier League era.

The ELO system is used to try and rank all kinds of sports, both teams and individuals.

Back in March 2016, Chris Holt introduced readers of The Mag to the ELO way to rank managers/coaches in football.

Named after Arpad Elo, the system was first used in Chess to assess rankings based on results, and now it is widely accepted as means of measuring success in other sporting arenas.

A fuller explanation is below, but simplistically, how ELO works is that each competitor is assigned a rating based on their previous games. Points are added and removed from the Elo rating of a player depending on the outcome of games.  If a player with a low rating beats a player with a high rating, they gain a high number of points but if a player with a high rating beats a player with a low rating they get a lower number of points, because that’s the expected result.  Thrashings earn more points than close wins too.  And draws enhance the rating of the lower ranked player more.

In this table put together by Chris Holt, all of Newcastle United’s managers in the Premier League are ranked according to their ELO rating, that was achieved whilst at the club.

Kevin Keegan is way out ahead at the very top, then Sir Bobby Robson a clear second, with Rafa Benitez now in third.

Only three other Newcastle managers have a positive ELO rating, with Chris Hughton fourth highest, Glenn Roeder sixth, with Kevin Keegan fifth from his second spell, which was brought to a calamitous end by Mike Ashley.

rafa benitez

However, Chris Holt has also done a second table to give extra context to the ELO ratings.

This shows the estimated net spend (or profit) of all Newcastle bosses when it comes to transfers.

As you can see, after two years at St James Park, Rafa Benitez has risen to third highest in the ELO ratings, despite making the biggest profit on transfers.

Something  tells me that you would have to have a really, really club owner, who didn’t value such a manager…

rafa benitez

Chris Holt writing in The Mag – 27 March 2016:

‘Arpad Elo was born in Hungary in 1903.  Aged 10 he moved to the United States with his parents and later became a professor of physics at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He was also a prodigious Chess talent, the strongest in Milwaukee, he won the Wisconsin State Championship eight times.

Elo, is famous for combining his two loves. As a brilliant physicist, in 1960 he applied his mathematical skills to create the Elo rating system. It allowed Chess players to be rated more effectively than any previous system. By 1970 the World Chess Federation had adopted his method as their official ranking system.

Simplistically, how it works is that each competitor is assigned a rating based on their previous games. Points are added and removed from the Elo rating of a player depending on the outcome of games.  If a player with a low rating beats a player with a high rating, they gain a high number of points but if a player with a high rating beats a player with a low rating they get a lower number of points, because that’s the expected result.  Thrashings earn more points than close wins too.  And draws enhance the rating of the lower ranked player more.

Of course this elegant system didn’t apply only in chess, it could be used in any 2 player game.  Or any 2 team game. The formulas can be adjusted to suit games with different scoring systems and there are now elo rankings available online for most major sports.

FIFA’s thinking on Elo seems mixed up.  In the women’s game it is used as the official ranking system, however in the men’s game it is not.  That’s despite a 2009 study of 8 ranking methods showing that elo had the highest predictive capability for football matches, while the men’s FIFA ranking method performed poorly.  We’ve all seen minnows in the top 10 FIFA rankings and wondered what that was all about.

The Elo measure can be applied to managers as well as teams.  They can be graded on how they performed at single clubs or throughout their careers, and it provides an excellent insight into just how well a coach performed.  It accounts for the level the club/country found themselves when a manager arrived and where he left them when he departed.  It’s a far more detailed portrayal of a manager’s success than the basic count of games won, drawn or lost we’re used to seeing whenever a manager is sacked.’

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