When I first thought about writing this, my intention was to prove that my personal pick for Premier League Manager of the Year was, according to the facts and figures, a demonstrable leading candidate.
I’m talking about Rafa of course, but as I looked at the numbers, it became obvious that there’s also another frontrunner – maybe even one that would pip Benitez at the post.
It’s fair to say that many people’s favourite this year is Pep Guardiola. In absolute terms it’s hard to argue with the Manchester City manager’s claim, given the way his team has run away with the league, winning the title at a canter and playing some dazzling football along the way (especially in the first half of the season when they were demolishing teams by a number of goals).
However, if you think in relative terms, there’s a case to be made that given the resources at Man City’s disposal, there are other managers who have turned in better performances, pound for pound, over the course of the season.
Indeed, according to transfermkt.com, Man City’s net transfer spend makes even their closest rivals look like relative paupers:
(Source: www.transfermkt.com; league position as at end of 19/04/2018)
Points per game, per $m of average 1st squad player’s annual salary:
(Source: www.statista.com )
Points per game, per average transfer market value of first team squad player (in Euros):
Looking at it in these ways there’s a strong case for Rafa, given he’s got a team that’s overperforming given the expectations and the resources available.
There’s also a case that the other two promoted teams have done likewise, but in my opinion the high level of net transfer spend last summer in preparation for their Premier League debuts, eliminates Wagner and Hughton from the running.
You will notice that there is one other team that appears towards the top of all of the table above – and that, of course, is Burnley. So while Sean Dyche has had a couple of extra seasons in the Premier League to build a squad with experience of the league and Rafa has had to chop and change his squad to clear out the dead wood, deal with relegation quickly followed by promotion and rebuild the ethos and culture of the squad, it’s fair to say that according to the numbers Dyche’s achievements have been at least on a par with Rafa’s.
However, I am still going to go with Rafa on this one – and that is not just black and white bias talking.
If you take into account the uncertainty around the club’s ownership, the broken promises regarding transfers and squad building, and the expectations at the start of the season (remember, Rafa was the favourite to be first manager to leave their post before the season kicked off) then under the circumstances, there’s no one that’s done a better job than Rafa Benitez!
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