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Clinical analysis shows younger bosses do the job

Performance review shows that if all goes well, all title-winning managers will be in their 40s

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 10:33pm

Who should be named manager of the year is one of the side issues in the English Premier League, but it has been one of the hot topics of debate in recent weeks and the two main candidates are Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool and Crystal Palace's Tony Pulis.

The choice rests on whether Rodgers has done a better job in lifting Liverpool from last season's seventh place to the top of the table than Pulis has in dragging Palace out of the relegation mire after taking over in November.

As with so many issues in modern football, the argument boils down to a preference for the haves (in this case Rodgers and Liverpool) or the have-nots (Pulis and Palace).

As with so many issues in modern football, the argument boils down to a preference for the haves (in this case Rodgers and Liverpool) or the have-nots (Pulis and Palace)

In the end, both managers may be rewarded because the official Premier League manager of the year, chosen by a panel appointed by sponsors Barclays, tends to side with the title-winning manager, while the League Managers' Association often chooses someone who has overachieved with a smaller club.

There is a way of taking emotion out of the debate by comparing how teams have performed against expectation - represented by the preseason odds - and on that measure Rodgers has done best because Liverpool's points total is 46 per cent higher than expected.

Roberto Martinez is second with Everton (+36 per cent) and Pulis is third (+30 per cent in his time in charge at Palace).

Seven other clubs have a plus figure - in order, they are Southampton (+12 per cent), Stoke (+11), Hull (+8), Arsenal (+7), Newcastle (+7), Manchester City (+6) and Tottenham (+4) - while Chelsea have a neutral figure (zero) because they have performed exactly as their preseason odds suggested.

It is notable that only two of the 11 clubs listed above (those who have performed at or above expectation) have sacked their manager during the season. By contrast, seven of the nine that have performed below expectations have had at least one change of manager - the latest, of course, being David Moyes of Manchester United.

United rank as the third-worst performers in the Premier League this season, -19 per cent against expectation (Fulham and Sunderland both have a figure of -21). The others in negative figures are West Ham (-7), Aston Villa (-9), Cardiff (-11), Swansea (-13), Norwich (-13) and West Brom (-16).

Staying ahead of expectation is pretty much the only way for a manager to survive and, in Moyes' case, it is ironic that he did it for so long with Everton (so much so that he won the League Managers' Association award on three occasions), but failed so miserably with United.

To reiterate the point made in this column before, United's mistake last summer may well have been not having the courage to appoint a younger, up-and-coming manager. The perfect choice, it turns out, may have been Martinez, who was 39 when he replaced Moyes at Everton and has taken them to new heights.

Rodgers was also 39 when he took charge at Liverpool two years ago. If he wins the Premier League and the leaders of the other four major European leagues also finish on top, all of the title-winning managers will be in their 40s and the average age of them will be 44.

Liverpool will virtually seal the title if they beat Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday and it is worth noting how much the home team's odds have contracted this week since it emerged that Jose Mourinho might put out a weakened Chelsea side, with his main focus reportedly being on Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea are sure to be well organised, however, and this is likely to be the stiffest test Liverpool have faced at Anfield this season. With a draw good enough for the hosts to keep the destiny of the title in their own hands, that could well be the outcome.

Manchester City must keep on winning if they are to threaten Liverpool, but they might struggle to beat Crystal Palace, who have won their last five games (including victories over Chelsea and Everton). The advice is to back over 2.5 goals, given City's necessity to go on the attack.

The pick of the Premier League bets is Everton on the handicap at Southampton, with Martinez's team unbeaten in their 12 away games this season against teams below the top six.

The outside bet to consider is Aston Villa at Swansea. Villa have hit a rocky patch, but they are a dangerous side on the road and have not had many good away chances in recent weeks.