Saturday 15 October 2016

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

Time was when an international break simply meant a manager spending an anxious couple of days waiting for injury reports to materialise and trying to keep the left behind players amused.

Now it seems to have become the prime firing time and just under half of the 2016/17 casualties from the four top English leagues have departed during the current hiatus.

Two of the higher profile dismissals have come across the east/west Midlands divide, with RdM being stood down for Steve Bruce at Villa and Steve McClaren reacquainting himself with Derby at the expense of Nigel Pearson.

Both sides are currently treading water just above the drop zone, respectively in 20th and 21st position and it's difficult not to speculate that current league position has played at least as big a part in the managerial changes as has a fear of drones.

Using drones may take spying on your employees to new heights, but it is equally questionable as to whether the league table ever gives a true representation of a team's true worth or if it is indeed the table of (in)justice.

Beware of Low Flying Drones.
Both Derby and Villa have a negative goal differential after 11 matches, but this isn't reflected in their respective expected goals figures for all the chances created in their games.

Derby's return of six goals is a poor one for a side that has created chances worth nearly twice that and the randomness that is inherent in short runs of matches has been less than kind to Villa, particularly in how it has bestowed goals in games and regularly turned three points into one late in their matches.

An extra couple of points this early in the season can easily turn anxious glances looking downwards into optimistic ones looking upwards to better things.

Both Derby and Villa are in the top half of the table when measured in terms of the underlying performance indicators that tend to persist amongst the ebb and flow of randomness that sometimes predominates, getting managers sacked or manager of the month awards, dependent upon whim.

Longer term, weighted expected goals performances smile even more on Derby, regular play off contenders, who are ranked around the top six in the current crop of Championship teams.

While Villa, despite giving the 2007/08 Derby vintage a run for their money with an abject defence of their Premier League life last season, still remain a top half Championship ranked side.

Final league projections at their most optimistic propel Villa to the fringes on playoff football, even without fully accounting for the potential impact of their new crop of expensive attacking talent, a relative luxury Bruce has never had before. And Derby fare even better, even with their miserly actual points return through 11 matches.

Fan reaction to the appointments is cautiously optimistic.

Derby fans in particular citing McClaren's ability to "improve a player", the unwelcome distraction of Newcastle potentially calling during his first stint and the example from the Stoke end of the A50 of returning managers taking their team to the top flight.

Should the fortunes of these two Midlands sides improve, this wishful impact of managerial change will appear to materialise, but it will be scant consolation to the replaced duo that the underlying figures were largely in place and the table may have become merely a tad less untrustworthy in their absence.

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