Solskjaer & Wilczek: State of the obvious – or?

3 minute read

Are we making the right decisions future wise based on feelings and biased short-term results or should we approach ‘expensive calls’ more analytical?

Football is a black and white industry where the winner is considered a genius and the loser’s performances shortly after are forgotten.

But with these assumptions we rate results over performances. Even data and long-term success tell us the exact opposite.

The short-term result logic makes sense on the given day. As we prefer to win and not to loose. But we forget to learn from our mistakes when winning and in many cases we are unaware what it takes to be successful and win on a longer scale.

I’ll use two examples down below to discuss if we are making ‘clever’ decisions or not:

Case 1: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

He is first of all a very nice man, Ole Gunnar. A good coach. And right now he has a fantastic run as interim Manchester United-manager.

And after the win against PSG last night; the world of football seems convinced to give the job to Ole Gunnar as the permanent Manchester United-manager.

The big question is if it’s a good idea looking behind the results and short-term effect he cleared has made with the team.

Manchester United under Solskjaer is for example way above their xG (expected goals) and has therefore ‘over performed’, statistically. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, but will it last?

According to the data and performances - it will not last. Manchester United will drop in their results as they simply perform worse than the results they currently are getting.

They have lost several games according to xG under Solskjaer and there is no significant proof that the team for example can perform much better through an entire season under the regime of the Norwegian.

So are we biased because we have sympathy for Ole Gunnar and due to the luck and in some way many coincidences going his way? And is he therefore the right manager future wise for MUFC?

Not in a analytic perspective. The performances are not good enough to bring Manchester United back towards the top, but Solskjaer has created a feeling and a momentum, which probably will end up giving him the job.

Case 2: Kamil Wilczek

The powerful Polish striker earned himself a new contract at Danish side Brondby IF – now staying at the club until 2021. What seems to be a very reasonable decision might not be clever after all checking the underlying performances and data.

The fans and media were praising the decision the give Wilczek a new contract. State of the obvious; the leading goal scorer in the team. Of course you want him to stay.

But the question is if you end up rewarding Wilczek for something he has done, because most likely he will drop in his outcome.

Wilczek is one of the players in the Danish Super League clearly ‘over performing’ his xG rate in 2018. Translated into football language: He scores much more than usual and than he most likely will do in the future as well.

So if the assumption to hand him a new contract and a salary raise assuming he will continue scoring this much – there is no proof to it. He will most likely not score as much as his performance doesn’t support it.

Not only in 2018, but also throughout his entire career.

Furthermore, some other important details:

- The average age for a number 9 / central striker position to peak (statistically) is between the age of 26 and 28. Wilczek is 31-years old, so way beyond his peak

- Brondby is a selling club of nature, but a 31-year old player will not give a big transfer fee in the future, so his new paycheck will not pay off financially in the end

- Wilczek will maintain his position in the starting 11 leaving younger players at their peak and potentially academy players out of the team and the position where the biggest transfer fees are earned = the striker/number 9 position

Hopefully (as I have nothing again these two examples) both Solskjaer and Wilczek will perform well in 2019, but working strategically and analytically in football clubs, we must professionalize our decision making to more than feelings and biased result-focused logic.

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