QPR owner Tony Fernandes is to be admired for his loyalty to coach Mark Hughes, who might have been sacked before now by many other club chairmen. But with QPR still bottom of the Premier League, and without a win in 12 games, is Fernandes wise to keep faith with the under-pressure Welshman?
Here is the Soccernomics view, and the advice we would give Fernandes:
i. Don’t listen to the fans.
We advocate the wisdom of crowds, but within the club rather than outside it. So if the fans want a certain coach to replace Hughes, remember that Newcastle fans wanted Kevin Keegan and then Alan Shearer to coach their team, and what happened there. It is wise to always have a list of alternative options for coach in mind – even when things are going well. The Soccernomics Coaches’ Index calculates how coaches have performed relative to their club’s wage bills, to detect coaches who over-achieve with the players they have.
ii. Don’t spend more money in January – do loan deals.
Transfers are a great way of wasting money. Soccernomics shows that whereas there’s a very strong correlation between a club’s wage bill and its league position, the correlation between net transfer spending and league position is weak. In other words, money spent on transfers tends not to help a club. This is because a very high proportion of transfers fails, often because the player struggles to adapt to his new environment (see point iii, below). And transfers are expensive. Instead, we recommend that in January, QPR try to sign several players on loan. If the average loan player’s salary for six months is, say £700,000, and QPR get five new players, then that would cost just £3.5m. A very average Premier League player might cost that in transfer fee alone. Better yet, if QPR go down, then loan players can just be sent back to their old clubs. Their high wages wouldn’t burden QPR in the Championship.
iii. Make sure your new signings are integrated.
Stephane Mbia gave a worrying interview to French newspaper L’Equipe which was published on Saturday, October 27: firstly, he said he thought he was signing for Glasgow Rangers in Scotland; then he declared how he was struggling with the language, too nervous to drive on the left-hand side, and that he missed his family, still in France, and would go back to Marseille on every day off. Later that afternoon, QPR were drawing 0-0 at Arsenal until Mbia had a rush of blood, kicked out at Thomas Vermaelen and was sent off. Arsenal ended up scoring a late winner. That’s not to say Mbia would have had more self-control had he been happier off the pitch, but it is crucial that clubs look after their assets away from football. An aside, possibly unconnected: since their promotion 15 months ago, QPR have had a player sent off ten times, two of whom were English (Joey Barton, twice, and Clint Hill). The others have been Djibril Cisse (twice), Samba Diakite (twice), Armand Traore and Adel Taarabt.
iv. Appoint a new coach carefully.
If QPR do sack Hughes, don’t give his job to the next famous ex-player who appears charming and wise at the job interview. Soccernomics shows that there is no correlation between having been a good player and being a good manager. Hughes is the last great ex-footballer without a stellar managerial record still managing in the Premier League. QPR should choose their next manager based on his managerial virtues alone. Playing career has nothing to do with it. And one last tip: because other clubs appear to discriminate against black managers, QPR would have a free pick of almost any black manager in European football.