I’ve made one of these plots before for Manchester Untied (link) and in light of the noise surrounding the hiring of Rafa Benitez at Chelsea I thought it was worth taking a look at how he performed as LIverpool boss.
The plot below is a history of their TSR in the Premiership since the beginning of the 2000-01 season:
In short, the team are pretty average at the beginning of the decade, undergo an upturn that develops into a pretty dominant stretch toward and beyond the centre of the plot before seeing a regression towards mediocrity towards the end of the plot. Below I’ve filled in the plot with some details; the points at which Liverpool’s managers have been fired/hired.
So a quick overview of this plot. The annotations mark the changes in management, and the box encloses data that is solely the result of games Benitez was in charge of.
During the time Benitez was in charge Liverpool’s 38-game TSR ranged from 0.613 at it’s lowest to 0.707. Values in this range are typically expected to return 73-88 points over the course of a season, whereas Liverpool took 58, 63, 68, 76, 82 and 86 – an average of 72 points. To provide some more context the Premiership Champions have an average TSR of 0.635 so in other words Benitez gave Liverpool a very good chance of winning the title at least once during his tenure. A bit of luck here or there and it could easily have happened. The team were on a stark decline in Benitez’s final season – it may have been the best time to cut ties.
As for the rest of the plot it suggests that Benitez took over a pretty good team – a better one than he left – and the right hand side of the plot chimes well with this piece (link) I wrote a while back, which noted that both Hodgson and Dalglish were fired as their PDO’s plummeted as opposed to the teams TSR. Ironically Dalglish’s firing co-incided with a time at which the numbers suggest the team were quickly recovering from the dip, which began towards the end of the Benitez reign and carried on somewhat whilst Hodgson was in charge.
Basically Benitez was a pretty decent manager at Liverpool. Whether that’s any use over two-thirds of a season I’m less confident. But I do think there’s evidence here he can manage a top team in the Premiership.