On the sacking of Tony Pulis

Stoke fired Tony Pulis yesterday after seven years in charge of the club. During Pulis’ tenure Stoke were promoted from the Championship, and have since spent five seasons as a lower-mid table Premiership team. Richard Whittall wrote a post yesterday about the things that Tony Pulis has brought to football fans, and it looks a pretty solid list to me. At first glance it seems like Pulis has taken a smallish club to the promised land, and been fired for his inability to move them into the upper echelons of the game. But is this really the case?

Per Tyler Duffy:

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.25.29 PM

It should go on record that I can’t verify this tweet, however going by the data here and here then Stoke have ranked 14th and 11th in the Premiership in terms of team salary over the past two seasons (their team salary has risen from £47m in ’09-10, to £53m in ’10-11, to £55m in ’11-12), so even if this turns out to be way wrong (and I’d wager it’s at least close to being correct) Stoke have still been spending a solid amount of cash – in terms of cash outlay they should be a lower mid table team at worst. Each season they’ve finished between 11th and 14th in the league.

Furthermore Stoke have been absolutely butchered in terms of shots ever since entering the league. I just want to highlight here their performances away from home – where they take <35% of the shots, and getting outscored by one goal per game (I'm not kidding – it's incredible). There has been a solitary season of respite for their fans – 2010-11.

The table below is a short summary of their history in the league by season, where the rank out of 240 there refers to the 240 team TSR's I have on record in the 12 seasons from 2000-01 and 2011-12 (12 seasons X 20 teams per season = 240 TSR's), the expected points are the points we'd expect them to achieve based on their TSR, and the expected position is basically a rounding up of the seasons TSR rank out of 240 divided by 12.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.44.35 PM

So in summary Pulis’ spending at Stoke suggests they should be a mid-table team, whereas they’ve been finishing consistently in the lower mid-table, and their performances are a train-wreck in terms of controlling where the ball is on the pitch. I’ve been slicing Stoke’s data up in some different and proprietary ways and I’m pretty confident their TSR is closer to their true ability than their point totals. I think this stuff is pretty marketable so I may come back to write about at a later date, but until I can completely validate it I’ll hold it back and stick to the basics above.

One final thing – Stoke’s games had incredibly few goals in them, about 20% fewer than the league average, and were about 10-15% light on shots too.


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