Stuart Pearce: Buried under a mountain of early season expectationsSo the biggest news this week in the Championship has probably been the weird goings-on at Nottingham Forest.
First the club sacked manager Stuart Pearce, then replaced him almost immediately with Dougie Freedman which was swiftly followed by the exit of chief executive Paul Faulkner and all Pearce’s backroom staff - assistant manager Steve Wigley, first-team coach Brian Eastick, goalkeeper coach Tim Flowers, head of recruitment John Marshall and even physio Dave Galley.
That is one heck of a clear out!
Pearce was sacked with Forest sitting in 12th position well out of the playoff battle with little hope of promotion.
Owner Fawaz Al Hasawi blamed poor recent form for sacking Pearce, but I’d argue it was over-performing at the start of the season (which saw the club lead the division for several early weeks) that paid for Pearce.
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Looking at the stats, Forest are one of the teams where it appears fairly safe to say they are what they are – a solidly mid-table side.
A more than decent overall shots share (Corsi/TSR) score of 0.54, but a just below average shots on target share of 0.489.
Put those two figures together and, all other things being pretty much equal, Forest are smack in the middle of the table – an average Championship side.
|Position||Team||Shots for total||Shots against total||Corsi/TSR||shots on target for total||shots on target against total||Shots on target share||Shooting % For||Save %||PDO|
When we look at the course of the season however, we can see the reason for their impressive start – a massive PDO (“luck”) boost that held above or around 120 (100 is average) for the first 13 weeks.
True, the first few weeks Forest appeared to have some very impressive shot share numbers, but these proved unsustainable early on, and as they dropped to their current roughly league average levels by week eight, the slide set in.
This slide turned into a severe drop as the PDO score came tumbling down and by week 16 they were safely inhabiting upper mid-table obscurity.
We can also see from this graph that Pearce’s side have actually improved their shots on target share as the season has gone on, although the shots on target share has remained stubbornly at or below league average of 0.500.
So I’d argue that if Forest had not benefited from that early season PDO boost but meandered along in mid-table most of the season, Pearce would probably still be in the job – perhaps it’s not so good to have a fast start to the season.
And what of Pearce’s replacement - Dougie Freedman?
Has Al Hawasi at least done himself a favour and got someone better?
The short answer is I’m not convinced he has.
Freedman spent basically two seasons (split between three actual seasons) in charge at Bolton Wanderers. Last season, his only full season in charge at the Reebok Stadium, he took the Trotters to 14th place with an overall shot share of 0.481, a shots on target share of 0.518 and a PDO score of 97.52 – a little below average.
This year Freedman’s team started off the year poorly and he was sacked after ten games with the team in 23rd place and boasting a horrible 0.406 Corsi/TSR share, 0.358 shots on target share and 89.44 PDO score.
While the low PDO score is probably unfortunate, the rest of the (small) sample is pretty damning.
Given that those fixtures contained a fairly even spread of teams who are now battling it out for promotion, relegation or just mid-table obscurity it is hard to feel Freedman was the victim of horrific scheduling.
And his replacement at Bolton, Neil Lennon has come in and done a pretty decent job with largely the same group of players given the limited potential movements outside the transfer windows.
The Trotters are now where they finished last year with overall a 0.45 shot share, a 0.445 shots on target share and PDO of 101.47.
You can see from the graph the turnaround begins almost immediately after Freedman is sacked.
Lennon now boasts a personal record of 0.477 shot share, 0.497 (basically league average) shots on target share, and a 107.81 PDO score.
Sure, he has benefited from the PDO bump that Freedman missed, but in this case it’s probably deserved.
Will Freedman be the one to profit from a PDO boost this time around – we’ll have to see, but I’m not overly convinced Forest have found their long term success story in the Scot.