Sunderland’s disappointing start to the season saw them bring in Sam Allardyce, and it sounds like the vultures are starting to circle at Aston Villa. Both teams have underachieved significantly so far, only out-paced at the bottom of my underperformers list so far this season by Chelsea. It should go without saying that Chelsea has the quality to avoid relegation, but Aston Villa and Sunderland both have to be concerned.
One of the most influential books in political science is Congress: The Electoral Connection by David Mayhew, and in it he coins the phrase “single-minded seekers of re-election” The main argument is that members of Congress care about nothing other than re-election, and will pursue that goal single-mindedly. Richard Fenno relaxes this assumption a little bit, giving politicians goals like making good public policy and pursuing power in the institution, but his caveat is key: members of Congress cannot pursue other goals without achieving the primary goal, re-election. EPL teams have a similar goal: avoiding relegation, and Sunderland and Aston Villa prove this. EPL teams are single-minded forsakers of relegation – consolidating the league status is concern #1, and no other concerns matter until #1 is met.
Sunderland signing Sam Allardyce, much like West Ham before them, was met with any number of jokes about his boring, direct style of football.1 But he’s a proven manager who did a great job of consolidating West Ham’s position in the league, putting them into a good position where they can hire a manager who plays a more interesting style without worrying their league position. With relegation seemingly out of the question, West Ham can afford to move on to concerns about playing an attractive style. Sunderland doesn’t have the same luxury, so Allardyce is their best choice.
Similarly, reportedly one of the reasons Aston Villa originally tapped Tim Sherwood to be their manager was his track record in developing young players. Aston Villa has been investing in youth for quite a while now and they have some promising potential stars, Jack Grealish being toward the top of the list. However good he may be, and however good Tim Sherwood may be at developing players, they may not have the luxury of keeping either one of them at the club. My model thinks replacing Grealish gives Aston Villa the highest upside, with a shocking 20 point increase for the max player, and an average of over 4 points.
Everyone likes the idea of having future stars in their lineup, especially a home-grown, local player like Jack Grealish. And everyone likes a manager who can develop young players into the next generation of stars. But if the rumor mill is true and Tim Sherwood’s position is tenuous, it’s yet another example of how teams are single-minded forsakers of relegation. Staying in the Premier League is job #1, and it’s the only one that matters because without it, you can’t achieve any of the others. Putting the youth project at least partially on the backburner might be necessary to forsake relegation and maintain their Premier League status.
- My favorite was a gif labeling Mourinho as “The Special One” while labeling Allardyce as “Route One.” ↩