When assessing the quality of a manager both journalists and supporters tend to base their assessment on whether he has won trophies. A manager might be disregarded completely due to lack of trophies and critics will argue that it proves that he is not a winner. As if a trophy on the resume of a manager serves as a Litmus test. Considering all the elements that influence the chance of winning a trophy, this might be a very biased and lazy approach to evaluate the quality and ability of a manager. "Ludic fallacy" In The Black Swan Nicholas Taleb writes about the "ludic fallacy"; how we underestimate the importance of luck in life. He explains how two people with the exact same attributes can end up with very different outcomes. I found a good summary where this part of the book is covered thoroughly at GetAbstract: Think of a typical business magazine profile of a successful businessman. The story begins in the present, after he has become rich beyond his wildest dreams. The story then cuts back to his humble beginnings. He started with nothing and wanted to get rich. He faced obstacle after obstacle. But he made shrewd decisions and flouted the wisdom of the Cassandras who counseled caution. As success built on success, he amassed a fortune. He retired early, married a model and now has brilliant children who play Chopin blindfolded and will all attend Ivy League colleges. His virtues will be extolled in a B-School case study. Wide-eyed M.B.A. students will sit rapt at his feet when he visits their schools on a lecture tour promoting his latest book. He is a superman, an inspiration. Now consider an alternative hypothesis: He got lucky. His putative “virtues” had nothing to do with his success. He is, essentially, a lottery winner. The public looks at his life and concocts a story about how brilliant he was, when, in fact, he was merely at the right place at the right time. This is the “ludic fallacy” (ludus means game in Latin): People underestimate luck in life – though they ironically overestimate it in certain games of “chance.” In football we tend to be outcome biased and rarely look past results. A manager who wins a trophy is a successful one. A manager who don't is not. The case of the "best manager in history" Take Pep Guardiola as an example. He is obviously a very good coach. Many view him as the best ever. This summer there were articles arguing that there is causality between Guardiola coaching Barcelona and Bayern and Spain and Germany winning the World Cup in '10 and '14. Is it not more likely that it is the other way around? That the brilliance of that Spain-generation made Guardiola? Guardiola became coach of Barcelona in the summer of 08. In 08 Spain won the Euros while playing brilliant football. Several of the players in that Spain team played for Barcelona. In other words, several of the Barcelona-players was looking seriously good even before Pep had any influence on them. Furthermore, he had players like Messi, Eto'o and Henry at his disposal. Although he did a great job with Barcelona, is it not fair to say that he was very lucky with the team he took charge of (merely at the right place at the right time)? Pep Guardiola and Barcelona was probably a match made in heaven in terms of football philosophy and culture. But how would Ferguson, Klopp or even Pochettino perform with a side like that? Probably very, very good! And how would Guardiola have succeeded if he was in charge of Espanyol, Mainz or a broken Man Utd team in 86 instead? Heck, how would he look at Bournmouth in 10? The success he had with Barcelona ensured that we will probably never find out. Guardiola cherry picked what was, at the time, the best football team in the world as his next destination. From there he moved on to a team with superior resources to basically any team in the world. Mind you, this is not criticism of Guardiola who himself has underlined the importance of having high quality players. Exceeding expectation Jose Mourinhos once said that a manager of Stoke or West Brom win a trophy every year they avoided relegation. His point was that a manager should be evaluated against a reasonable expectation. It is unfair to expect a manager to greatly outperform competitors with greater resources. It is possible, but not likely over time. Mauricio Pochettino has finished 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 3rd since arriving at Spurs despite the fact that 5 teams have greater financial resources than Spurs and that most of them where better than Spurs when Pochettino arrived. In the years before Pochettino arrived they finished 4th, 5th, 4th, 5th and 6th. This imply that Pochettino has; A) Performed better than his predecessors, B) Performed better than the other managers of top clubs in PL, In other words, Pochettino has exceeded a reasonable expectation consistently since he arrived. You could argue that you would have to be a winner to do that year after year at the highest level. But lack of trophies appears to be held against him for now. The myth (and paradox) about needing to prove yourself at a top club before getting a job at a tob club The same case could be made for Eddie Howe. He took charge of Bournemouth when they were a League Two club (something they had been for years). It took him less than two years to gain promotion to League One. And when returning to Bournemouth in 12, after a short spell at Burnley, it took him less than a year to gain promotion to Championship. They gained promotion to the Premier League in their second season in the Championship. They managed to stay up in 16 despite being very unlucky with injuries and Bournemouth now appears to be established as a midtable Premier League club. Several of the players playing regularly today have been with them since they played in League One. A few of them was bought from League One clubs. Players who looked destined for to play in the Championship or lower are now established Premier League-footballers. When Jurgen Klopp was the exact same age as Eddie Howe he was hired at Dortmund. He had resigned at Mainz the same year after failing to gain promotion to Bundesligaen. The year before Mainz and Klopp was relegated from Bundesligaen. Could you imagine one of the biggest clubs in England hiring Eddie Howe in 20 if Bournemouth is relegated in 19 and fails make promotion in 20? Can you even imagine one of the biggest clubs in England hiring him today? To say that Eddie Howe has exceeded expectation would be a major understatement, and his achievements should speak volume of both his character and his quality as a manager. But whenever a manager is being discussed for a top job in England and Howes name is mentioned there seem to be a general consensus that “he is not ready and/or that he needs to prove himself at a bigger club first”. It appears that he is in a Catch 22 where he needs to prove himself at a top club before getting a job at a top club. Or would it make much of a difference if he had made the step up to, say, West Ham or Everton? It does not seem evident. Even Pochettino face skepticism and is by some considered unproven. Making it at Man Utd or Liverpool is a bigger challenge and very different to making it at Bournemouth or Everton. You are measured against and compared to the best managers in the world. It is obviously difficult to find a candidate that has the ability to succeed at the highest level unless he has done it in the past. But even with managers that has already succeeded at this level it is possible to go wrong. Both because football develop and because the challenge of one job may differ from another. A manager who is perfect for maximizing a squads potential and handle big egos might not be perfect for re-building a "broken" squad. How do you evaluate a manager? Some of the best and most important manager/coach appointments of the last decade were young and inexperienced managers. Joseph Guardiola to Barcelona. Jurgen Klopp to Dortmund. Antonio Conte to Juventus. Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid. How did the management and board of the respective clubs identify these men as their next manager, despite no trophies and no experience running a “top club”? I would assume that it was a mix of the following: They were a cultural fit for their clubs (both in terms of personality and football philosophy), An assessment of their vision for the club (how they want to improve it and where they believe the potential of the club is), An assessment of their “operational excellence” (their ability to execute a strategy), And maybe even an assessment of their intelligence, knowledge and desire/hunger to learn and get better? We can't know whether Howe, Pochettino or any other young manager will tick all these boxes for a given club, but it should not be controversial to claim that a board making a manager appointment should look past "trophy-winners" and expand their search beyond "managers proven in top clubs". However, we can probably not expect that from one of the bigger clubs in England. And considering the general consensus of the media and the supporters in England it is hard to blame them.