It’s acceptable to make mistakes in the first half of the season, but not in the second.
According to the German newspaper “SZ”, these were the opening lines by Carlo Ancelotti to his players in Doha and the newspaper used this quote to strengthen the narrative of Ancelotti as being the coach that gets the best results out of his teams when it really matters. In April and May. In the Big Games.
How much truth lies in this narrative? Time for some statistical fact-checking.
Disclaimer: The target of this analysis is not to discredit Ancelotti and his work, but to challenge the simple narratives that are used to explain it.
Big game coach, eh? What is a big game anyway and how many big games has FC Bayern played under Ancelotti? One way of looking at this is taking into account the
of FC Bayern’s opponents. Considering only the top 10 teams in Europe, Bayern had three big games this season, twice against Atletico and one game against Borussia Dortmund. Bayern lost two and only won the dead rubber against
. All in all, FC Bayern lost 11.4 ELO points in these games. Small sample size, but that’s a given when looking at “big games”, isn’t it?
No mistakes in the second part of the season and getting the team in the best shape when the trophies are handed out.
Sounds like a plan, but do the numbers match that narrative of Ancelotti being better in the second part of the season than in the first?In 8 of 17 seasons Ancelotti’s teams collected more points in the second part of the season.
It’s basically been a 50:50 situation throughout Ancelotti’s career, looking at the number of points his teams have collected in the league games of the second half of the season compared to the first half. His last two seasons at Real Madrid featured rather underwhelming performances in the second halves. The picture doesn’t look any different when looking at goals instead of points, either.
Overall, Ancelotti’s teams collected 4 more points, scored 5 more goals, and conceded 19 goals fewer in their 326 games during the second parts of the seasons. That doesn’t look like a strong trend, but rather like the regular level of noise in the numbers.
And now? Well, umm, I don’t know. Maybe Carlo Ancelotti isn’t “Mr. Big Games” or “Mr. Rückrunde” after all. Does that mean FC Bayern are doomed in the second half of the season? Probably not, but keeping the numbers in mind could help in not putting too much faith in simple narratives and looking at the team’s actual performance instead.