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K-League: Who is the Best Manager? (Flat-Track Bully Pt. 4)

(from 2014brazil.tistory.com)
Here is the fourth and final part of the Flat-Track Bully series.  In part one, I looked at Choi Yong-soo.  In part two, I looked at how Choi Yong-soo, Choi Kang-hee, Hwang Sun-hong, and Seo Jung-won did year by year.  In part three, I looked at the top and worst performances by the above managers and got side-tracked by the post-split system.  
Finally, I will look at the overall records of the top four coaches from 2011 to 2015, starting with the most successful manager.  I have split the table into three parts: 
  • Record against the Big Four teams (Jeonbuk, Suwon, FC Seoul, and Pohang).  
  • Record against teams in the top 6/7/8 (Big Four + whomever else makes the top part of the split, ex: Jeju Utd in 2012, 2014, 2015., etc.)
  • Record against the rest of the league (those not in the top 6/7/8- ex: Daejeon, Ulsan in 2015, etc.)
Choi Kang-hee’s Record: 2011 to 2015
Versus
P
W (%)
D (%)
L (%)
GF (Avg.)
GA (Avg.)
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Big 4
38
13 (34%)
12 (32%)
13 (34%)
45 (1.18)
47 (1.24)
51 (45%)
1.34
Top of Table
67
31 (47%)
19 (28%)
17 (25%)
89 (1.33)
69 (1.03)
112 (56%)
1.67
Rest of League
63
45 (71%)
12 (19%)
6 (10%)
132 (2.1)
49 (0.78)
147 (78%)
2.33

Choi Kang-hee's record against the Big Four is below average (0-3 points; 1.5 is the mean), slightly above average against the Top of the Table, and dominating against the doormats of the league. 

Choi Yong-soo’s Record: 2011 to 2015
Versus
P
W (%)
D (%)
L (%)
GF (Avg.)
GA (Avg.)
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Big 4
52
17 (33%)
16 (31%)
19 (37%)
53 (1.02)
63 (1.21)
67 (43%)
1.29
Top of Table
98
40 (41%)
31 (32%)
27 (27%)
125 (1.28)
109 (1.11)
151 (51%)
1.54
Rest of League
83
53 (64%)
17 (20%)
13 (16%)
154 (1.86)
79 (0.95)
176 (71%)
2.12

Choi Yong-soo's record against the Big Four is below average, about average against the Top of the Table, and above average against the lower teams in the league. 

Hwang Sun-hong’s Record: 2011 to 2015
Versus
P
W (%)
D (%)
L (%)
GF (Avg.)
GA (Avg.)
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Big 4
54
26 (48%)
10 (19%)
18 (33%)
78 (1.44)
57 (1.06)
82 (51%)
1.52
Top of Table
102
43 (42%)
25 (25%)
34 (33%)
144 (1.41)
118 (1.16)
154 (50%)
1.51
Rest of League
86
52 (60%)
24 (28%)
10 (12%)
149 (1.73 )
71 (0.82)
180 (70%)
2.09

Hwang Sun-hong's record against the Big Four is slightly above average, average against the Top of the Table, and quite good against the rest of the league. 

Seo Jung-won’s Record: 2013 to 2015
Versus
P
W (%)
D (%)
L (%)
GF (Avg.)
GA (Avg.)
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Big 4
36
13 (36%)
6 (17%)
17 (47%)
46 (1.27)
49 (1.36)
45 (42%)
1.25
Top of Table
64
26 (41%)
12 (18%)
26 (41%)
82 (1.28)
76 (1.19)
90 (47%)
1.41
Rest of League
50
27 (54%)
16 (32%)
7 (14%)
80 (1.6)
47 (0.94)
97 (65%)
1.94

Seo Jung-won's record against the Big Four is poor, slightly below average against the Top of the Table, and and above average against the rest of the league. 

Big Four Record (Pohang, Jeonbuk, FC Seoul, Suwon)
Manager
P
GF (avg.)
GA (avg.)
Pts. (%)
Avg Pts.
Hwang Sun-hong
54
78 (1.44)
57 (1.06)
82 (51%)
1.52
Choi Kang-hee
38
45 (1.18)
47 (1.24)
51 (45%)
1.34
Choi Yong-soo
52
53 (1.02)
63 (1.21)
67 (43%)
1.29
Seo Jong-won
36
46 (1.27)
49 (1.36)
45 (42%)
1.25

Yesterday, I remarked about how surprising low the average amount of points for the four manager is in general.  For example, the best season any manager had in games against the other members of the Big Four was in 2012.  That year, Hwang Sun-hong averaged two points a game, but that was also the year that Choi Kang-hee coached the national team and Seo Jung-won had yet to be appointed as Suwon's manager.

Hwang Sun-hong, who had the best year, also has the best record among the Big Four.  The other three managers all have records that are below average when their team plays other members of the Big Four.  Obviously, as mentioned before, because the teams are usually so evenly matched gaining points against one another is difficult.  

Likewise, at the risk of repeating myself, the post-split table has demonstrated when Big Four members have played one another these last two years, the contest is highly likely to end in a draw since the stakes are so high and a loss for either team can be devastating.  Therefore, in my opinion, the managers often perform a calculus that makes them satisfied with gaining one point rather than losing three, especially if they are at the top of the table.  

That being said, before stepping down, Hwang had put together quite a run against Suwon Manager Yoo Sung-hyo, Choi Kang-hee, and Choi Yong-soo.  From 2012 until the beginning of 2013, Hwang won seven of eight league matches against Suwon, outscoring them 19 to 5, with the only blemish being a 0-0 draw in the middle.  Against Choi Kang-hee, Hwang has won the last four league matches (outscoring them 6-1) and against Choi Yong-soo (outscoring them 7-3), the last five league matches.  

However, since Seo Jung-won has been appointed manager of Suwon, that trend has been reversed.  Seo has won five of the last seven fixtures and out scored Hwang 11 to 5.  Likewise, even though Hwang dominates Choi Yong-soo in the league, some would argue that Choi beats Hwang in the games that count.  In the last three cup competitions, Choi Yong-soo has come out on top in two FA matches (2014- PK shootout; 2015 2-1) and the AFC Championship leg (0-0 PK shootout).  

Top Six/Seven/Eight
Manager
P
GF (avg.)
GA (avg.)
Pts. (%)
Avg Pts.
Choi Kang-hee
67
89 (1.33)
69 (1.03)
112 (56%)
1.67
Choi Yong-soo
98
125 (1.28)
109 (1.11)
151 (51%)
1.54
Hwang Sun-hong
102
144 (1.41)
118 (1.16)
154 (50%)
1.51
Seo Jong-won
64
82 (1.28)
76 (1.19)
90 (47%)
1.41

Against the Big Four teams (Jeonbuk, FC Seoul, Pohang, Suwon) plus teams that finished in the top of the table (ex: Ulsan 2011-2014, Seongnam 2015, etc.), the results for all four coaches become better.  Choi Kang-hee's percentage of points collected improves by 11 percent, from 45% to 56%.  He is also above average in points.  Choi Yong-soo and Seo Jung-won also improve when more teams are factored in, but Hwang Sun-hong's performance is a slight bit less.  

Rest of the League
Manager
P
GF
GA
Pts
Avg. Pts
Choi Kang-hee
63
132 (2.1)
49 (0.78)
147 (78%)
2.33
Choi Yong-soo
83
154 (1.86)
79 (0.95)
176 (71%)
2.12
Hwang Sun-hong
86
149 (1.73 )
71 (0.82)
180 (70%)
2.09
Seo Jung-won
50
80 (1.6)
47 (0.94)
97 (65%)
1.94

No surprises here.  The most successful manager is also the one with the best record against inferior competition.  I would argue that it is these matches that usually make a difference whether or not a team wins the league this was especially true in 2011, 2013, and 2015.  

For example, in 2011 Jeonbuk won the league by four points.  Here is a comparison between Choi and Hwang:

2011 K-League Season
                  Top of the Table                                           Rest of the League
Manager
P
W
D
L
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
P
W
D
L
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Choi Kang-hee
10
4
4
2
16 (53%)
1.6
20
14
5
1
47 (78%)
2.3
Hwang Sun-hong
10
4
1
5
13 (43%)
1.3
20
13
7
0
46 (77%)
2.3

Here are some of the teams that Pohang drew against that year: Jeonnam (7th), Seongnam (10th), Daegu twice (12th), Incheon (13th), Daejeon (15th), and Gangwon (16th).  If they had won two of those games, say against the two worst teams (Daejeon and Gangwon) and nothing else changed, then that is six points and Pohang win the league in 2011 and not Jeonbuk.  

Next, in 2013 Pohang beat Ulsan by a point to win the league.  I have mentioned in the past how unlucky Ulsan were to lose that season.  Ulsan lost their second to last game against Busan in the 90th minute and the penultimate final game against Pohang in the last minute as well.  However, I want to compare their records to the  top of the table and rest of the league:

2013 K-League Season
                 Top of the Table                                             Rest of the League
Manager
P
W
D
L
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
P
W
D
L
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Hwang Sun-hong
24
10
8
6
38 (53%)
1.58
14
11
3
0
36 (86%)
2.57
Kim Ho-gon
24
12
7
3
43 (60%)
1.79
14
10
0
4
30 (71%)
2.14

Pohang drew once against Seongnam (8th) and twice against Gyeongnam (11th), but did not lose to anyone below the top seven.  Compare that to Ulsan's manager Kim Ho-gon, who did much better against teams in the top seven of the table but much worse against teams at the bottom of the table.  Granted, there were 10 more games against teams at the top of the table, which is why the race was so close, but because Pohang collected the majority of their points (86%) against the bottom of the table, it helped make up that difference between the two teams' Top of the Table performances.  

Unfortunately, Kim loss to the following teams that year: Seongnam twice (8th), Jeju (9th), and Daegu (13th).  If Kim had won even one of these games or drawn two, Ulsan would have had their deserved championship.  In my opinion, they were the better team, but a some bad luck and poor results against teams that they should have beat consigned them to runners-up status.  

Finally, the race between Jeonbuk and Suwon in 2015, on paper does not appear that close.  Actually, it was not that close, but it should have been.  I have said before, Jeonbuk in 2015 were the weakest champions.  They averaged a goal and half a game for the season, which was down from 2014, while allowing a goal a game, up from half a goal a game in 2014.  Other than a great start and the ability to tread water, I feel as though they accomplished little last year.

Instead, the paucity of the league is the reason why Jeonbuk repeated.  Just when it seemed as though Suwon was about to make a move on Jeonbuk, they somehow conspired to shit the bed.  The Bluewings really should have won the league last year.  Here is the table:

2015 K-League Season
                 Top of the Table                                         Rest of the League
Manager
P
W
D
L
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts

P
W
D
L
Pts (Pct.)
Avg. Pts
Choi Kang-hee
20
10
4
6
34 (57%)
1.7

18
12
3
3
39 (72%)
2.17
Seo Jung-won
20
8
5
7
29 (48%)
1.45

18
11
5
2
38 (70%)
2.11

Choi Kang-hee greatly outperformed Seo Jung-won in games against teams at the top of the table.  Against teams at the bottom of the table, they were slightly the same.  However, here are some teams that Suwon dropped points against last year: 7th place Ulsan (draw), 8th place Incheon (draw), 9th place Jeonnam (draw), 10th place Gwangju (loss), 11th place Busan (two draws),  and 12th place Daejeon (loss).  If everything remained the same, but Suwon beat Daejeon (probable), won at least one game against Busan (probable), and at won at home against Gwangju rather than losing (probable), that is nine points right there.  

Conclusion

So, who is flat-track bully?  If I had to choose, it would be Seo Jung-won for now.  He only averaged 1.25 points per game against teams in the Big Four, slightly improved to 1.41 points against teams in the top of the table (Big Four + whomever fills out the other two, three, or four spots), and spiked upward to 1.94  points per game against teams who were in the lower end of the league.  That being said, Choi Yong-soo was quite dreadful last year and if he has a similar performance in 2016, he could supplant Seo as the flat-track bully.  It probably helps that Choi has had fairly good success against Seo these last three years, with a record of seven wins, two draws, and three losses.  

Who is the best manager?  There are lots of factors.  If we look at records against all teams, then Choi Kang-hee.  If we look at how the Big Four managers have done against one another, then Hwang Sun-hong.  However, if we add in the amount that a team spends in salary, then we will get our answer.  

Team
Total Base Salary
Salary Rank
Final Standing
Jeonbuk
$9,707,799
1
1
Suwon
$7,066,372
2
2
Ulsan
$6,957,354
3
7
FC Seoul
$6,095,767
4
4
Pohang
$4,719,400
5
3
Jeonnam
$4,339,778
6
9
Jeju
$4,106,474
7
6
Seongnam
$3,822,231
8
5
Busan
$2,532,627
9
11
Incheon
$2,513,074
10
8
Gwangju
$1,909,442
11
10
Daejeon
$1,570,245
12

12
Obviously, looking at the table money spent correlates to success.  The team that spent the most finished first.  I would say a large part of Choi Kang-hee's success is that his employers spend the most to buy the players needed to be successful.  By no means is this an indictment Choi.  Often times, the best managers are the ones that are backed by money.  Mourinho, Ferguson, and Guardiola all have won in their career, but it helped that they were at clubs that could afford the best players.  

Therefore, taking spending into account, I would say that Hwang Sun-hong has been the best manager for the last five years.  He has the best success rate against clubs in the Big Four while performing adequately against clubs at the top of the table and the rest of the league.  Yet, Pohang are only fifth in league spending, slightly above average, so I feel as though this demonstrates how Hwang has out performed the competition.  

In the end, I guess, it doesn't matter.  Choi Kang-hee has been terrible great against the top four, but dominating against the rest.  Couple that with employers who are willing to back him and get what he needs, it is why he is the most successful manager in the K-League over the last five.  



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