The 2015/16 season of the Premier League will always be remembered for what has been labelled ‘the greatest achievement in English football history’ when Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City charges ran away with the title.
For all the clubs who consider themselves bigger than the Foxes this triumph represented a massive missed opportunity.
In the end, only Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side were still in the hunt for the trophy before it went to the King Power Stadium, Andrea Bocelli serenade and all.
But 2016 could have been the year Spurs won the Premier League under Frank de Boer if comparing the statistics of Pochettino and Ronald Koeman’s time at Southampton are anything to go by.
In 2014, De Boer looked destined for Spurs after winning four league titles in a row with his first managerial gig at Ajax.
The Dutchman unknowingly damaged his chances of landing the job when he irked the Spurs board by publicly revealing the interest in him from White Hart Lane which in turn opened the way for Pochettino, with his Premier League experience, to pip him to the position.
Pochettino v Koeman
Pochettino had just steered Southampton to their highest ever league finish (eighth) and points total (56) after a season-and-a-half in charge.
The Saints boasted a talented team with the likes of Schneiderlin, Lambert, Lallana, Shaw, Clyne, Chambers and Lovren all within its ranks. The Argentine left Southampton with a win ratio of 38.33% during his tenure.
Ronald Koeman filled the gap left by Pochettino after three years in charge of Feyenoord where he had patched up some of the damage done to his managerial reputation following disastrous stints at Valencia and AZ Alkmaar.
He faced an exodus of star players on arrival, leading to a load of laughs when he tweeted “Ready for #training!” and a picture of an empty training ground on the first day of pre-season.
But even with the departures of Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Lovren, and Callum Chambers, Koeman managed to soundly recruit and then, against the odds, bettered Pochettino’s previous season by finishing higher (seventh) and also setting a new record points tally (60) for the club.
This season, Koeman’s Southampton again lost key players in Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne but still beat the previous year’s performance, finishing sixth with 63 points.
After two seasons in charge, Ronald Koeman’s win ratio at Southampton is 47.78% – which is 9.45% better than Pochettino’s record at the club.
Statistically, it can be argued that Koeman is the better manager and even Southampton fans will tell you they wouldn’t swap the Dutchman for the Argentine now.
Koeman v De Boer
Frank de Boer and Ronald Koeman both managed title challengers in the Dutch Eredivisie with Ajax and Feyenoord respectively between the 2011/12 and 2013/14 seasons.
Big spending PSV Eindhoven made it a three horse race during this period.
In these three campaigns, Koeman’s Feyenoord finished second and six points behind winners Ajax; then third and seven points behind winners Ajax; and finally, second again four points behind winners Ajax.
In league encounters between the two sides De Boer’s Ajax got the better of Koeman three times, with Feyenoord managing just one win and two draws.
Both clubs performed disappointingly in the domestic cups and European competitions over the course of the three seasons.
The general Dutch consensus seems to have always been that Frank de Boer is a manager with greater potential than Koeman and performances during this three year spell in the Dutch league seemingly back that belief up.
So here is the twisted logic: Koeman is statistically better than Pochettino by 9.45% when weighing up their consecutive spells at Southampton.
This means that maybe Koeman could have done better than Pochettino at Spurs as he did with the Saints, converting his better win ratio which would have resulted in gaining an extra seven points this season.
That, however, would still be three points behind Leicester.
But if – as the Dutch evidence suggests – Frank de Boer is even better than Koeman, then could he have squeezed the extra points needed to be champions?
Did Spurs unknowingly throw away a Premier League title when they chose Pochettino over De Boer?
And if it’s not clear by now, Everton should definitely go and put “The Farmer” to work.