When clubs are involved in major takeovers nowadays, most people assume that when the new owners have a lot of money to invest in their new assets, that it will be spent on all the up and coming stars in the game, the best of the best, even if it is out of their means. Buying success can be a major problem, especially if success doesn’t occur. When Liverpool FC were taken over in October 2010, even though Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have a lot of money and investors, their approach to success is different, moneyball. Moneyball, I believe, is basically getting the best skill and talent that represents best value for money, to then gain a greater value on the asset if the necessity to sell occurs. In other words, the aim is to buy/ invest mainly in youth and to help develop and mould the squad into a world class players.
The first thing FSG did was to give the current manager a chance to keep on his job as they learnt the sport, the club, everything to do with the sport, as their expertise was in Baseball. They hired Damien Comolli to uncover transfer targets, who represented closely to the moneyball way as he is a major believer in statistics and analysis in players. Results never improved and so FSG dismissed Roy Hodgson and put Kenny Dalglish in charge temporarily til the end of the season, again to keep learning about the sport and who would be the best candidates for the new season.
The January transfer window saw FSG invest quite heavily in the sense of getting Luis Suarez at around £22m, but suffered a blow losing the top asset at the time in Fernando Torres to Chelsea (£50m). With the Torres sale happening on the last day of the window, Liverpool needed a replacement, and quickly. So the plan was to buy the most up-and-coming british striker at the time in Andy Carroll, stating to Chelsea that Torres is worth £15m plus whatever the price Newcastle ask for Andy Carroll, which ended up as £35m. The amount of money spent for someone who has not fully developed their skills and abilities and on potential alone is unheard of, a high risk in it self seeing as though Carroll was nursing a serious knee injury and didn’t make his debut til around March.
Results improved under Kenny Dalglish, and the fans love Dalgish as he was a club legend, so was offered the job full time at the end of the season.
The summer of 2011 saw one of the busiest transfer windows Liverpool FC has ever had in recent years, seeing 25 players leave the club, with 8 coming in. The 8 coming in were:
Craig Bellamy (free), Charlie Adam (£6m), Jordan Henderson (£16m approx), Stuart Downing (£20m), Seb Coates (undisc.), Doni (free), Jose Enrique (£6m), Villyan Bijev (undisc.).
The 25 that left were:
Aquilani (loan to buy), Ayala, Banton, Bijev(loan), Bruna, Chamberlain, Joe Cole (loan), Cooper, Darby, El Zhar, Gulacsi (loan), Highdale, Ince, Insua, Irwin, Jovanovic, Konchesky, Kyrgiakos, Mavinga, Meireles, N’Gog, Pacheco, Poulson, Saric, Degen.
Such a huge turnaround will not only have a massive effect, it will take a long time for the dust to settle. Out of all the players that left, not many were 1st team players, but it still has a detrimental effect as that it is basically the whole reserve team gone. The reserve team today consists of most of the u18’s from the previous year, so the foundations are slowly being built again, with the inclusion of new youth players being brought in throughout this current season.
Why weren’t certain players kept? Well Aquilani didn’t want to be here full stop, so has been sent out on loan again as clubs were not willing to meet the asking price for him. Meireles wasn’t the best midfielder in the sense of tackling and went missing most matches, he linked up the attack quite well towards the end of the season, but handed in a transfer request towards the end of the transfer window for whatever reasons he had.
Joe Cole had a nightmare season and just didn’t seem to fit in the style of Kenny Dalglish’s tactics, so was sent out on loan and I fully expect him to be sold this summer. The rest were seen surplus to requirements and were despatched as seen fit by free transfer, loan or sold.
The signings have been the main talking point this season, with most of the deals considered to be overpriced for the players, with British players being overpriced for many years now, Liverpool took the risk.
Let’s start with Stewart Downing. After spending £20m on him, his crossing and assists were his main assets, chipping in with the odd goal too. Liverpool have lacked this over the previous seasons, especially in wide players, so was deemed a necessity. Unfortunately, he has yet to score in the league and only has 1 assist to his name, how is this so? His form has been very poor, but slowly improved as the season has gone on. He has hit the woodwork about 5 times, so he is getting the chances. He is getting the ball in the box, but with LFC struggling in the final third, with nobody daring to get into the box to attack the crosses, the chances won’t be converted. So although he was an expensive buy, he is providing the opportunities, more so as the season goes on, which is being asked of him, so not all blame should be on him.
Charlie Adam, bought for £6m. Sir Alex Ferguson rated his corner taking was worth at least £10m alone. His first season in the Premier League with Blackpool he was a scorcher, creating many assists, his long ball accuracy was second to none and his set pieces were nearly impossible to defend. For some reason, even though he has 6 assists to his name this season, his corners and set pieces have been atrocious. His long balls are still there, but not as often (possibly due to tactics?) and his goal rate isn’t as good, even though he has had chances. I noticed he is a selfish player at times too, trying a spectacular shot, instead of playing in one of his team mates who is more likely to score and in a better position to do so. The effect of trying too hard may be the problem with Adam, forcing the set-pieces rather than letting his natural ability run it’s course. He was always the hero for Blackpool, so feels he has to try that extra hard to make himself an instant hero in the red shirt. Very rarely players are tagged as heroes instantly, ask Lucas Leiva. Time (if given) will see his abilities shine again, as long as he becomes more of a team player.
Jordan Henderson, bought for approx £16m. Out of all the signings made last summer, I feel for this guy the most. After being at one club for his whole young life, the 21 year old was bought for a big price with only about a full season in the first team for Sunderland. Not only is a new club daunting at a young age, he has constantly been played out wide, a position he hardly played in the Sunderland days. He is a central midfielder, and a great talent at that, but been played constantly in a position he’s not used to, in your 2nd full season as a first team player at a brand new club, is going to affect your performance over time. Credit where its due, he has never given up, he hasn’t moaned, he has just got on with it and tried to make the best out of the situation. Unfortunately, most people see him as a huge flop. He should have been utilised more of a squad player this season, allowing Dirk Kuyt to operate the right wing, which he has done for years now. But for some strange reason, Dalglish has been sticking by Henderson, maybe because he was his signing and is giving valuable playing time to help him settle. After seeing his recent performances, it seems to have backfired as constantly poor performances has knocked his confidence big time.
Jose Enrique for £6m. One of the best buys and value for money. For a few years LFC have been lacking a good full back on the left, and have seemed to have found the answer in Enrique. He has been solid throughout the season, but seems to have got complacent since the turn of the year. This is probably due to lack of competition for his place in the team. There is either Fabio Aurelio, who is always injured, or Jack Robinson, who is only 18 and needs more experience and will probably go on loan next season.
Craig Bellamy. Free transfer. One of the signings of the summer for me. An absolute revelation since his move from Manchester City. His performances have improved every time he has stepped onto the pitch, it’s just a shame his knees aren’t holding up and isn’t a few years younger.
Seb Coates. Bought for undisclosed fee. Even though he has hardly appeared and is bought for the future, he seems to be a solid centre back with a cracking scissor kick! In a handful of matches he has played, he has seemed quite solid, but has made a few mistakes, due to not being used to the tempo and physicality of the English game. Comparing to what he is used to, the Uruguayan league, he needs time to bulk up and understand the English game more. When he does, he’ll be a top centre back.
Due to the sales of Aquilani and Meireles, there has been chances along the line for Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey.
Jay Spearing has been involved more in the squad since the season-ending injury to Lucas Leiva and even though he has had solid games, he is no Lucas. He can only get better with game time, and may go on loan next year to a Premiership may help develop him more if Liverpool recruit more midfielders in the summer. Jonjo Shelvey hasn’t has as many appearances than Spearing, but he is definately a star in the making if he works hard. He has the confidence to take men on and to shout at his team mates at a tender age of 19. Again another loan deal will do him wonders next season.
Liverpool as a whole has struggled for goals this season, even though the new strikeforce cost more than £50m. Suarez has problems this season with the whole racial abuse situation, which will of course knock anybody’s confidence and form. Andy Carroll on the other hand has found it hard to stay in the first team line-up throughout the season, maybe for tactical reasons or just because his form and mind isn’t where it should be. He has a similar story to Henderson, only being at one club all his life. Only been in the first team at Newcastle for about a season and a half, to then all of a sudden being the bought as the most expensive british football player ever. It is going to be daunting to him, new club for the first time, huge price on his head, took a long time to recover from his knee injury. His performances recently have slowly improved, but its the goals scored people are interested in for strikers and for Andy, only scoring about 8 goals since his move over a year ago, has been poor. He has hit the woodwork a few times, his teamwork display has improved greatly, but he is never putting himself in the penalty area to convert chances. Many times this season, people like Downing or Suarez have surged down the side and cross the ball across the goal for someone to tap in and Andy Carroll is outside the penalty area, stood there watching it all unfold. This video says it all, Carroll just stands there and watches Shelvey run past him instead of running into the box, creating an opportunity or a distraction for Newcastle players. As soon as he gets that part of his game sorted and settles down with his lifestyle, forgets about the price tag and develops his game more, he’ll be tapping in goals for fun. Most target man strikers turn good around mid 20’s given by Paul Tomkin’s research . He also states John Toshack joined Liverpool at the age of 21 and his best seasons didn’t start til the age of 26. So it’s the case of you have got a couple of years to wait yet til Carroll hits top form with his target man role.
In summary, Liverpool have improved the squad since FSG has taken over, but have replaced them with only squad players who have the potential to be better. There needed to be more signings for now, not just for the future, but maybe none were available at the current time. This has definately shown this season as Liverpool can’t even buy a point let alone win one at the moment. For me, the turning point of the season was Lucas’ injury, he held everything together and allowed players to go forward feeling comfortable Lucas was there to mop up any counter-attacks. Liverpool have missed him greatly and really don’t have another defensive midfielder as effective as him, Spearing has played solidly, but been missing when it matters sometimes.
A couple of world class players are needed if possible. A striker who is going to guarantee you goals and a playmaker in midfield, or a player who has the ability to cut open defences, as Liverpool’s other downfall has been the inability to create chances against teams who sit back. Another winger is also need for the right hand side, to whip in more boxes to invite Andy Carroll into the box more. A manager is normally given the sack after the record Kenny Dalglish has faced over the past few weeks. So FSG may look into moving Kenny back upstairs and look for a new, young manager to develop the youth and the potentially talented players into world beaters. If Kenny Dalglish is kept on, which I’ll have no problem with, he’ll need to buy quality to improve the current first 11, not just to add to the squad ( except for the left back position). Without Champions League, it’ll be hard to get the quality needed though, Damien Comolli, will need to start looking for diamonds in the rough.