Liverpool have become an experiment since John W. Henry’s takeover of the club in 2010 through New England Sports Ventures’ acquisition of the club.
There has been a heavy, almost slavish reliance on player statistics in order to determine which players are most undervalued by “experts” in the game. The system was first used to full effect by Billy Beane, General manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, who was portrayed by Brad Pitt in the much acclaimed 2009 film “Moneyball”.
He created a team made up mostly of previously unattached players, who were undervalued for a variety of “biased” reasons e.g. a lack of athleticism, poor character and lack of baseball intelligence as well as their age. After a 20-game winning sequence, Beane was eventually head hunted by Henry to become the highest paid GM in the history of sports at the Boston Red Sox, but Beane declined the offer.
However, Henry’s infatuation with the moneyball concept did not end there, he hired Bill James as an analyst for the Red Sox and followed a statistics-dominated recruitment policy that eventually led to World Series wins in 2004, 2007 and 2013.
Upon taking the reigns at Liverpool, there was a shift to the recruitment drive used by the Red Sox in baseball. This stance has led to a systematic failure in all significant areas of club performance. Henry sacked Kenny Dalglish after a season and created a transfer committee which was comprised of manager, Brendan Rodgers, scouts Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter, Board Members Ian Ayre and Mike Gordon as well as the director of technical performance, Michael Edwards.
Initially it seemed to go well for Rodgers as a functioning part of the “committee” system. Phillipe Coutinho cost £8.5 million and was a creative fulcrum of the side Rodgers was attempting to build as well as recruiting Daniel Sturridge for £12 million to complement the erratic brilliance of Luis Suarez up front.
On the back of these three players Liverpool rode the crest of a wave to finish second in the Premier League in the 2013/14 season. Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies were masked by Sturridge, Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Coutinho and the emergence of Jordan Henderson as a first rate Premier League performer.
The recruitment programme’s failures had been masked by these players. Jordan Ibe, Oussama Assaidi and Fabio Borini all failed in Rodgers’ first year while the purchase of Mamadou Sakho has been viewed by many as an abomination in a side that always aimed to play out from the back. He has looked awkward and uneasy on the ball, while still managing to appear susceptible in the air.
Since the sale of Suarez, Liverpool reinvested well over twice the £65 million they received for him and since then, the endemic failure of the committee system has been as wholly transparent as Rodgers’ weakness in not rallying against it.
Buying players like Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli for exorbitant fees in relation to the risks they posed in terms of temperment, ability and raw desire must have impressed on him the russian roulette type enterprise they were embarking on with the blessings of the custodians of the club.
Rodgers has taken the fall for it. He did not take in the Alex Ferguson “power and control” philosophy as being the first rule of managing a Premier League club. He allowed himself to be sucked in to the system.
Will Klopp buy into this illusion of a disfunctioning football club masquerading as a franchise in a constant state of flux, which portrays the image of a transition period? I would think not. So what does he do? He should remember one of the things the most succesful English manager of recent times, Brian Clough, said: “You are never any stronger at a football club than your first three months in charge.”
This would suggest to me that he must act in January to clear out some dead wood and then begin the slow, painstaking rebuild to the top. We know all about Klopp’s passion and heart. We are entitled to wonder about his nerve.
Luke O’Connor, Pundit Arena