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Old enough to know better

by Gareth Roberts // 28 December 2012 // 52 Comments

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DANIEL STURRIDGE is likely to run out of the Anfield tunnel wearing a red shirt when Liverpool play Sunderland on Wednesday – and he could soon be joined in the squad by Thomas Ince.

The pursuit of both players – Sturridge is 23, Ince is 20 – provides further evidence of a much referenced but never confirmed transfer policy of pursuing players aged 23 or under. Of the five players officially acquired by Liverpool since Brendan Rodgers became manager last May, only Oussama Assaidi was outside that age bracket and even then his 24th birthday had passed just two days before he agreed a contract with the club.

The others – Fabio Borini (21), Joe Allen (22), Nuri Sahin (23) and Samed Yesil (17) – all fitted the profile FSG are believed to favour.

When August’s transfer window closed to leave Liverpool shorter on attacking options than when it opened following the failure to sign Clint Dempsey (29) and the loaning out of Andy Carroll, John Henry opted to write an open letter to fans.

In it, he outlined how the club would spend “prudently and cleverly” and promised to “never again waste resources on inflated transfer fees and unrealistic wages”. Highly subjective terms in a game of few absolutes. And some may say that paying £12million (or even up to £16m, as some sections of the media have suggested) for Sturridge, a Chelsea fringe player with only 18 months of his contract remaining, is very much an “inflated transfer fee”.

Equally, it could be questioned how prudent and clever it is, particularly when Rodgers was widely reported to have turned down the opportunity to sign him on permanent terms in August. Then the manager wanted a try-before-you-buy deal, and reports suggested he was reluctant to commit such a significant chunk of the transfer budget to the player. So what’s changed? Since the end of August, Sturridge has mainly been used as a substitute, playing less than the equivalent of four games for club and country and scoring two goals while also suffering a hamstring injury.

Could it be that “fitting the profile” has now ruled over all other logic? Either way, Liverpool have now seemingly sealed a deal for Sturridge and the technical committee – as it is them, not Rodgers alone that scouts and buys players – will hope for a repeat of the form that brought him eight goals in 12 games in a Bolton shirt.

What Liverpool are crying out for right now is a proven player that can come into the side and contribute from the off. That could be Sturridge and expectations will demand that it is Sturridge. Ince, too, if he joins Liverpool, will instantly be expected to deliver.

And so here’s the rub. Does the policy match the necessity?

Is it fair to expect a player shuffling around the sidelines at Chelsea to don the red shirt and become a world beater? Is it realistic to expect a player allowed to leave the club for buttons to return a Premier League performer after a spell in the Championship? The side is crying out for matchwinners and rightly or wrongly Sturridge and Ince will be perceived to be the answers from the get go.

This is not to write them off. But a glance at the top performers in the Premier League underlines that experienced players should not be overlooked for an idealistic preoccupation with youth.

The top 20 performers in the league right now according to Opta-powered statistics site whoscored.com shows Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla (aged 28) leading the way with seven goals and four assists, an instant return on the £16.5m the Gunners paid Malaga in August to secure the services of the Spain international.

In third place, behind Spurs’ Gareth Bale (23, signed at 17 for up to £10m) is Robin Van Persie (29) who since a £24m move to Manchester United in August has scored 13 Premier League goals and assisted six.

As well as our own Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, the top 20 also features Fellaini (25), Vertonghen (25), Chico (25), Dembele (25), Baines (28), Mata (24), Rooney (27), Arteta (30), Cuellar (31), Michu (26), Evra (31), Berbatov (31) and Silva (26).

That leaves just two players in addition to Bale in the top 20 performers who fit the 23 or under buying pattern – Taarabt (23) and Rafael (22). It’s not a huge sample, but it nevertheless points to the contribution of experienced players in the league Liverpool are trying to compete in.

In a debate on the subject of recruiting under-23s in Well Red Magazine recently, Simon Furnivall pointed to a question posed by Dan Kennett on Twitter, namely: What do Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Lucas Leiva, Mohamed Sissoko and Fernando Torres have in common? The answer was they were all 23 or under when they signed for Liverpool.

Equally though, the mag’s John Anthony had a quick look at transfers since the Paisley era to come up with a team of players signed aged 26 or over that would be pretty competitive: Friedel; Babbel, Staunton, Hyypia, Hysen; McAllister, Wark, Houghton; Dalglish, Beardsley, Aldridge.

And there are lots more, too: Litmanen, Riedle, Finnan, Maxi, Bellamy, Garcia, Benayoun, Scales, Dudek to name but a few.

The point is, why unnecessarily limit recruitment based on a profiling policy and make a difficult job even harder? In admittedly basic terms, shouldn’t Liverpool be attempting to recruit the best available (and realistic) player in the positions that need strengthening?

John Henry’s open letter said: “Spending is not merely about buying talent. Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years.”

From a man so keen on stats, facts and logic, it’s a startlingly flawed premise. Nowhere is there a doctrine that states expensive short-term fixes equals mid-table place. In fact, so far, in buying the players that the club has since Rodgers became manager Liverpool have done just what Henry said the club was setting out to avoid.

Casting an eye to the future is all well and good, and it is true that Liverpool have wasted a jaw-dropping amount of money on transfers down the years. But that will always be the case at all football clubs, particularly those playing catch up. Every club tries to buy smart. And every club tries to be prudent.

Liverpool desperately needs to compete now. The club has spent three years out of the Champions League and a fourth looks increasingly likely. Other clubs are not standing around and waiting for an Anfield revival. They have their own plans, their own visions, maybe even their own profiles.

For Liverpool to recruit top players of any age without paying over the odds or tempting them with inflated wages – the likes of which you’d guess would cause Henry’s head to spin Linda Blair style –the club needs to show ambition – to demonstrate at the very least that it is heading in the right direction.

Is that being demonstrated right now? Have the changing management plans (appointing/sacking Dalglish, the beauty parade recruitment of Rodgers, the ditching of the technical director approach), the transfer window dithering and the inertia over the recruitment of a truly top-class football administrator helped to portray that image to the rest of the football world?

What about the heavily caveated stadium ‘plans’? Do they suggest a club going places? A ‘project’ worth joining? And how about the player recruitment in recent times? Spending under Rodgers will soon top £50m, yet is there any demonstrable evidence of this ‘profiling’ working?

Many would say no, and perhaps it is this that has led to second thoughts from Theo Walcott, a player some at the club had previously been very confident about signing. Football-wise, Liverpool’s star has fallen, there is no doubting that. And the mass shrugging of shoulders at the current predicament from fans and media alike should be a huge cause of concern for FSG.

But is it?

Aside from how likely an instant impact from younger players on the first team is, there’s also the issue of ‘resale value’. Like ‘fitting the profile’, it’s a phrase that has spilled from the portfolios of FSG into Anfield lexicon. Yet it raises the question – why is that a priority? Shouldn’t building a successful (or at least competitive) football team lead the thinking? It’s a football club after all…

The Soccernomics-inspired approach of which Henry is seemingly so fond states that players are bought young, nurtured and developed and SOLD at their peak when their value is highest.

They are then immediately replaced by the next up and coming bright young thing at the club and on it goes. It’s a great theory, but how is that working in practice for Arsenal for example? They might be a businessman’s wet dream  in that they generate revenue left, right and centre, play in a shiny new stadium and qualify for the Champions League every year but that selling-your-best-player-almost-every-year policy doesn’t exactly look sustainable does it? Particularly if that is asked of a manager other than Arsene Wenger, which eventually it will be. It’s certainly not popular with the fans (or, *spit*, ‘the customers’) and it’s clearly not going down too well with their players either.

Quizzed on the issue of resale values by The Anfield Wrap at the recent fan sites/magazines sit down with Rodgers, he said: “This isn’t a selling club.

“You bring a 21-year-old in here, we are not developing him to make him a top player and sell him. We are bringing him here to push through and make us successful – this is Liverpool. This is a great club, we might not be as great as we were in the 70s and 80s, but we are trying to claw our way back there.

“So to do that, you’ve got to keep your best players and I think that was the message in the summer – Daniel Agger is arguably the best left-sided centre half in the world and could have gone to a number of clubs. But he didn’t want to – he believed in what we are trying to do here and wanted to be a part of it.  For me, yes, investment in young talent is important, but it’s important for the reason that you want them to be at your club for a long time, not to sell them.”

There are further conflicts between the balance sheet and the football pitch. What price a feel-good factor for fans, players and management? What price the excitement a genuinely top-class signing can generate regardless of age? You can spin the beads on an abacus all day, but you can’t put a figure on that.

Imagine for a second, as cloud-cuckoo land as it may be, that Liverpool bought David Villa from Barcelona in the forthcoming transfer window. He may be 31, he may have no resale value, but fans would be buzzing, players would get a lift, and a proven goalscorer and matchwinner would be added to the armoury.

As unlikely as it seems, a player like that might inspire the push for the much sought after fourth spot. And at the very least it would give fans hope – an emotion the game is built upon. It’s the kind of thinking that seems devoid from the cold, faceless, distant FSG approach and it’s a mindset that drained the mood all around the club at the end of August when the till was closed prematurely and Dempsey headed for Spurs.

Last summer, John Henry tweeted:

“Speculation on players shouldn’t include those of a certain age. We are not going to be successful by merely filling short-term needs at LFC.”

It could just as easily be argued that Liverpool are not going to be successful by merely filling long-term needs. It’s a problem succinctly summed up by Rodgers himself in May of last year when still in charge of Swansea.

Asked about Kenny Dalglish’s second reign at Liverpool, he said: “That’s the problem with being a manager; it’s like trying to build an aircraft while it is flying. You don’t get time to put it in the hanger and do everything you need and send it out there, you have to try and do it while it’s flying and that’s what he is in the process of.”

In an ideal world, the transfer board/committee would identify players that tick all the boxes: young, hungry, cheap, brilliant. Yet football never has been and never will be an ideal world. In the modern game, there are few secrets about players, yet the continued age policy continues to smack of a ‘we-know-better’ approach from owners that two years ago happily discussed their football naivety.

Liverpool need to fly high AND build the plane. Some experienced hands at the controls could just make that aim achievable.

_____________

TAW asked Brendan Rodgers about this topic at the recent sit down at Melwood with fan sites. You can get the full audio here

TAW: Going from the players you’ve signed, and the players Liverpool are widely reported to be interested in, there seems to be a focus on players that are aged 23 and younger. Would you like to see more experienced players come to the club?

BR: You need balance – you need experienced players, there is no question about that. It’s just the value that they are going to bring in to the football club. The owners are very keen and love young talent and young players. If you bring someone in at 20 years of age and they are a talent,they can hopefully be with you then for the next 10-plus years and can develop and grow and hopefully bring success to the club. But I also believe you’re right as well – and you look at Cazorla going to Arsenal at 27 and you can’t tell me he’s too old…

TAW:  And Van Persie at Man United…

BR: Absolutely right. So that of course is something I’ll fight for here because for me it has to be the best player that is available, irrespective of the age. Now we want to get top young players in, of course, and nurture and develop them, and they bring the hunger, but there’s no doubt you need that experience as well and that’s something I will always put forward but then of course the decision is out of my hands really.

TAW: Is it a case of business v football? John Henry has talked about resale values and obviously you are more likely to get a resale value out of a younger player. But the argument back would be, an older player comes in and straight away contributes – what value do you put on that to the club, the fans and the players?

BR: My thinking is even bigger than that – this isn’t a selling club. You bring a 21-year-old in here, we are not developing him to get him a top player and sell him. We are bringing him here to push through and make us successful – this is Liverpool. Ok, this is a great club, we might not be as great as we were in the 70s and 80s, but we are trying to claw our way back there. So to do that, you’ve got to keep your best players and I think that was the message in the summer – Daniel Agger is arguably the best left-sided centre half in the world and could have went to a number of clubs. But he didn’t want to, he believed in what we are trying to do here and wanted to be a part of it. Skrtel, Lucas Leiva, Suarez…

For me, yes, investment in young talent is important, but it’s important for the reason that you want them to be at your club for a long time, not to sell them. And likewise you bring in a player at 27 years of age and he might be the player that makes the difference in getting you to those top slots where you want to be and allows your club to grow again. So for me it’s about good players and availability, that also plays a part in it as well.

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52 Comments

  1. I think the policy of going for younger players is more due to the clubs position at the moment, not in the CL and not really competing for top 4. Its much easier for us to attract the best young talent because we can offer them first team football earlier than other teams might, but when it comes to signing a 25 or 26 year old in the prime of their career we face much tougher competition from clubs that are in the CL.

    Its something Arsenal have tried and hasn’t really worked because they’ve been unable to keep their best players as they’ve developed, but if you can keep hold of them and they develop it could pay dividends in a few years time.

  2. Spot on, this. Wish there was a way for FSG to pick some of this up.

  3. Funny thing is, since FSG have taken over with their Moneyball or Soccernomics ideas, we’ve probably seen results which are the opposite of what these things are supposed to achieve. Whereas other clubs around us have shown how to do it successfully without making a song and dance about it.

    It just boils down to using common sense in the transfer market.

    Agree that the value in our case shouldn’t necessarily be a re-sale value either, but the value of what the player brings to the club.

  4. I have no problem with FSG’s policy of only signing players 23 and under, yes there should be the odd exception to the rule allowed, my problem is the players under 23 that we are actually signing, we still continue to sign British players for over the top money leaving better and cheaper foreign talent alone, that needs addressed.

  5. Outstanding article, Rob.

  6. Top article, needs to be read by Henry and co.

  7. 100% agree with the article. We must have a balanced squad.

    As much as it pains me, Everton have consistently got value for money in the transfer market.

    The FSG approach is correctly ONLY if we balance the young hungry players with enough experience.

    Now if FSG believe the current squad has enough experienced quality, and recent AW podcasts have been inclined to agree with the exception of forwards, then it means Rodgers is failing to get the most out of his older players.

    Not only is he not getting consistency out of older players, if he has spent £50 million by January, that’s extremely concerning when compared to what Everton have spent and where they are in the table.

    I want to support Rodgers but the evidence against him suggests we will not pass 60 points this season.

    So who’s to blame – FSG for a policy that is failing because older players are not being motivated or Rodgers for being tactically naieve?

    From a business perspective, FSG have been in charge since 2010 and the football team has gotten weaker on the pitch in the league – the bread and butter where it matters – and that has damaged the “franchise”.

    No amount of new sponsorship deals or young player recruitment will hide the failings on the pitch.

    If Everton can challenge for the top 4, we are doing many, many things wrong right now.

  8. I take issue with your paragraph 8; what the club IS crying out for is a manager who knows what the fuck to do when his opponent realises that Plan A is the only plan he has. As they all do, now.

  9. Irritatingly accurate article, well done. As much as I agree I’m not holding my breath on much more than Sturridge. For some reason we still get rumors linking us to the likes of Villa, Huntelaar, Cavani, etc. when there’s almost no chance. Serves me right for looking at those ridiculous transfer rumor sites!

  10. Wise words, Gareth. Nicely articulates an anxiety that’s taking hold amongst many Redmen.

  11. Good article and I agree an experienced match winner either among the front three or as a number 10 would be ideal for our side right now (oh how we miss Kuyt and Maxi.. Alas).

    On your comparison with Arsenal relying on younger players who they then go on to sell. You could argue that their problems have began to manifest more acutely since they changed their transfer policy and began buying almost exclusively experienced players. If you look back through the past 3/4 seasons Arsenal’s the majority have been over 23: Arshavin (27), Silvestre (32), Sol Campbell (35), Chamakh (26), Koscielny (25), Squillaci (30), Mertesacker (25), Andre Santos (28), Arteta (29), Park Chu-Young (26), Gervinho (24), Giroud (25), Podolski (27), Cazorla (27). I expect most Arsenal fans would consider the majority here either to be average or flops.

    I guess my point is that even if FSG ‘allow’ Rodgers to go out and sign himself a couple of 25-32 year olds, there’s still no guarantee they’ll come off. Right now I, and I expect many others, don’t have much confidence that the people behind our transfer targets are particularly good at their job, regardless of the profile they’re using. Our apparent fixation upon Premier League players is particularly vexing. I would argue that this is perhaps the more pressing issue and is another example of where we’re lacking that “truly top-class football administrator”.

    • Adam

      I don’t think there is any fixation on PL players.

      Our signings so far under BR…

      Borini
      Assaidi
      Yesil
      Sahin (loan)
      Allen

      So 1 out of 5.

      However, if we assume that Downing, Cole, Spearing & Carroll are likely to leaving in the next 2 transfer windows that’s 4 English players from out quota, so there may be one eye on that too.

      Excellent article by the way, raises fair points and questions.

      • Borini has a lot of experience in English football, but yes I admit it’s not quite Comolli focus. I was referring more to the players we’re constantly linked to. Sturridge and Ince being the prominent examples at the moment.

        Sturridge may turn out to be a great signing for us, and I suspect he will score quite a few. But I find it hard to believe there are not more imaginative ways to spend £12-16mil. Plenty of other clubs have shown us there are bargains across Europe, but we don’t seem to be looking.

  12. I have never heard a coach/manager rate his team on completed passes until now. The 180 page reference he concocted seems to have omitted goal-scoring and defending. How many players do we now have who can even remotely compare with Alonso’s passing, or who even aspire to it? “…thought we were magnificent – pity about the 3 goals against..”

    Do us a favour…

    The best thing LFC can do is elbow Rodgers and Ayre, ask Jamie C to act as caretaker and hope to Christ Rafa doesn’t get another job after his trial with Chelsea. I spent my entire teens years watching LFC in Division 2, rating our chances against Fulham, Cardiff, Swansea and the like. We have sunk to that now – the erstwhile rivals – Manu, Chelsea, etc., are beyond reach. Everyone fancies themselves against us now. A squad full of current internationals worrying about QPR and Reading. FFS…

  13. I remember when we lost 9-1 to Birmingham, and being almost suicidal. IF Rafa is in the mood to humiliate us (and why wouldn’t he be?) I can see this egotistical twat presiding over a similar humiliation.

    4-0 down? Okay, take Suso off and put Raheem on.

    I realisa all this is a propos of nothing, but what the hell…

  14. Ded gud read, spot on bout the dogmatic approach off the pitch is similar on it in my opinion, togger is a fluid game that needs fluid approaches on an off the pitch, why limit yourself as we ave done this season buy u23 an TRY to play like barca, we need to be realistic an do the BEST we can do on an off the pitch, regardless off trumped up philosophies and models

  15. is like the way u beat fulham isnt EXACTLY the same as how u beat stoke, same as buying one 23 yr old doesnt mean the next will be gud cos is 23, u need to adapt to ur needs but we jus go no we got a sytem its gotta work no matter wat, its basically anti rafa an in sum respects anti liverpool, rafa wud tailor r game to suit the other team sumtimes didnt work but at least there was sum thought, jus as Shankly did wen the he spotted weakness in the air verus Mönchengladbach in abbandoned game and that put toshack in starting team for the rematch, rodgers wud ave kept same team cos the system is always right, is it fuck

  16. Rafa Benitez.

    Winner of the 2012 “You Don’t Miss The Water Until The Well Runs Dry” award.

    2009: LFC 4 – 0 Real Madrid
    ManU 1 – 4 LFC
    LFC 5 – 0 Villa

  17. I agree in part with the gist of the article. I will add this bit to what has been written.
    How the heck did our clueless owners who knew nothing about football decide that my beloved LFC would be better managed by a novice manager in Brendan Rodgers. Whom having got John W Henry drunk on kool aid managed to persuade him to discard his original plan of hiring an experienced technical or sporting director.
    Rodgers is also assisted by out of his depth number 2 yes man Pascoe &
    inexperienced coach Marsh

  18. FSG chose to ignore an experienced ex manager of LFC in Rafa because they knew he would set them right with their useless moneyball doctrine. I bet they were also advised by Broughton who together with that twat Purslow chose to sack Rafa. Is it not a wonder the owner of Chelsea Broughton’s childhood & fav club afterall he is a Chelski blue chose to appoint Rafa allbeit temp to manage Chelski. My beloved LFC is run by absent owners & board who are inexperience & managed by an inexperienced manager who has been afflicted with a sort of illness aptly called verbal diarrhea.

    • No Kathy they chose to ignore him mainly because of the fanatics. What would happen if it didn’t work out & they had to let him go again, because we know some people would follow him to the conference league. The fact that he was out of work for such a long time will tell you that nobody wanted to take a chance on him. It’s sad really to see Rafa being prepared to settle for a job where he has no say in anything when he was here he demanded to control everything.

  19. Great article. Experience is sometimes a must. I remember Gerard Houllier signing Gary McAllister, from the outside his career looked pretty much over but he turned out to be one of the biggest influences on our Treble win in 2001. Steven Gerrard has also stated how he would always sit by him on the coach to games in order to learn from him and credits him with helping him become the player he did. Experience is key.

  20. This piece is spot on.

    What concerns me as well is the burden of responsibility on the likes of Sturridge and Ince (should they arrive). Surely that isn’t conducive of top performance in young me – I mean, just look at Henderson to see what an inflated value and being under the fans/media microscope can do.

  21. Wow you lose a few games and everything is wrong.

    Great article, making some good points about avoiding making transfers with the blinkers on.

    There is a lot of doom and gloom, confidence is low in the team, and arguably with Rodgers himself. He is now seeing what everyone ment when they said “this isn’t managing swansea, the fans have high expectations” with all due respect to swansea and its fans ofcourse.

    The club is in transition, it has been for a while, people forget that the beloved Rafa made over a hundred signings, and although it was never his doing, was part of a regime that nearly turned this club into Leeds version two.

    The club needed to be stripped of everything to be rebuilt, around a strong core. Slowly. It is not an easy pill to swollow, when spurs make villa look like high school kids, the same side that scored three at Anfield. Or when Stokes goals are as predicted in every shape and form.

    But the truth is, its easy to support your club when they are winning, that’s why Manchester United exists.

    Liverpool have always been humble champions and this is why, because the club, its players and its fans are patient and understand the humility of losing.

    We will walk on as a club, and very soon things will start improving.

    Head up

  22. “the decision is out of my hands really”.

    There’s the rub mate. It was a great line of questioning.

  23. Great read and well written (again).FSG & Rodgers are fixated on statistical formulae and systems but as the saying goes you put rubbish in you get rubbish out.

    I am very dubious of what Fallows and Hunter are bringing to the party if all they can come up with for Jan is Sturridge & Ince for £18m.I really do hope those players make a contribution but there is better value out there in Europe especially Germany.

    Rodgers quote about fixing the plane while its in the air is quite right but FSG have got an apprentice to carry out a safety critical task when a fully qualified experienced craftsman is needed.Its baffling how Rodgers convinced FSG that a DoF was a non runner.He said last week he uses Steve Peters to bounce things off him (not a bad thing) surely having an experienced DoF would minimise some of the mistakes he’s made in the media (e.g. Saying we should aim for 2nd) and team tactics & selection.

  24. Great article Gareth.

    I can’t believe that either Rodgers or FSG are wilfully ignorant of the impact more experienced players could have on the team / fans. But as your Villa scenario suggests, how many world-class pros are LFC in a position to sign right now?

    The danger of following the Arsenal model is clear – you end up as a glorified feeder club who can’t hold on to the players once they reach their peak and are hungry for trophies. To compound matters at AFC they seem bizarrely inept at ensuring that when these talented players do leave that they command anything like the ‘re-sale’ fee they should do. Even their previously ‘guaranteed’ Champs League status seems at risk now.

    In the ideal world you mention I want Rodgers and FSG to be given the time to realise their vision – the romantic notion of LFC competing with the top clubs due to the success of a philosophy rather than the size of their budget is one I would love to see.

  25. Great piece, Gareth. I hadn’t considered the ages of the top performers, but it does suggest we may have to buckle in for a bumpy few years before we see the very best from these players. You say:

    “What Liverpool are crying out for right now is a proven player that can come into the side and contribute from the off. That could be Sturridge and expectations will demand that it is Sturridge”.

    His shooting accuracy has improved year-on-year, whilst Suárez’ (for instance) has declined. Sturridge has a goal every 175 mins across his career, so should be capable of a goal every other game. Fingers crossed!

  26. Imagine this conversation between Brendan Rodgers and JW Henry in 1990:

    BR: A player has become available, wants to come to Liverpool…he’s called Maradonna.

    JWH: How old?

    BR: 30

    JWH: Why don’t you just sign his Grandpa and be done with it!!!!!!

    (Great Article Rob)

  27. Any one got any good news?

  28. Its important to remember this club was very close to administration due to some dubious dealings. JWH and co are aware of the volatility that comes with over inflated wage bills (highest opp cost for any club). I don’t mind experienced hands coming in but to have 11 players on £100,000+ per week (that’s about £57.2m in wages of the top 11 players) is financial suicide esp if u cant guarantee Champions league football a lot more teams are competitive unlike in the past when the “legacy Big 4 were almost guaranteed Champions league football”. Owners are aware of the examples of Leeds, Portsmouth, Rangers, Malaga etc in recent history. If u get a manager who understands how a salary cap works u wont have a problem. You can pay over the odds in wages for your main players +/- 6 players and the balance 17 of your squad is on the same rate….assume 6 players on £100,000+ per week = £31.2m and the balance 17 on the same rate at an average of +/- £32,500 per week your full wage bill works out to be around £60m which is 32.6% of your turnover compared to the over 70% ratio we had in 2010/2011. The examples mentioned assume that if you spend you get value but if you look at Michu’s return for the £2m Swansea paid it makes a lot more sense to get that type of player than say Van Persie at £24m and inflated wages. Liverpool has to be responsible and the fundamentals are already in place if you look at the talent emerging form the Youth Academy the core “six” have to push the rest of the team up (Johnson,Skrtel, Agger, Lucas, Gerrard, Suarez) in a year or two from now Liverpool will need to only add 2 players per transfer window and maybe them the ideology will be well intreached. Administration and Relegation is a real possibility if you are not financially prudent

  29. Good piece. I would question why we need more experienced players at Liverpool when we have an excellent core of high-quality experienced players at the club. Gerrard, Carragher, Agger, Skrtel, Pepe, Suarez? That’s pretty much half a 1st team. I would argue that we need more young, but technically gifted players who are hungry to make an impression – which is why we are looking at Sturridge and Ince. I would argue that there are better technically-gifted players abroad. But we may not be in a position to go for these players (who do not have Premiership experience) just yet.

  30. My view on buying players young and having a resale value is this If we buy a young player for say 12 to 20 million and he doesn’t impove as a player , we would probably expect to still get at least half our investment back. If he becomes a top player the worst that can happen is we double or treble our money, or we have a top player for years to come.
    If we buy a player aged 27 plus on bigger wages for 15 to 20 million and it doesn’t work out , at the age of 30 he will probably be worth 5 mill tops Even if he he becomes a better player there is still no resale value It’s a gamble by FSG but one worth taking at the moment Things may change if FFP comes in 2014

  31. Great article mate. As you say, the emphasis should be on value not age. Take resale value, if you take our most recent U23 buys and said how much will we lose on them, the idea that young players garauntee good resale falls by the wayside – Carroll (35m), Henderson, (16m), Allen (15m), Borini (11m) its likely that none of those would turn a prophet if sold at end of the season, in fact its likely we’d lose at least 50% on em collectively.

  32. Spot on again, Gareth. Saving us from administration is of course something we’ll always be eternally grateful for, but the blinkered transfer policy has to stop. A treble season without Gary Mac isn’t a treble season, after all. Wasn’t the free transfer of 32 year old Bellamy the best signing of last year’s summer window (with winning contributions in two cup semi-finals coming straight to mind)? With Henry being so unimpressed with his very own apply-’Moneyball’-to-soccer/have-Comoli-negotiate-fees-that-are-the-opposite-of-whatever-value-for-money-is strategy last season, you’d think he’d be less cocksure of his own insight into what does and doesn’t work in football.

    Beggars can’t be choosers and the ‘profile’ of players we should be in the market for right now should start and end with whether they are good enough to help us back into the Champions League. No more, no less. Maybe Sturridge is the answer. Maybe he isn’t.

    If it’s true that we’ve signed him for a similar fee to what Arsenal coughed up for Cazorla it’s particularly galling. We’ve been missing that clever player whose passing and movement can help Suarez unpick a locked defence and who chips in with assists and goals that add up over the course of a season since whenever Benayoun left (and Meireles really). This being the case during which time we paid a few million quid less for Downing than Chelsea paid for Mata while Maxi seemed to be sitting on the bench most games during his time with us is very strange to me.

    As realists, we know not every player of a certain quality is going to want to play for us with the wages Chelsea and City can throw around, but some of them might. When we made our first and best signing under FSG we didn’t have Champions League football or offer the player astronomical wages. He was captain of the Dutch champions and had a reputation for, amongst other things, being a sought-after, world class talent. I hear he’s doing half-decent like…

  33. Good article and definitely an accurate appraisal of the current situation.

    Although I do agree with what you’ve said I’d just like to throw a few questions into the mix.

    Did Liverpool have the ‘pull’ still, to attract the good experienced players. Surely, we’re viewed as a team with a great past but who have not won the title in nearly a quarter of a century and have since slipped into mid table mediocrity. Off the pitch their fans are finding this hard to accept and moan about everyone and everything and even knock the confidence of their own players by groaning and shouting obscenities at them (just remember NEVER to play the ball backwards). To top if off their owners want to try and pay sensible wages in line with a team who’re mid table (for arguments sake, lets say 7th & 8th is mid table – it might as well be).

    Obviously, you’ll say ‘give them the money that’s needed’. So my other question is – bearing in mind we’ve only challenged in the league twice in the last 23 years, is the continuation of these methods of outspending other clubs the way to get back near the top? Has it really worked over the past 23 years? Apart from a little golden spell under Rafa we’ve mostly signed average players. Obviously there’s been exceptions but in general we never made the step up from 3rd/ 4th to 1st / 2nd. Now that others are making strides we’ve slipped even further. Don’t forget we spent £114m on players who were a mix of experience and ages. It did nothing for us.

    My point is (before I get ridiculed) I am definitely a passionate Liverpool fan and I care nothing for owners and balance sheets, only what I see on the pitch. I’ve just become so disillusioned over the past 20 years that I’m prepared to try an approach that’s different from the constantly trying to plug holes. I’m prepared to try something different even if it’s just in the hope of my son enjoying his teens in the way I did, watching Liverpool win the league. I’m prepared to sacrifice 1 or 2 seasons because we’ve hit as low as we can possibly go anyway. We’ll never be relegation strugglers. I just hope for a better tomorrow and I wonder if the club is stable and young players have gone through whether it might work for us.

  34. My question wou;d be can we attract the best players aged 25-27 without CL football? probably not without throwing crazy wages at them which isn’t going to happen. Can we attract the best young talent by showing them that they’ll get a chance in the 1st team? yes we can become a very attractive proposition for any talented young player.

    We already have a good group of experienced players unfortuneately at the moment we lack a bit of experience in the attacking positions, i think if we can sign a top quality #10 that would help the balance of the team a lot, at the moment Shelvey or Suse aren’t good enough to start there regularly.

    That top quality #10 should be the priority.

  35. Some great points Robbo. In my view BR sold himself to FSG by his own methodical, statistical outlook on the game – and hence in finding the empathy, it was an easy sell to ditch the strategy of the sporting director. So, having bought the man and his outlook, any movement away from the “buy young” policy of FSG would meet with resistance.
    I think it was you who Tweeted about our naivety in so many roles at LFC, and this – coupled with a team who are playing with little actual structure, despite the hype about tika taka – is hitting hard.
    At Stoke – and I’ve been there for every LFC match in the last 5 years – we knew what to expect, but still put Suso (who was always going to be physically intimidated), out in an unchanged team from Fulham , presumably as reward for the win. Yet we needed Coates, Henderson, and some greater physical presence, to combat Jones and co, and after 10 minutes it was all over. The belief isn’t there from players, Suarez is the only one who delivers consistently, and BR is a rabbit in headlights.
    Of course we all want to support the club and manager, but with regular retrograde steps compared with the same stage last season, I am seeing no progress in any part of the team, or off the pitch.
    I’ll still be freezing my nuts off in St Pete, and paying for the £4 pints in West London on Sunday, but its bloody hard going at present- and reading today that we shouldn’t expect much change of personnel in January isn’t improving my outlook.
    YNWA, thank goodness……..

  36. LFC must have the worst scouting policy in the PL if not Europe –

    Are a Chelsea reject and a player who has already left the club once the best the ‘scouting network’ can achieve?

    Do we any ‘eyes’ in South America, Asia, Africa – or anywhere else outside England?

    Or do we just plump for the most obvious options open to us?

  37. It’s only a matter of time until we see a few sado’s with their A4 Rogers Out posters in the crowd.

  38. Agreed, inciteful and rational article, unlike the policy we seem to see in place at LFC. As an aging fan who remembers the late sixties onwards, I recall seeing Ronnie Moran almost every Sunday morning attending the kids games at Buckley Hill in Sefton. Apparently he then went on to a number of local fields, as did most of the back room staff (ask Hughie McCauley) My point? It seems stats etc have taken over from an ability to watch and ascertain a players true nature on a pitch, consider his character, and his value to the team. Our scouts are who? and from where? Jan Molby, in his article in the echo summed up the malaise that the team suffers from, no true leaders, Gerrard is a legend but his captaincy does not hold a candle to Yeats, Smith, Hughes, Hansen, even Rushie led by example. Experience, character and devotion are what is lacking, I have a son of twenty four, a good kid, but I have no idea what handing him 30K a week would do to him! You often hear of Moysey, Rednapp, and the like showing up at some obscure game to watch a prospect. LFC send who knows who to Rangers, we miss out on Jelavic and come home with Wilson. What is going on? Imagine even half a season with the likes of Di Natale David Silva or even Del Pierro along side Suarez, talk about a leg up, an oppurtunity for the kids to learn, and I very much doubt Suarez would think twice about passing to these players, as he seems to when looking at his options now (Shelvey? Sterling? Suso?) Having a policy cast in stone seems ridiculous to me, I am more than willing to support BR through this transition, but I hope he can loosen up FSG and help them see the light.

  39. Really nerve-hitting article, Robbo. I’ve been waiting for someone to write all this after the Villa game, but it took Stoke to demolish us physically and morally to make people express their thoughts. And here are a few of my own:

    It’s all good and well to have a policy and philosophy. But in a sport like football you have to be smart, flexible, think quick, act even quicker. It pains me when we say: “we are unable to attract top quality players, they won’t come to LFC ’cause we can’t offer CL”.
    Well… Jelavic is a great player. Michu is a great player. Cabaye is a great player. How much did they cost and did their clubs offer them CL football? The arrived for some funny money, but they are players who really make the difference. So this excuse (no CL) is a lazy one. If Swans can buy Michu who scores in every game, why can’t we? What’s the effing problem?

    The question: where are the results of our new scouting team’s work, they had half a year to prepare for the January? Why, after half a year of their work, we are signing not some hot-shot young Spaniard who would gel in with Suarez, Suso and Sterling, and make them tick, and score goals, but… Daniel Sturridge! For £12m! The player who divides opinions like no one else. He has a talent but he is greedy and wouldn’t pass the ball to his mamma. He can score, but he misses 8 out of 10 shots. He’s young, but his attitude is questionable, etc., etc.

    It looks increasingly that Brendan Rodgers does not trust the scouts, and all talk about “committee” was just that – talk.. He trusts his own opinion, and he will gradually get all his old trainees here, and get rid of the old and trusted Rafa’s signings (and Kenny’s too)… because, you know, they are not his, and they might want Rafa back, etc. I think the persistent sounds that Reina is leaving are not out of nothing. This is BR getting rid of Rafa’s faithful. I hope I am wrong, but……

    I am not from a “Rodgers Out” brigade, far from it. I was, and still am, willing to give him time and support. But with half a season gone, and
    having seen the games, having listened to what he says on the meetings with the bloggers, when he tries to be open and candid, I have some very mixed feelings about his judgement ability. He makes some right sounds. But the style he speaks about is not there. There isn’t much progress if any at all. His selection, tactics and game management sometimes are surprising, and not in a good sense. And it’s not like he has no one on the bench, but his substitutions are baffling… so after seeing several rather confusing decisions, I asked myself: can I trust his judgement to make right signings? And unfortunately, today my answer is No. And the nasty feeling of despair is creeping into my head because I fear the repeat of the last season, when we crumbled apart after January…

  40. And… to lighten up a bit, here’s a great quote from Diego Simeone that I’ve just seen in his interview to Spanish paper AS:

    “Football is everything, mind, heart, talent. If you achieve it, you feel indestructible. I’m a believer that emotions can move mountains, that spirit alone can trump budgets”.

  41. A good article and well argued points but at the same time I ultimately find very little to agree with. So much of the thinking behind it is wrongheaded and stuck in the past.

    We are where we are. FSG are no going anywhere and that also means that Brendan isn’t either. Mistakes have been made but as far as I see it they are being corrected.

    Everyone knew that as a club we were in trouble when FSG arrived (though I’ve seen some deluded souls argue that it wasn’t) and we knew that they would not be waving wads of cash at all of the myriad problems we had as a club.

    Lip service was paid by some Reds to the notion that Brendan was a solid appointment but that it would take time. Actually that was something they were not prepared to give for a variety of reasons but often to pursue a vendetta against FSG for sacking Kenny. That remains an issue in some quarters though I’m not suggesting it in this case.

    Our past is just that “the past” not a blue print for the future. Our history does not of itself guarantee success though there are still many who can’t get their heads round that unfortunate fact.

    Whether they like it or not the process of recovery will take years not weeks and ludicrous transfer links that are never going to happen or the vain hope that new owners will step in are not things to pin the future on.

    The point about inflexibility is one well made but the substantive issue remains that purchases at 23 years or under can be made to work for us in the future for the simple reason we can’t afford quick fixes.Provided we don’t slip into the trap of becoming a selling club we have to learn patience.

    At no stage this season have I thought that we were realistic prospect for CL qualification yet we’ve seen it being talked about as a racing certainty. It’s deluded no matter where it’s coming from.

    Maybe next season, but frankly those who demand it as minimum are living in dream land.

    Schneider to Liverpool?

    Oh yeah he’ll be riding in on a pink elephant along with Huntelaar and Messi.

    In the mean time Sturridge and Ince is where we are at. Personally I think Sturridge will do a good job for us and Ince is good prospect.

    All the whinging in the world won’t change a thing and the one thing I’ve yet to see to what the club is doing now is a genuine alternative tather than pies in the sky.

  42. The pining for Benitez on these forums is nothing short of embarrassing. No wonder reds are so easily mocked. He’s gone and rightly so, no board room excuses the man lost the plot. He dragged a squad far far far superior to this down to seventh in a much less competitive league (pre City boom for example).

    Give it a rest its pathetic. Like watching a 15 year old girl cry about Take That splitting up.

  43. I could not agree more with matt17 and billo, I have no idea what fancy handle a chief scout has these days, but it is obvious LFC are woefully lacking in this dept. It was no coincidence that our past success which span four sucsesive managers, fell apart in the late eighties for the want of a gifted chief scout, the best manager in the world cannot make silk purses out of sows ears. two priorities are needed and dam quick, GIFTED CHIEF SCOUT AND 60,000 SEAT STADIUM, or we are a future selling club

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