A MANAGERIAL change is never just a managerial change. Collateral damage is high. When the manager clears his desk, everyone from his coaches to the tea lady worries they will soon be doing the same.
Assistant manager Sean O’Driscoll, Head of Performance Glen Driscoll and Head of Opposition Analysis Chris Davies were all quick to follow Brendan out the door, with Gary McAllister given a new role as the 4,356th club ambassador on the Anfield payroll.
Yet still disgruntled supporters bay for blood. Some wanted an overhaul of the entire structure of the football club. Others wondered how many goalkeepers needed to disintergrate before our very eyes before John Achterburg’s position might need to be reviewed. Loads and loads of people expressed a desire to throw the Transfer Committee in the Mersey.
I’m sure you’ll have read much of that chat by now, nicely summarised by our friend Andi Thomas yesterday. Basically, a couple of national journalists performed a hatchet job on the transfer committee in general and Head of Performance Analysis, Michael Edwards. It seemingly amounted to: “Can you trust a fella with a laptop though? All sounds a bit noncey.”
Then a lot of stats lads on the internet called the journalists luddites who were stuck in the dark ages and said they “didn’t understand how statistics can be used to buy players”. Although very few then went on to actually enlighten us on how this was.
The silent(ish) majority of us are probably in the middle. I understand that managers can’t do everything. Jurgen Klopp admitted as much in his first managerial press conference.
I think most of us get that with all the demands of a modern manager, and all the demands of a traditional manager, one man can’t be solely in charge of player recruitment. I think most accept that as the net for potential players gets wider and younger it’s probably wise to have a lot of people looking at them.
And with the progression in technology and data analysis, it’s wise that some of these lads can look at the numbers and assess whether he is actually doing the stuff we want a footballer to do, and not just looking boss doing loads of Cruyff turns on the half-way line.
The problem is Liverpool haven’t been very good recently and a big part of that, as always, is related to the quality of the footballers out on the pitch. So, as football fans who love our club, we start wondering what on earth is going wrong with recruitment.
The ‘answers’ in recent times have been as clear as mud, from confusing job titles to a manager said to have final say complaining about “the tools” he had been given. Meanwhile, briefings emerged that others at the club think the players are fine, and that it’s actually how they are used that is the problem.
Essentially, everyone blames each other and the owners and fans have to try and decide who is wrong and who is right.
The main issue I have with our Transfer Committee is that it all seems rather thrown together, with a complete lack of footballing overview. The last manager was hired around the same time as the committee was put together, but it was seemingly independent of each other. Even if all these men are great at their jobs, if they think very differently about football to each other then there will always be problems.
I’m less concerned with how many people on computers we have looking at numbers, and more with what numbers they are looking at. Who decides what style of football Liverpool should play, and therefore the qualities in a player that we desire? Who decides what a Liverpool midfielder should be able to do, and therefore which numbers are more relevant than others? Who decides what style of striker we should be playing with, and draws up a shortlist of who they are and ranks them in order?
Recent history at Liverpool suggests the answer to this, unfortunately, is each individual for themselves. It’s the only possible reason why Luis Suarez’s replacement went from Alexis Sanchez, to Loic Remy to Mario Balotelli. Forget about the quality, for the moment, they are three completely different players.
That’s not the only example.
Why does the manager think we need a left back like Ryan Bertrand, but the transfer committee think we need one like Alberto Moreno? Why are we buying a £15million left-sided centre back in January, and then buying another for £20m seven months later with a completely different skill-set?
You will always make mistakes in the transfer market. No club is perfect. But our approach has led to a squad that looks cobbled together by a process of who shouts loudest wins. By some individuals valuing certain attributes, and others disagreeing. Which will always lead to a confused way of playing on the pitch, regardless of whether you are relying on statistics, the naked eye, or a mixture of the two.
It’s also interesting that, in among the debates about whether football statistics are good or evil, the question of how much power certain individuals have emerged. As well as wanting to actually get off with data, Michael Edwards was also accused of growing his influence with the owners in a manner that allowed him to see off a manager he didn’t see eye to eye with.
Whether that is true or not, empire building at Anfield has been a common concern ever since the ownership of the club moved to the other side of the Atlantic. Every time a power vacuum has opened up, an ambitious individual has been there to fill it. Every time something hasn’t looked right, someone at the club has been quick to volunteer that they could do it better.
Whether these individuals have been working for the good of the club, or the good of themselves, I’ll let you decide.
Under Rafa Benitez there were plenty of stories about the rise and rise of Owen Brown, the former manager of local non-league side Vauxhall Motors, who went from community coach to Rafa’s ‘confidant’ at a pace that raised plenty of eyebrows.
Benitez himself managed to seize more and more control of the football club, after deciding much of it, most notably the academy, wasn’t being run to his liking. The man who sacked Benitez, of course, was our friend Christian Cecil Purslow (below right), who was brought in by Hicks and Gillett primarily to renegotiate the club’s outstanding loans, but instead seemingly decided that it was more fun to pretend to be a Sporting Director.
Under FSG the fun hasn’t stopped. We have a chief executive who got the job by filling in until the owners got bored of looking for another one, a stadium manager who seemingly has free rein to impose whatever rules on Liverpool fans he likes and a managerial position that varies from working with whatever you are given, to picking whoever you want, depending on how high his stock is at any given time.
I have no issues with talented being recognised and people being promoted in a structured, planned way. Again though, the recent history of this being the case at Anfield doesn’t look great. Therefore any talk that Michael Edwards has managed to increase his influence at the club to something approaching untouchable should rightly be met with concern.
So where does all this leave Jurgen Klopp? Well hopefully he’ll join the club and think everyone is brilliant. That would be ideal. I don’t know how good most of these people are and, unlike others don’t feel I’m in an ideal position to judge them. If Klopp thinks he can work with them all and move the club forward, then that’s fine with me.
But if he doesn’t? Well this time we might actually have a manager with the power to change it. Firstly, he’s a strong personality. When he talks, people listen. Plus he’s won stuff. If an argument does break out, which it inevitably will, a quick game of “hands up who’s been in a Champions League final” should solve it fairly quickly.
But crucially, and differently from many of his predecessors, we have a man who doesn’t want to do everything. A man who has already said that a transfer committee is sensible and that one man doesn’t have all the answers. A man who is happy to just be on a pitch dealing with good players.
By changing the argument from “they are rubbish, let me do it” to “we did this differently in Germany and it worked much better, maybe try this” you have a much better chance of convincing owners who just want to win, but are unsure who they can trust to get us there. You suspect Jurgen Klopp might even suggest bringing in a Director of Football above him, which would make John Henry’s head fall off.
I’m aware I’m heaping more pressure on Klopp here. Going from sorting out the mess on the pitch, to the whole structure of the football club. But he’s the only one who knows what a winning football club looks like.
And no-one said any of this was going to be easy.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo.Com & PA Images