TTT: Where Did It All Go Wrong – Part II

By TTT Subscriber Dave Cronin. There was a lot of talk in the summer about us potentially ‘doing a Spurs’ (i.e. selling our best player for a big fee, buying a number of new players with the money and disappointing in the following campaign). I was more concerned about us ‘doing a Liverpool’ (i.e. peaking under a manager with a 2nd placed finish before capitulating, replacing the manager and starting again). In the summer, I wrote a piece called ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ in which I looked back on the two seasons following our previous 2nd place Premier League finishes plus the season we contrived to finish 4th in a two-horse  title race (but joint 2nd on points) under Roy Evans. As part of that piece, I looked for common factors heralding or bringing about our declines in each following campaign. After our disappointing start to this season, I thought it would be interesting to revisit my conclusions to see if any of those factors are applicable here or if there are any new trends emerging. Conclusion One: Evolution; not revolution – Fine tune the areas that can be improved but retain the key qualities that have brought the team so close to winning the title.This means avoiding radical changes to core personnel, tactics and playing style. Any chance of avoiding a ‘revolution’ went the second Luis Suarez’s move to Barcelona was agreed. That threw up the dilemma as to whether to consciously change tactics/playing style rather than attempting to recreate what was brilliant about us last season without the key player behind that brilliance or to try to find as close a like-for-like replacement as possible. In 2009 we faced a similar dilemma when selling Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid. On that occasion, we signed a like-for-like replacement – and by ‘like-for-like’, I mean a player who plays the same position who was intended to replace the outgoing player as a regular first XI player and with some similar qualities but not necessarily a carbon copy of the outgoing player. In Aquilani we bought badly. Without an Alonso-type player, Benitez was forced into changing his team’s playing style, regularly fielding Lucas alongside Mascherano and losing the midfield play-maker. The Aquilani example highlights the risk in selling a known quantity and gambling the bulk of the profit on a single unknown quantity (as all transfers are unknown quantities). Get it wrong and you lose both the player and the proceeds from the sale. For another example, see Houllier spending the fee from selling Robbie Fowler on El Hadji Diouf ahead of his post-2nd place hangover season. This summer, we faced a more challenging predicament as Suarez was more obviously our key player than Alonso (who wasn’t even named in our so-called ‘two-man team’ that had narrowly missed out on the title the previous year). This time we didn’t gamble on a single like-for-like replacement. We instead opted to take a spread-betting approach gambling smaller portions of the fee received on several players. As a consequence, we lost the key qualities Suarez brought without replacing them at all and have gone from a team averaging 2.9 goals scored per League game when he played last season to a team averaging 1.3 goals scored per League game without him. So can we conclude anything over the decision to gamble on one expensive player or to gamble on multiple less expensive players when selling a key player? I’d say (1) Don’t sell your key player (though people will argue that both Suarez and Alonso before him had to be sold for different reasons) and (2) If you must, however you spend the money you have to get it right. Alonso wasn’t adequately replaced; nor has Suarez been. Signing Balotelli to ‘replace’ Suarez in the team was akin to replacing Alonso with Lucas – same position on the pitch but totally different playing styles and consequently forcing a change to the whole team’s style. Perhaps a pertinent question would be whether, given the enforced ‘revolution’, we actually changed enough quickly enough. Without the movement up front and with opposing teams aggressively targeting Gerrard, we can ask why it took Brendan Rodgers so long to move Gerrard out of the deep-lying playmaker’s position and replace him with a defensive midfielder. Was Rodgers banking on Sturridge’s return from injury restoring that movement up front and therefore justifying the Gerrard role? Conclusion Two: Value experience and leadership – Consider what qualities you may lose when directing players towards the exit door. The rest of this article is for Subscribers only. Member-only content – you need to subscribe to read it ! A subscription costs only £3.50 per month. Find out what you get with your subscription, or Subscribe now.

TTT: Who Was Your Most Disappointing Signing?

By Chris Rowland. After last week’s Symposium took a look at favourite low-expectation signings,  TTT subscriber Dakotadc47 suggested a follow up – the most disappointing signing, one where you did have expectations but they were dashed.  Good idea – and plenty to pick from. Let’s see what the Symposees (TTT copyright) thought. Dave Cronin: This is tough.  To me there are four big contenders: Diouf – A horrible human being and a terrible signing compounded by the fact he was chosen over Anelka.  Hailed as the final piece in our title-challenging jigsaw we slid from 2nd to 5th with Diouf in the team.  Three League goals in two seasons (two coming in his first home game) says it all. Aquilani – Going into 2009-10, much of our hopes for building on the previous season’s title challenge hinged on how well Aquilani would fill the void left by the departure of Xabi Alonso.  It’s safe to say based on our 7th place finish that season that he didn’t do that very well.  Injured for the first half of the campaign and used infrequently in the second, showing unsustained glimpses of quality, his first season left more questions than answers.  His second and third would involve farcical summer sagas culminating on loans here, there and everywhere until he was finally sold for a pittance last summer. Keane – Having always rated Keane when seeing him at other clubs, I was optimistic we’d added the final piece of our title winning jigsaw when we bought him for £20m from Spurs in 2008.  The lesson I quickly learned is that seeing a player in Match of the Day highlights is very different to seeing a player over 90 minutes week-in, week-out.  He was a disappointment generally but I was astonished at how poor his finishing was.  He seemed to just lash every chance at goal with no attempt at precision or consideration of the goalkeeper’s starting positions.  That sort of approach could as easily lead to an impressive goal tally or a poor one depending on luck.  For us, Keane was largely luckless. Carroll – Gutted as I was to see Torres unveiled as a Chelsea player, the £35m signing of Andy Carroll hinted we were not dead yet and, indeed, could expect to be far more competitive under the new American owners than the last pair.  Of course, £35m seemed a high price but the clear message seemed to be that we would pay what it took to get our man and we clearly saw Carroll as our man.  It didn’t work out that way though, did it?  Kenny quickly decided he wasn’t our man and Rodgers couldn’t get him out of the club fast enough. His Liverpool career amounted to a handful of indisputably good performances and a host of disappointingly ineffective ones. And the winner is… Aquilani. This article is for Subscribers only. Member-only content – you need to subscribe to read it ! A subscription costs only £3.50 per month. Find out what you get with your subscription, or Subscribe now.

Liverpool’s transfer budget affect by European absence: Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted his side’s transfer budget has been affected by their Champions League absence. Brendan Rodgers is finding life in the transfer market tough at Liverpool (Picture: Daily Mail) The Reds have finished outside of the Champions League qualification places for the last three seasons, having to make to with Europa League football instead. And new boss Rodgers believes the lack of top European action is having serious implications on his ability to bring in new players. ‘When you’re not in the Champions League there is a restriction in terms of what you can spend and I know that. I was fully understanding of that before I came in,’ he said. ‘There’s no doubt I want to get the best players I possibly can and that costs money. I am very much conscious of the value and worth of players. There’s no doubt there are top players who have earned every single penny they get but you can also get certain types of players for less.’The former Reading and Watford boss has spent £25million since his arrival from Swansea City, bringing in forward Fabio Borini from Parma, while midfielder Joe Allen followed Rodgers to Merseyside from south Wales. Joe Allen starred for Team GB at this summer’s Olympics (Picture: Reuters) ‘The problem sometimes is there’s a snobbery towards players at a lesser club. It’s an ignorance. You get scouts at a big club who see a young player and think maybe he can’t play. Then he will go to a big club and all of a sudden they want him. It’s about making those decisions earlier,’ he added.‘Look at the squad here and there aren’t too many who have dropped from heaven to play for Liverpool. A lot have come through lower clubs, made their way and now they’re making their name here.’Rodgers has also made steps towards reducing the large wage bill at Anfield, with the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy, Alberto Aquilani and Fabio Aurelio all departing the club this summer. Check out our latest daily transfer gossip live blog