Dysfunctional Transfers And The End For Rodgers?

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Since Rodgers has taken over at Liverpool 33 first team players have been signed on a permanent basis with a total of £270.50m spent. However, no significant improvement has been made.

The first reason for this can be explained by the phrase “you have to spend to stand still”. This is best shown by Chelsea in the past two seasons.

Chelsea topped the league in 2014/15 from the first to last game week and won the competition by eight points. Their victory was routine and they were never seriously challenged at any point. With no major departures over the summer surely a similar season would follow in 2015/16?

Transfers End Rodgers

Not so. Four games into the new season and Chelsea are already five points off the top of the league and have lost just one less game then they did the whole of last season. Even with the arrival of Pedro the attack is predictable and the defense is notably weaker with Ivanovic and Terry particularly seeming to wane.

What this shows is that every team, even Chelsea, needs to spend just to maintain the same level of performance.

Let’s Talk About Net Spend

Over the last five years, Liverpool’s net spend is £162.63m. This translates to £32.53m per season.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 16.07.45
Stats from transferleague.co.uk

To stay at the top of the league City spend £64m per season and Chelsea £45m. United are spending a similar amount to City to try and get back to the top. In fact, their spending last season was over £100m.

However Arsenal’s average net spend is under £20m and over those 5 years they have managed to finish above Liverpool each season despite suffering departures of key players of a similar caliber to Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling (Nasri, Sagna, Van Persie, Fabregas etc.)

Furthermore, Spurs have managed to finish above Liverpool in four of the last five years despite having a negative net spend.

Theoretically if Liverpool are the 4th highest spenders they should be finishing 4th or thereabouts each year. Arsene Wenger’s astute management of Arsenal makes finishing 5th excusable but in five years one top four finish is unacceptable and frankly a record of 6th, 8th, 7th, 2nd and 6th is well below what The Reds should be achieving.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 18.31.54

Suarez could be forgiven for thinking he was the sole catalyst for Liverpool’s title challenge and Sterling for wanting to play for a team which regularly challenges for the title.

So if insufficient spending isn’t the reason for a lack of progress what is? The answer to that can be split into two categories.

1) Poor Spending

Although the quantity of Liverpool’s spending has been good, the quality has not. Many transfers have verged on the ridiculous. Carroll and Downing are famous examples but what about Borini who cost £11m but only scored 2 goals? Or Allen whose notable performances can be counted on one hand? Looking more recently there is little return from £45m on Lovren and Lallana. Even Lambert can be cited as a remarkable failure, given that he never even looked like he would fit in.

Brendan Rodgers is now Liverpool's highest spending manager.
Brendan Rodgers is now Liverpool’s highest spending manager.

Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish were infamous for their transfer dealings but in reality Rodgers is no better. He has spent more than any other Liverpool manager, in fact Liverpool spend more per goal than any other team.

2) A Dysfunctional System

Although Rodgers maintains that he has the final say on all transfers the reality is very different.

After taking over, Fenway Sports Group introduced a “transfer committee” which The Liverpool Echo detailed here. The transfer committee is largely responsible for incoming signings.

Recently Tony Barrett of The Times confirmed Markovic, Moreno, Sakho and Origi as “committee signings”. Of those four none have started for Liverpool this season and only Moreno has featured at all. Clearly these are not players that Rodgers wanted and are not players that he is willing to play.

Some preference from the manager is understandable, but starting Lovren over Sakho is laughable and suggests a stubbornness that detaches Rodgers from reasonable decision making. The simple fact that Liverpool bought two left sided centre-backs for £20m and £16m respectively shows how dysfunctional transfers at Liverpool have been in recent times.

Is the Committee Good Enough?

If we agree that Rodgers is not able to make his own transfers and we accept that he will not compromise to allow for committee signings the next question that must be asked is if the transfer committee is good enough to continue with on its own?

To do this let’s take a look at a history of their signings. Most of these players are confirmed committee signings (by James Pearce or Tony Barrett) but some guess work has also been done.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 17.01.44

A difficulty in these judgments is that naturally the players will have been marginalized by Rodgers. Still, I counted five successes, six “maybe” players and five who were poor signings.

Research by Paul Tomkins has shown that as a general rule the success of each transfer is roughly 40% (regardless of transfer fee). Therefore the committee’s success rate of 31%, potentially rising to 69%, is impressive. Especially considering only a single player cost more than £20m (Firmino) only one failure cost more than £10m (Balotelli).

Furthermore, the successful signings have not just been moderate successes. Coutinho now verges on being World Class and was signed for just £8m. Emre Can is a complete midfielder as well as a competent defender and looks a bargain at roughly £10m. Joe Gomez is a steal for £3.5m and even after just four premier league appearances has seen his value quadruple.

In conclusion, the evidence is that the transfer committee does work. Successes are frequent and spectacular. Failures are seldom and not costly.

If Liverpool were to invest roughly £30m a year in transfers over the next five years with the transfer committee it would seem they would have a squad able to consolidate 4th and even push on for more.


What Next?

Another disappointing season and it is very likely that Rodgers will depart the club. Frankly even with a good season his tenure at Liverpool seems impossible. The conflict between manager and committee simply can’t continue if Liverpool wish to be successful.

However the practicality of finding a manager that can manage a team of players he doesn’t himself sign is difficult, and signing a player a manager doesn’t want is just as dangerous as letting him loose with the checkbook.

What the manager wants for his team must be the starting point from where the committee works. If the manager identifies a right-sided center half with high aggression and good aerial ability, the committee should scout players based on this profile. The manager should not be expected to choose from a selection of randomly identified targets, which you get the impression has been the case at Liverpool in recent times.

The modern game is based on financial power. Therefore, the key to success is getting the best value for money with a good budget over a prolonged time. Liverpool’s budget is almost there, but the clever use of it is not.

Brendan Rodgers is a good tactician and coach, but given that financial power is now more important than anything else he is a barrier to success and must go.

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  1. can you stop posting such garbage about Brendon Rodgers. You are an apologist for Rodgers’ failings. This manager has spent the most money in transfers in the history of Liverpool and you are saying that it is not his fault for the poor performance of the team? Rodgers claimed that he is responsible for the transfers and you try to bring in a lie that he is not by quoting a journalist from the Times. You are sick! You should not be writing articles on LFC. Find another career.

    • Hey, that’s out of order. I don’t particularly agree with Angus but he is entitled to his opinion, just like you, or any supporter. No need to spout bile.

  2. A very good article, although all the words seem to have been in my head already but not written down “having been a lfc supporter for over 50 years” I find being let down by our one trick manager sole destroying. Today 12th of Sept we are playing our old adversary Manu is this going to be a new beginning or is it the beginning of the end??. Would like to see more articles by Angus, seems to be the voice of a lot of lfc supporters.

  3. Rodgers a “good tactician”? What do you base that on? From my seat he is regularly out thought, West Ham just being the latest example.

    • I thought his diamond formation in the near title winning season did a brilliant job of accompanying Suarez, Sturridge, Coutinho and Sterling. Difficult to get that many attacking players in one side so well.

      Also even during last season the switch to 5/3 at the back (wingbacks) saw a run of something like 13 games unbeaten I think.

      Has deployed a number of formations with success.

    • You mean ‘accomodating’ I think mate, “accompanying” sounds a bit off (Sorry, proof reading some dissertation work at the mo’, think I must be turning into some sort of grammar Nazi!)

  4. Good article. All I will say is that Brendan Rodgers IS on the transfer committee! He has full knowledge of any player who comes and an opportunity to veto. Origi’s interview upon signing said that Rodgers brought him into a room and showed him hours of footage they had on him detailing areas for improvement etc. Maybe Rodgers didn’t come up with the initial spot (at most clubs that rarely happens anyway), but he clearly absolutely signed off on it. I’m guessing it was the same with all the players who came in from Sturridge to Balotelli and Coutinho to Aspas. This ‘either/or’ hypothesis that gets pulled up either to justify or damn Rodgers’ position seems with little grounding. Maybe it indicates basic transfer acumen to see the type of players Rodgers ‘champions’ (a guess that it would mainly be the Premiership players that he has seen at close quarters) versus the players that he signs off on, but I doubt that it shows any constriction of managerial power, no more than any scouting system and budgetary limits.

    • I think you make a fair point but the whole Sakho/Lovren situation (for me) proves that at times Rodgers has a large say (buying Lovren) and at others very little (Sakho).

      Seems to be very inconsistent.

      Also being offered Balotelli or Eto’o again shows hoe sometimes he does have very little choice.

  5. Article was very good until the end. Rodgers is tactically wanting and may be good coaching younger players but has been sadly lacking, turning multi million pound buys into routine players, not great coaching.
    Against West Ham he could have made a statement to the team by removing Loveren at half time.I suppose we should be thankful Allen isn’t available.

    • Before the United game I would have disagreed with you but its hard to now after that horrible 4-5-1. Still think Rodgers has had some very good moments though.


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