Do FSG need to leave for Liverpool to Evolve?

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The credit Fenway Sports Group built up with the Liverpool fans when saving the club from going into administration has all but ran out. There only so much slack you can cut them for bringing the club back from the dead before it turns into resentment due to always having to look for excuses as to why Liverpool aren’t progressing on the pitch.

It festers deep down in all of us. When they rocked up at Anfield Tom Werner announced that Liverpool could “compete with anybody“.  Of course there was small print attached to such a statement, they’re businessmen, they won’t be making bold claims without loopholes. The loophole in this instance was Financial fair play. As long as the FFP rules were enforced FSG felt confident enough that they could compete, in a sense. Spending was regulated so there was a readymade excuse for FSG not going out and spending £50 million a player despite having the funds. FFP is lax and FSG’s reluctance to spend is visible for all to see.

Do FSG need to leave for Liverpool to evolve

The resentment comes from the fact Liverpool are set up to compete with the big boys off of the pitch but not on it. But we should be. It’s all there just waiting to be capitalised upon. We just need that push, we’ve been tinkering on the edge for so long.

Almost a year ago I wrote about their caretaker-esque role coming to an end sooner than people imagined( which you can find here) and recently speculation about the owners being open to selling the club seem to reaffirm that point. They weren’t acting like long-term owners. Earlier this month Joseph Cousins wrote a piece on why he feels FSG have failed to deliver on their promises (if you have ten minutes you can read the well researched piece here).

When criticising FSG on social media you’re often met by people still indebted to them for buying the club when they did. Credit where credit is due, FSG have grown the club. Forbes ranks Liverpool in the top 10 richest clubs in the world. The club has more than doubled in value since 2011. Liverpool have developed the sponsorship side of the business under FSG and taken it to new levels. They’re exploiting a side of the business that was neglected under previous regimes and adding value to their asset.

Defenders of FSG then refer to how they’ve always ‘backed the manager’ before citing how much they’ve spent since taking over. Again, credit where it’s due, they always reinvest money recouped from player sales. Fernando Torres was sold for £50 million and that money went towards Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. The latter was then sold for £75 million (?) and that was splurged on the Southampton trio amongst many more. Raheem Sterling left for £50 million and that funded the deals for Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. The transfer merry-go-round at Liverpool FC.

More often than not they’re applauded for backing their managers financially while the managers are criticised for their poor use of the funds allocated to them. What’s often ignored is why these managers were able to waste ridiculous amounts of money under FSG’s watchful eye.

FSG appointed Kenny Dalglish, a man who hadn’t managed in the Premier League for well over a decade and was out of touch with it, and gave him funds that Rafa Benitez would’ve had wet dreams about. Kenny is a legend, he was before my time but both my Dad and my Granddad have told me stories. I respect him but no person is bigger than the club and that second stint as Liverpool manager put the club back. Why did FSG entrust Kenny with that much money? It was negligent.

At the time Damien Comolli was acting as a Director of Football but Kenny had final say by all accounts. The former was thrown under the bus for the latter’s decisions in the market.

After parting ways with Dalglish their next idea was to appoint a Director of Football. It was the right idea. Add continuity to the club throughout. A man with a philosophy that aligned with the FSG’s and he’d appoint staff to bring these plans to fruition.

However, with Liverpool in such a state they weren’t that attractive and after being turned down by top targets they ended up with Brendan Rodgers, a manager that wanted full control.

They conceded the argument and granted Rodgers control of transfers and he went about spending £26 million on now cult hero Joe Allen and Fabio Borini. Not content with giving Rodgers total power they introduced the infamous Transfer Committee and almost immediately undermined Rodgers. The TC was born due to FSG’s indecisiveness.

It was a kind of you pick then we pick scenario as Liverpool’s schizophrenic transfer dealings wasted millions. It was never going to work and it was wrong of FSG to, firstly, appoint Rodgers if they didn’t agree with his demands and then, secondly, undermine him after appointing him.

Destined to fail from the start. How many millions of pounds did the club waste on players because of this failed experiment?  People can hate Brendan Rodgers all they like but that’s on FSG.

It’s been five and a half years since and a lot has changed in football since the takeover but not so much at Liverpool. Not yet, anyhow.

If you examine closely the goings on at Liverpool in those years it looks more like a redecoration job as opposed to building on what you already have. Every Summer the club seems to go through a transition due to selling their star players and making 6/7 signings. There’s yet to be a Summer of retaining talent but building on what they’ve got.

Think of the Liverpool squad as a living room. You’re fairly happy with it but then after a while it needs freshening up, there are new mod cons out that just won’t fit in the room as it is. Instead of extending the room you decide to just redecorate. A bit of paint, you sell your oversized sofa, the best part of your old living room because it’s too big to move if you’re getting that new TV on the opposite wall, for £700 and buy a different one, a smaller but newer one, for £900. Aesthetically it’s improved and you’ve spent a bit of money on it so it should be better, right? Except now the sofa you bought isn’t as comfy as your old one. Your old sofa with this new TV in an extended room would’ve been perfect but that would’ve cost too much.

Instead of building on the success of the players already there FSG cash in on their star players and go about redecorating instead of extending.

Many will say it’s not their fault that the likes of Torres, Suarez and Sterling left, and it’s probably not, but their reluctance to pay big wages is certainly a hindrance as Liverpool look to build. Not paying the going rate will always leave you open to losing your better players to clubs that will. Not qualifying for Europe’s elite competition doesn’t help either.

FSG did offer Luis Suarez a £200,000 per week deal in the December before he left but how much of that was a charade knowing full well he’d leave in that Summer so they wouldn’t be paying him those wages for long? If you’re a top player and Liverpool offered up a heavily incentivised deal dependant on getting Champions League football would you accept it knowing the club have only finished in the top 4 once in the past seven years? It’s like dangling a gold bar in front of somebody, just slightly out of reach, and asking them to chase it.

Player Recruitment

Liverpool seem to unearth a potentially world class player but instead of supplementing him with already good players they surround him with more potential and wonder why everything is all very inconsistent. Liverpool used to have one/two world class players but their supporting cast was made up of players a tier or two just below. It was all about the team instead of an over reliance on one or two to perform.

Look at the treble winning side. Steven Gerrard was a kid with a lot of potential but due to the squad around him he was able to go about his business without the expectation of having to do it himself. The sides that Rafa built – Gerrard, Torres, Mascherano, Alonso, Carragher, Hyypia and Reina supported by the likes of Arbeloa, Hamman, at the time a young Agger, and Benayoun.

Even the side that Brendan Rodgers inherited had a core; Reina, Agger, Carragher, Gerrard and Suarez. All winners and all with experience of big games. It allowed the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho the chance to flourish without the added responsibility of being solely match winners.

The squad Klopp took over is made up of players who would’ve supplemented the Houllier and Rafa squads. We’re now overly reliant on potential. FSG oversaw this change in personnel and didn’t intervene.

Adam Lallana and Christian Benteke are performing as exactly they did for their previous clubs. They’ve not taken themselves up a level, not because they don’t have the talent to do so but because the Liverpool squad doesn’t push them to do so. Benteke was no doubt a poor fit but he’s still posting up his numbers from his Villa days. Adam Lallana’s stats have been near identical for the previous four seasons. I’m not his biggest fan but I’m convinced had Lallana been involved in the 13/14 season his numbers would’ve improved. Why? Well, despite being a £23 million man, he wouldn’t have been viewed as a marquee player. Liverpool still had Agger, Gerrard and Suarez and their youngsters; Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho, were all in the form of their lives. He would’ve taken his game up a level because of those around him.

Instead Lallana signed for marquee money (for Liverpool) and was expected to influence an attack that was missing Suarez,  the then injured Sturridge and an increasingly aging Steven Gerrard. Fast forward a season and you have another marquee signing, Christian Benteke, being supplied by an ‘average’ player in Lallana, newly acquired Roberto Firmino and a still inconsistent Coutinho. And people wonder why things are so disjointed at Liverpool?

Not all of this can be pinned on FSG but all this has occurred under their ownership. An inconsistent, inexperienced side will always be a bit hit and miss no matter what sport you play. For the game changers and match winners, the ones you need to balance a squad like that you sometimes have to shop in a different market and pay over the top if you aren’t the most attractive of propositions and FSG have failed to do this.

This is where the resentment once again rears its ugly head. A few quality, experienced, match winners added to this squad and things would look a lot more positive. I don’t want this player but could you see the club really splashing out on a Toni Kroos to play beside Emre Can? Or a Marco Reus? Or a Mats Hummels in defence. These aren’t extravagant luxury signings either, these are payers who would bring quality and experience severely lacking. Fans will claim Liverpool never sign world class players but the truth is we never had to in the past. We had a process back then. Good players in the squad mixed with potential world class playing Champions League football regularly meant we developed these players.

Now we aren’t playing regular Champions League football. We don’t have a squad made up of good solid players. It may not be ‘the Liverpool way’ but neither was finishing 8th. Times change and it’s time the club accepted this.

However, with FSG in charge will such changes occur? The foundations have been laid but perhaps now is the time for new owners to come in and really extend what’s already here. Make the most of the potential.

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  1. I had a very detailed conversation with another fan regarding an owners role at a club and more specifically, FSG’s barometer for success and whether they’ve reached it or not.

    They’re an investment group. From my understanding, there is no better body to run a club, because it will always prioritize the well-being of the club for long-term growth. Arsenal, or Arsenal Holdings PLC as they’re officially known is a public company who issue shares to whomever wishes to buy. The directors that the majority shareholders will employ will eventually reflect the goals and demands of the majority shareholders. So what we’re seeing here is a club that is run efficiently with a small minded mentality, compared to a large club which prioritizes dividends over re-investment.

    This is the major point I wish to touch on. Investment and whatever profits Liverpool makes, are re-invested back into the club year in year out and one might think this is an ordinary course of action. But FSG have kept our Scouse born CEO who is a life long Liverpool supporter in charge and that’s the difference between us and the likes of City, United and even Chelsea who all have chairmen or CEO’s in place, who were hand picked by their respective owners.

    Now for a club that was on the brink of administration to be where it is now, is not normal. In my own studies and experience, any institution which has defaulted on debts into the millions is lucky to still be running at the capacity it did prior. Even until now, Liverpool’s equity is still occupied by large bad debts. An investment group would rather prioritize that over any other asset purchasing because the goal for growth is long term. Only last year when Liverpool’s 13-14 accounts were published, we found we’d made our first profit since FSG’s takeover. Liverpool football club is healthy and for me, the owners have done their part. The sporting aspect remains in the hands of the professionals. I will never hold the transfer market in high stead and I never will. As the likes of Leicester have come up to help support my point that finance is not football. It can help in the short term, but is not the be all and end all of the sporting aspects. You can hire the best experts and professionals in the field. But eventually, you will stand at the very fine margins of either success or defeat which is what we saw in the 13-14 season. This is what we saw in our two Cup finals this last season where we lost one on penalties and lead the other in the first half. Very fine margins where the factor of finance is negated and luck, confidence and emotion are all at play at the same time.

    I don;t even need to guess. No one celebrated FSG when we won the Capital one cup one penalties against Cardiff. We celebrated King Kenny. But since we failed on securing the title two seasons ago and two cups this season, regardless of the thin margins at play, we tend to search as hard as possible for faults even where they don’t exist. Unless, Tom Werner or Henry pull on a no. 9 and no. 10 jersey and are on teh starting line-up on the pitch, I cannot in good consciousness judge them on our footballing results. Their duties and the duties of the sports professionals are so different even though they all have the same ambitions. They’ve taken it upon themselves to put money into the club, but those involved with the sport haven’t used what they’ve got to the best of their ability in the past. Klopp has been employed as a sign of FSG’s sporting ambitions, as one of the highest paid managers on the planet. But hypothetically, even if we employ the best and still falter, who then can we place blame upon or hold to account?

    • Good thinking Igniz … totally agree. Everybody has to do his job right and don’t put the blame all the time on the “bosses”. It’s a very common and popular behaviour, but unfortunately not always correct. Yes, it’s much much easier to blame a boss, than do a fair analysis and find a real reasons behind. Who blamed half a year ago Martin Skrtel for terrible defence results last couple of seasons? Nobody! Why should, he’s one of us, working class hero, tough guy. Everybody blamed FSG for bad recruting of Dejan Lovren. However, now under Klopp (right man on the right place) everything became much clearer. Maybe being tough simply isn’t enough for this job and maybe Lovren wasn’t such a bad deal after all. The point is, blaming FSG for every problem isn’t ok.
      However, boss is holding responsibility for a every long term failure and from this perspective they are objectively responsible for sticking to long with Brendan and some of the other management staff, which were in their sphere of direct responsibility.

  2. Lifestyle choices play such a big part in players decisions..and this is the rather large elephant in your room.
    Sanchez didn’t want to come..and can you blame him? people don’t only want ‘history’ ‘reputation’ and all that Blag, they want to enjoy their day to day life(plus wags)…which is why many choose other destinations.
    People may say but what about manchester..well, their history is much more recent, and still resonates with many, whereas ours is 30 years old +.
    People need to wake up to the fact that LFC is no longer an elite name. FSG’s way is ‘sustainable’ without huge backing(which is not something to be sniffed at in this day and age).
    I guarantee if Arabs or Chinese buy LFC, there will be a whole load of new complaints. ‘He’s a mercenary’ etc etc.
    be careful what you wish for.


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