A poor end to the transfer window has limited Liverpool’s strikeforce and has left many puzzled as to the direction and intention of the club.
Liverpool are in crisis. Or so you would believe if you listen to the radio and read the newspapers. John Henry, Liverpool’s owner is being lambasted by the fans, the media and even the manager. A poor end to the transfer window has limited Liverpool’s strikeforce and an unwillingness to spend the required fee to land Rodgers target Clint Dempsey has left many puzzled as to the direction and intention of the club.
Learning lessons from the Red Sox
As well as Liverpool John Henry owns the Boston Red Sox. At this time both sides are creating history. The Red Sox are now 11 games under .500 for the first time since 1997 and Liverpool are enduring their worst start in nearly four decades.
An open letter from John Henry to the Liverpool fans was intended to alleive any doubts about the owners intentions. They blame the previous owners for the mess of the club, as well as the choices of Dalglish and Commoli last year.
"We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes. It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over."
However, to say the club is in a better position is questionable. What are the intentions of the owners? With poor performances on the pitch and apparent mis-management off it, the state of Liverpool is not positive.
A trip over the pond to see the Red Sox
For those wishing to know more about the owners, a trip across the pond to their Boston Red Sox will give an indication of the future. The current Red Sox owners brought the first championship since 1918 and a second title three years later. Initially their arrival was positive and successful. However an extract from an article on the Red Sox and their owners point to potentially worrying times for Liverpool.
“Since last October, they've replaced the most successful Red Sox manager in 90 years with the least-liked Red Sox manager of my lifetime not named "Grady Little." They've allowed the franchise's most successful general manager ever to break his contract without getting anything decent for him. They've assembled one of the league's three most expensive rosters, failed miserably and now, headed for the worst Red Sox season in 20 solid years but blessed with financial flexibility again, these owners expect fans to (a) pretend the past two years never happened, and (b) trust their big-picture judgment again”
Criticism aimed at the owners of the Red Sox has being pointed to their sole desire to make money. Remarkably they have trebled their investment in the Red Sox, in large part down to their marketing of the Red Sox brand.
“The owners relentlessly pimped the Red Sox brand inside the stadium, on their website, on their 24-hour TV channel, on your street, in your house, on your forehead and everywhere else you could imagine”
The fans have allowed this to happen because it appeared the funds were being put back into the team. However, the investment back into the team has led to the shambles which the Red Sox are today. Questions have been asked regarding increased wages of average players. Liverpool fans, if you start to see a similarity at this point then perhaps worry may kick in.
The questions aimed at the owners of the Red Sox are similar to those posed by fans of Liverpool; what are the owners intentions?
Obsession with Billy Beane
Last season the board appeared set on the “Moneyball” philosophy like that seen by the Oakland A’s. With Damien Commoli Liverpool’s new owners sanctioned £120m on players who appeared to have impressive stats of “creating goal scoring opportunities”. It was an interesting concept yet was flawed based on the costs of the players and importantly their quality.
The truth is football is not like baseball and the new owners, who have admitted to possess little knowledge of “soccer” made a massive error last year. The owners appear to have learnt their lesson, yet at the expense of the new manager. His reputation is on the line with this endeavour and there already appears issues between the owners andRodgers. Things do not look good for the future of the club.
Brendan Rodgers has effectively decided that the players bought last year are not right for his system. With his style of football clearly appealing to owners who want their club to be marketable, they have trusted him to develop the sides philosophy with the hope of bringing success back to Anfield. And yet, their failings in the transfer window and the mess which has been left since it the has window closed has made people ask questions of what John Henry wants to achieve at Liverpool. Henry said in his letter that,
"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. Our emphasis will be on developing our own players using the skills of an increasingly impressive coaching team. Much thought and investment already have gone into developing a self-sustaining pool of youngsters imbued in the club's traditions."
Based on this statement, one does wonder if Liverpool, regardless of having a 5 year plan, possess the quality of players to fulfil what is asked of the the stubborn idealist Rodgers. A high quality coaching team indicates the qualities to improve players, yet Rodgers appears set on the belief that certain players cannot be improved. This is not "quality coaching" but "lazy coaching" and the idealist may in fact ruin the club more than enhance it. I see a season of serious failings, failings of which the fans surely will not be pleased with.
It would appear that Fenway Sports Group appear content and willing to put their teams through periods of failure and frustration, with the aim of rebuilding for the long term future of the club. Yet, if this was their intention for Liverpool, why did they give Dalglish so much money to waste on a style of play which has no bearing on what Rodgers is attempting to emulate?
If Dalglish was just a stop gap until a new young manager came in, then why was £120m effectively wasted? Although Henry admits mistakes, one has to ask if they have any idea of what they are doing or if they are simply going on the persuasiveness of Rodgers "Barcelona" vision.
Fans of the Red Sox have been left puzzled by their owners. Although FSG have brought success to the Red Sox after such a long period without, the belief is that the owners have got it wrong, that they lost their way. They appear to have set the RESET button with both the Red Sox and Liverpool this year, a move which will mean a long term period of rebuilding. I wonder if the fans of both teams will believe in their owners intentions.
As for Rodgers however, like his equal at the Red Sox Bobby Valentine, it appears his job is safe. The owners like his appeal, his media handling and his image. All aspects which Dalglish failed miserably with. Yet Rodgers will need to show an improvement on what Dalglish accomplished. Last season was criticised by many, yet on reflection two finals and an 8th place finish may be deemed an achievement based on what appears set for Liverpool this season.
Long term sustainability doesn't always lead to success
It will be a tough period for the manager, players, fans and owners. The owners want patience to build for the long term, yet the fans may be reluctant to grant them that if performances so far are to go by.
The problem may be that Henry lavishes his praise and admiration on Billy Beane from the Oakland A’s. He almost had him at the Red Sox, believing in his way of being competitive with relatively little money and making profit from cheap investments was an owners ultimate dream.
The Red Sox are at least two years away from championship contention and any future success requires a diligent and focused baseball operations unit to make sure the project is fulfilled. One wonders if FSG can succeed on their mission. Although FSG have made the Red Sox much more valuable today than when they purchased the club. They have done a remarkable job in remodelling the stadium yet the fans are worried that the owners are concerned more with marketing and profit than on field success. Is the same fate coming to Liverpool and Rodgers?
Fenway Sports Group has yet to see a profit on their purchase of Liverpool. Liverpool have been here before though, they struggled with the previous owners Hicks and Gillett, who promised investment, an improved stadium expansion and ultimately success, they ended up selling on a project which they just could not fulfil.
It would appear that although the rhetoric from FSG is positive and long term sustainable development of their teams is the focus, they are effectively asking their fans to wait for two to five years to see any sign of improvement. Will Liverpool fans be facing the same problems in a couple of years time? Only time will tell, yet all is not great for the teams owned by Fenway Sports Group.