Liverpool’s Prospects – What is the future of Liverpool in the Premier league ?
It is one of those cruel jokes that Liverpool fans have had to endure for quite some time now. However, the facts are facts. It is now 20 years since the top division of English football reorganized into the English Premier League, and the legendary Merseyside club are still waiting for the trophy to arrive at Anfield.
The prospects don’t look very good this year as well, or any of the next few ones either. Liverpool look to have lost significant ground in the competition with the other top clubs in English football. The Reds are not only not winning the title this season, they’ll probably consider it a success if they are in the top six. From Liverpool’s perspective, the two Manchester sides and Chelsea look to be so far ahead, it’s hard to see them in the distance. When the game is played on the pitch, the difference doesn’t seem to be big, if any. Liverpool recently drew with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and before that lost to Manchester United in very controversial circumstances. However, the Reds just can consistently produce the results to be relevant in the overall standings.
So is there hope for Liverpool? Yes there is. It’s called Moneyball. Moneyball is originally a baseball concept. Billy Bean, the manager of the unpretentious Major League Baseball team Oakland Athletics starts to use in-depth statistical analysis to select little known or out of favor players and assembles a team that can compete with the big names with a fraction of their budget. Bean’s story is vividly told by Michael Lewis in his book Moneyball (subsequently also a Brad Pitt movie). The term has since evolved to describe managing a winning sports team based on shrewd analysis and quantitative statistical methods. After the initial success of the Oakland Athletics, the idea was adopted by the Boston Red Sox to successfully end an 86 year title drought.
Now, why are we talking about baseball? Because the same American business group that owns the Red Sox also owns Liverpool. And they face the same task that Billy Bean faced – they need to successfully compete with clubs who have vastly bigger budgets than them. They need to play moneyball.
This was at least the stated idea from the onset when the Americans bought Liverpool. However, before last season in the first summer of transfers for the new owners, the club paid 45 million pounds for Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, and Charlie Adam. In moneyball, you need to pay little for useful players, and Liverpool did the exact opposite – the paid a lot for (fairly) useless players. Unsurprisingly, the season was a flop.
This season, however, it the club seems to be more on track with its strategy. There were no big-name, big money signings. In Brendan Rodgers, the club brought in a new manager who in one season with Swansea showed he has a distinct style of football. The club is putting faith in young players from the academy. Seventeen year-old winger Raheem Sterling has been a constant fixture in the squad. Another youngster, Andre Wisdom, is making large strides in earning a permanent spot in defense. The club brought in Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid in what could indeed be a classic moneyball example transfer.
Despite some early season mishaps, in the last few games the club has shown it can roll with the big boys. Now they need to show enough consistency throughout the season. It is obvious that this will be a year of experience building for a young team and a young manager. It will take time to see the full results, but the club has a strategy – young players like Raheem and smart transfers like Sahin. They are playing moneyball, and that’s the only way they can compete with the big names at this time. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take 86 years before they win the title again.