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Premier League Transfers/Managers.

Alex

Andre Villas Boas <3
Feb 24, 2009
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Long article ahead, please only read if you dare. This is not mine, I found it online:
(This is mainly about Liverpool and the myth about Rafa's transfers however)

It’s one thing Alex Ferguson misleading the press about the plight of Liverpool Football Club, quite another them lapping it up like suckling pups. Of course, not that you’d expect a lot more from the worst breed of hacks with their pre-set narrative.

Blaming Rafa Benítez for the financial implosion rather than the Reds’ hated owners is a low blow, even by his standards in verbal scraps with the Spaniard.

My new book – which looks in great detail at the correlation between spending and success in the Premier League era – heaps plenty of praise onto Ferguson, amongst others whom I wouldn’t invite to my fantasy dinner party. It heaps praise on him because, despite my known allegiances to Liverpool, the numbers from our research often speak for themselves.

While I obviously provide extended analysis, it is done with my neutral hat firmly donned, as was the case with my co-authors, Graeme Riley and Gary Fulcher. We respect the research, not personal preferences. On top of this, esteemed writers and bloggers associated with all 43 clubs to play in the top flight between 1992 and 2010 were invited to study the data and provide their insight for their club’s section of the book.

Crammed within “Pay As You Play” are many types of analysis, all based around the ‘true’ cost of teams and squads over the past 18 years. After all, this is a book based on the Transfer Price Index, which Graeme and I devised as a way of comparing on equal terms a transfer in 1993, for example, with one from 2007.

Spending £10m at a time when it’s not a lot of money is different to spending £10m in an era when it is. Equally, spending £10m in a depressed market, when transfer fees are generally lower and few clubs are splashing the cash, means it is more, in real terms, than £10m spent in an inflated market, when everyone else is paying similar figures.

Having first calculated ‘football inflation’ in the same way economists determine the Retail Price Index (except we used a ‘basket’ of every single footballer bought and sold each season, rather than grocery produce; although a few rotten eggs were still included), we could apply it to all manner of ideas and analyses far too numerous to detail here. Some of football’s most renowned thinkers (none of them Liverpool fans) have expressed their fascination with the project, so we feel we’re on the right track.

An absolutely key finding – the one that tallied most closely with league success or failure – was the average cost of a club’s XI (with inflation taken into account) over the course of a season: for the purposes of the book, called its ‘£XI’.

We did the same with squads (Sq£), and while that also plays a part, success or failure more often comes down to how much of a club’s purchased talent actually makes it onto the pitch throughout a campaign. (Either because money was badly spent on useless squad players, and/or because key signings were out injured.)

In essence, it is the financial weight a club punches that season; and success can be rated ‘pound for pound’.

And talking of weight, all managers had their figures presented first in their actual form, and then ‘weighted’ against the averages for the level of attainment they reached. We even managed to calculate the cost, in millions, of every point won, including the differences at various levels of the table. So it’s not the fashionable or most lauded managers who necessarily come out top.

Now of course, not every eventuality can be taken into account, and we are not saying that other factors do not play a role; clearly they do. But most of these are also discussed in full in the book, in a way that can’t be done here. Age, tactics, motivation, crazy chairmen: these are not ignored.

It’s fair to say that when managers buy players they often sell players at the same time. Gross spends are usually misleading, but even a net figure doesn’t explain the starting point; after all, Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t spent that much in comparison to Jose Mourinho because he inherited a side that was already a well-oiled machine, with a deep squad behind it, whereas managers have taken over at other clubs and been unable to see the deadwood for the dying trees.

Some of the measures in “Pay As You Play” show that, on plenty of occasions, Alex Ferguson’s success was earned rather than bought. Other parts of the study highlight the inspired work of people like Sam Allardyce and David Moyes at certain points during the past decade; real achievements in certain seasons given their budgets. As a Liverpool fan, I do not love these men. It’s not my life’s ambition to make them look good. But I’m happy to praise their work where praise is due, and to verify with fans of those clubs that the approach taken is fair. However, none of our research shows Rafa Benítez to be anything approaching the root of Liverpool’s financial problems in the past few years, in the manner Ferguson suggests. Indeed, it shows a job well done by the Spaniard, based not on my bias but on the cold hard facts. Benítez does not come out top in any of the numerous categories, but he is consistently one of the better performers.

What the research does show – in crystal clear form – is that Liverpool were never more financially adrift of Manchester United in terms of £XI and Sq£ than during the past six years. Indeed, it clearly points to an expensive Liverpool team in the ‘90s performing well below expected levels, with the Reds growing increasingly poor in relation to other big clubs.

In current prices, the Liverpool squad of the past couple of years did not cost much more than that from the early to mid-‘90s; and yet all big clubs have had a greater number of players in their squads since the turn of the millennium. Relatively speaking, therefore, it is far less expensive in its assemblage.

Also, the ‘90s blessed the Reds with their best crop of youngsters (ditto United). And yet, despite these ‘free’ players, results remained below par. (Wages play a role too, and that is discussed in the book. However, we feel that, overall, the £XI is vital.)

Roy Evans invested badly in several instances, and didn’t sign any outstanding players; but he did get the team playing some highly watchable football, and got within the ballpark of the title. The problem, as I clearly outlined in “Dynasty”, was Souness. Although a different, more scientific form of analysis is used for “Pay As You Play”, the result is the same. It all comes back to Souness.

(It’s also true that Kenny Dalglish’s purchasing, post Hillsborough, was not up to his usual standards, and the squad was getting old. But that does not mean that Souness, when handed a fortune in today’s money, can be excused such awful use of it.)

On the whole, with just a young few gems (Fowler, McManaman and Rob Jones), Souness bequeathed Evans a collection of expensive misfits, and the club have not recovered since. When Jamie Carragher recently said that it was Souness and not Ferguson who knocked the Reds of their perch, he could well have been quoting from “Dynasty”. This is now confirmed in “Pay As You Play”.

Liverpool entered the Premier League era with a more expensive squad than any other club. Bear that in mind at all times. That’s where the money went.

But recently, in real terms, the Reds have been cut well adrift of three über-squads (Chelsea, City and United), and even lag a long way behind Spurs.

Despite a less expensive squad, United, in winning the inaugural Premier League title, fielded the most expensive XI on average; their £XI was £10m more than that of the Reds, in current prices. This is perhaps because by that stage Ferguson knew what he was doing in the transfer market, and with his team in general, and Souness didn’t.

The cost of the £XIs of both clubs change positions over the coming years in terms of whose was more expensive, but 1997/98 is when a gap starts to emerge in United’s favour. Success in the Premier League and money from the Champions League led to increased investment by Ferguson in his team. By 2000, most of Liverpool’s serious money had been spent.

The £XIs converge again around 2001, with United’s falling and Liverpool’s rising until they almost meet. What’s interesting is that this is the time when the Reds start to resemble a really good side again (winning the treble), and in 2002, with the gap still narrow, even finish above United in the league.

But then United widen the gap in 2003, and win the title; Liverpool are now in decline, with Houllier having blown his transfer budget on a series of duds from the French league. In 2003/04 the clubs are again closely matched in terms of £XI, but neither team is performing as well as it has in the past couple of seasons, although United are a long way ahead of the Reds in league points.

However, a real chasm then emerges. United absolutely blow Liverpool out of the water in terms of £XI and, to a slightly less dramatic degree, Sq£.

The year? None other than 2004/05, Benítez’s first.

Let’s be clear: pound for pound, Liverpool’s performance in 2008/09 was fairly incredible; one of the four best posted by the 36 top two sides in the past 18 years. (United and Arsenal, twice, complete the quartet; more on this, and the over-performance of other clubs in the book.) But of course, it wasn’t enough.

It was the closest the Reds have got to United in the past eight years, and the closest to the eventual champions in the Premier League era. What’s interesting is that it was the closest to that point in time that the two teams had been in terms of £XI during Benítez’s reign. But the Reds’ £XI of £96m was still a long way behind United’s £158m. Let’s be clear: pound for pound, Liverpool’s performance in 2008/09 was fairly incredible; one of the four best posted by the 36 top two sides in the past 18 years. (United and Arsenal, twice, complete the quartet; more on this, and the over-performance of other clubs in the book.) But of course, it wasn’t enough.

And in terms of overall squad costs (Sq£), it’s a similar story. Liverpool’s collection of players were more expensive up until 1999. Since then, 2003 and 2004 are the only two occasions when the two have been remotely close, with United well ahead the rest of the time. If Benítez had wasted so much money, where did it go? – because the squad was not getting any more expensive. Yes, money was spent, but less than what was being recouped.

And the bad news for Roy Hodgson is that the gap, which had narrowed slightly in 2008, is now widening again; United have invested more this summer than the Reds, who, on the whole, have lost more talent than they’ve gained.
 
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Ben

I am a biased ****.
Jan 21, 2009
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Good read. Used to really annoy me when opposition fans would criticise Rafa for big spending.
 

Alex

Andre Villas Boas <3
Feb 24, 2009
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Very good read in my opinion. All part of a book mainly about Liverpool, will look for it now.
 

Lee

Administrator
Sep 15, 2005
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Just stumbled across this, not the greatest article in the world but nice and concise so hopefully some people will read it.

In defence of Rafa Benitez
Tue Sep 21 12:54PM

As Liverpool lurch from one crisis to another. It is tempting to blame the club's woes on Rafa Benitez, whose six-year reign ended in an acrimonious shambles.

Tempting, but wrong. It's time to debunk the ever-growing stockpile of myths about Benitez - a man who won the Champions League with the fifth best team in the Premier League, and came closer to winning the title than any Liverpool boss in two decades.

Myth one: He won the Champions League with Gerard Houllier's team

The argument here is that Benitez's crowning achievement, at the end of his first season, actually belonged to Houllier. First of all, no it didn't. In his first summer at Anfield, Benitez added Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia, both of whom were instrumental in the European run. And even if it was the Frenchman's side, what's the problem? Houllier didn't win the Champions League with Houllier's team, and surely an important measure of successful management is performing better with the same group of players than the last bloke.

Myth two: He made Liverpool worse

If you win the European Cup in your first season, you'll always struggle to live up to it, but Benitez did take them to another final in 2007 - only Liverpool, Milan, Manchester United and Barcelona have been to more than one of the last six finals. And let's look at the league finishes under Benitez: 5th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 7th. Maybe not the steady improvement fans wanted, but certainly not a tale of decline either. Just one disastrous season, 12 months after the club's best title challenge for 18 years.

Myth three: His transfer record was not good enough

Look at any manager's record in the transfer market and there will be more misses than hits. That's just the way it is, but it doesn't matter - the key thing is to have to big successes. One Cristiano Ronaldo offsets a dozen Eric Djemba-Djembas. Likewise, poke fun all you like at Josemi, Antonio Nunez, Mark Gonzalez, Philipp Degen and Alberto Aquilani. But Benitez bought Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia, Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano and the incomparable Fernando Torres. When you're bringing in quality like that, it really doesn't matter if they are accompanied by a few duffers.

Myth four: Zonal marking made Liverpool a set-piece liability

A topical one this, in light of Fernando Torres's lamentable man-marking job on Dimitar Berbatov on Sunday. Had Torres concentrated on attacking the ball instead of groping Berbatov's midriff, disaster would have been averted. Of course, a single example doesn't make man marking rubbish, just as the fact Liverpool conceded the occasional goal from set pieces didn't mean zonal marking was fatally flawed. Both systems have their good and bad points, but the oft-stated claim that players struggle to understand a zone system is clearly nonsense. If the ball comes near you, head it. That's the system. Anyone who can't grasp that has no place in Premier League football.

Myth five: He lost the dressing room

Increasingly, popular wisdom accepts that Benitez is a sociopath who either will not or cannot talk to his players, and has a total lack of social skills. This is largely based around inaccurate anecdotal evidence ('He never said well done to Stevie G after they won the Champions League'), and the infamous 'Facts' rant that, while bizarre, categorically did not cost Liverpool the Premier League title. If his communication skills really are so bad that he actually cannot make eye contact with a footballer, how come this only became a problem over a decade into a highly successful career? Maybe because no end of top managers have made an asset out of distancing themselves from the players (Fabio Capello, Louis van Gaal, even Fergie).

Myth six: He ran Fernando Torres into the ground

This is my favourite one, simply because it is so staggeringly untrue. Benitez, it is alleged, worsened Torres's injury record and left him worn out and jaded by constantly bringing him back before he was fully fit. Having never got up close and personal with El Nino's hamstrings, I don't know the medical truth. But throughout his Liverpool career Torres has shown an amazing ability to pick up where he left off. In his final seven games last season (before his knee injury), he scored nine goals. Nine in seven. Does that sound like a man who had been run into the ground? If anyone is to blame for Torres's current malaise, it is Spain, who insisted on fielding the half-fit striker in all seven matches at the World Cup. He did not score, and has not been the same player since.
 

Joe

Member
Oct 10, 2009
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[you know how i feel about rafa lee |) But this article is enough to prove that he was an excellent manager. Point one would be the most annoying to me if i were rafa.
 

Mike.

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2009
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Myth four: Zonal marking made Liverpool a set-piece liability

A topical one this, in light of Fernando Torres's lamentable man-marking job on Dimitar Berbatov on Sunday. Had Torres concentrated on attacking the ball instead of groping Berbatov's midriff, disaster would have been averted. Of course, a single example doesn't make man marking rubbish, just as the fact Liverpool conceded the occasional goal from set pieces didn't mean zonal marking was fatally flawed. Both systems have their good and bad points, but the oft-stated claim that players struggle to understand a zone system is clearly nonsense. If the ball comes near you, head it. That's the system. Anyone who can't grasp that has no place in Premier League football.
this, a thousand times this. i couldnt stand it when the pundits trotted it out on MOTD every saturday, yet praised united and chelsea' great defence...oh wait they use zonal marking too
 
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