Can Brendan Rodgers restore pride in Liverpool?


2011/12 Campaign (8th in the Premier League)

The 2011/12 season at Anfield will go down as one marred by controversy, briefly treated to success, but ultimately underwhelming. It also confirmed two things about the footballing community: it’s rash and it’s still scared of numbers.

In late 2010, Liverpool hired Damien Comolli as Director of Football Strategy, who was later reassigned as the Director of Football. Comolli arrived at Liverpool on one man’s advice: Billy Beane. In October 2010 the Boston Red Sox owner John Henry bought Liverpool Football Club. Henry is a statistics man and believes in the science of sport and the numbers of it, too. In the same way that he had enjoyed the fruits of success of sabermetrics – the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics – he wanted similar at Liverpool, too. He wanted success at Anfield with numbers. In baseball it had won the Red Sox their first two World Series in over 85 years. So, just a month after buying the club, Henry hired Comolli on Beane’s advice. Why Beane? Well Beane was the man who had fathered Moneyball – an extreme statistical approach to analysing and scouting players and it had led to an American League record of 20 games unbeaten.

The man who had brought Luka Modric, Dimitar Berbatov and Gareth Bale to Tottenham began to exert his control at Liverpool. Comolli used data to make his transfers. He sold Fernando Torres and purchased Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in the final few days of the January transfer market 2011 for a net spend of £8m. He sold the Spaniard due to his rate of decline: his top sprint pace, number of shots on goal and completed passes in the final third were all falling. He bought Carroll and Suarez on their statistics and their subsequent predicted growth. Prior to last season he took the same approach.

In the summer of 2011 the Frenchman bought Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson. The CIES Football Observatory can show us why: Downing had 17% of Aston Villa’s total “club production” – a measurement that takes into account chances created, assists, key passes, successful dribbles and the like – it was the highest share of an individual in the entire league. Similarly, Jordan Henderson had a similar dominance at Sunderland – he was responsible for just under 14% of all of Sunderland’s passes match-to-match.

John Henry appreciated that football is “too dynamic” to allow statistics to guide recruitment alone, but was confident that using such an approach would raise the chances of success in transfers. What he hadn’t appreciated was the rashness of the football community and their irrational fear and/or hatred of numbers.

Therefore, in the summer of 2012 after Liverpool had finished 8th in the Premier League, their lowest finish since the 1993/94 campaign (the Premier League’s second season), Henry had his liberal philosophy overpowered by the conservative footballing community and was left with no choice but to part ways with Comolli and his data that had brought success to Arsenal in the ’90s and Saint-Ettiene in ’00s. As Kuper and Szymanski phrase it in Soccernomics: “The forces of tradition were too strong.”

Liverpool’s 2011/12 campaign was more than just an 8th-placed finish and a Carling Cup trophy. It was the confirmation that football is still – in the majority, at least – ignorant to the science and numbers of the sport. It has, however, undoubtedly cause a ripple in the footballing world that may change it for the better.


Liverpool’s preparations for the new season has largely been taken up by their backroom actions: sacking Kenny Dalglish, their well-aired selection process for his successor – courtesy of Dave Whelan and the eventual hiring of Brendon Rodgers.

Since then, in between frequent lovefests with the media over Brendan Rodgers, the loudest noises coming from Anfield have been the doors closing behind Alberto Aquilani. So much so that nobody really heard Fabio Borini sneak in as Aquilani stomped out en route to Fiorentina.

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Budding Football journalist who blogs at daily as well as writing here for ThisisFutbol and on the England fan's page. Outside of writing is more football. I work at Southampton F.C and I manage a men's football team on Saturdays.


  • Dale Marlow says:

    I think you’ll find that Kenny already managed to do that!!!!!

    • darren says:

      yeah and what an amazing job he did didnt he!!!!!!!!!!!! this transfere window has been borring to say the least but at least the manager isnt throwwing money away on flops unlike kenny.

      • redfred1 says:

        daglishs flops as you call them all have potential the last year was a transitional period with to many changes with the right staff will all come good but hawking our best players for 20 mil then trying to buy Dempsey and Allen for similar amounts dosent bode well for the future or that Brendan knows what he doing I hope im wrong but i think we should stop thinking of Liverpool as a mid table club and be aiming to get back were we should be

  • edward says:

    Honestly I doubt it….look at the calibre of our players, the lack of time to gel into his new system,…we be seeing LFC vying with swansea to break into the top 10 in the EPL.
    However, I wouldnt mind to be proven so very very wrong 🙂

  • Red$4eva says:

    BR is fairly impressive going on his stats. The only downside is that defensively his sides do concede goals. Swansea let in 58 last season and 51 the season before. So how will Br fair at LFC? well LFC have had a decent defensive record past few seasons and goals scored have proved elusive. The danger here is that LFC become a possesion side and concede too many or get too many nil all draws. In conclusion BR cannot get complacent in getting the LFC job. Delivering results must be central to his preoccupations, sharpening the offensive profile has to be the number 1 priority.

  • redfred1 says:

    i think that they should hire top coaches as we have struggled since Rafa left it is not just the managers job to get results it is the responsibility of everyone at lfc including players and backroom staff but mostly the board by keeping hold of best players and not hawking them around in transfer windows Toress left because he felt like he had been misinformed about lfcs future,I think we all have, reading recent articles coming out of anfield, it feels like we are back in the hicks and gillette era Liverpool board crying poverty but all reports state that they made 300mil+ in usa last week alone. Are the board looking out for Liverpool or just trying to line their own pockets after all where is the new or updated stadium we were promised when they took charge Kenny went for not reaching champs league but recent noises coming out of anfield if true we will be lucky to avoid relegation liverpool could not find the net last year some of their play was fantastic We need coaches not another year of transition go out buy a right winger of proven quality who knoes how to cross and an out and out playmaker, keep players already there and use coaches to bring out their true potential

    • Brad says:

      We made 300million in the US last week?

      I have a bridge to sell you mate..can we meet?

  • Fraser says:

    I would prefer that he had more passion for the team rather than his “ideas”. Still do not think he is the man for the job…..

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