Blueprint for Success?

Posted: February 1, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC, Manager Talk, Team Talk
Tags: , , , , ,

We can only assume the risks of keeping Fernando Torres outweighed the benefits. In today’s modern football it is after all the players who usually hold all the cards. Had Torres’ performances deteriorated further, beyond the lacklustre, then it is possible any momentum gained recently could have stalled. Personally, I always felt we should have negotiated a deal which would have seen him leave in the summer; with the fee agreed in advance. Not being privy to all of the facts though it’s hard to make any judgement, which I accept.

The timing and manner of Torres’ demand left the club in a difficult position. It also left us in a very weak negotiating position, like being lost in the wilderness and coming across a map salesman. You know he’ll sell you a map, but at what cost? Again, not being privy to exactly what was happening within the Anfield walls it is probably unfair of me to say, but it felt like yesterday ran away with us. We got caught up in the moment and found ourselves buying the map at whatever cost, even if it turned out to be for a different area.

Don’t get me wrong. I really rate Andy Carroll. He reminds me of Emile Heskey without the confidence issues; and we all know how good Emile could play when pumped with confidence. There is no doubting that he will trouble defences and after years of predictability the rest of the Premier League clubs will have to rip up their ‘how to defend against Liverpool’ handbooks. Predictability was a criticism I raised under Rafa’s final year and even more so under Hodgson. If you are going to be predictable in your set up then you need players in your team with the ability and footballing brain so it doesn’t matter that teams know how you’ll play, on a technical level you remain untouchable. This to me is what Rafa was aiming for and very nearly achieved. We were probably one player away from winning the league in 2008/9. The subsequent loss of Xabi Alonso found us struggling with a predictable set up, but not the required level of ability. The rest is history.

Back in the present and yes, I rate Carroll. I would have loved to see him arrive at the club (probably) in favour of Charlie Adam, with Suarez and Torres both at the club. But that would have been at £15 – £20m and not the £35m we are reported to have paid. As is usually the case I suspect only the club accounts will show the actual amount we have paid. One thing is certain though. We have paid over the odds. This to me represents a gamble, and an expensive one at that. Yesterday’s dealing left me feeling rather ambivalent about it all, I think. The truth may be that I am actually experiencing genuine concerns about where we are going.

FSG arrived at the club with a blueprint. As far as we know that blue print was largely based on the Arsenal model of transfer dealings headed up by a young and dynamic manager. I was even told by a few Red Sox fans that Torres would not be allowed to leave as ‘FSG do not operate in that way, they won’t let a player go mid-season’. Should they be operating Liverpool Football Club in the same way they do their baseball interests? Of course not. Is change a constant and therefore always going to require modifications being made to the blueprint? Yes, absolutely. But yesterday felt like we’ve scrapped the blue prints altogether and we were working on the back of a fag packet. Maybe that’s too harsh and we’re simply working on entirely new blue prints. Perhaps wholly appropriately, but maybe not.

It is hard to see how Andy Carroll (at £35m) is going to represent value in the future, unless he really is the absolute real deal. For a 22 year old he also arrives with baggage. Perhaps youthful exuberance. Again, perhaps not. With everything that happened yesterday I can’t help but feel that we’ve been plunged straight back into uncertainty, to a certain degree. With his off field shenanigans and certainly unproven to the £35m level, what happened yesterday appears to include a large element of risk. Especially when you consider that we, unlike some of our competitors, do have to work with a finite amount of resources.

There is then the matter of Kenny Dalglish. Certainly not young but perhaps more dynamic than his age would suggest. He has the Kop buzzing again and has given hope where only despair and restlessness prevailed. One can only assume he was heavily involved in yesterday’s transfer dealings. So surely the time is right for him to put pen to paper on a longer contract. The commitment shown yesterday and the gamble taken on Carroll by the owners surely means Dalglish will be in the hot seat beyond the end of the season. If not then, given our £35m signing appears to be the playing version of marmite, surely this was another reason to keep Torres till the summer. Maybe it’s too soon for FSG to make that decision. I suspect though that they really won’t have a decision to take – especially if they want guaranteed bums on seats next season.

I guess it’s going to have to come down to trust. Actually, scrap that. It’s going to come down to faith. Faith that FSG are only deviating so wildly from their original concept because they believe in a new model. Faith that Dalglish and Comolli have a plan which will make Liverpool Football Club a force again, spearheaded by our new signings. Faith that we won’t start next season with a new manager, yet more money being spent on expensive strikers and a £35m pot of marmite sitting on the bench.

I’ll keep the faith. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I feel a little more uncomfortable about things than I did this time last week.

  1. AdamP29 says:

    I’m simply glad that we have £35m to spend on players! It’s like winning the lottery – you’re almost entitled to waste it if you want – whats more important is that you ahve it in the first place.
    He is very much overpriced, but so be it. Many players are nowadays and we’ll see more players going for silly money now we have set the benchmark. Yes ‘we’ – Liverpool – setting benchmarks again.
    Now that’s a blast from the past.

  2. Mark Frost says:

    While I agree the Carroll is to high…..I do think the owners have done the correct thing is getting a replacement.

    As for the blueprint, they haven’t strayed that far away have they? They said they would follow a blueprint of trying to get younger, hungrier players that will have a re-sale value. They also said they weren’t afraid to spend the money for a short term fix if needed. So they have done what they said they would do.

    Keeping Torres against his will would have been wrong and detrimental….we can move forward with players who want to play for shirt YNWA

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      I have read the blueprint to be one of creating value out of players, from a transfer fee perspective. Taking Arsenal as the example they buy quality players young, add to their abilities and then if they leave it’s usually for a good profit.

      If we’d paid £15m for Carroll you’d be pretty sure of at least getting your money back in a few years, possibly then selling him for £30m if he’d improved. Feels like we’ve paid the premium at the outset.

      If he is the difference between competing or not then all well and good. Risky though.

  3. Blez says:

    Really nice, well balanced piece sir.

    Enjoyed it and agree with almost all of your points – although I think you may be being a bit kind on Big Emile with that comparison!

    I think in 5 years time you will be much happier with AC than you were with EH!


    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      Emile had one season when his confidence remained high. There wasn’t a defence that could cope with him and Owen. Andy Doesn’t seem to struggle with confidence issues. Although that will be tested at a club like Liverpool, where expectations are always higher.

  4. Sean says:

    Okay, so there is a general consensus that Liverpool needed a striker right?

    There also seems to be a general consensus that Andy Carroll’s actual current value is in the £15 – £20m range correct?

    Keeping those two things in mind, unless I am missing something, since Paul Konchesky was loaned out, that meant that Liverpool only had seven home-grown players meaning no matter what (since LFC wanted absolutely nothing to do with Konchesky) Liverpool needed to purchase a player that met the home-grown rule.

    Now, Liverpool could have looked at other strikers that met the home-grown requirement but, the only ones under the age of 29 in the top 25 in the EPL goal charts outside of Carroll are Danny Welbeck and Darren Bent. Danny Welbeck is property of United and Darren Bent was already snapped up by Villa.

    Liverpool could have taken an alternative course by purchasing a home-grown player that played another position but, English players, relatively speaking are already overpriced (more so now with the home-grown rule) and that still would have left the need for another striker. Sure they could have just signed someone on the cheap but, unless that player adds something to your squad, why bother? Consequently, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the transfer costs of signings two players instead of just Carroll could have come relatively close to Carroll’s transfer fee.

    Moreover, dealing with multiple clubs leads to multiple headaches and the very real possibility of having your deals fall through leading to a mad scramble to fill the holes in your squad before the end of the transfer deadline.

    Furthermore, when people know you have a bag of money (thanks to Roman and Mr. Torres), they have a tendency to charge you more than they would charge a guy who is skint.

    Thus, while I do think the price was high, after looking at some of the potential reasoning behind it, I can understand why LFC did what they did.

  5. Sam says:

    As someone born and raised in Boston, but now living over here, I have grown up with the Red Sox in my blood. Your article was spot on for the most part, but it is in fact not necessarily an FSG/NESV policy not to unload top players midseason. They actually traded away one of their best, and arguably most popular, players in July 2004 (2/3 thru the season) and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years (and yes, I know many people take exception to the use of the word “world,” but don’t the messenger 😉 ).

    And yes, they definitely focus on youth, but they are not in the slightest averse to splashing out big money on players — there aren’t transfer fees per se, all figures are based on the players’ salaries. In fact, only the Yankees spend more than they do. But they are short on sentiment, thankfully; for instance, Carrara has been an amazing servant to the club, but he’d never get a new 2-yr contract from them.

    The figure for Carroll upset me initially, but Torres left us in the lurch, and we’ve ultimately come out of the window minus him and Babel but plus Carroll and Suarez at a net spend of £1.8 (reportedly). I choose optimism!

  6. Sam says:

    And damn auto-correct changed “Carra” to “Carrara!” sorry.

  7. Adam Shapiro says:

    If the rumours that Carroll was forced to leave are true, then I really feel sorry for the lad.

    Just a thought – yes – 35m is a lot of money on Carroll. But it’s not my money. If FSG have money to risk then great – hopefully it will turn out to be 35m well spent!

  8. Mike Roach says:

    Very Good article!! I’d like to say maybe look at it from another point of view, first of all a blue print in Baseball would never work in another sport like football, players are sold in different ways and also bought in different. what i would say is they want to build a young squad, 22 years old and 24 years is the age of the two new signing yesterday and lets not forget the 17 year old loan signing.
    I think yesterday seemed like they had a good blue print, money came in, they was happy to spend it but by the looks of it only on young players. i do however worry that the money they are willing to spend is off the back of player sales, lets hope am wrong and in the summer no one goes and we spend a lot of money.
    once again thanks for the really good article and am sorry for a a lot of spelling mistakes! not my strong point!

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      I think that there is a school of thought that the average side of title winning clubs is usually 27-ish or older. We need to find the right balance. Mind you Carragher balances that out on his own.

  9. Paul says:

    Hey George.

    As you mention, we don’t really know what’s gone on behind the scenes. After seeing FT’s first Chelsea interview last night (with subsequent boiling of the blood!) it seems pretty clear he had no interest in staying… so I doubt the deal for the summer would have been an option. He’s gone, I’m gutted, as I imagine most reds are, but let’s be reassured by our history. Keegan, Dalglish, Rush, Fowler, Owen and Torres himself. All great players, all ultimately replaceable. How Carroll and Suarez replace Torres remains to be seen.

    As for the value of Carroll. It’s nuts! £35m or whatever it may be is crazy. But I think we need to put that to one side. I saw a comment earlier today, I’m not sure of the accuracy, that suggested we were saving £18m in wages by selling FT at this point of his contract. Our net spend must have worked out at below £10m if we include the sale of Babel and our front line suddenly looks incredibly dynamic and varied. So we haven’t spent that much cash which will hopefully allow scope for the summer to strengthen further. I wouldn’t worry too much about Carroll’s value in the future as it’s what he does now and over the coming seasons that counts. If he gets us back into contention, hits 20 or so goals or season, we’ll soon forget the fee. The way I see FSG’s approach to this is that they have stuck to their principles. Buy young, buy potential, buy players who will have a good sell on value. Whilst we may not make Carroll’s transfer fee back (I can confidently say we won’t!) the revenue his performances may generate over the coming years may well do so. We’ve got two, young, talented and energetic strikers, for roughly the price we’ve sold one, injury-prone, disinterested forward.

    I think we’re going to be ok….

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      Fair points.

      I think my other concern is that we could be reaching bursting point in the current transfer market bubble. This could have serious implications in the future.

  10. PFitz says:

    I agree it is a big risk but I think a bigger risk was keeping Torres until the summer. We were left in a perilous position with Torres transfer request. At the moment we are building confidence but it is very fragile, to have an unhappy player in the dressing room could of been disastrous especially one with the profile of Torres; therefore better to get rid. The replacement whoever it was going to be was always going to cost big money ( I heard we were quoted £45 million for either Llorente or Aguero (this was just a rumour I heard)).
    Thinking about FSG’s blueprint I don’t think they will have deviated from it (what ever is is) through choice. From what I have seen they are working to this plan but adapting it if required e.g. they planned to keep Hodgson until the end of the season and then review his position; things changed he had to go. Again the plan I believe was to keep everyone at the club until the summer and then make major changes but Torres transfer request changed that.

    Bit rambling but hope I got my point across 🙂

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      You did get your point across and they are fair points.

      There is always going to be change, but likewise when you deviate wildly from earlier plans there is always the chance of some instability. I hope not though.

  11. KarimMB says:

    I don’t agree…GBP 35 is a lot of money, but I think this guy has bags of potential and will only get better and better. In a few years time he will justify the fee we paid for him…and for the first time in a long time we have a centre forward who isn’t going to get knocked over by the opposition’s defenders and will actually scare the crap out of them with his strength and heading ability…not to mention his left foot. This is a good signing…it may take a little time til he becomes the complete package, but I think its very promising.

    I also don’t think the owners had much choice – FT asked for a transfer and Chelsea were willing to pay…would rather he left in the summer, but also don’t want to see anymore of his sulking and bitching – which he has been doing a lot in the last 18 months – he had to go now and credit has to be given to the owners and King Kenny that they were able to bring in a replacement so quick.

    Suarez and Carroll could be fantastic together – i think better suited than FT and Suarez even…confident we are on the way back up.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      I’ve just been posting on The Tomkins Times. Not sure if you know about CTPP but in essence they’ve come up with a way of calculating old transfer fees at today’s rates. This is what I wrote:

      “I’m just not sure about it all. Although I appreciate the reasons why.

      “Taking Shearer as the example, his largest (modern day CTPP) value was £39m. So basically we’re saying that Carroll needs to be as good as Shearer in years to come, which is not exactly going to be easy. On the other hand I accept he may turn out to be better.

      “Dalglish created value of £17m out of Shearer. It may not be impossible, but in essence Carroll as he reaches his peak will need to be valued (i.e. someone is willing to pay) more than Chelsea just paid for Torres.

      “Add to that I am genuinely concerned that we are in the middle of a transfer market bubble which is set to burst.

      “Like I say I understand we had to act, but I remain sceptical we made the right decisions yesterday. I guess time will tell. As you intimate Paul, if Carroll can be part of the difference between us competing at the top or not, it could be the best £35m we ever spent.”

      I know you might not get all the context, but you will if you read

  12. DW says:

    I think its obvious what their intentions are. All targets were a) young and b) still thirsty to reach their potential.

  13. Ed Margerum says:

    Fenway haven’t deviated much from their “good stuff cheap” plans. They have picked up two younger skilled players– Carroll and Suarez– paying £58 million in transfer fees. However, because they got £50 million via the Torres transfer, the net change on the books is only £8 million. John Henry has never been an advocate of the classic Billy Beane sabremetrics model. He will spend, and has spent, big money for exceptional young talent. He has overspent for Carroll but with the knowledge that a gift certificate from Chelsea was coming.

  14. mk11 says:

    I mostly agree. If Torres had not handed in his transfer request *and* if Chelsea had not offered silly money, the better statement of intent from FSG, considering the recent upturn in style, results and feeling with Dalglish’s return, would have perhaps been to block any move.

    But since both those things did happen, and considering the time-frame which left little time to get someone in from abroad, the only possible move was to get an English striker (bearing in mind none of the top six would probably sell to us). Now in that domain, there are precious few available options: Bent has just moved for 26M, C. Cole would have cost a ransom and presents no resale value etc.

    So there is a certain logic to it: if you have to buy, have to buy English, have 50M to spare and are going to get ripped off anyway, you might as well blow it on the youngest, most promising English player you can find. That just might be Carroll, only time will tell.

    As for the off-field issues, I think moving from the NE might help him with that. It worked pretty well for Barton going the other way. A complete change of environment can do that. I think people are slightly unfair on players who get into trouble. There are a lot of factors that don’t necessarily depend on the player himself: mates who get into trouble, rival fans or even your own fans, people who want to have a go at you because you’re famous, or physically imposing etc.

    So for every highly-publicised scrap, there are probably 20 or more times when the player walks away from trouble. But that just doesn’t make for good press.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      I hope you’re right about the off field antics. I hope he gets the support at the club (which I’m sure he will) to keep his feet on the ground and himself out of trouble.

  15. Keith says:

    I have to agree with Ed. Also, i’m surprised at the lack of reference to the much reduced wage bill (in terms of swapping Torres for Carroll) – over a 5 year period this really adds up and given Carroll is in his early 20’s, his re-sale value should be high.

    I suspect yesterday was about putting a marker in the ground for the likes of Reina and Gerrard (and the league as a whole), as much as it was filling a gap in the team.

  16. Nicowill says:

    I agree with being cautious. However, we all need to remember that we bought Luis Suarez as part of this merry go-round. £22mill for a proven international class 2 footed striker may well be the bargain of the window. To have more options that just Torres up front is going to be so refreshing! Can you imagine the other clubs scratching their heads about how to deal with Suarez and Carroll?

    This all shows that all the nay-sayers who say LFC are not a big club anymore have to eat their words as if we had got £50mill for torres in the summer, Hicks and Gillett would have spent the money on interest payments!


  17. Ed Margerum says:

    Torres’ late request for transfer this January warped transfer expenditures. Fenway decided Fernando had to go. Roman Moneybags was willing to dump £50 million and Fenway decided the club needed more offense. They settled on Carroll as the best available and paid the tariff. £50 million in the bank from the Torres transfer wasn’t going to result in any goals being scored. With the Red Sox, they’ve made equally quick work with a couple of malcontents but generally with less positive acquisitions than Carroll.

    I put Torres desire to leave down to excessive pride. Torres left because he felt threatened by the Suarez transfer. Rather than see Suarez as a improvement to the team, Torres felt his star position was being usurped, so off to Chelsea where he can be the young stud in the Old Stars’ home.

  18. Mark Poletti says:

    Thanks for the read. One thing that has been ovet stressed about FSG is their “importance on value”. They like their stars as much as anyone. They know that stars bring in more revenue than journeyman who help win.

    Even in Boston, they shipped out Manny Ramirez. A potential Hall of Fame player who still had top game (see the dodgers run once he got there) because he had disrupted the Red Sox way and clubhouse. Sound familiar?

    Torres left us in a tough situation. Did we overpay by dishing out 30 million? (todays figure) In the terms of a normal market, yes. In terms of momentum and unifying the fansbase further. It might turn out that it was actually a bargain.

    Being an resident overseas, I get to pick and choose what I read and how I percieve the media sources. What I can tell you and you already know this, there is always risk associated with large moves. I’m glad that we have owners with the courage to trust Kenny enough to bring Liverpool way back to the forefront. I believe we are just in the infantile stages our our new Red dawn. I truly do.

    If you every want to chat, I follow you on Twitter.



    • Ed Margerum says:

      Mark notes that FSG’s “importance on value” has been overstressed. That depends on the concept of value being used. Stars do produce revenue. The Red Sox in 2010 were competitive to the end of the season but, due to injuries, didn’t have a star and team income dropped along with the size of the tv audience. Successful football strikers not only produce goals and win games they also bring in the revenue.

      Mark is also right in pointing out that FSG was filling a situational need in going above market value. It’s been a rough season for Liverpool fans with H&G’s departure and Hodgson in charge. Liverpool fans needed affirmation that FSG was serious about restoring the club to glory. Without action, their words were just words. Yesterday they put their money where their mouth has been.

  19. robbohuyton says:

    There’s no doubt we paid over the odds for Carroll, but I’d much rather have him and Suarez on the books and Torres off them than the other way around.

    Every club in the world knew of our desperation for a striker once Torres announced he was off and I think whatever way we turned, clubs would have cranked up the asking price.

    It had to be done for me because Suarez is unproven (here) and Ngog is not a starter every week.

    What hasn’t been mentioned is the players we didn’t get. I don’t think Fenway have massively deviated from the plan they had, just moved faster on their targets and paid a premium to do so in the case of Carroll (something Henry has done before in the USA, I read somewhere today).

    We bid for Young, Adam and enquired about Richards on top of the business we did. So it’s clear Fenway haven’t finished spending. We haven’t got a bottomless pit, but it’ll stretch beyond £1.8m, the net of the window spend.

    It’s a huge plus for me they are so clearly backing Kenny, and I agree with you – he looks a nap to stay now.

    I think it was clever, too. Minus Carroll, the mood would have dipped post-Torres. Now everyone is genuinely excited/intrigued about the rest of the season.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      As is usually the case mate, I’ll struggle to argue with any of that. Except maybe about FSG’s deviation – which is significant in my mind, from their initial thoughts. But as you say this might be out of circumstance.

      It all still leaves me with a nervous feeling, mind. It’s going to be one of those things that we have to see how it pans out.

      There has been a very mixed response to this post. Ranging from we never should have signed Carroll to others suggesting I wind my neck in and get excited. Speaks volumes to me, like I say in the post – marmite.

  20. […] Blueprint for Success? We can only assume the risks of keeping Fernando Torres outweighed the benefits. In today’s modern football it is after […] […]

  21. Kamall says:

    Taf, appreciate your comments but you have one major point wrong. FSG have not deviated from their blueprint. They want value in younger prospects and will work to ensure that. As proven with the Red Sox though, they also spend money on the big players that are necessary for top teams. They need value from younger, appreciating assets in order to enable this.

    If you ignore the money (which is only a medium for betters exchange of goods) we essentially traded Babel and Torres for Suarez and Carroll. Given Babels history of non-improvent and Torres of injury I think this is a smart trade.

    As for the money, by waiting till the summer we could maybe save 5-10m on Carroll. But at what cost? A stuttering start to the next season as the team learns to play together. I commend FSG for paying more for an increased chance of success next season as the Suarez and Carroll finish2010/11 with a better understanding. And we also have an increased shot at Europa success and re-qualification with an outside chance of the Champs league

    We criticized the last owners for not spending. I’m not going to criticize FSG for putting their money wher their mouth is! Ballsy, yes, but also calculated!

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