Reviewing Liverpool’s Transfer Signings for the 2011-12 Season

Having been heavily restricted in the transfer market in recent years due to terrible ownership and massive interest payments, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has looked to make the most of new owners John Henry and FSG’s willingness to commit funds in order to achieve success. Undoubtedly football is run as a business for most owners today and Liverpool fans can be thankful that their new owner, who also lists the Boston Red Sox in his portfolio, is a firm believer that the best way to make money out of a sports team is to make that team successful, spending to achieve this if necessary.

Since the signing of Andy Carroll in January for £35m, eyes have been on the Anfield outfit’s movements in the transfer market. Many people, including a surprisingly large amount of people calling themselves Liverpool fans have been quick to question the clubs summer signings before they have even kicked a ball, deeming the club to have drastically overpaid for what they consider to be nothing more than average to good players.

Whilst FSG are prepared to spend freely to achieve the success they crave (something backed up by their dealings in baseball as well as the first two transfer windows for Liverpool), what is also clear is that they have a set model they prefer to follow. Henry is a firm believer in the ‘Moneyball’ model in baseball using ‘sabermetrics’ to determine a player’s value to the club and why they may be a success, all based on statistics.

Although they have openly admitted that they realize this model cannot be directly applied to football (soccer), the concept of buying young players that will have some resale value certainly can and has been applied. It also seems apparent that Director of Football Damien Comolli and manager Kenny Dalglish are keen to look into the stats of their targets to discover a more detailed outlook of the players game.

Here’s my analysis of their recent signings:

Jordan Henderson

The first target identified by the club this summer was Jordan Henderson, a young English centre-midfielder who is also equally capable at playing in a wide right position. Most people were surprised to learn of the Merseyside club’s interest in the youngster, having had a mixed season for former club Sunderland. Henderson started last season in great form winning plaudits along the way and even picked up his first full England cap in November. However, his form started to wane around the turn of the year, much in keeping with the whole clubs downturn in form – possibly one of the effects of selling their main goalscorer Darren Bent without replacement.

Football is an extremely subjective topic of conversation and as such the reality is often quite different to the argument presented. This could be true in the case of Henderson. A look at his stats show that he can compete with the top players in the Premier League, but playing for an average side may have caused these stats to be hidden. For example, when compared to Jack Wilshire – a player largely considered to be one of England’s brightest prospects and a top midfielder, Henderson’s stats are favourable having scored 3 and assisted 4 last season compared to Wilshire’s 1 goal and 3 assists. Both players have pass completion percentages that are excellent and that are in the 80% bracket. However Henderson created an average of 2.1 chances per game compared to Wilshire’s 1.6. Whilst these stats are no guarantee of a player becoming a success at a new club, they should at least be respected and allow the player to prove himself before being questioned.

Charlie Adam

Liverpool’s signing of Charlie Adam has also been criticized by many who deem him to be below the standard required for a title challenging team. What is clear is that the Scotsman has been a clear target for Dalglish since January and the Liverpool boss is convinced that his services will improve the squad. The standard of Adam’s set-pieces is not in question having created and scored numerous goals from them last season in a team that ultimately was relegated. Although with Liverpool already having several top central midfielders in the squad it remains to be seen what Adam’s main function in the side will be.

Stewart Downing

The last major signing to arrive at Liverpool so far this summer is Stewart Downing, possibly one of the most underrated Premier League players in recent years.

Liverpool has been in dire need of a winger for many years having tried and failed to find the solution many times in recent years. The former Villa wide man should tick all the boxes yet his arrival earlier this month was greeted with a very mixed response. When signing the player Comolli reiterated his practice of studying the stats and data of a player to gauge his potential value to the side. A quick look at the stats from last season’s shows that Liverpool fans should infact be very enthusiastic about the winger’s arrival. When playing on the left Downing managed a successful cross percentage of 20% (meaning his cross found a member of his team) coupled with 22% when on the right, showing that he is a versatile winger that is equally capable of producing on either wing.  It is clear that Downing is not a ‘one season wonder’ and has performed consistently over a number of years. Since 2004, when Downing fully broke into the Middlesbrough team, he has created 421 chances in the Premier League – only Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fabregas and Ryan Giggs have produced more.

When analyzing the signings it is clear they make sense and are logical, and if they had foreign names there is no doubt a much larger percentage of fans would be excited, in this day and age a lot of fans want to hear their club have signed Joao Henderez or Silvio Downinho. But the stats don’t lie – between them Downing, Adam, Henderson created 239 chances in PL last season, equivalent to 56% of Liverpool’s total last season. Although they might not be the most popular, they very well may be successful.

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13 thoughts on “Reviewing Liverpool’s Transfer Signings for the 2011-12 Season”

  1. The biggest need Liverpool ignored in the post Hodgson spending spree, last January, was to bring in a winger. So….

    Adam and Henderson both are central players. and I was actually a bit shocked that they spent so much on Downing. You call him under rated… But seems that he’s been under rated for almost a decade now. He always seemed to be a nice player for a mid level club, but I’d actually rather have Matty Etherington who would not cost you 20 million. And He’s also English. Downing is 28? done little internationally, done little at Villa, and we remember him from Boro when he was the team’s great hope…

    The real miss was Ashley Young. He is what they hoped they got in Joe Cole last season. Damien Comolli still has yet to prove himself… And they also have to resolve what to do with the Hodgson left overs…

    and they still need that pacey winger.

    1. Well said about Downing, he always seems to be perpetually on the verge but never consistently playing beyond. Villa did well by selling him at that price. Hopefully Kenny and his coaches can make him a better player – maybe too late however.

    2. I agree that Liverpool still need one more winger. Mata would be an interesting signing?

      btw, Downing is 26. He was brilliant for Villa last season as a whole heap of Villa fans can testify. But he had absent games which is what Kenny needs to address right?

      Henderson is also a great crosser of the ball, Charlie Adam can deliver well too. So not all is lost because these players spend most of their time in CM. Suarez, Maxi and Kuyt can also cross well and Joe Cole has a GOOD, yes GOOD cross. So I wouldn’t be too concerned for Liverpool there at this stage. Again, Mata?

      As far as Comolli proving himself: Modric, Bale, Suarez. And the players he initially signed for Spurs who were slated have often come good. Where he needs to prove himself for me is in prices, like you say. £20m? Is that a true market?

  2. Is it just me or does it seem like Liverpool is going to a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1/4-5-1? Carroll’s scoring threat comes from his height. Surarez is the perfect partner for Carroll by adding speed and agility.

    Now Liverpool have brought in two players who can stay wide and cross into Carroll. Gerrard, Downing, and Henderspm should be able to supply cross after cross from the outside MF spots.. That leaves Lucas and Aquilani as the MF combo that should stay in the middle of the pitch . Adam is then a replacement candidate for Suarez when they want to go to a 4-5-1, leaving Kuyt, Cole, Rodriguez, and N’Gog as other bench options.

    I just think Liverpool is making a formational change.

    1. One thing we know is King Kenny definitely adapts his tactics/formations on a game to game basis. I am so excited for this coming premier league season and for the reds!

  3. The midfield looks crowded from my view and I may not question the individual signings on the whole I think they have added 3 midfielders to Gerrard, Meireles, Maxi, Kyut, Lucas not to mention 4 or 5 others on the depth chart- I may have wanted another defender unless they feel firmly about the kids. Top to bottom one of the deepest teams in EPL

  4. In all three cases these were the best players last season for their clubs, and as such they didn’t want to sell them, so of course Liverpool had to pay serious money. The partial exception is Adam but only because Blackpool did not have the power of still being a Premiership club.
    People who turn their noses up at these players and demand the money should have been spent on foreign flavor of the month are unaware what Kenny is doing. Liverpool took 14 of a possible 24 points of the teams that finished 1-4 last year, the problem was all those other, less glamourous games. Kenny is bringing in lads used to the premiersjip who have the ability to create chances for Carroll/Suarez against those playing at 110% type teams that Liverpool have struggled against for years. They have added width, crossing ability, passing ability and set piece ability.
    The plan is to get a team that can grind out better results against the rest of the league than at least one of the other top 4 teams and scraping into 4th would be a major achievement, and then with the Champions League they can look to add the types of players people are crying Liverpool aren’t going after.

  5. They are average players, but they’re proven Premier League players. Less of a risk. They know the league like the back of their hand. The only thing they have to do is raise their standards to play for Liverpool. They won’t get any room for error like they did at their old clubs. I expect them to look at videotapes of their old matches and see how they played and what mistakes they made. They’ve had a good break and the season is 3 weeks ago. That’s still enough time to analyze and see where their weaknesses and where they can step up. Let’s see what happens. Here is too another 9 entertaining months of Premier League football!

  6. I know Adam’s use. His wide range of passing would be very useful, especially to Carroll. The transfers were really planned brilliantly!

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