03 November 2010

On Damien Comolli

Former Spurs Director of Football Damien Comolli has been hired as Liverpool's new "Director of Football Strategy." A slightly-fancier title which should be an approximation of his old role at Tottenham, and should pave the way for former chief scout Eduardo Macia's exit. Comolli's 38 years old; NESV now has their Theo Epstein, I guess.

I'm conflicted on a few counts. First and foremost, I don't trust Hodgson with any amount of money – and we can blame Poulsen and Konchesky for that (I'm still not convinced Meireles wasn't a Macia signing). Which makes this news warmly welcomed, especially the if the manager's somehow still around come January. But at the same time, I've never been a fan of the Director of Football continental set-up. Maybe I'm used to the manager being a sometimes-benign dictator, but if he's the one who has to write the team-sheet, shouldn't he be the one picking the transfer targets. And to invoke the oft-cited cliché when the British media discusses this set-up: can you imagine the likes of Ferguson or Wenger operating with under similar constraints?

Granted, the method's worked for the likes of Juventus, Bayern, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and a host of other big European clubs, but it's been exceptionally hit-and-miss, at best, in the Premiership. It's succeeded at West Brom so far, but that's one of the few, if only, current examples.

This piece, by Football Fancast has a mostly-thorough list of players signed by Spurs during Comolli's tenure. It also excoriates the man for Tottenham's "mish-mash" of players, and rightfully argues that Redknapp's been far better from them than the previous set-up. But as Wenger, who hired Comolli as a scout, noted, "anything can work as long as people, when they sign their contracts, know clearly what is their responsibilities." That arguably wasn't the case at Tottenham.

There are definitely some highlights – Bale, Modric, and Berbatov, among others – but other than the languid Bulgarian, Spurs paid in full for them. And there are the inevitable lows, where ~£15m for Bentley flashes in neon lights. Scrolling through that list, I'm surprised to see the cost of Bent, Kaboul, Hutton, Gomes, etc. – all higher than I would have guessed (except in the case of Bent, which I remember simply because it absolutely stunned me at the time). Comolli will work under a much tighter budget at Anfield, even if NESV loosens the purse-strings far more than the previous owners.

Given the new owners' resumé, references to Moneyball have become unavoidable. And Comolli's often mentioned in articles about Beane's 'love affair with soccer' – as recently as last week and as far back as 2007. Hiring a Director of Football, especially one with Comolli's history, is certainly a step in that direction.

That Hodgson was only recently talking about identifying transfer targets leads me to believe (hope?) that this was somewhat out of the blue for him. But that could well be my bias creeping in. He's quoted on the official site saying, "I am looking forward to working with Damien whom I have known for many years. We are engaged in an exciting project here and he will bring a lot to the table," but we've seen similar spin before. And on face value, Comolli and Hodgson represent diametric opposites.

More important were John Henry's quotes.
"Today's announcement is just the first step in creating a leadership group and structure designed to develop, enhance and implement our long-term philosophy of scouting, recruitment, player development and all of the other aspects necessary to build and sustain a club able to consistently compete at the highest level in European football.

"We intend to be bold and innovative. We will not rest until we have restored Liverpool Football Club to the greatness Liverpool fans expect."

"Bold and innovative" aren't words I'd associate with the managerial regime so far. Time will tell where this heads, but it seems a promising development.


Anonymous said...

It gets from bad to worse. I am beginning to get worried about our owners. They may try to follow the Arsenal model but if during that time, City and Tottenham are established and can offer Champions league football, the best players will naturally gravitate towards them. That includes the young "rising" stars of Liverpool.

Mike Georger said...

^ disagree entirely with that. Unless United, Chelsea or Arsenal go into administration both Spurs and City cannot offer Champions League. And at most they can for sure offer, only one of them, one season of it.

Haters gonna hate, but I think this is the best move the club has made since bringing in Pako.

vinnie said...

I can't agree 100% with the book soccernomics, mainly on the statistics part because I believe there are many ways to perceive statistics differently depending on how you want to twist it.

however, there are a lot of interesting points such as case studies of Lyon and Arsenal. I'm both worried and excited with what NESV has done so far but i'm up for a change and it will take a while to see the result

The Commish said...

The examples of Sir Alex and Wenger are exceptions that prove just how difficult it is to sustain excellence over a prolonged period with 1 man calling the shots. They have been the backbone and deserve credit.

I entirely support what NESV is trying to accomplish - they want a full system that works year in and year out that does not rely on expensive annual transfers, but rather builds from within.

I think we all know that Hodgson will not single-handedly restore the Spirit of Shankly and supplant Wenger and Ferguson atop the list of great Premiership managers. He may well be perfectly suited to preparing teams to perform on the pitch, however, and this is a far more rational expectation.

Our squad will not turn around over night - but these actions give me hope.

Ken said...

Nothing wrong with nesv setup as long as dof does not engage with manager over blaming games. Generally, manager can not blame poor result on dof, he however can drop non-performers thus dof would take note. The question is the club needs to have clear cut philosophy on team play as certain tactic fits certain players. Lyon is a good example, dof brings in players to fit in their attacking tactic, etc, whoever the manager is, has to adhere to the philosophy. Hope Roy's philosophy of team play is no what nesv aspires to, thus that kind of players nesv will bring in. So from this we can deduce that either Roy has to go or adhere to nesv new direction, presumed philosophy of Liverpool way in team play. One advantage, low playing staffs turnover would be expected whenever there is new manager hired.

vinnie said...

i'm more convinced after reading more about comolli. instead of spoon feeding, i can see NESV is making the club self sufficient to build it's own dynasty again.