31 May 2011

Infographics – Squad Turnover

This is what Hicks and Gillett did to Liverpool's playing squad.

Yes, Benitez had a Redknappian fondness for wheeling and dealing – and had to rebuild right away despite winning the Champions League in his first season – but an awful lot of that business was compelled by the tumors' poverty and indebtedness, evident in the number of transfers in the last two to three seasons.

• Just six of the 29 players used this season arrived prior to the previous owners.

• Barely more than a third made their debut before the 2009-10 season: Carra, Gerrard, Reina, Agger, Aurelio, Kuyt, Lucas, Skrtel, Ngog, and Spearing. That's not even a full XI of players; like Liverpool as a whole, it's missing a left-sided attacker.

• An 18-year-old, Jack Robinson, is the 17th-longest-serving player out of a squad of 29. Ngog, at 22, is the 9th-longest serving. Lucas, at 24, is the 7th.

• 12 of the 29 players made their debuts in 2010-11: ten purchases and two youth-team players. As per usual, quantity isn't necessarily better than quality.

• The average age of the squad is only 25.6, but nine players are 30 or older: Carragher, Gerrard, Aurelio, Kuyt, Kyrgiakos, Maxi, Jovanovic, Konchesky, and Poulsen. I'd be extremely surprised if more than five were still at the club come September.

A similar graphic made a year from now probably wouldn't look much different. Multiple changes seem likely again this summer: casting out the dead wood, adding both depth and top talent.

But the most stabile teams are almost always the most successful. The despicable example of Manchester United is no small proof of that. Arsenal punches above their weight primarily through youth development – and probably would have won the league this season if the manager had spent a little more in the transfer market. And at the same time, City's extraordinarily talented band of mercenaries – on paper, the strongest squad – has been inconsistency squared, slowly climbing from fifth in 2009-10 to third last season as they've gelled. Continued familiarity in addition to a never-ending wallet is why the blue half of Manchester seems the biggest threat come next campaign if they can hold onto the talismanic Tevez.

However, FSG's plan of buying younger – Suarez is just 24, Carroll 22 – and building around the Academy will ensure that this kind of discontinuity won't be standard practice for much longer.

Bonus graphic: Where are they now...

FYI: full-size version is much clearer. Admittedly, the concept and layout was almost completely aped from Flip Flop Fly Ball, who does some of the best sports infographics on the web. Pity his focus is on cricket's even-less-exciting cousin.

It's interesting to see how few players remained at Liverpool after the Champions League victory, which is in tune with the first graphic. Nine of the 27 players who played at least one game in Europe that season left immediately after Istanbul – a third of the squad. Only five of those nine remained in the Premier League. Seven more left Liverpool after the 2005-06 season.

Because of Liverpool's economic situation, Benitez was usually selling Player A for Player B, only to sell Player B for Player C in a year's time, which continued for the duration of his managerial reign. The immediate rebuilding after Istanbul shows how flawed that team was. Making that year's victory considerably more impressive.

Five times.

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