01 September 2011

Close a window, open a door

Once again, the deadline headline is Liverpool's hands forced by Chelsea's last-minute pillaging. Unable to get Modric or Moutinho, Chelsea settled for yet another Liverpool player who scored the most-recent winner against them. With less than half an hour left in the window, Meireles' transfer request was made public and a £12m deal announced. Takes some of the shine off the most successful transfer window in recent history.

Meireles was going to be a squad player this season. A versatile, useful squad player, but a squad player nonetheless. Gerrard, Suarez, and Henderson are preferred behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1. Gerrard, Lucas, Adam, and Henderson are preferred in central midfield. Kuyt, Henderson and Downing are preferred on the right, and Downing, Maxi, and now Bellamy are preferred on the left. Liverpool have depth to cover all the positions Meireles could cover, but more cover is usually more better, especially with Meireles' clear talents. He linked (and seemed to get along) brilliantly with Suarez, Maxi, and Lucas and was one of last season's few revelations until Dalglish took the reins. But he understandably wanted a raise, FSG understandably didn't want to give him one (or one as large as he wanted), and Liverpool made a small bit of money on a 28-year-old back-up after one good year. C'est la guerre. Shelvey will get his minutes. My lone concern is how it affects squad harmony, but Dalglish doesn't seem to have a problem dealing with that.

As to Liverpool's other business of the day, I'm pleased to see Bellamy's return. Yes, he's 32. Yes, you can probably hear his knees creak from three rooms away. But he's still got bags of pace when fit, can lead the line or play on either wing (he's far better on the left), and is a tricky, creative game winner. I still have no clue why City were so eager to get rid after Bellamy was their player of the season in 2009-10 (hint: Mancini). And the dark side is strong in this one – just like Suarez – which I'm always in favor of. The fear is Bellamy's competitiveness will upset the ship if he's not consistently in the side, but one would assume he's had the future spelled out for him clearly. Plus, defending a front-line of Suarez, Kuyt, and Bellamy will be like trying to herd a swarm of bees. I cannot wait to see it.

Overall, the summer's business in total, according to LFC History:

The above chart only includes those who played for the first team, if only sparingly, so fees for Ince and Mavinga aren't included. Rory Smith, of the Telegraph, writes that Liverpool recouped something around £25m from sales this summer. More important were the savings to the wage bill – around £30m over the lives of those players' contracts. By my quick back of the envelope math, using extremely rough estimates, those 13 who actually played for the first team would probably have cost Liverpool around £12m in wages this season. That's a fair bit extra into the transfer kitty.

Liverpool paid out £54m in fees for seven players, but the two over 30 – Doni and Bellamy – were free transfers, fitting into FSG's frequently-misunderstood Moneyball philosophy. Adam, Coates, Downing, Enrique, and Henderson all have their best days ahead of them, and four of the five have already impressed in Liverpool's first matches.

Which takes FSG's total spending to around £113m while recouping about £75m. Just under £40m to turn Torres, Babel, Konchesky, Ayala, El Zhar, Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Jovanovic, Poulsen, Cole, Ngog, Degen, Pacheco, and Meireles into Suarez, Carroll, Henderson, Adam, Downing, Doni, Enrique, Coates, and Bellamy. That'll do, pig.

Yes, the club had to resort to loans and free transfers to get rid of the majority of useless players, but shifting the likes of Cole, Jovanovic, Poulsen, Degen, et al – those who added absolutely nothing to the squad – will save Liverpool a lot in unnecessary wages and headaches. Comolli earned his salary finding those suckers born every minute, and for once, thanks to the new owners, Liverpool were able to focus on quality instead of quantity.

A lot of clubs would have been forced to sell before buying, reducing overhead and overall numbers before bringing players in, but FSG opened the checkbook immediately. Getting Adam, Downing, and Henderson signed early allowed those players time to bed into the squad during preseason, and also meant that Liverpool weren't feverishly trawling for last-minute fallback options (cough Arsenal cough). And then Comolli went to work shifting dead weight. Success on all front. That rarely happens.

Aside from overwrought debates as to the necessity of Aquilani and Meireles, Liverpool fans haven't had to worry which player will turn into this window's Judas. We haven't spent the summer in fear of Reina's exit, for example, like with Mascherano the year before and Alonso the year before that. With Hicks and Gillett long gone, the days where Liverpool were "a selling club" are long gone as well. It was odd, but more than welcome, having such a stress-free summer.

As with the tactics, manager, and atmosphere, Liverpool's squad is now light years different than it was a year ago. Light years better.

That's why it was most successful transfer window in recent history.


Zētētikos said...

>>And the dark side is strong in this one – just like Suarez – which I'm always in favor of.

I never liked Bellamy when he was here last and your comment above has something to do with it. But I love Suarez, so I started thinking...sure, they're both little devils, but what's different? Here's a stab at why I like the one and not the other:

Suarez will pull your hair and bite your ear off all with a smile on his face. Then he'll turn around as if nothing happened and continue to run circles around the defense. Whereas Bellamy will stamp you or come sliding in with cleats ups and then he'll be spewing venom and gesticulating...and after that his game will be changed.

In other words, Suarez doesn't seem to let a little naughtiness get in the way of the most important thing. But Bellamy just cannot let things go and that can throw off the game. And I hate players that let petty stuff get in the way of their game (Of course, if it's not petty, that's something else).

nate said...

See, I sort of disagree. Think about the last match against Bolton. Suarez, frustrated by defenders, referee, and luck, became more and more demonstrative and slightly less effective as his anger grew. He was a yellow card, possibly red, waiting to happen, simply because he's so passionate. Bellamy strikes me as the exact same type of character. I can't think of any examples where Bellamy's character definitively hurt Liverpool on the pitch, but my memory admittedly sucks.

FoolishMoose said...

For the next two years, I would much rather see Bellamy as an option to Ngog. Bellamy will be cover for Suarez if he gets a niggle, or injured, and can come on late to make a change too.

For me, Bellamy leaves the King with better game management decisions than Ngog,who was not even in the picture, or even Meireles, which is a tough one to let go, but we did make a buck on him.

I cannot wait to see the season unfold. Are the games vs MC & MU going to be unreal or what. What I would do/give for home tickets to those games, and the funds necessary to to attend.

Anonymous said...

You touched on some key points here, but one I don't feel like you stressed enough was the salary cuts. By shipping out Torres, Babel and all of this years dead weight, I am sure a very large sum of money is saved that would be applied to that 40mil or so paid to buy talent.

40 million to rebuild a squad is decent, but I am convinced it was less than that if you take all salaries into the equation.

I think Comolli is a genius for the job he has done!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe we let Insua go for free though. That's a terrible piece of business, he's worth at least 3-4 million.

drew said...

So here's what's been ringing in the back of my mind: what if we get Gerrard back?

Obviously, he's coming back into the squad soon, and he'll be a fixture in the first XI, etc. etc. That's not what I mean by getting him back.

What if we get back _Gerrard_? I know he's on the wrong side of his 30 now, and his legs have an awful lot of games in them—but still he's gotta have at least a season or two more of blood and thunder in him. If we get him back revitalized and at even 75% of top form, everyone else will have a hell of a time denying us.

Tom Foolery said...

I too am a fan of Bellamy. For the above reasons, and I can't help but compare him to Suarez either. They both are work horses, little devils that chase the ball on defence and chase the open space on offense. His runs alone will open up plenty of space for others to exploit.

That'll do, pig...That'll do.

Tom Foollery said...

Oooohhh...Gerrard. Tasty option, no? I'm wondering where ya'll see him playing? I'd think he comes in for Hendo, but after watching his last game, and taking into account Stevie's groin, I think Jordan's constant movement will be a good asset to that position. Don't think Lucas is replaceable at this point, and an injury to that man could be the undoing of us. Gerrard in for Adam, then? I think Good Time Charlie is key to Kenny's plans as he clearly values left footers (as do I) to aid in team balance. Steve for Stew doesn't work either, too vastly different players.

So, I'll stick with Stevie in for Jordan...hmmm.

MechaDG said...

A word about David N'Gog - I liked him, but he stalled over the past year and clearly wasn't cut out for a team aiming for the Champions League or a title run. Great bit of business, though - in around the same time as Robbie Keane for a million quid, and now sold off at a decent profit. And unlike Robbie Keane, he didn't crap his pants in front of the Kop. The good thing about Craig Bellamy is that he'll intimidate defences, whereas N'Gog...well, not so fearsome. Some great goals though.
As for Meireles...meh. Players come, players go, he did well, we got back what we paid.

nate said...

Agree with your thought process on where Gerrard fits into the squad, Tom Foolery. My one concern is that Henderson's played on the right in three of four games in the 4-2-2-2. I think Gerrard could be amazing in this position, but worry he won't want to play on the right. Related, I truly do think Liverpool were so gung ho about Henderson this summer because over fears about Gerrard's fitness – seems the most like-for-like replacement, especially over the long term. Good problem to have though, especially, if (as Drew suggests), Liverpool get GERRARD, not just Gerrard.

Gerrard in place of Adam is an interesting idea, but as you say, really do think Dalglish sees Adam as essential to the way he wants the team to play. And, yeah, left footers are crucial. Been banging that drum for months now. Liverpool have scored two left-footed goals this season, of the nine notched so far. Took until the 17th goal scored last season to tally two left-footed strikes.

Pan said...

I swear there is more drama in transfer windows than all the daytime soapies put together the world over...

I'll never forget the 'kiss of death' Meireles gave Senor Torres' cheek moments before they walked out in Torres' ill-fated debut game against his beloved (yet discarded) Liverpool - then preceded to score the winner... so regardless of some weird ironic parallel, for me this is a particular moment of which I will always thank Meireles forever more… I love this chap but find since the King is back these frowny circumstances are much easier to handle... in the grand mosaic-like scheme taking place it's fine (esp after all the cheap crumbly plaster we were being forced to bear). Raul, all the best and hope you do well for the club you join after Chelsea.

In fact I'm still in some kind of utopian shock with where we are now compared to... to… ...gee thanks Nate you had to go and quote 'that'll do Pig', now I'm going to be an emotional wreck all day…

p.s. I have this scene in my head of Gerrard emerging from his Anfield cave and roaring to the stands like the Scouse Grizzly he is…

p.p.s. Technology is so advanced these days, can’t we just stump up the surgeon cash and replace any of Gerrard’s faulty parts with cyborg appendages.. Super Groin

Baadier said...

The difference between the transfer window last season and now is light years apart. What has impressed me the most has been the squad that has strengthened, with backup in all the key positions. We are now able to send out a Top 4 worthy bench as opposed to the mix bag we were forced to send out at times last season.

Enjoyed the read

Jay Wright said...

I agree with most of the article (although I hope that the 4222 that you seem to advocate in your comments is never brought back - width is imperative imo so 4231/433 all the way for me!) but I have to disagree with the attitude that we've just written off £40m off of the wage bill.

Most discussion seems to be taking the overly simplistic view that the players are gone so their wages can be written off, thereby ignoring the fact that we've been required required to heavily subsidise some of those wages to force through the outgoings, and in the case of Joe Cole have his £90k p/w wages returning to Liverpool after a year. The club may have made massive savings in shipping some of the deadweight out, but not quite as much as some would think...