10 August 2012

On Craig Bellamy and Squad Turnover

With the summer departures of Bellamy, Kuyt, and Aurelio (as well as Maxi and Aquilani), Liverpool now have just six players who have been on the books since the 2007-08 season: Carragher, Gerrard, Reina, Agger, Lucas, and Skrtel. Just six of the 27 players who have made at least first team appearance for Liverpool.

59% of the above players have joined since August 2010. 11 of the 27 – 41% – made their debuts after FSG bought the club in October of that year. Only six Benitez signings remain on the books, seven if you count Jonjo Shelvey – who made his debut under Hodgson.

The above is an update on this graphic, done following the 2010-11 campaign. It is not quite as striking – 12 of the 29 players on that chart joined that season – but still sufficiently demonstrates how heavy Liverpool's squad turnover has been in the last three years. And a handful of players on the above chart may well have little time left at club: Doni, Eccleston, Pacheco seem the most likely, but Cole, Carroll, and even Agger could well join them.

It's sad to see Craig Bellamy depart when there was still a clear role for him in the squad. It's hard to begrudge him a move back to Cardiff at this stage of his career, for family and personal reasons, but I also rue never seeing him line up with Suarez and Borini, a buzzing beehive front line that would torment any defense in the world. I can't help but prefer snarling, win-at-all-costs players, and Bellamy was an archetypal one in both of his Liverpool stints, the sort you love to have on your team and absolutely hate when they line up for the opposition.

With Bellamy's exit, Liverpool have now sold 25% of last season's goals. 79 were scored; Bellamy tallied nine (which was joint-second along with Gerrard and Carroll), Maxi six, and Kuyt five. If Liverpool find someone who'll pay anywhere in the region of £20m for Andy Carroll, that number will jump to 37% when including Carroll's nine goals. Bellamy also contributed seven assists last season – third-most in the squad – while Maxi had four (if you include the penalty won against Oldham), and Kuyt two. Combined, Maxi, Kuyt, and Bellamy played 5688 minutes last season, and Fabio Borini can't cover all those minutes by himself.

Liverpool's lack of depth at wide forward seemingly remains the biggest hole in the squad. Supposedly, Joe Allen will join the club sooner rather than later, maybe even later today. While he'd be an excellent, welcome addition to the squad, central midfield is far less of a problem area than the flanks. Right now, Suarez, Borini, Downing, Sterling, and Cole are Liverpool's only wide forwards, with one of Suarez or Borini more likely to play as the central striker more often than not. That's far too few; it was one of Liverpool's weakest areas last season, even before the exits of Kuyt, Maxi, and Bellamy.

Cult heroes, fan favorites, and scorned wastes of space have all left the club in the last 12 months, in the last two months. More are likely to follow. Hopefully, they'll be replaced by younger, faster, stronger, better. That's always the hope, but never a certainty in the transfer market. Every manager, good and bad, has both hits and misses.

But this turnover further reinforces the notion that it truly is Year Zero. By design. Yesterday's wondrous, gratifying thrashing of FC Gomel demonstrated the potential this new era has, but Craig Bellamy's departure today reminds that this potentially wondrous squad remains painfully shallow.


Zētētikos said...

Nate, It's interesting to look back at your post from 15 months ago (i.e. the one with the earlier graphic). In that post, you mention 9 players over 30. Only 2 of those remain. With Bellamy gone, what do we have now? 4?

I share your concern about depth. It seems pretty clear Rodgers is gonna have to go with the youth.

nate said...

An excellent point, one I certainly should have mentioned if I were clever enough to make the connection. It's currently five – Carra, Gerrard, Cole, Doni, and Jones – soon to be six when Reina turns 30 at the end of the month. But Doni is almost certainly on his way out, and Cole probably will be too. Not to mention that 30 is much less of an issue for goalkeepers.

Mike Georger said...

I forgot Cole when I was thinking we had two outfield players.

No reason for Cole to be here at the end of the window though. Terminate the damn contract.

Anonymous said...

Shame about Craig but I understand his desire to leave in the twilight of his career.

This could be a decent season if we don't expect too much, I personally will settle for a feeling that we are moving forward and despite the loss of players I am optimistic that we may have a philosophy this year.

Can I just say that I rarely comment but I do want you to know that I read every blog that you write Nate and very fine they are too