A change in the dugout is a good start for Liverpool, but if the club are serious about succeeding, they’ll need to alter their scattered method of recruitment, too
Sixty-four. That is more or less the average number of Premier League points Liverpool have managed over the last five seasons. It is also, remarkably, the figure of transfer deals completed during Brendan Rodgers’ three-year tenure.
Thirty-one players were recruited under the Northern Irishman at a cost in excess of £291 million and 33 were ejected. There is a split on where to place blame for such silly and expensive bulk business, with the 42-year-old the subject of the finger pointing along with the club’s fumbling transfer committee.
With Rodgers now departed and Jurgen Klopp expected to be unveiled on Friday, Liverpool must mirror the freshness of their management team with a crisper approach to transfers.
Beyond an unfortunate name, the committee, which in structure is not much different to the majority of recruitment departments among Europe’s elite, needs to ditch its dysfunctional approach. The reports of Rodgers and the men who make up the centralised decision-making body – Mike Gordon, Ian Ayre, Barry Hunter, Dave Fallows and Michael Edwards – being involved in a Cold War of sorts is disconcerting, but it was inevitable.
Recruitment should not be about pleasing individuals, it is an indispensable tool to help a club deliver its objectives. Liverpool’s collective system has to throw out the ‘what I want’ mentality to trace a bigger picture. While Klopp’s cult of personality will initially perk up Anfield, to enjoy the taste of success again will first require everyone pulling in the same direction.
And for that, there needs to be clarity of vision.
What exactly is Liverpool’s transfer strategy? Is it to target undervalued talents from abroad? It is to attract potential and turn it into star power? Is it to scout Premier League proven subjects? Is it to shop at Southampton’s club store? Is it to run the rule over players who are just below the fishing net of the financial heavyweights? There is no definitive answer to this question because the focus has altered more often than a Kardashian’s appearance.
When a recipe starts at Alexis Sanchez, yet the method produces Mario Balotelli, every bit of the procedure is clearly flawed.
The plan off the pitch is intelligible: ensure Liverpool become a commercial heavyweight. There is no such distinction around implementing actual football ideas, though.
There needs to be an uncompromising strategy – like at Southampton and Swansea – which does not adapt to suit a specific manager or trend. It should not swing and slip and confuse those already in Melwood’s corridors, let alone the recruits they’re trying to acquire. It needs to be the club’s agenda, both long- and short-term, and needs to be identifiable, effective and cannot be susceptible to any egos.
Moreover, there needs to be accountability when the strategy is not implemented correctly. Currently, individuals could argue that they haven’t been doing their jobs to the best effect because of the discord in vision. You can’t do something well, if you aren’t exactly sure what that something is. And how do you hire the right people when you’re unsure of exactly what it is you’re enlisting them to achieve?
Rodgers’ fate may have ultimately been decided by poor results and an erosion of faith, but it is no surprise that the dithering in decision making translated to dithering on the pitch.
Upon axing him, Fenway Sports Group stated: “Ambition and winning are at the heart of what we want to bring to Liverpool and we believe this change gives us the best opportunity to deliver it.”
But the owners have to modify things well beyond the makeover in management to attain the success they constantly speak of.
Next week heralds five years of FSG in charge at Liverpool, and while they have had plenty of good intentions and commercial injections, they have twisted and turned too much.
Rodgers may be gone, but the title of his 180-page dossier is still apt: ‘One Vision, One Club’.
FSG have to define exactly what that singular stance is, make sure they have the very best people to implement it, and ensure it sticks.