Big News At Anfield

So, it would appear that the big news that Liverpool supporters everywhere have been waiting for - a buyer has been found and there seem to be only some minor formalities standing between LFC and new ownership.  So, here's a quick rundown of what we know and are reasonably able to project (keeping in mind that it really can't get worse - the question is how much better can it get and how quickly?):

The Facts
The Tom John Henry-led New England Sports Ventures (which also includes investment from the New York Times Company) owns the Boston Red Sox.

Mr. Henry's personal fortune (significantly under $1 Billion) is probably not what Liverpool fans are looking for - he's no Saudi oil heir or Internet gazillionaire.

He has had success in his ownership of running the Red Sox which went from being a much beloved but ultimately unsuccessful team over the course of 80+ years to winning two championships shortly after he took over.  

The Opinion
This is not going to be a Chelsea/Man Citeh approach where Henry/NESV is just going to throw money at every player that moves.  The rise of the Red Sox was predicated on innovation in the use of statistical analysis in evaluating players and finding relative bargains based on how other clubs were evaluating players.  I won't get into the details because if you don't know about baseball, it will all be a bit too arcane and if you are into baseball, you probably already know the "Money Ball" story and how it moved from Oakland to Boston.

What I see for Liverpool is a similar version of the same approach.  Henry will likely be very low visibility and he will likely try to find the Liverpool equivalent of Theo Epstein the "whiz kid" General Manager who is widely credited with building the Red Sox.  My sense is that Liverpool will approach success closer to the way Arsenal have under Wenger than any other model I can think of.  They are unlikely to compete for the biggest names but they'll develop their own formula for winning and look to buy undervalued players that fit that system.  From time to time, they'll compete for a big name that fits their system particularly well but they aren't going to go after every big name player and then try to figure out how to align those players once they're in place (we're looking at you Citeh).

Overall, I think this is a great outcome for Citeh Liverpool in the long term.  It may not satisfy the desire for a huge spending spree in January but I think it puts in the foundation for long term success.  I'd expect things to start looking up but a mid-table finish this season.  Next season, I'd expect a return to Europa Cup followed by a serious challenge for Champions League in two seasons and a serious run at the Premier League title within the next four or five years.

12 comments:

  1. Hey Neal, quality blog as usual - thanks for all that you guys put into this, as it is always informative and interesting.

    But (and you knew a "But" was coming!!)

    you may want to change the first line of the last paragraph, cos i think you meant Liverpool not Citeh!!

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  2. Might be a lofty prediction for title contenders under that method of building a club, at least in football. The major thing they'll have to compete with is the player leverage that exists today. E.g. a team gets a player for maybe below his cost; that player explodes and becomes a major talent; said player now wants top money, whether his contract is up or not, and strong arms the club into a move to a spending-spree club. Of course, you could replace that player, in theory, the same way you acquired him but then you have to take into account how many times you swing and miss on the projected upside of undervalued players.

    That said, I would be aLL FOR someone proving that you can build the right way and compete for the title every year. I know technically Arsenal is an example of this but until they put a full season together (or prove that they can keep their best players around -- the jury's still out on whether Cesc will leave) I'd have to say their model falls short of what's predicted above, at least in the scope of recent trends.

    But again, I'd love to see it happen and it's the perfect club (history, pedigree, fans, etc.) to prove it.

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  3. Watford along with some other Championship clubs have tried to implement a Moneyball style approach. It works in the Championship because the money available is about even. When I'm not on my phone I'll find the Guardian article on it.

    And if NESV are going to Liverpool then they should have a strategy in mind on how to get out of the Championship.

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  4. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Great article Neil!

    I'm curious to know if the new owners would think of 'Roy Hodgson' as the future of Liverpool. Would he be the perfect candidate for the job?

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  5. Liverpool fit the Red Sox model perfectly - long stretches between championships (1918-2004) and finding new and excrutiating ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A match made in heaven.

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  6. I sure hope NESV aren't fans of Bob Bradley

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  7. Birty3:10 PM

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2007/dec/30/newsstory.ussport

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  8. You know what?! Let's not look at Arsenal as an example. Let's go one better - Barca.

    Give me an owner who is committed to the club, and not to milking it (That's looking at you too, ManYoo).

    Give me sense and sensibility (I slept through the film). Give me a decent manager (I've been crying O'Neil's name in my sleep for the past year. I am told), or just let Roy finish what he's started.

    You don't need access to get a great club. Just the right frame of mind and the right people. Get me a boardroom with a footballing paradigm rather than just a pocket.

    This season is dead. Long live the next season!!!
    Hicks and Gill... this one's for you

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  9. And by access I mean excess. D'oh!

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  10. Could it not be argued (there was an excellent telegraph article about it today) that a large part of the Red Sox success was based on good business use of their TV rights...which cannot be done with liverpool.

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  11. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I'd say go buy NESV and get bargains on Citehs' rejects.


    Mizol

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