Having worked for several years as the analyst on Rafa Benitez’s technical staff, and as my expertise is specifically analysing statistics, data and matches to give Rafa the necessary information to improve team performance, I believe that I have some authority to comment on recent events having benefited from working so closely with him.
At the ‘Audience’ on 16 October at the Liverpool Empire Theatre, Rafa used as illustrations some figures and data which are already in the public domain, because they have already been documented by people like Jim Boardman, Paul Tomkins and Andrew Beasley amongst others, when analysing his 6 years at Liverpool. And as much as some people would like to re-write history, these figures will always be irrefutable in the eyes of the more objective analyst.
Many subjects were dealt with on the night but one especially stood out for me and that was Rafa’s press conference before the Stoke game - the famous ‘facts’ press conference. I believe that, as Andrew Beasley has made clear in his analysis (which can be found on the Internet), the points’ average per match before the game with Stoke was 2.25 and at the end of the season ended up 2.28, both of which are normally Premier League title winning averages. The 4-1 Liverpool win at Old Trafford was not enough to win the title because the fact that Manchester United had 2 games in hand due to their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup and that their points’ average was ultimately 2.6 was decisive in them winning the title. These were the key factors and not the above-mentioned press conference, however much some people like to repeat it.
Another subject covered on the night was the squad value before and after Rafa Benitez’s spell as Manager. The value of the squad left by Houllier, and these figures are easily checked, was around £120 million whereas the value of the squad bequeathed to Hodgson by Benitez was around £240 million. We are talking about a figure of around double the value, so I cannot see how it could be construed as a step backward when it is the opposite. The evidence is also incontrovertible that the International standing of the players at the club was raised (players like Gerrard and Carragher) added to also by the arrival of players like Luis Garcia, Alonso, Agger, Kuyt, Skrtel, Torres, Johnson, Mascherano, Reina… Some of these players are still there, contributing to the team, and have an approximate current market value of about £80 million.
When we consider the expenditure on signings, we have to look at the context in which they happened. The value of each of the squads of Arsenal, who had just won the title, United, with players of top quality from their Academy alongside multimillion pound signings, and Chelsea, who had become the ‘nouveau riche’ with Abramovich’s arrival, was at least £100 million more than that of Liverpool. This can also be easily verified as we are talking about stark figures. To compete with these teams from this position of disadvantage and with a lower budget was certainly difficult. Selling players at the right time whilst buying players with potential to improve the club and at the same time win trophies is extremely complicated but, in spite of this, he managed it. It’s like when you buy a house and you want to buy a better one but don’t have the money to buy it outright. You have to sell your house and go to the bank for help. And if you have to do this year after year, the amount you spend is not only important but also the value you put on your current house and that you sell it at the time it is worth the most.
Therefore, we prefer to talk about net spend on signings which, after the sale of Torres and Mascherano, will amount to about £4 million, although without having access to the official figures. As I said before, the figures are there to be analysed but to do it correctly and clearly, you have to take in to account all the circumstances.
When you look at the squad Rafa left, you also have to remember that 7 of the 11 players who remained from his time started the game against United on the day before the Audience, 15 October. Also, since Rafa’s departure, Liverpool, led by Christian Purslow and Roy Hodgson signed Jones, Fabio Aurelio (he had finished his contract but they renewed it a month later), Konchesky, Wilson, Meireles, Poulsen and Joe Cole. 7 players in total. Enough to improve the squad? The truth is that some of them are no longer there and, of those who are, none of them are usually in the starting line-up.
Moreover, the new American owners have supported Comolli and Dalglish by buying players like Luis Suarez, Carroll, Doni, Jose Enrique, Adams, Henderson, Bellamy and Coates. In total, 8 players who, added to the other 7, gives them 15 as the basis of the squad. So in future when people talk about the past they should be more specific – the immediate past? medium term past? distant past?
Directly related to this subject of squad and signings, at the Audience on the 16th, Rafa spoke as well about the economy of the club and the recent references that have been made on the internet.
(Data published in http://tomkinstimes.com/2011/06/fair-play-for-fenway/)
(From the same source. Includes the revenue from matches, commercial revenue and TV etc)
The improvement of Liverpool FC from an economic point of view since Rafa’s arrival is clear. And the logical explanation is the sporting success along with the business side, but above all the participation in the Champions League, reaching 2 finals, 2 semi-finals, quarter-finals and group stages is what generated most revenue, directly and indirectly, as the team progressed in the competition. This data is also there for all to see and analyse.
With the data we have from the internet, and it appears to be correct, the estimated revenue from the progression in Europe was about £140 million which, coupled with the buying and selling of players and other income, makes an increase of revenue from about £91 million in 2003-4 to £184 million in 2009-10, Rafa’s last season. We are talking here of a more than £90 million increase in economic terms as well as some legendary games to remember and more than one trophy. Is this not successful management by the Manager in today’s climate?