So Liverpool’s Director of Football Strategy, Damien Comolli, has left Anfield.
Let’s take a look at what this means for Liverpool:
1. This Season Has Not Been Good Enough
In the past weeks, Reds fans have been starting to voice their concerns about this season’s performances, and rightly so.
With a dismal record since the turn of the year, Liverpool have clearly underperformed, and a Carling Cup victory—which was achieved on the back of an unconvincing 120 minutes and required several strokes of luck in the ensuing penalty shootout—requires FA Cup success to be added onto it for 2011-2012 to be considered even slightly successful.
Because Liverpool currently find themselves in the worst position in the Premier League in recent memory.
And Damien Comolli seems to have been the first to pay the price.
2. New Signings Should Feel the Pinch
Whatever the claims of who makes the final decision on player transfers, Liverpool’s signings under the tenure of Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli, generously bankrolled by John Henry and FSG, have not delivered.
While Dalglish might still be staunchly backing his charges in press conferences and interviews, even the most blinded supporters would have to recognize that the majority of Liverpool’s signings since 2011 began have been vastly subpar.
Comolli’s departure seems to be an official confirmation of FSG’s realization.
Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll would do well to take note of recent proceedings.
3. Kenny Dalglish Is Under Increasing Pressure
Now that one half of the transfer team has had to leave Anfield, the spotlight will turn unequivocally to the other half—manager Kenny Dalglish.
Everyone will know by now that Dalglish’s return to the Liverpool hotseat hasn’t turned out to be the fairytale that so many envisioned—and Dalglish’s backers, who have been quick to point the finger at Comolli for the poor transfer record recently, have now had their main target for criticism removed.
Kenny Dalglish himself knows this as well. The pressure is well and truly on.
4. Cup Success Is Not Enough
Comolli’s departure also signals loudly to the backroom staff that a Cup Double—even if it can be attained—is not enough.
Way back in August last year, before the current season even started, John Henry sounded out his requirements for a Top Four finish in the Premier League this season, saying that it would be a “huge disappointment” if Liverpool didn’t qualify for the Champions League next season.
Six months later, Liverpool are further from that spot than they could possibly imagine.
Considering that players are signed to perform over the course of a season rather than merely in knockout competitions, Comolli’s exit shows that while silverware is important, league placing is ultimately more important for the competitiveness of the Club in Europe—and for the Club’s coffers.
5. Moneyball Is on the Verge of Failing
When FSG first arrived back in 2010, John Henry brought with him the famed Moneyball strategy that had served him so well in Major League Baseball with the Boston Red Sox, and Damien Comolli was supposed to spearhead a new transfer policy with this in mind.
Signing and picking players based on statistics and numbers seemed to be a perfect strategy in football—except it hasn’t proved so.
Selling players in case of bids over their supposed worth—as seen in Fernando Torres’ whirlwind departure for Chelsea in January 2011—and overpaying for deficient areas—as seen in Andy Carroll’s last-minute arrival as Torres’ replacement—are both seen as important components in Moneyball.
But, as a Sabotage Times article has put it nicely, “perhaps the chalkboard should always come first; the spreadsheet comes second.”
6. There’s More Behind the Scenes Than Meets the Eye
John Henry and his boardroom team have often said that they are still getting to grips with English football.
But, as seen in the sudden turnaround of events during the Luis Suarez racism scandal, when both Suarez and Kenny Dalglish apologized for their controversial contributions in the aftermath of the visit to Manchester United’s Old Trafford, FSG have played their hand in subtle ways.
Some supporters might have been querying the thoughts of Henry across the Atlantic on Liverpool’s current plight.
It seems that FSG have always been paying attention—just that they prefer to go about their business behind the scenes.
7. FSG Mean Business
Which is a good sign for all those involved at Liverpool.
Especially after the tumultuous reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the fans want to see an owner who cares about the immediate fortunes of the Club.
The players want to see a Club who has a clear direction from the top.Dispensing of Comolli might have been a ruthless decision, but it might prove to be an inspired one—a decision that will have been taken for the good of the Club.
FSG mean business—and Comolli found out the hard way.
8. Kenny Dalglish Must Deliver This Summer
With Comolli out of the way, the sole decision-maker in Liverpool’s transfers will presumably be Kenny Dalglish.
Another summer of extravagant spending to no avail will be absolutely not tolerated by either his employers or Reds fans.
If he is still trusted with the Club’s money.
9. Another Revolution Might Be on the Horizon
Will a Cup Double be Dalglish’s only saving grace this season? Or will he ultimately pay the price for failing to lead Liverpool to a Champions League finish?
Only time will tell if Dalglish is still in the job come next season—but regardless of his job status, another revolution might be coming for Liverpool.
Transfer-wise, this summer might be the one where FSG abandon their Moneyball principles and allow signings to be made on a “chalkboard,” rather than “spreadsheet,” basis.
According to the Telegraph, Comolli claimed just a few weeks ago that Liverpool fans should not expect a great deal of summer activity this year—but perhaps we’re in for a ride yet.
10. Liverpool’s Future Might Be Bright After All
One thing’s for certain—John Henry and FSG have shown that they are willing to make big decisions when the situation calls for it.
The players—especially the underperformers—would do well to take heed of this message.
The coaching staff would do well to notice that no one’s job is ever safe. (The Telegraph reports that FSG have already requested an end-of-season explanation of this season’s travails.)
All of which means that, with owners willing to take decisive and calculated action, Liverpool fans should be confident of having a sound team backing their beloved Reds.
Liverpool’s present might be in all sorts of trouble, but Liverpool’s future might just turn out to be bright after all.