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Comolli Steps Down

It was only yesterday that I was reading that the current Liverpool owners would almost definitely be looking to change things up at the coaching level.  It is what they did with their baseball club when they took over and were looking for results and it was a strategy that seemingly worked.  It was suggested that the same would be true of Liverpool, but many questions remained.  Who would face the sack, when would it happen, and who would be brought in?

I personally expected that maybe nothing would be done until the end of the season, but I was proved wrong with the mutually agreed departure of Comolli.  The timing may have been one surprise, but the person who went first was a slightly bigger surprise.  How much say did Comolli have in the final signings and is he to blame for our signings not being effective?  Is he being let go because he failed in his goals? Is he being asked to leave because of bigger changes at the club?

Let’s start with how much he had to say in the signings.  From my understandings, Comolli was responsible for finding the talent, but his role was to present Kenny with a list of options for him to pick from.  Not sure how many options he gave Kenny to pick from, but it was my understanding that the final decisions rested with Kenny.  If Kenny didn’t like somebody he could (at least in theory) have told Comolli where to stick it.

So how much is he to blame for the under performances of those players?  Each player that was bought was bought for something specific.   Luis Suarez was supposed to come in and play with Torres.  When Torres left the new owners were left with a short time to buy a new striker.  They couldn’t come into this club and look like the “Old Lot” so Andy Carroll was brought in.  To the casual observer this made sense, as we now had a big target man, who was doing well enough in the Premiership, and a smaller striker who many thought would be coming in to mop up the scraps.  Hard to tell how to judge Comolli on this one.  Had he had plenty of time to set this up then you’d have to say he failed.  You would think that any decent team has a scouting network in place that would have told them that whilst Andy Carroll was indeed a target man, Luis Suarez likes to do most of his work starting from outside the box.  However, we have to bear in mind the little time left for the new owners to not make the wrong statement in that January window.

In the summer, with Carroll already at the club it seemed that he was going to become the priority.  In came players who had one major thing going for them.  Assists.  Early on in the season, when Lucas was uninjured, people were waxing lyrical about how great Adam was, and how he was a bargain compared to the other signings.  Downing has statistically proven that he has performed as well this season as last season, Henderson has been mostly invisible but he is also being played out of position.  The most telling problem to me has been that these players, who seemed to have been bought to compliment Carroll, rarely ever seemed to play with Carroll.  Is that Comolli’s fault?  The answer surely has to be no.

So did Comolli fail in his task?  Comolli was tasked with the job of finding players that were not quite stars, but could be moulded into stars; players that were not already priced at a premium.  He was to do that with the use of stats and ideally be looking to buy young players, ideally English players that would fit into the team.  The key statistic appeared to be assists.  The biggest problem he faced, however, was that every team now knew that Liverpool had new owners in place that wanted to send the fans the “right” message.  Every team knew, with the purchase of Carroll at 35 million, that Liverpool once again had the cash, and they used it to their advantage.  Add to that the ridiculous premium that is placed on British players, and suddenly problems were evident.  The players picked, in my opinion, all fell into the right categories.  Neither of them were massive stars, they were all young, and each had put up decent statistics, but with them being British, and with Liverpool having the cash, suddenly prices just seemed to sky rocket.

I also think that we were still looking for one more striker, one that would do his work mostly in the box, but we just failed to get him.  Otherwise, the signing of Henderson, to me, makes little sense.  His assists tended to be from the middle of midfield, into the box, along the floor.  Neither Carroll nor Suarez would seem to be perfectly suited to that.  Maybe just maybe that last piece of the puzzle just proved to be elusive.  Are these things all Comolli’s fault?  Maybe.  There really was no need for him to go out there and tell people what out strategy was going to be.  It instantly made teams realise what the plan was.  They would see the plan as an attempt from Liverpool to buy bargains, and no club wants to be seen as having sold a player as too cheap, let alone for a bargain price.

So perhaps, Comolli leaving is an indication of bigger things changing at Liverpool.  I do not necessarily think that anybody will replace Comolli.  He seemed to do his role in the expected manner, but was unfortunate that so many players underperformed this season.  It was not just his signings either, as plenty of those left over also failed to play up to their high standards.  The question remains whether the owners have decided that they had to get rid of Comolli to unshackle Kenny; or whether the release of Comolli is just a signal by the owners to a potential new manager that if they wish to take over, they would have full reigns?

Whilst Comolli did his job and looked to sign players based on statistics, it never seemed to me to be Kenny’s way.  Here was a man who was all about the passion of the game, yet he was being given a list of players selected based purely on statistics.  Nothing can be less passionate in the game of football that cold hard statistics.  You can’t measure the hunger to win, that ability to go the extra mile for the club, or the will to put your body on the line for your team mates.  So maybe Kenny will get one more season, but this time he gets to do it his way.  He gets to do it the Liverpool way.

There is of course the other alternative.  Kenny is by no means young.  Sure managers can stay in the game a little longer, and there is no doubting Kenny’s passion for both the game and the club.  However, I can’t necessarily see him doing this for another 10 years or so.  By the time he builds the club, he would be maybe looking to step out of the management role and that benefits nobody.  I’m not saying that Rafa would be the ideal man to replace Kenny, but I also couldn’t see him taking on the role at Liverpool whilst Comolli was in charge of transfers.  Yes Rafa loved his statistics, but if there was one thing he complained about when he was in charge it was that he was never allowed to buy who he wanted.  He complained that he would be given 12 million but told that it had to be used on a defender or on a certain player.  I assume that it’s not just Rafa either, I would assume that a number of top managers would prefer to be in full control of their transfer policy.  Sure they’d have their scouts but they would like to be able to narrow that list down themselves, or tell the scouts who they should be looking at.

Of course, whatever ends up happening, one thing is certain.  With this being a European Championship summer, transfer dealings will certainly not be easy.  Once you take out the weeks lost because of the competition itself, you have to factor in massive price hikes for players that perform well at the competition, on top of the unknown factor of any new talent cropping up and clouding judgements.

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