Monday Dec 2Posted by: Kaushal Goyal  Comments Off

The Squad Depth Dilemma

From ‘we have a huge wage-bill’ and ‘there’s just too much deadwood’ and ‘don’t we have plenty of midfielders?’ to ‘this squad lacks depth’. We get the entire spectrum of these ‘reasonings’ alternatively, and equally.

I understand there’s a difference between ‘deadwood’ and ‘squad depth’ but am I to believe that a Maxi Rodriquez wouldn’t have added depth to the squad? May be not in terms of the salary he was drawing but he would have added depth to the squad nonetheless and who can ascertain the value of 3-points dropped at KC Stadium? The ‘merit payments‘ from Premier League mean that Liverpool lost almost £800k by finishing 7th and not 6th; and almost £2.3m by not finishing 4th. And that’s just from the Premier League. Needless to mention the extra £40m or that don’t come in from the Champions League revenue (but that would also mean more players at higher wages so we cannot directly compare). The merit payment difference between 4th and 7th alone would have covered at least half of Maxi’s reported wages but, more importantly, would have covered both Suso and Borini in entirety!

It is not that we don’t know how well we’ve played upfront with two strikers – Sturridge came in January and Borini was loaned in August. We’ve also known all along how fragile Sturridge is. So why loan Fabio? Well, that’s the difference between where we are and where we should be. With no European football whatsoever, there was hardly any assured football for him.

Had we played Europa, we would need plenty like Fabio to pitch in and even then we wouldn’t have kept the first choice XI out of Europa and even then we wouldn’t be assured of any success in the tournament – one bad night (Zenit) and it all counts to nothing. Even if we did go all the way, the financial reward is nowhere near the cost needed to participate in these tournaments – a £5m extra revenue only supports 3 or 4 fringe players. Since we don’t have Europa, players like Fabio Borini get limited opportunities and since they are younger, with greater ambitions, they want to play more often to prove their worth not just in the team they are but also to the football fraternity not least to the national coach. This is where slightly ‘older’ players do well as backups.

Having said that, we bought Iago Aspas (26 years old) probably as a back up to ‘SAS’ and since he was given the number 9 shirt, I am inclined to believe that he may not be all that bad. What is he in the team for if he does not replace an striker – not even for a part of the 90 minutes? The other ‘older’ player we bought, Kolo Toure, who was supposed to be a back-up and be the ‘Carra like influence’ in the dressing room, plays in place of arguably one of the best players in our side – Daniel Agger! Kolo is a good player but at best, he should be alongside Agger, and not in place of him. I am not knowledgable enough to know what’s wrong with our defence. All I can understand is that we were good defensively in 11-12 but not since. The only thing that’s changed? Steve Clarke.

And then we have Jordan Henderson. I, and probably the whole of LFC community, absolutely love players like him and Dirk Kuyt – who give their 110% on the field every single time they pull on the shirt. But I also remember the famous words used when he was sent away – that unfortunately for him he plays in a position where we have a certain Steven Gerrard. However, Steven Gerrard isn’t playing as the CAM anymore. I suppose there are very few who can be better than Stevie at CAM for Liverpool and Jordan doesn’t make that list for me yet. From what I understand, Stevie, however below par, is deemed to be better than Henderson and Allen at DM and Lucas alone can’t be the single DM that Rodgers so passionately spoke about a year or so ago. That begs the question – why didn’t we sign another DM in the summer?

Again, I suppose the answer lies in the number of competitions we are participating in. Lucas and another DM wouldn’t be justified if we are participating in Premier League alone. Younger players don’t want to just sit around and wait for someone to get injured to get a chance. And older players won’t stay or sign on reduced wages.

How do we get the balance? We need more games to play in so the bench is kept warm enough. And we need the reward from participating in these tournaments to be better than the cost of participating in them. We need Europe, and not just the Europa kind. Oh, and a defensive coach.

Wednesday Apr 24Posted by: Kaushal Goyal  8 Comments »

The kid everyone likes to bash

Let’s state the obvious and get done with it – The bite wasn’t a pleasant thing to watch. It shouldn’t be a part of the game and definitely not come from a Liverpool player. It is indefensible.

But… was it as vile as the tabloids make it out to be? Some said they’ll never vote for him at the FOTY. Mail called Suarez ‘shameless’ in contesting the suggested more than 3-game ban. The word ‘cannibal’ is thrown around at every opportunity. Some said fine was alright but throw him out. Some said Tyson was banned for life, so should Suarez be. These tabloids appealed to supposed higher values at Liverpool FC to throw Luis out. My question is: if Liverpool were to sell him, would that mean that the buying club has lesser morals than LFC? And why did Luis do it? Yes he was frustrated and there could have been that incident that some reported happened in the tunnel. But if he wanted to hurt Ivanovic, wouldn’t he be better off elbowing or kicking him? Biting was a childish reaction. He plays his football with a child’s enthusiasm and energy and immunity to injury. He also gets frustrated and reacts like a child.

The ‘papers’ like to overstate things. ‘Suarez sunk his teeth’ – really? How do you define that? How many millimeters into the skin is ‘sinking’? Is there a measurement? Did his teeth really do any deeper than touching the outer layer of skin? Bite, tried to sink etc sounds right… ‘sink’ is downright exaggeration.

The photos and quotes from Suarez’s past ‘mistakes’ are so readily available with these ‘journalist’s’ that it would be classified as stalking if they were not journalists. The handball against Ghana? He was playing for his country, for f**k’s sake! How many wouldn’t do that? Lampard, Terry, and even Gerrard would have been lauded had they done that and they would have done that. How is the handball relevant in the biting case? Except it lets the ‘journalist’ tell himself (and no one else except the FA) that he is making a compelling point.

Luis Suarez was at fault. But he has never denied that. Even in the Evra case, he could have said he never uttered anything but he didn’t. There was no evidence and only Evra’s word against his. Given Evra’s past with false accusation, Luis could have come out scot-free. Even on Sunday he was first to admit his mistake. There’s a list of incidents far more dangerous and with far more malicious intent than his ‘bite’ and with far lesser punishments, none in some cases.

– Going two-footed to break someone’s leg, end their career in the guise of winning the ball – red card & a 3 game ban (none if the ref was playing an upbeat song on his iPod before coming on to the field)
– Swiping the elbow across someone’s face/nose/throat – No action (or yellow card depending on what the ref had for breakfast)
– Blatant racism caught on camera and seen all over the world – 4 game ban (increases to 8 if it is only alleged and can’t be seen on camera, could be more if someone on FA’s panel had a fight with his wife)
– Biting someone infront of the referee – yellow card and no ban (subject to the meal ref was offered and whether the player is British or not)
– Biting someone behind the referee – 10 game ban.

Well, here are things that Suarez could have done instead:
– could have broken Ivanovic’s legs
– could have broken his nose with the elbow
– could have called the referee to look in his direction before biting so the ban would only be 3 games. (Stupid Luis! He should have known better specially since the Prime Minister of the country he is playing in takes these matters so seriously.)

In a recent Europa game, Fernando Torres was kicked while lying on the ground and it broke his nose. While chasing a lost cause we see a player pushed into the advertising boards. Birmingham’s Martin Taylor broke a leg and was sent off and banned for 3 games. The recipient couldn’t play for a full year. Definitely none of them were as dangerous as Luis’ bite. Some say that a bad tackle is a part of the gameplay but biting isn’t. Not saying biting is but neither is abusive language, getting pushed into the advertising, elbow on the face, or even getting abuse from the fans.

Luis Suarez is family. So whoever says he should be thrown out of the club can, write that statement on a piece of paper, roll it, and shove it where it should be shoved. We don’t throw family out. We stand by them.

But in any case… to hell with broken legs, shattered kneecaps, bloodied noses and fractured skulls. Forget racism and fans throwing missiles on the pitch. A bite on the arm is the worst of all so give it the biggest reprimand of all. A gory severed prosthetic arm being waived on the television definitely makes better TV than a bite. Role-models? Let the kids learn to fly into an opponent’s knees and open your mouth only to shout ‘f****ng black c**t’. I can only wish you ill, FA.

 

Tuesday Sep 4Posted by: Kaushal Goyal  13 Comments »

Why FSG?

The last 5 days have seen a bouquet of emotions, mostly negative. As if the Deadline Day (in)activity wasn’t sufficient, we didn’t do too well in the game against Arsenal and specifically laid bare our lack of options upfront. The question that’s asked and will be asked again and again in the next few months is simple – What if one of our strikers is injured or not at the peak of his form?

Let us take a look at the strikers/forwards/attackers who have been traded at this club since Jan 2011 –

Out – Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, David N’gog, Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Milan Jovanovic

In – Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini, Stewart Downing

(Craig Bellamy & Andy Carroll have been added and subtracted)

The numbers (headcount) doesn’t quite add up. However, when someone speaks about ‘prudence’ instead of calling it poetry what we will do well to understand how much money have we made by reducing the headcount from 6 to 3. The answer is none. Actually, we’ve spent £25m in the process! Agreed that Andy will have a sell-on value and it is not fair to not include his name in the list nor consider the money his sale would raise. So if Andy Carroll could be sold on for the reported £17m, the net spend on actually reducing our strike force has been £8m. This still does not take into account the monies paid for settling Jovanovic’s contract, agent fees for buying players etc. Similarly, wage savings aren’t included here for simplicity reasons. The point is simple – we’ve spent a lot of money for having fewer players!

Some might point out that we’ve added more midfielders but that isn’t the case either. Kenny added Henderson and Adam and sold Poulsen and Meireles while Rodgers added Allen and Sahin and sold Aquilani and Adam. Net change is zero but still have spent a lot of money in the process. A net of £19m spent without adding the numbers and the figure goes up to £30m if Sahin would have to be retained to keep the net headcount at zero. But £30m for having Sahin and Allen in the midfield instead of Meireles and Adam and Henderson on the bench instead of Poulsen? Agreed it is an upgrade but the value that should have been spent on the upgrade is an intangible for now. Let’s just say it neither fortifies nor dilutes the point made above.

JWH says: “We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes. It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over.” It is easy to dismiss it as passing the blame. But he does state clearly that their regime has made mistakes too. The above is a primary example of what kind of mistakes they’ve made.

Dwelling into FSG/LFC’s mistakes, first and foremost is the question of understanding the person(s) to blame for this farce, the one where we’ve spent to have fewer players. While that would be a futile exercise, it would explain some part of JWH’s letter. KD, while following football from the outside, was too far away from the business end of things for too long to have any sort of mastery in negotiations when he spent those megabucks. FSG were too new to ‘soccer’ by their own admission, DC was just a middle man, a go-through if you like, and IA was more of a Commercial Director than an MD. Moreover, no one person takes a multi-million pound buying decision by himself. So it is more of a collective failure from everyone involved than just person. As is said, the system failed. Digging deeper, of course the management, i.e. the owners, have to and do take more responsibility in putting that (non) system in place.

What’s frustrating here is the ‘what could have been aspect’ of the last 4 windows. In Jan 2011 we had a clean slate with only the deadwood to clear, about £50m-£70m in transfer budget for future windows and another £50m in incoming money from impending sale. In Aug 2012, we were still clearing deadwood, albeit both from the past as well as newly acquired.

I am going to reproduce the Aug’10-Jul’11 LFC accounts from a Swiss Ramble article to elaborate the ‘mistakes of previous regimes’ part:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The article (if you click on the image, it will take you to the original article) should help in understanding various aspects of the P/L but there’s a remarkable symmetry in the ‘2011’ column. If we take out the written off stadium expenses from it, it leaves us with £300k in net profits. That is also despite we sold Fernando Torres and his profit is accounted lump-sum while the purchases are amortized over the contract period. While there have been extraordinary reasons to the delicate balance of the table above like lack of Champions League football (and thus a straight miss of £30m+ in revenues) there are also the other subtle reasons like lack of commercial growth and increase in wages. Additions of players like Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic was down to the ‘previous regime’ as JWH pointed out. They bought players with low upfront costs and higher wages (mostly related to the player being available on free) so that while they would not have to increase their debt burden, the incoming regime would bear the salary burden. It was like having an upfront fee of a few million pounds amortized as incremental salary for the player. Letting Gylfi Sigurddsson go only because his acquisition would have been counter-productive to wage control was one such case. That said, Gylfi and Dempsey (non) deals also established something else in the market which I’ll cover later. The prominent number that came out from this summer’s transfer activity is the wage saving of £27 million or so.

Lack of commercial activity for whatever reasons has hurt too bad. What is apparent and well documented is how FSG have been working on those two aspects. But also noteworthy is that the commercial tie-ups are only just happening. The additional annual revenue from the Standard Chartered deal would be in 2011 accounts above. 2012 accounts would only show a marginal increase. In 2013 we would see some difference in those numbers with extra £13m from Warrior and a few more millions from the likes of Garuda, Chevrolet, Ramsey, Paddy Power, Stanley etc. However, even an optimistic estimation of those numbers would let us assume that the increase in commercial revenues would be around £25m.

In cash flow terms, spending £28m net at the beginning of the year and committing £7m in wages out of the £52m to be accumulated over the period of the year is not too bad a business considering some sum also have to be set aside for the January activity – £18m including the 6 months’ salaries for new signings. What can we expect within that kind of money? Say a £15m player with £100k/week wages. Any extra commercial activity and sales from squad would/should add to that budget. Also noteworthy is that, for the Dempsey deal, FSG were also prepared to spend £7-£9m in fees and wages.

What we did badly in 2011 was overpay for players. At times, we compensated for lack of Champions League not by offering less money but by more and thus weighing the seller’s decision in our favor despite the player not being entirely inclined. We lost Ashley Young and Phil Jones to the lack of CL football. We didn’t want to lose our second choice winger and matched whatever Villa quoted just so we could push the sale. While establishing a malfunctioning system was FSG’s fault, DC could have hedged those spendings by scouting for talented players who would have been cheaper as well as younger and more importantly, hungrier. That in turn established our image in the market as ‘big spenders’. Clubs quoted whatever they fancied and surprisingly Liverpool matched everyone’s asking price. From Newcastle to Sunderland to Villa to Blackpool, everyone benefited from FSG’s naivete as well as their eagerness to ‘buy wins’. A lesson was learnt. But while being rich is not a bad thing, what it does is make us unnecessarily pay over the top amounts for players who would otherwise be sold to others for much lesser. I presume it was a calculated gamble when FSG refused to pay Gylfi his desired wages only to send out the message: We don’t have as much money as you thing we do. In the same breath, Clint Dempsey was viewed as a value buy. As someone who was 29  and thus no sell-on value and into the last year of his contract, we thought he made sense specially in our transition year. If your car breaks down and you need to call a cab to go home, it may not make sense to call a limo. What would make even less sense would be to call a cab but pay limo’s price. What FSG did was establish boundaries with the valuations they perceived and remained true to those. It might have hurt us in the short term of 16 weeks but definitely would help us in the longer. Can’t have enough of those £22m Suarezes and Torreses or free agent Bellamies. The acceptable mistake of the Dempsey fiasco was not having a plan-B. The thing about deadline day dealings is that either you end up getting someone like VdV at great value, or end up paying way over the top like AC or end up getting no one at all. The last 4 windows have taught FSG all 3 of those.

Unless a Football Club is a billionaire’s boytoy, it can only be run as a business – a profitable business not built on debt and leverage but on strong top lines and tight expenses. For people with lesser means but higher aspirations, the reality comes to bite sooner or later. Be it Rangers or Everton or Portsmouth or LFC, a club simply cannot spend more than it earns. Debt, insolvency, administration are terms we weren’t very far off a few months ago. Let us not get into that again. UEFA FFP is an ideal case system that, if implemented, would probably see us rising to the top of financial stability and thus competitiveness on the field. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again – instead of a Sheikh or an Oligarch or a Venky’s or a Glazer or an Ashely, I’ll take an FSG to be the owners of the club I support.

YNWA!

@kaushal__

Thursday Aug 9Posted by: Kaushal Goyal  2 Comments »

How to Buy LFC Merchandise in India

For the Indian followers:

Almost all of you are aware that LFC’s kit manufacturer has changed from adidas to Warrior. Most of you would also know that Warrior does not have a presence in India. And only some of you know that you can buy authentic LFC merchandise in India thru Red Label – www.shopredlabel.com

Red Label, thru arrangements with suppliers, imports the Warrior kits in and accessories like training wear, footballs, bags, wallets, scarves etc in India and sells thru the above said website. The kits are still priced at £45’s INR equivalent and the shipping times and costs are drastically reduced as compared to the Indians buying it from the official store. Warrior also has an Asian market specific ‘fashion style’ LFC shirt which is similar to the home shirt but is knocked down on the fabric and is available for less than half the price. This is done specifically keeping in mind the price-sensitivity of the market. Thru Sporting iD, the official manufacturers of BPL Letters and Numbers, BPL Patches and Club specific name-numbers, Red Label offers the option to customers to customise their shirts with their desired names and numbers on the back in either PL or LFC-European style letters. These patches and name/numbers are available at a much lower price than you’d pay elsewhere.

The site also has a collection of unbranded (non-Warrior) but licensed LFC products to choose from. From playing cards to blankets to car stickers to footballs, the store has it all and items keep getting added to the portfolio. All Warrior and non-Warrior licensed LFC products come with an LFC hologram as  mark of authenticity.

Utilizing our association with Jamie’s 23 Foundation thru Steve Parry, their Asian ambassador, we also facilitate purchase of any Jamie signed memorabilia in Indian currency.

Finally, Red Label also manufactures and prints ‘fan-art’ t-shirts. The shirts are designed by some of the best known LFC designers-cum-fans, most notably Kit Nelson. The ‘Royal Tee’ by Kit was the first product to launch this line and the Royal Tee has already received great response. Red Label is one of the only two stores in the world licensed to sell Kit’s designs.

Finally, for those without a credit card, Red Label offers other payment options like Net-banking, Debit Card and bank-transfer for the young Indian fan.

This shameless plug is written only because I understand that most people in India aren’t aware of the store. YNWA!

Kaushal

Thursday May 17Posted by: Kaushal Goyal  7 Comments »

Double or Bust for FSG?

Yesterday was one of the saddest days in my living LFC memory. Still torn between whether the 2007 Final loss was more painful or did I feel worse when we lost the FA Cup final or when I finally conceded the title in 2009 after months of anticipation and years of hope. None are comparable but given that Kenny’s sack is freshest it remains the most painful one.

I was vocal in objections earlier when Kenny’s name was doing the rounds as the prospective manager of the club. Not because I doubted the man. Only because I feared the events of yesterday. The lasting memory of him that I would like the fans to have of him would have been of his pure delight and arms raised gesture towards the dugout when LFC scored a goal. What do you know, I will always remember him by that gesture and his childlike smile.

No parting ever is happy. Probably the ideal case scenario would have been for Kenny to have taken the two year contract and honed an Assistant Manager to take over the reigns when his contract expired. Had everything gone to plan, now would have been the time we would have been looking to appoint the future successor of Kenny. As it turns out, we are now looking at the successor either way. We all love Kenny. We all are so grateful to him for what he did in the past as well as how he rescued us when we were staring at abyss last January. Having said that, it is fair to assume that it is arguable to call 2011-12 a success. Kenny unselfishly served the club when the need arose. I would have liked him to have worked a way out if things did not go as per plan instead of defending what transpired on the field. At the risk of someone who would have wanted Kenny to go, I should clarify it couldn’t be further from the truth. I wanted him to stay. At least one more season. There are two major reasons for that – a. he was our biggest hero in the past season and a half. While that is obviously a testament to how big a man Kenny is, it also points out the lack of other star players, and b. because of the romance that Kenny’s second coming brought to the club. We would have liked it to have a happy ending. Pragmatically, if it had been anyone except Kenny, we would have probably wanted him to go in January, if not sooner.

I was also worried about the ‘Liverpool Way’ of only telling fans about things when there was anything concrete. However, all of us on twitter heard ‘confirmed, not rumors’ news from every media house before club came out with a statement about an hour later. While the way club conducts his business is well respected, the fans appreciate to hear things first from the club than from anyone else. Similar goes for other rumors, like Ayre came out with the statement dismissing reports that he’d been sacked too. The club will do well to understand that sometimes quashing rumors is more important from the fans’ perspective.

I still believe the FSG know what they are doing and in the business of running this club with good intentions. For lack of any evidence on the contrary, I would like to give them the ‘benefit of doubt’. If it’s a business and making money is their aim, it isn’t contradictory to the fans’ goal of success. There’s nothing that sells better than success. For them, it is an opportunity to start afresh. When they’d come in, they didn’t know much about the footballing business. They couldn’t look much beyond appointing a Director of Football and beyond Kenny for Manager. They might be a little more educated now. Still assuming they have noble intentions, what happens in the next two months would define their reign at Anfield. It is an important summer for both LFC as well as FSG’s ownership of LFC. It is all well and good to hear that FSG have a ‘plan’, an ‘ambition’ and that they are ‘winners’. Let’s see how that plan transpires over the next two months or so.

I doubt that they will give Kenny millions in severance pay just to hire someone like Roberto Martinez. It has to be someone whom they believe will take club closer to success. It would also mean that they need another substantial influx into the club in terms of new manager’s players. I doubt they would hire Rafa for they would fear being stuck in a similar situation sometime down the line and wouldn’t like to attract further criticism. I am holding my breath this summer for FSG to demonstrate their ambition. It is double or bust time for FSG. In the meantime, I would expect them to appreciate the fact that fans would be nervy in the next few months and would like them to connect with us better.

If we’re able to climb up the table and get into Champions League football next year, every fan would be over-the-moon. As a fan, there’s nothing that Kenny would want more.

YNWA, Kenny. You’ll forever be King.

Kaushal

Tuesday Apr 10Posted by: Kaushal Goyal  23 Comments »

Will Kenny Walk Alone?

15 months ago, a man nearing 60 with a well paying laid back job, at a place he loves, cut off his vacation cruise to hear your cries by taking on one of the most challenging jobs given the nature of the task at hand. Within 15 months, he has given us a trophy, he has brought us to within 180 minutes of another and he has given us many memorable wins. He helped us when we needed someone to lift the gloom. Today, when everything may not be working well for him, would we turn our backs on him? I will not. In Kenny I Trust.

When Kenny came back on, I was concerned about if the things didn’t work well. I didn’t want his last image at the club to be of a defeated or a failed manager. In fact, his answer to those queries pretty much summed up what Kenny is about. He thought he couldn’t not take the responsibility. Let’s be clear, he hasn’t done it for the money. He has made enough and was still having a decent job to probably take care of his needs and leave a little surplus. He did it because he felt he needed to do it for the club, for the fans, for us.

Very soon there was a swarm of Kenny t-shirts and replica shirts being bought by the fans. He was probably adored more than any other player at one point – Stevie was out injured, Torres had left. Fans would give him the keys to their house but suddenly there’s a lot of ‘blame Kenny’ on forums, social networking sites etc. However, let’s see what a task he had on his hands. He had to rebuild almost the entire team. Reina, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas are the only names that come to mind from the previous squad who get an automatic start. And then the bench was shoddy too. He bought his players and some click immediately, some a little while later and some don’t at all. While it is fair to say that some signings haven’t performed as well as they should have, wouldn’t it be a tough ask for more than half the team to come on board and start gelling well specially when they play ‘pass-and-move’ which needs more understanding among players? Anyway, I am not here to justify the results and I personally don’t like where we are in the league right now, nobody should. Let’s say that the past few weeks haven’t gone Kenny’s way. Meaning he isn’t having a great time and my question to the fans is whether we will turn our backs on him when he needs us the most? Would you let him walk alone? I wouldn’t. I’m sure the owners wouldn’t either. I’m confident that the players he command would never. Would you?

YNWA!

Kaushal