Des Kelly: Kenny Dalglish is wrong

Fact is Kenny, you're wrong about Liverpool's season

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UPDATED:

01:49 GMT, 24 March 2012

'Actual data means more than individual perception and belief' – John W Henry

Kenny Dalglish believes people need to look beyond the bare statistics if they are to gain the true measure of Liverpool’s season. The trouble is his owners don’t agree. Or at least they never have done before.

The Anfield manager sneered that anyone who dared question how a club could be seventh in the table after shelling out 113.5 million on players needed an IQ test.

‘People should take an intelligence check,’ he said. ‘Judging our performance by league position alone is disrespectful. There’s a bigger picture.

Point to prove: Kenny Dalglish remains convinced Liverpool's performance this season has been admirable

Point to prove: Kenny Dalglish remains convinced Liverpool's performance this season has been admirable

'In 30 years' time it will be recorded that Liverpool won the Carling Cup — and maybe the FA Cup — in 2012. If that happens the league position will be overlooked.'

That is an interesting argument. I’m not sure I can recall last year’s League Cup winners, never mind go back 30 years, but then I haven’t had my intelligence checked lately.

Let’s see, who did win the League Cup in 1982 Was it Luton Town (No, that was 1988); Oxford United (1986); Norwich City (1985). Ah, here it is.

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Liverpool won the League Cup 30 years ago in the days when the pot was something they used to prop open the door of their trophy cabinet while they filled it with title silverware and European Cups.

But like me, you’d probably forgotten that.

There is no doubt a cup double would add a sheen to this disappointing Premier League campaign, but the concept that Liverpool should be judged on more than their league placing is odd coming from Dalglish of all people.

He is exactly the sort of old school, been-there, got-the-league-medals-to-prove-it type of manager who has wearily trotted out the line that ‘the table doesn’t lie’ in countless spiky press conferences.

Do you think Dalglish would have complained it was ‘disrespectful’ to judge Liverpool on their league position when they were finishing in first place Of course not.

Even so, he challenged the media directly at Melwood the other day, saying: ‘If anyone thinks that the return we’ve had is a true reflection of the way we’ve played then speak up now.’ According to the Liverpool Echo, ‘the silence was deafening’.

I wonder if there will be a similar silence in the boardroom at the end of the season if the Liverpool boss tries to offer up a similar plea in mitigation

The Scot has a problem, you see. While he might view his Liverpool world through rosy-red-tinted spectacles and demand a subjective, broader analysis of his performance, his bosses are known for advocating something different.

Cup runs are fine; chatter that the academy is about to bear fruit is encouraging and maybe the match-day catering has improved too, who knows But I doubt John W Henry will feel he requires an ‘intelligence check’ if he prefers to measure success by the essential numbers.

The principal owner of Liverpool and head of the Fenway Sports Group made his considerable fortune that way. He stopped listening to ‘gut instincts’ in the stock market.

Done enough Liverpool ended a six-year trophy drought with a penalty shootout win over Cardiff

Done enough Liverpool ended a six-year trophy drought with a penalty shootout win over Cardiff

Done enough Liverpool ended a six-year trophy drought with a penalty shootout win over Cardiff

He stripped away any sentiment and ignored the received wisdom of the old guard to apply rigorous statistical analysis to all his decisions. It paid off.

In Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball, which charts the story of the Oakland A’s general manager Bill Beane as he builds a record-breaking outfit on a low budget, JW Henry is described as a ‘new kind of rich person’.

It says: ‘He had an instinctive feel for the way statistical analysis could turn up inefficiencies in human affairs.’

I’ll bet he curses himself every day for not studying the Andy Carroll numbers a little more closely for potential ‘inefficiencies’.

Hollywood ending: Brad Pitt as Billy Beane

Hollywood ending: Brad Pitt as Billy Beane

Henry also saw parallels between stock market ‘beliefs’ and sporting dogma. He said: ‘People in both fields operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage.’

So I’m not sure Dalglish can shrug off the data so easily or claim the League placing is not a fair measure. The bizarre assertion that he wouldn’t swap a cup run for a top-four finish and a seat among European football’s elite is hardly going to endear him to the statisticians, either.

At this point, let me expand Henry’s quote at the top of the article where he set out his principles and approach to the business of sport in a letter to an ESPN reporter.

‘Many people think they are smarter than others in baseball and that the game on the field is simply what they think it is through their set of images/beliefs. Actual data means more than individual perception/belief. The same is true in baseball.’

Now go back and replace baseball with football and you’ll see Dalglish and Henry are bound to be singing from different songsheets, which might explain some of the manager’s more eccentric public pronouncements of late.

But set aside what Henry would regard as Dalglish’s ‘perception/ beliefs’ and look at some of that ‘actual data’ he will be presented with:

January 8, 2011: Dalglish returns to Anfield.June 2011: Transfer market outlay hits 133.5 million.Mar 14, 2011: Liverpool’s league position seventh. They are 28 points behind Manchester United and 12 points away from fourth place.In 2012, Liverpool have won just two of 10 League games and lost four of the last five.Revenue lost by missing out on Champions League — approximately 30m.Stewart Downing, a 20m signing, has recorded precisely no league goals and no assists either. According to OPTA he has created 47 chances — at a cost of 425,321 per chance.Andy Carroll, a 35m signing, has made only 20 starts, at a cost of 1.75m per game. He has scored five goals, at 7m each. OPTA say his shooting accuracy is 42.6 per cent.I’m not sure we can review 16m Jordan Henderson’s numbers without medication.On the plus side, Liverpool’s defensive record has improved. They have conceded fewer goals (29) than every Premier League club bar the top two.
But they have also scored only as many goals as Roy Hodgson’s West Brom (35) and fewer than Blackburn, Norwich, Fulham and seven other Premier League clubs.

So overall, it is fair to say the numbers sitting on Henry’s desk are fairly grim.

There seems no appetite to replace Dalglish right now and Henry and Co are too smart to make rash public pronouncements. But the Scot will be under extraordinary pressure from here on in.

Must do better: 20m Stewart Downing has struggled since his summer move to Anfield

Must do better: 20m Stewart Downing has struggled since his summer move to Anfield

This was a season when Chelsea were weak and Arsenal faltered and yet Liverpool never looked capable of taking advantage.

Now there are reports that Dalglish is lobbying for another 50m to buy seven players in the summer. That might not be such a straightforward deal in the circumstances.

I spoke to the American sport legend Beane this week (played by Brad Pitt in the Moneyball film). He told me he still talks to Henry, but hasn’t discussed Liverpool directly with him. However, as he made clear previously, he is certain throwing money at a sporting problem doesn’t always work.

‘What you don’t do is what the New York Yankees do,’ said Beane. ‘If we do what the Yankees do, we lose every time because they’re doing it with three times more money than we are.’

You will not be surprised to hear Henry once tried to lure Beane to run the Boston Red Sox end of his sporting empire. But you might be surprised to hear Beane is in contact with Liverpool’s director of football Damien Comolli and the two are friends.

Keeping you interested John W Henry knows his investment deserves more than a League Cup...

Keeping you interested John W Henry knows his investment deserves more than a League Cup…

... like the World Series, for example, which his Boston Red Sox won in 2007

… like the World Series, for example, which his Boston Red Sox won in 2007

Henry has no appetite for chasing Manchester City, United or Chelsea in terms of cash spend, more so now Liverpool have missed out on Champions League revenue for the third year in succession. He described the need for a ‘sound financial landscape’ as ‘critical’.

To make things more uncomfortable for Dalglish, Liverpool sit just three points ahead of Swansea City, who are essentially the Premier League’s living embodiment of the Moneyball philosophy — where rejuvenated rejects and bargain discoveries operate in a low-wage environment and yet punch way above their weight.

Brendan Rodgers assembled his side for about the same price as one of Carroll’s legs.

If Liverpool beat Wigan on Saturday they will still be seventh. If they don’t there will be an outcry, but Dalglish will survive. Next season he will have to finish in the top four, or he’ll be out, because the table doesn’t lie now and it won’t next season either.

Get your kit on: The Team GB outfit

Get your kit on: The Team GB outfit

It's job done when people tear a strip off the new kit

The new England football kit was ‘too red’.

Now the new Team GB Olympic outfits are ‘too blue’.

They have both had the desired effect then – which is to get talked about.

Kit manufacturers love a good squabble, since this gives their product plenty of free publicity.

You only need look back at England’s all black rugby union strip at the last World Cup Finals for proof.

But the Olympic kit is stylish enough.

If any of the competitors win a medal they will drape themselves in the Union Flag anyway. If they don’t, the outfits mean we can pretend they’re French.

In the meantime, Nike and adidas will bicker over slogans, advertising straplines and other twaddle all the way through the Olympics.

So what

Every time I read this nonsense, my yawn grows large enough to require a hurricane name.

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He refused to do what he was told, flounced out of the country, sulked for months and is only back at Manchester City to patch up some of his battered reputation before he disappears in the summer.

I had a lot of respect for Roberto Mancini for the way he would not bend to the Argentine prima donna and to City as well for backing their manager.

But they’ve all climbed down, expediency and amorality is the order of the day and, whether it works or not, I regard it as a great shame.

Glory, glory

Rio Ferdinand says he has noticed more glory-hunting Manchester City fans have been coming out of the woodwork lately. This is probably not an area of debate that a Manchester United player should ever wander into.