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I joined just over 3,000 fans at the Racecourse ground for this match, although I am not an official Wrexham fan, I still cheer for the home side like any other, wishing them to do well.

I decided before I left that I would write a match report for this game, little did I know I would happen upon one of the most eventful games I can ever remember, goals galore and almost as much action off the pitch as on it.

I’ll start by apologising for the length of this post, match reports aren’t normally this long but being as this game was so eventful, I felt the whole story needed to be told.

After seven straight wins expectation was high going into the double header against Crawley, but despite arguably being the better side over the two matches the dragons only took 1 point.

That leads us to todays match against Gateshead, the home side make two changes, Marvin Andrews comes in at centre back for Frank Sinclair and the hugely influential Jay Harris returns after suspension to replace Jamie Tolley. 

Wrexham (4-3-3) – Maxwell, McMillan, Ashton, Andrews, Creighton, Blackburn, Harris, Keates (C), Morrell, Mangan, Pogba. SUBS – Taylor, Sinclair, Cieslewicz, Tolley, Knight-Percival

Gateshead (4-4-2) – Deasy, Tavernier, Liddle, Curtis, Clark (C), Brittain, Nelthorpe, Turnbull, Gate, Fisher, Shaw. SUBS – Farman, Baxter, Winn, Wake, Gillies

Gateshead kicked off and before Wrexham had even touched the ball it was 1-0, Shaw appeared on the left hand side of the 18 yard box, tried a cross which came back off Andrews and he rifled it inside Maxwell’s near post with only 23 seconds gone. 1-0.

After nine minutes Wrexham have a corner which Keates plays low to the edge of the box but Harris puts it just over.

Wrexham are piling on the pressure now after 11 minutes Mangan coming in from the left wing teases the full back but his shot is deflected behind, from the resulting corner Andrews has a free header which he crashes against the crossbar.

However one minute later Wrexham equalise, a scramble after a corner and Keates slides a ball through to Mangan who in turn squares it to Morrell for an easy finish.

An eventful game is being almost overshadowed by an organised protest over the ownership of the club and ground, read more about that here.

With just 15 minutes on the clock its 2-1 to the away side, Wrexham fail to clear their lines which results in a tap in for Nathan Fisher.

Things go from bad to worse with a Brittain cross being handled in the area by the much maligned Andrews, Brittain stepped up to make it 3-1 to Gateshead.

The dragons had a chance on 21 minutes when Morrell received the ball inside the area, a clever turn but sadly a tame shot which was easily saved.

Wrexham seem to be doing a lot good work but for no return, a good move involving Keates and Blackburn sees the ball end up with Morrell, but his square ball is agonisingly out of the reach of Pogba.

Almost unbelievably after 32 minutes it becomes 4-1, a good run by Gate finds him free in the box and a quick square ball leaves Fisher with the easiest of chances to double his tally for the game.

The game quietens down for a while with chances being scarce before a hopeful cross by Tavernier into Wrexham’s area gets left by all defenders and Nelthorpe runs in unchallenged at the back post to make it 5-1.

As the board comes up saying 3 minutes extra to play Pogba starts a run from well inside his own half and takes a shot from all of 25 yards but just over.

Phil Turnbull tries the same from the opposite side with a little more success forcing a great save from Chris Maxwell, the resulting corner being cleared off the line by McMillan.

At half time it’s Wrexham 1 – 5 Gateshead.

A change of formation by Saunders at half-time as well as two substitutions, Tolley on for Pogba and Sinclair comes on for Blackburn as Wrexham start with a 3-5-2.

Four minutes in and Wrexham have a good chance, Ashton with a long ball into the box, which is knocked down by Morrell for Tolley to half-volley, but it was straight at Deasy in goal.

On 51 minutes Gateshead thought they had their sixth goal when Sinclair turned in a Brittain cross only for it to be given offside as Shaw was running ahead of him.

After an hour the demonstrations against the owners step up a gear, banners being waved with messages against the owners (this comes after an official notice on the Wrexham website banning negative banners) it seems to have been organised but I’m sure the score line wasn’t helping.

This clip doesn’t show it that well but you get the idea..

[kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/377163&tbid=1284&p=p/3498&height=399&width=416]

Wrexham have been far better this half and a chance is created when Sinclair puts a good cross in for Mangan but his header is weak and easily saved.

But just one minute later the fight back is on, a high cross into the area looks to be comfortable for the keeper but he drops it under the pressure of Taylors challenge and Tolley pokes it in to make it 5-2.

However any chance of that fight back is short-lived as Wrexham continue to fall apart, on 72 minutes a free-kick on the touchline is whipped in by Brittain and Shaw has a free header to make it 6-2.

Wrexham’s indiscipline starts to show as two quick yellow cards are issued, Sinclair for dissent and Ashton for a bad challenge on Brittain. The free-kick is played in and finds its way back out to Brittain who places a cross perfectly on the head of Shaw, he is unmarked to complete his hat-trick and make it 7-2.

Wrexham continue to make chances and on 83 minutes Morrell is put clean through by Keates but is stretching for it and Deasy makes a good save.

There are no more goals but as the board goes up to show two minutes of injury time the demonstrations step up another level as around 40-50 fans storm the director’s box to show their dissatisfaction with the owners. The stewards quickly step in and peace is restored.

The final whistle sounds and the game finishes 7-2 to Gateshead, talking to the assembled press nobody can remember Wrexham ever conceding seven at home before so this was a new record.

The protests continued outside the ground for a while after the game and lots of police turned up to make sure nothing got out of hand, it was a peaceful (but very loud) protest and eventually it all calmed down.

Needless to say it was one of the most astonishing games I have ever seen and I am privileged to have witnessed it, even if the result wasn’t what I, nor the 3,000 others at the racecourse wanted to see.

Man of the match: Martin Brittain, 1 goal and 4 assists showing a class above this league.

Marcus J Mitchell.

Here are highlights courtesy of the Wrexham Supporters Trust

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A match that will live on in the memory, not for the brilliance of Spurs, but for the ineptitude of the referee, the frequent moments of rage, idiocy and finally the total lack of respect for the opponents – and, in particular, the Gattuso headbutt on Tottenham’s Assistant Manager Joe Jordan. A physical attack that, had it happened on the street, would be a matter for the police.

Regardless of the outcome of the second leg, the Spurs players can hold their heads high, as can the manager Harry Redknapp – a manager not renowned for his Champions League tactical mastery. The performance of his team, the organisation and discipline, the level-headed reaction to the Italian intimidation. They didn’t flinch from a plan.

For all his hot-headed idiocy, Gattuso’s major flaw was his weakness tactically. Compare the central midfielders positional discipline. Sandro and Palacios were perfect, looking at the Gattuso/Thiago Silva partnership you can see the pair drifting toward Van Der Vaart, nullifying the threat and distribution to the attacking trio for AC Milan of Robinho, Ibrahimovic and Seedorf/Pato.

The organisation down both flanks was also a crucial factor. Lennon/Corluka and Pienaar/Assou-Ekotto were both positionally outstanding and Lennon especially caused Antonini major problems down the right hand side.

Spurs’ domination was highlighted, rather surprisingly, in a goalless 1st half. AC Milan didn’t have one shot on target and couldn’t even force a corner. This led to Pato replacing Seedorf in the 2nd half to try and influence Milan’s threat going forward. The away side were unlucky not to score and territorial advantage was frustrating much of AC Milan’s possession advantage.

The passing chart below shows the possession, as expected, was edged by the home side, but it was the diagonal, middle-range, cross field balls looking for Crouch who regularly pulled off to the right to challenge Nesta, and Van Der Vaart was looking for the knock down, as was new signing Pienaar. The ability of Modric to keep the ball was an ideal substitution for ‘Arry’s team to play out the final 10 mins, and again could’ve been a factor in Gatusso losing his head at the final whistle.

Well played Spurs, and when AC Milan arrive at White Hart Lane, the Serie A leaders will have to take the game to Tottenham, and this could play right into Redknapp’s plans as they will have Bale and Modric starting, providing more opportunities for the counter-attacking pace of Lennon, Defoe and maybe Crouch.

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When we started this blog we wanted it to be a sports blog covering lots of different sports, so far we have covered football, tennis, snooker and cricket, there are other sports we intend to write about to keep this as varied as possible. We were also very careful to make sure this does not become a blog about Liverpool FC, there are plenty of LFC blogs out there and even we don’t want to have another one, however myself and George are both fans of Liverpool so it is inevitable that we are sometimes going to write about the club that we love (even our one guest post was by a Liverpool fan about Liverpool FC).

But at least this is a positive post as opposed to my last article about the Liverpool management which was posted on December 30. I wrote it in the aftermath of a 1-0 home loss to Wolves and begged for Roy Hodgson to either resign or be fired, Liverpool were languishing in 12th place and a relegation battle was a very real possibly, the league table tells it’s own story…

Then on 8th January every LFC fan got their wish, Roy Hodgson was sacked, to make the news even sweeter Kenny Dalglish was handed the task of turning this dismal season around. His first game in charge was the small matter of Manchester United at old Trafford in The F.A Cup, we lost 1-0 but the signs were encouraging. Then it was a trip to Blackpool who had turned us over at Anfield 2-1, a great start by LFC was rewarded with a brilliant Torres goal after 2 minutes, things were looking good for about another 5 minutes before the inevitable happened, LFC couldn’t take the game to the opposition and Blackpool capitalised, scoring twice before half time and holding on for their second 2-1 victory over Liverpool this season.

Were things changing though? Was Kenny’s influence starting to show? Were Liverpool beyond help? All good questions and you felt some would be answered at Anfield on Sunday 16th January (my 32nd birthday incidentally) when we faced Everton.

Only 10 minutes in I knew I was watching a different team, aesthetically they were the same as before but you could feel something different, it was like they had a new focus, a new enthusiasm, a new mentality, Kenny’s presence was starting to be a factor. Liverpool took the lead mid-way through the first half with a great strike by Meireles, his first LFC goal. It looked as though a victory was a formality but 1 minute into the 2nd half Distin scored from a corner, 6 minutes later Beckford scored (which was Ben Thornley’s fault!) and that gave Everton the lead, fortunately we were awarded a penalty from which Kuyt made it 2-2 and that is how it stayed. I said after the game that I would still have been happy even if Liverpool had lost as it was just so nice to see them playing well again.

Now what Kenny needed was a win and that was delivered only 6 days later with a very comfortable victory over Wolves at Molineux, it was a fantastic performance with one of the goals of the season from the ever improving Meireles. The game was overshadowed somewhat by the controversy surrounding the female assistant referee, Sian Massey and the comments made by Sky Sports presenter and commentator, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, I am not commenting on it,  just making reference to the fact it was at that game where the incident occurred.

Suddenly the table started to make better reading…

 

Obviously 10th is unacceptable, but it was unthinkable 3 weeks earlier.

Next game was home to Fulham, it wasn’t a great performance but enough was done to secure a 1-0 win, back to back victories and back to back clean sheets, the Steve Clarke effect was being felt as much as the Kenny Dalglish effect.

In between the Fulham match and the upcoming Stoke match was the end of the transfer window, I have already posted about it before so won’t go into it again, highlights were…Torres went to Chelsea, we got Carroll and Suarez, I am happy with it as are plenty of LFC fans.

Back to Stoke, we had been fundamently outplayed by Stoke in November and needed to keep this run going to banish the memories of that defeat, another goal from Meireles and a debut goal from Suarez coming off the bench meant a 2-0 win for LFC and another clean sheet.

This brings us to our last game before this post was written, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the hype surrounding Torres was crazy, will he play? Won’t he play? Will he score? Will Carragher try to break his legs? In the end only one of these things happened, he played, well…sort of, 65 minutes of anonymity and he was substituted. Meireles was the hero once again as he pounced on a Cech error to score and Liverpool held on for a fantastic 1-0 win.

For the record that is now four wins from four, two home and two away, with no goals conceded, the instant impact that Dalglish is having is in such contrast to the negative, boring football employed by Hodgson, I like Hodgson the man, but he was the wrong man for this job and proved it so.

So exactly one month after Daglish was appointed and was asked “Do you think you can get Liverpool out of this relegation battle they are heading for?” he now gets asked the question “Do you think you can make the Champions league places?” Here is the current league table that proves the impact Kenny has had…

More enjoyable though than moving up the table and keeping clean sheets is the way LFC are playing, I have spent a long, long time watching Liverpool matches on TV and thinking ‘this is awful, I want to change the channel’ I never do and just endure the boredom. Not now though, now watching Liverpool is fun again, you can see how much the players are enjoying it, how much the Anfield faithful are enjoying it, you can even see how much Kenny Dalglish is enjoying it, and all of this has happened in just…. one month.

Roy Hodgson said during one of the darker times of his tenure that you need “plenty of time to get a new managers methods across”

No you don’t, you need to understand the club, understand how to handle the players, be tactically astute against other clubs, know how to speak to the media, know how to buy a player that will enhance the squad (that is not a dig at Konchesky, he always tried his best, its just his best wasn’t enough) but most importantly, you need to know you are manager of Liverpool Football Club…

…and that is something Kenny Dalglish definitely understands.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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-GUEST POST-

Being a lifelong Liverpool fan it’s been heart breaking watching their recent demise. I have spent many a sleepless night analysing the reasons of this dramatic fall from grace, and I know most of you reading this will be thinking one of three things, the sale of the club to the money hungry Americans, the crazy philosophies of Rafa Benitez or the unfortunate appointment of ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Roy Hodgson. All plausible and possible reasons, but I have looked deeper than this. Think back to the great Liverpool teams of the 70’s and 80’s. Picture these Liverpool greats; Keegan, Toshack, Rush, Souness, McDermott, Johnston, Lawrenson and Dalglish. Maybe not that much in common you may think! But now picture these current Liverpool players; Reina, Konchesky, Skrtel, Shelvey, Spearing, Meireles, Ngog and Babel. For those of your who haven’t realised the significant difference between these two groups of people it is very simple….. HAIR!

Not in my memory has a Liverpool team been so low down in the league. Is it a coincidence that I have also not seen a Liverpool team with so little hair? I think not! The awesomeness of Keegan’s perm, the sheer brilliance of McDermott and Sourness’s hair ‘tache combo were simply sublime! Rushies moustache was magical(RIP) and Dalglish’s flowing locks…. Just magnificent!

If you need more proof look back to the mid 90’s. The dark days of the Souness era, very tough times I’m sure you’ll agree. Yes Souness still had his spellbinding combo but look at the players we had; Dicks, Thomas, Grobelaar (began receding the 90’s), Wright, Matteo, Babb and Ruddock, all bald or balding and all part of a desperately mediocre tenure. When things started looking during the Houllier days he brought in players such as Hyypia, Smicer, Barmby and Berger. Unfortunately there was also Camara, Diouf, Traore and Heskey, and although things were looking up it was always going to be a roller-coasterster ride. Then Benitez came in and brought in the likes of Garcia, Alonso and Kewell, all with beautiful heads of hair. We then went on to win the Champions League and come the closest to winning the Premiership since its incarnation.

Yes it would be simple and easy to blame Hodgson and his overly polite manner but I would ask you to take a deeper look at the signings and selections he made during his short time at the helm. Was there ever enough hair in his team? No. Could he have given chances to players with more hair (Pacheco and Kelly sooner than he did). Yes. Please do not think for one second that I believe Poulsen should be playing, how he has made a career as a footballer amazes me!

Its no coincidence that, when Fernando Torres* cut his hair short that the goals began to dry up and he seems to be getting better and better with every game that goes by without a haircut. Nor is it just by chance that when Gerrard stopped shaving his head and left it as a nice sensible crew cut that he became one of the best midfielders in the world!

Fortunately for us suffering Reds fans the king is back where he belongs, if anyone knows how important having enough hair per player is then it is Mr Dalglish. With Konchesky dropped and soon to be shipped out and Babel gone expect players with hair to be signed and the good times to return (Hooray!)

I predict a bright future under Dalglish. I am already hearing whispers of Fellaini crossing Stanley Park,Yossi making a return and Gattuso perhaps in a player coach role. Oh and expect Lucas to start growing a moustache! Just as soon as he starts puberty!

Written by Shaun ‘the newest Special guest of the Podcast Four’ Hurley. Or as I (George) have always known him Mr “Bear”.

*As this article was written before Fernando sought alternative employment, I hope he goes for the EDL-Paul-Konchesky-style-bald-man look.

**Andy Fucking Plenty of Hair King Carroll has signed. So this theory clearly has been listened to by the LFC hierarchy.

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I think my favourite January transfer window cliché is…

It’s silly season

…It is said because clubs will only sell players for crazy amounts of money, but it never actually happens, as Sky Sports News have repeatedly said, last year’s total for the entire window was just over £29m.

However, there must have been something in the water at this year’s LMA Xmas do because it has gone….well…silly.

This is what was so silly…

January 7th – Manchester City sign Edin Dzeko for £27m, this wasn’t a crazy price considering he was one of the most sought after strikers in Europe but his transfer fee almost covered the entire expenditure of last years window.

 

January 19th – Aston Villa pay massively over the odds for Darren Bent completing the transfer for an astonishing £24m.

Not a lot happened until January 30th, when Spurs put in a number of bids for a series of unobtainable Spain based players, making offers for Aguero, Negredo, Rossi and Llorente, none of these bids were accepted and Spurs finished up with nobody. But the rumour mill involving Fernando Torres started up and media reports suggested Chelsea had put a bid of around £35m in which was rejected out of hand by Liverpool. However some journalists suggested that Torres was keen for this transfer to happen.

So we move onto January 31st, transfer deadline day, It started with Newcastle claiming they had rejected a £30m bid from an unnamed club, although ‘Sky Sources’ suggested it was Liverpool, seemingly getting ready for life without Torres. Liverpool also were just awaiting the formalities to seal the deal to sign Luis Suarez.

A lot of faffing around was followed by this amazing series of events…

…Liverpool confirmed the signing of Suarez for £23m, breaking their transfer record (Torres’ transfer was £20m)…

 

…Then also confirmed the new British record transfer of Andy Carroll for £35m, a staggering amount of money for a player who has only scored 34 goals in his professional career, this also meant that Liverpool had broken their own transfer record for the second time in 2 hours, oh and it is the 7th largest transfer in the history of football…

 

…Carroll’s transfer would have been the 6th highest transfer in world football but just 3 minutes later, Chelsea confirmed the signing of Fernando Torres for £50m, the highest fee ever paid in British football and the 4th highest fee in the world behind Ronaldo (£80m), Ibrahimovic (£60m) and Kaka (£56m)…

 

…the total spent is just over £215m, that is nearly ten times what was spent 12 months ago.

Now there are a lot of “experts” saying that the money spent is simply ludicrous, I have a different opinion on this, if a club offers a certain amount of money for a player and the other club accept this offer then the player can move between the clubs, why should the value be any issue of yours or mine, I won’t be poorer because Liverpool have spent £35m on Carroll, I think Carroll is an excellent player and I am truly excited by the prospect of him and Suarez linking up, so the cost is irrelevant, they needed players to replace Torres and Babel and have bought them.

Let me say this, as a Liverpool fan I have never been so excited watching transfer deadline day unfold, I’m devastated Torres has left but that chapter is over and a new one is about to begin.

But it has been a bit silly though.

Marcus J Mitchell.

P.s. I feel like an idiot for forgetting to mention Apostolos Vellios, Evertons ‘nominal fee’ signing, so here he is (thanks to KevCeeJay for the reminder)…

…This is also the only time Everton fans will see him for the next three years before he is farmed out on loan to Swindon before being released.

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As we approach the end of the transfer window, the stakes start to rise. Who will break first? Players handing in transfer requests; agents releasing statements to the rumour-mongering ever-knowledgable gossip columnists and managers singing club anthems.

In past seasons, we’ve even had players refusing to play

The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, has revealed the moody Bulgarian refused to play in games against Sunderland and Chelsea, in which the team dropped five points during their worst-ever start to a season, culminating in Juande Ramos being sacked last weekend. Talking about Berbatov agitating for a move to United over the course of more than a year, Levy said: “We had a player that had refused to play two Premier League games for us, was having a detrimental impact on the dressing room and we’d known for a year that this player wanted out of this club.” Levy added: “I don’t think he treated the club with the respect we deserved. We put him on the map. He signed a long-term contract with this club and I think he should have stayed.”

Is it simply a case of expressing your interest in a player by making a formal bid to the club or do clubs contact the player’s agent – declare an interest – and hope this will unsettle the player? Or is it even more complicated? Damian Commoli has recently been appointed to oversee the transfers at Liverpool, and according to Kevin McCarra is a keen advocate of

Moneyball, the renowned book by Michael Lewis that was published in 2003. Its subject was the Oakland Athletics and, specifically, the general manager Billy Beane.Every manager hopes to crow over an outstanding player he secured for next to nothing. Beane was different because he was not following a hunch so much as questioning traditional attitudes about what it was that truly made the difference in a game. He also has a passion for football and, specifically, an allegiance to Tottenham Hotspur. Comolli, of course, worked at White Hart Lane as director of football for three years and during that period he came to know Beane. “We have been talking at length since 2006 about data application in both football and baseball,” said Comolli. “Everything I’ve been doing has come from what the A’s have been doing in terms of collecting and using data.”

One of the reasons for the Oakland ‘A’s’ success was that they were the first club to start questioning the traditional methods and assumptions of the Major League Baseball Draft System. They ignored the group of scouts at the club who tended to focus on physical athletes (who had the ‘look’ of a potential baseball star), select high school players instead of college players and continue with the same old tried and tested scouting philosophy. Billy Beane and his Oakland backroom team developed a computer programme that analysed specific skills, based on a large range of statistical data.

Instead, they drafted for unconventional statistical prowess: on-base percentage for hitters (rather than batting average) and strikeout/walk ratios for pitchers (rather than velocity). These undervalued stats came cheaply. With the sixth-lowest payroll in baseball in 2002, the Oakland Athletics won an American League best 103 games. They spent $41M that season, while the Yankees, who also won 103 games, spent $126M.

Beane then applied techniques in the transfer market he had learnt studying game theory, a fascinating area of applied mathematics now used in economics, political science and, I suspect, football transfers. Here is a brief explanation from Avinash Dixit, University Professor of Economics at Princeton University,

Game theory studies interactive decision-making, where the outcome for each participant or “player” depends on the actions of all. If you are a player in such a game, when choosing your course of action or “strategy” you must take into account the choices of others. But in thinking about their choices, you must recognize that they are thinking about yours, and in turn trying to take into account your thinking about their thinking, and so on.

These are exactly the kind of interactions that exist within the football transfer market. Prof. Dixit goes on to say,

…some aspects such as figuring out the true motives of rivals and recognizing complex patterns do often resist logical analysis. But many aspects of strategy can be studied and systematized into a science — game theory.

If this isn’t hurting your head yet, then you haven’t got a real head…

Similar ‘mind games’ or game theories exist in advanced poker strategy and other games or markets based on incomplete mis/information.

The football transfer market, especially in a restricted time period during the January window, is complicated by so many external forces. What other clubs perceive your budget is? What other clubs think you think they think the value of the player is? What other clubs watching the negotiation or bid think you will bid so they can ‘bluff’ bid to drive your purchase price higher. Billy Beane was an expert at playing other clubs off against each other, increasing the market by talking to newspapers about ‘the next big thing’ he had no intention of signing.

The current January transfer saga (other than Bent and Adam) has been the attempts to sign Luis Suarez. Here are a few examples of the rumours and factors relating to the potential sale of Suarez.

The level of truth in any of the reports needs to be questioned because the source is rarely, if ever, named. The other problem is the loose valuation of the player. The range is £15-£35 million. Liverpool were ‘reported’ to have offered £12.5 million and Ryan Babel (who has just moved to another club for £6 million) taking the total cash value to £18.5 million. This seems to be a fair initial offer, on the lower end of the price range, adding a player who had previously played for Ajax, would not need to acclimatize, whilst remembering that Ajax have got major financial problems and need to cash in on some of their assets. As with any negotiation, the first offer is usually rejected. Both Ajax and Liverpool will be aware that Liverpool expect the first offer to be rejected, but it does offer a slight insight into the maximum bid Liverpool are likely to make.

A mind game of imperfect information, negotiations carried out in public as well as private, under the glare of expectant fans desperate for a ‘major’ signing. The complex nature of transfer negotiations are often ignored in the football press with tiny soundbites and flashing yellow tickers reporting an estimated figure, the contract length and press conference clichés stating the player ‘wants to be at the club for a very long time’ and confirming ‘it had always been his dream to play for the club’. Liverpool might have someone attempting to apply complex theories to select a pool of players the manager can choose from, but they won’t have the success Billy Beane had, he was the first to try it, and we must remember

The main focus of a “Moneyball” approach is about maximizing use of whatever resources you have, and while the methods can be of great help to clubs with limited resources, they can be champions-winners for affluent ones. Chelsea and Arsenal, two of the top four spenders in the Premier League, already use them. It seems unlikely that Manchester United has thrived without them.

Not quite the simple game described here by the right-wing libertarian enlightened-one Old Holborn. We were discussing Andy Gray and Richard Keys,  two popular cavemen who once drove the Premiership brand forward.
Clearly he’s too intelligent to waste his time ‘pointing at pretty colours’. He’s evolved. Just (don’t) check his blog, you wouldn’t know it.
George Allwell

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As Ryan Babel is preparing himself for his move to Hoffenheim in Germany, I find myself asking the question…

What went wrong?

At the tender age of 20 he signed for Liverpool for a fee in the region of £12m (varying reports suggest somewhere between £11m and £13m) which is a lot of money to put on such young shoulders. But seeing the performances that he had been putting in for Ajax Amsterdam and the Dutch national side it seemed he would hit the ground running and be an excellent acquisition for LFC.

Added to that he joined the club only 10 days after a certain Fernando Torres had signed, so the pressure was very much on the Spaniard to succeed taking the focus off Babel.

Before Babel joined Liverpool he was linked heavily with Arsenal as the long term replacement for Thierry Henry and you can see why, he is a player very much in the same mould, lightning quick, powerful, can take a man on and score goals, but Liverpool beat Arsenal to the punch and signed the Dutchman up.

If we had a machine that could create an alternative reality I would love to see what would have happened to Babel had he been bought by Arsenal instead, if he had been under the wing of Arsene Wenger, who is so revered for his nurturing of young talent.

I may be ridiculed for this opinion but I think that if Babel had signed for Arsenal, or indeed Chelsea with Mourinho or Manchester Utd with Ferguson, he might very well be one of the top players in the Premiership now, dare I say even the world. To go back to my description before, he has lightning pace, ask any defender in the world what he is scared of most, I guarantee he will say pace. He is physically strong yet surprisingly agile and can trick his way past players with ease. He can shoot from just about anywhere with terrific power, I can recall a couple of Champions League goals in particular that were outstanding strikes. Put all of this together and you will find yourself with one hell of a player, yet somehow his amazing lack of consistency meant he only made 90 appearances in over 3 and a half years and most of them were from the bench.

This is not a criticism of Rafa Benitez, far from it, I was a big fan of Rafa and thought he brought some players on really well, Alonso, Torres and Reina all became world class footballers under the tutelage of Rafa. The problem is, that for every success with Benitez there was a failure to go with it, and sadly for Babel he has to put in the failure column.

So off to Germany he goes for a fresh start, at still only 24 he has plenty of time to rediscover his talent and I’m certain that this will be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, I’m just disappointed that he couldn’t make it at Liverpool, because in today’s market getting a world class player for £12m would seem very good business, instead they take a £6m loss and wonder what could have been if only that amazing talent had been realised.

Good luck Ryan.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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