Just recently Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group made a bold move and to some it went unnoticed. Michael Edwards has now been appointed Sporting Director and will be the Reds’ new transfer figurehead. He’ll be in charge of all transfer and contract negotiations, from the first team to the academy players. With the appointment do FSG now have their ideal set up?
The club have recently confirmed that Edwards will now lead the club’s overall football development, including player identification, acquisitions, sales and retention.
As well as taking primary responsibility for reviewing and implementing improvements to the training ground environment and infrastructure.
Michael Edwards’ rise through the ranks has come rather quietly. His promotion will have some supporters asking just who he?
Michael Edwards: The Road to Liverpool
- Head of Performance Analysis – Portsmouth, 2003-2009
- Head of Performance Analysis – Tottenham Hotspur, 2009-2011
- Head of Performance and Analysis – Liverpool, 2011-2013
- Director of Technical Performance – Liverpool, 2013-2015
- Technical Director – Liverpool, 2015-2016
- Sporting Director – Liverpool, 2016-
Edwards showed his innovation as whilst at Portsmouth he relied heavily on Prozone. The performance analysis system is now widely utilised by top-level clubs.
Comolli was impressed with the work Edwards had done at Portsmouth and Tottenham and in 2011 brought him to Liverpool.
Initially appointed Head of Analytics, studying data produced on players around the Premier League.
When Comolli departed in 2012, Edwards was promoted to Head of Performance and Analysis, and in the following years has moved up the line to become Director of Technical Performance and, currently, Technical Director.
Ian Ayre explained the club’s transfer committee.
“We have a head of analysis, a head of recruitment, a first-team manager, myself. All of those people are all inputting into a process that delivers what a director of football would deliver.”
“A combination of old-school scouting and watching players — and that’s Brendan, his assistants, our scouts—with statistical analysis of players across Europe and the rest of the world.”
“By bringing those two processes together, you get a much more educated view of who you should and shouldn’t be buying.
“What we believe, and we continue to follow, is you need many people involved in the process.”
But what really happened?
However following the formation of Liverpool’s transfer committee in 2012, FSG were unlikely to have planned for the scrutiny their six-man group came under in the following years.
The panel including Ayre, Edwards, Brendan Rodgers, Dave Fallows, Barry Hunter and, later, Mike Gordon, were frequently criticised for the Reds’ hit-and-miss approach in the transfer market throughout Rodgers’ reign on Merseyside.
For every Roberto Firmino there was a Christian Benteke, with a series of disagreements between the manager and his committee members leading to a fractured system. Rodgers openly admitted he didn’t know what to do with Benteke. Who is now thriving after his transfer to Crystal Palace.
FSG love the ‘moneyball’ approach and Edwards’ faith in using statistical analysis made them realise the potential they had in him – much to Rodgers frustration.
It has been well documented that his influence was increasing. He was key to the purchases of Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi, Emre Can and Sadio Mane.
Over the past 18 months Edwards worked alongside Ayre on transfer and contract negotiations. Where he played a leading role in concluding deals to sign Sadio Mane, Joel Matip and Loris Karius. He also oversaw the sales of Christian Benteke, Jordon Ibe and Joe Allen.
Klopp on the appointment
Jürgen Klopp has given Edwards his full backing, while the he will still have final say on all transfers. It should now allow Klopp to focus on the training field with his coaching team. “It’s no secret I like the concept of a sporting director and having worked under this model previously I have found it to be nothing but positive and forward thinking.”
Whilst the exact role of a sporting director is one not widely known, it could be argued that, six years on from their arrival on Merseyside, FSG finally have their ideal setup in place.
How Will Edwards’ Promotion Affect Liverpool?
In appointing Klopp FSG not only hired a world-class manager, but also one with a background of working with a sporting director – Michael Zorc.
At Borussia Dortmund, Klopp worked closely with Michael Zorc, and their record in the transfer market was superb.
Liverpool fans now have to be excited by the potential of the new team. Players such as Shinji Kagawa (free), Lukasz Piszczek (free), Robert Lewandowski (£3.3m), Mats Hummels (£3m) and Ilkay Gundogan (£3.9m) I’m sure FSG are looking for a repeat of this.
Whilst the statistical approach alone won’t build a successful football team, the blend of Edwards’ analytical acumen and Klopp’s eye for character, Liverpool can hope for a more harmonious pursuit of glory.
This takes FSG’s initial moneyball approach with Comolli onto a new level.
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