Where Liverpool get it oh so wrong

There must be half a dozen clubs in the EPL whose directors and staff seriously believe they could join the elite and get into the Champions League, year after year.  Everton, Tottenham, Manchester City come to mind (although obviously not this season in Tottenham’s case).   Maybe Portsmouth and Blackburn share the ambitions too. 

But as they prepare for this big step forward they really ought to take a look at the problems surrounding Liverpool FC.  One of the top 4 certainly, but a club that has failed to win the EPL in a ten year period in which Arsenal, Manchester Utd and Chelsea have done it not just once, but several times over. 

Poor Liverpool – with Arsenal having sunk to fourth two years running, and with all the pundits expecting them to sink into oblivion, they must have thought 2008 would be their year. 

So what makes it so hard for Liverpool to win the league?  If Liverpool could identify that problem they could certainly enhance their own chances of getting up to the level of Arsenal and others. The fact is that Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have all gone about winning the EPL in different ways – they have, in short, each used a different theoretical model on which to build their success. 

Put simply these three approaches are… 

Arsenal: World-wide scouting, with the millions that could have been spent on funding inane transfers at top prices spent instead on paying the wages of scouts in every country in the world. 

Manchester Utd: World-wide marketing and a world-wide reputation, which together bring in the money needed to be able to buy anyone anytime.  The 70,000 plus stadium, and ticket ploys such as forcing season ticket holders to buy tickets for games they don’t want to see, all help. 

Chelsea: A billionaire owner for whom money is no object.  Half empty stadia, and a boring approach to football don’t affect the money available. As we can see the last two of these rely on huge amounts of money, but they have the source of that money – one through its shirt sales, reputation and crowd size, one through its owner.  Arsenal are different, and becoming the club with the highest income per match (as they did in 2006) was a bonus. 

Now what of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and the rest?  They rely on the buy-buy-buy approach – Benitez and whoever happens to be the current Tottenham manager always look for more and more and more players costing more and more money. But the reality is that they can never catch up.  They can never have as much as Manchester United or Chelsea – so no matter how much they improve their team they will always be one or more steps behind because Manchester and Chelsea will just spend more. 

The only alternative method, and the only method that will ever allow them to become serious challengers to the EPLs elite 3, is the Arsenal approach.  Stop spending billions on transfers, and invest much of that money in improving your scouting.   It might cost £250,000 a year to have a really top level scouting programme in a country – but it is worth its weight in gold.  Think of Fabregas, Clichy, Flamini, Gilberto, Anelka, Vieira – players who came to Arsenal for next to nothing. 

Even if your top level team in a country only come up with one player every five years for a ludicrous fee, you have still saved an absolute fortune against the cost of transfers.   This is the only way forward for wannabe clubs like Liverpool, Everton, and so forth.  They have to stop the spend-spend-spend approach and instead do a bit of planning for a change.

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