After Liverpool’s uninspiring start to the season, many have taken a shallow breath and sputtered a full-time whistle for dear old Brendan Rodgers. “Rodgers out!” scream the back pages of newspapers, the disenchanted fans, the opinionated neutrals. Multiple sources have reported that Liverpool have approached Carlo Ancelotti about taking over. But Brendan is doing a fine job at Liverpool, and there is a brilliantly simple way of gauging it.
Examining the top six teams ranked by average wage bill since Rodgers has been in charge gives a strikingly frank indication of where each of these clubs should be finishing in the league. Any team can throw money around to buy players, but football is business, and eventually it is how much you pay your employees that translates into results.
Here are the clubs in order of wage bill, together with their average league finish over the last three years:
Chelsea and Spurs are slightly overachieving while, quelle surprise, United are badly underachieving, with City slightly underachieving too. Liverpool and Arsenal are right on point; their average finishing positions in the league are reflected exactly by the amount they spend on wages compared to the others.
Evidently, Rodgers is performing to a satisfactory level. For their magnificent history, Liverpool are quite rightly an ambitious club, but as the myriad of supporters who grew up watching them in the 80s have aged, become stiffer, less vibrant and energetic, so too have Liverpool: their very own picture of Dorian Gray.
A fair complaint to level against Brendan is that he has bought badly. Liverpool’s recent transfer history reads like a great tome of rubbish, a seemingly unending charter of words and numbers that lambaste your brain until by the end all you can see is a mulch of strange hieroglyphs – Iago Aspas; Lazar Markovic – are they words? What does it all mean?
And perhaps Danny Ings isn’t good enough, Benteke the giant, dense slab of Belgian brilliance doesn’t fit the system, and Firmino looks more like a beautifully graceful, feather-footed ballerina than a Premier League player. But for a team outside of the Champions League, what do you expect? They must operate on buying exclusively third-tier players and below.
And how is it possible to cope with the loss of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling when the money dictates you can only replace them with players befitting a 5 placed team? Even with questionable transfers he’s managed to keep Liverpool averaging the deserved place to reflect their wage bill. A job well done. Last April, Rodgers said “I don’t think there is anyone better [for the job]”, claiming “fifth place…is probably on par with where we are at.” He was right.
Liverpool made difficult work of League 2 Carlisle at Anfield last night, but the League Cup is an unusual, misleading competition. The result will be bucketed with a collection of other upsets: MK Dons 4 - 0 Manchester United; Bradford City 1 - 1 Arsenal ( 3-2 pens); Grimsby Town 1 - 0 Tottenham, etc. It happens every year.
Rodgers' team have 8 points from 6 games so far which sounds like a bad haul, but last season they only managed 7 from their first 6. There is time yet for him to redeem himself, continue averaging 5 place, and keep Liverpool fans just as uneasy as they have been for the last 20 years. Could Ancelotti or anyone else conceivably do much better? Their wage bill is almost half that of Man City’s – what do you expect?
[Calculations made from data here]