The resignations of sporting director Julian Ward and head of research Ian Graham have led to questions over whether Liverpool’s data-driven approach to transfers is changing.
Both Ward and Graham will leave their roles at the end of the season, with the latter having handed his notice in earlier in the year, and the former handing in his notice less than six months officially into his new role.
It’s further upheaval at a massive time of uncertainty at Anfield, with director and FSG shareholder Michael Gordon – a key component off the pitch who has a strong relationship with Jurgen Klopp and is known as the ‘man who runs Liverpool’ – also stepping back from his role.
Alongside former sporting director Michael Edwards, Gordon, plus Graham and his team of data analysts have been key to Liverpool’s success in the transfer market under Klopp, finding players with huge potential which Klopp could then nurture.
But with three key figures of the transfer decision-making team set to leave, plus reports of Klopp being more ‘hands-on’ with transfers, it has been questioned whether a new direction is being taken.
Liverpool this summer sought to sign Aurelien Tchouameni, a player that didn’t exactly need data analysis to uncover or identify. See also Jude Bellingham.
So would this signal a new direction for Liverpool’s transfers?
Not according to the Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle, who writes that Liverpool will replace Graham and “remain fully committed to the use of analytics.”
Graham has been a key part of Liverpool’s success, also being part of the team that was involved in appointing Klopp as manager, per Training Ground Guru.
Indeed, Graham’s data science team is “involved in every football department at the club”.
Graham previously explained how his team’s analysis of Andy Robertson had been one of his favourite signings, while Klopp himself has told of how they persuaded him to sign Salah – at a time when the manager reportedly wanted to bring in Julian Brandt instead.
Gordon’s role and influence at Liverpool in the last decade has been significant behind the scenes and the club now must ensure they replace him effectively and efficiently, they cannot afford to have a gap between him and his successor.
The club are currently needing to fill the roles of sporting director, club doctor and head of data research.
A turbulent time.