LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, October 31, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (C) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 6 game between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool close to replacing key staff member with “leading operator” in football

Liverpool were handed a double blow late last year with two key backroom figures to depart at season’s end, but the club are close to replacing their head of research.

There’s been plenty of upheaval behind the scenes at Liverpool, with sporting director Julian Ward tendering his resignation in November, less than a year into his new role.

The news then broke soon after Ian Graham, director of research, had also given his notice after over a decade at the club, another untimely setback.

While Graham’s role is not as publicised as that of the sporting director, he is a valuable asset to the club’s transfer model, using statistical analysis to filter out potential transfer targets and catching players that traditional scouting may not have identified.

He leads a six-strong research team at the club and has worked closely with Michael Edwards and Ward during his time at the club.

News of Graham’s departure led to widespread concerns over the future of Liverpool’s data-driven approach, but a successor is “close” to being named.

That is according to the Times‘ Jonathan Northcroft, who reports that the figure in line to replace Graham “is thought to be working in the game and regarded as a leading operator in the football data field.”

With Graham working his notice period until May, the appointment of his successor in time for the summer will be of relief to many with Liverpool in desperate need of stability in key departments.

The hope will be that Graham’s existing team remain intact to work alongside his replacement and continue with the methods that have brought Liverpool success – and landing a “leading operator” gives belief to just that.

Andy Robertson, Mohamed Salah and even Jurgen Klopp were targeted through the use of data science and they will not be the only ones in the current squad who were flagged by Graham’s model.

As for the search for a new sporting director, that remains ongoing. Ward, meanwhile, is attracting interest from clubs in Europe.