Free Friday: The Reds’ DNA, Shellshock & Inflated Debates

Free Friday: The Reds’ DNA, Shellshock & Inflated Debates
July 26, 2018 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


Posts selected by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

The idea of this round-up is to give you all some idea of the range of debate on the site. If you’d like to be part of our troll-free community, there’s a ‘Subscribe’ tab at the very bottom of the page. 

1 – Jeff keeping perspective on the defeat by Dortmund in a preseason friendly:

If Liverpool win a preseason match how many points do they earn in the Premier League? None If Liverpool lose a preseason match, how many points do they drop in the Premier League? None What on earth is the point of preseason? Well, first you want to get the first team squad into match shape. Second, you want to take a look at the young lads to see if any of them is going to move up to the first team and possibly play regularly. Third, you want to play the new lads so that they can become accustomed to playing with Liverpool’s lads. Fourth, you want to experiment and see if a lad could be played somewhere differently than they have in the past. Fifth, you want to avoid serious injuries. Sixth, oh yes and make a few quid for the club.

To me what I have seen thus far is something that has been missing from Liverpool for years and years. Young lads looked good prospects but did not develop into first team Liverpool players or regular Liverpool players but this season you can see the improvement in any number of the young lads and I would not fall over shocked to see at least one or two of the young lads on this trip actually play for Liverpool’s first team this season and play well. I saw well done to the coaches at the academy level and the reserve level and of course Klopp and the first team coaches.

2 – Paul Tomkins taking a deep dive into the situation Karius now finds himself in:

I hate the abuse that Karius has been getting from Liverpool fans but the jeers from opposition fans are inevitable. Of course the opposition will try to exploit anything that is perceived as a weakness and right now, he seems to be affected by it. The guy looks shellshocked. It’s like he has PTSD.

I think he probably is shellshocked. I’ve just re-read Jon Ronson’s book on public shaming, and it’s a timely reminder of how public humiliation does severe psychological damage. While the book relates to social media shamings (mostly), it’s interesting to revisit the reasons why public shaming (the stocks, pillories, etc) was removed by Britain and America early in the 1800s, having been considered too cruel.

Karius effectively became the biggest joke figure in sport on May 28th. It was one of the biggest games in world football, and he made not just one mistake but two (possibly relating to concussion). That’s pretty rare. Normally one major gaffe will cause a stigma on its own. Full global humiliation, that carries on and on.

I’m not sure we’ll bring in any other keepers, and would assume that Karius stays and is back-up (and recovers some composure out of the limelight), and Grabara edges closer to that role all the time. While an academy player, Grabara been part of the 1st team’s match-day routine for a year or so now. I’ve said many times that he’s the best teenage goalkeeper I’ve seen in England, but I worry for any LFC keeper being lumped in with the jibes for Karius right now. At 19 he’s probably too young, but he reminds me of De Gea and Courtois, who broke through around that age – but at smaller clubs, with no hysteria around them.

I liked hearing the other day that Achterberg thinks Grabara has the ability to not be fazed by mistakes. But to be perceived to have cost your team the European Cup and be mocked the world over requires a whole other level of recovery.

I’d understand if Karius wanted to find a lower profile club back in Germany right now. However, hopefully he sticks around and finds some way to redeem himself. He’s more than good enough to be our no.2, but it won’t be easy to get his head right again.

That said, if Karius is pissed off that Klopp has not stuck by him by buying someone new, I think that’s misguided. Big clubs have to constantly be on the lookout for upgrades, and with Karius getting hammered by fans and pundits in preseason then he’s probably not in the right frame of mind to be the no.1. It’s got to the point where he’s making errors in every game, which he wasn’t even close to doing before the final. If Karius can’t see why he’s being replaced then he’s in denial, but maybe that’s not such a bad place to be – because without it he’d probably struggle to even get out of bed after what’s happened to him. He needs to try and hold onto whatever self belief he can find right now.

3 – Peter Neall talking about the importance of managers ‘getting’ the club they work for:

Making football a business and employing mercenaries who simply come to ‘do a job’ may produce a football side who can produce a ‘good day at the office’ but it misses something of  the point of the enterprise. The best enterprises have always attracted people who want to be a part of something special, and to be a part of something, rather than just to take from it requires letting it become part of your DNA.

Many clubs that are now huge conglomerates have hidden in their DNA the places and communities that spawned them. They were a community asset, a place for the men of the parish to meet, to play, to relax and represent who and what they saw themselves to be. The pride carried in the first names such as The Arsenal, or Everton or Newton Heath carry in them something of the community depth that is discarded at great risk.

We know here that the best managers become ‘Scousers’ wherever they were born. It is impossible to carry the history and the DNA of a great club as a commuter or as a mercenary, you either become part of the fabric of the club, a part of its history or you simply take from it and risk destroying it, and we know what that almost did to us all too recently.

If Mourinho is but a commuter, a wanderer chasing gold then the damage will seep into the structure and undermine it and only be truly reparable by one who understands really what he or she is taking on. Whatever we think of Sir A he eventually and just in time absorbed the DNA of the place.

We are blessed in that we have a Scouser in charge, and it shows! We know too that wherever Paul T, Jeff, Krishaldo and so many other of us were born we are ‘scousers’ and that too shows.

Long may it do so!

4 – M Cheyne on the difficulties defining inflation:

Prices over time fluctuate for various reasons, but the two main high-level ones are: 1) inflation and 2) changes in the quality of the good or service. Inflation is a measurement of the change in the purchasing value of money. What is implicit in measuring inflation is that you are comparing the change in cost over time of inherently the same thing. For many things there is not a huge change in quality (either real or perceived) over time so you don’t need to think about controlling for it when trying to measure inflation. For example, the pound of your favourite butter you bought from the store is probably nearly identical in quality to what it was last year or perhaps even a decade or more ago. Any change in the price of butter can be attributed to inflationary pressures (either demand-pull or cost-push).

But the quality of other things do change over time, and one of those things is the average footballer in a league. The EPL teams have massive amounts of money, with even the mid-table teams being able to outspend all hit the elitist of elite in the other big leagues. This has allowed EPL teams to bring in a higher quality of player over time; simply put, they’re not buying the same pound of butter (i.e. the average player) that they used to. If you want to measure the actual inflation rate, you need to control for this change in quality to understand how the buying power of the money has changed.

Controlling for this change in quality is not easy, so I am not attempting to trivialise it, but it’s important to note. Let’s imagine a really simple situation where in Year 1 Luis Suarez is the only player sold and he went for a fee of £100m. In Year 2 Kevin Stewart is the only player sold for £5m. TPI would show a massive change from Year 1 to Year 2, but was there a huge (negative) change in “inflation”? Probably not, we need to attempt to control for the difference in quality of Luis Suarez and Kevin Stewart if we want to know the inflation rate.

As I said though in my original post, TPI has shown huge changes from year-to-year in the average cost of an EPL transfer, which far exceed any reasonable conclusion around it being driven mostly by changes in quality of the average player. However, some of the change is due to the quality of the average player getting better over time, and if we want to talk about “inflation” we would need to control for that.

5 – Graeme Riley responding to the point above:

Interesting point re quality and no doubt has a ring of truth, however I would take a slightly different approach.

As you state, the most familiar form of inflation is RPI, something which affects our everyday life and so which each of us feels directly impacted by. It is therefore relatively easy to understand. But just how is it calculated? The authorities take a basket of goods and calculated the cost of these goods and compare it with the same basket in a previous period. However, occasionally, the basket is changed. Quality changes gradually for some items in the basket (butter, milk – gold top becomes blue then green then red….) but for some items there is a more profound and rapid change. 15 years ago palm pilots were the greatest invention known to man (or at least my then boss) as they replaced cumbersome filofaxes. Now even the most basic mobile phone has more capacity than the computers that sent man to the moon. This is a clear change in quality, but the cost is probably lower now than then.

However football is, in my opinion, different again. The mistake made in the “medium” article is that it takes general everyday inflation and tries to use this in the context of football finances. The markets are however radically different and need to be seen as such – there is no completely free flow of capital between the two markets in question. Bread from 1992-93 can be compared in quality to bread today – it would be rather mouldy however and comparatively expensive. Paul Stewart can’t really be compared to Naby Keita, they are unique individuals – the latter was already mouldy in 1992-93, let alone now and comparatively expensive even then. Football cash does not flow into the mainstream economy (at least directly), nor vice versa.

However, the larger the sample sizes, the less any individual item distorts the total or average value and so the football basket comparison gains validity. Using the one extreme example, we are not comparing the sale of one player Luis Suarez with another in Kevin Stewart – there is a full basket of players to choose from. Possibly not large enough to rule out sample size impacts entirely, but there is a free enough flow of cash to ensure that there is a large enough sample to give at least a trend – generally 160-200 transfers every season. And the trend has, with one or two exceptions, remained constant over a quarter of a century.

Yes, there is undoubtedly an improvement in quality of players between 1992 and now – but surely the salient point is that this movement in quality is available to every club – it is not a closed shop but a free market, the only constraints being the wealth and risk profiles of the clubs at any given time. Rather than quality being the driver of price inflation, I would actually argue that quantity is the driver. All players are getting better compared to their predecessors, but the difference between elite and non-elite is dwindling over time. The return is diminishing between different grades of players as clubs stock up on more and more international players. As the gap narrows, it becomes more and more expensive to maintain that competitive advantage. Take as an example the difference between Willie Young, Arsenal cloghorse centre half in the same era as Alan Hansen, compared to Koscielny or Vertonghen and Lovren or van Dijk nowadays. That gap has narrowed to an almost infinitesimally small amount (even if we don’t like to admit it) compared to 20 or 30 years ago and so clubs have to pay a premium to maintain that advantage.

Yes, quality has changed and no doubt has an impact on price, but so does the quality differential. If all players are become better at the same rate and there are the same volume of players available, by logic there would be no inflation. In this case it can only be the change in quantity that is driving price in this market.

Sorry, bit of a ramble there…..

Articles published on The Tomkins Times this week:

Monday July 23rd:

Who Do The Reds Still Need To Sign This Summer?, by Various.

Tuesday July 24th:

The Sums That Make Up A Squad, by Yiannis.

Wednesday July 25th:

2018 – Liverpool’s Best Year For Transfers … EVER? Can Reds Finally Lift Title?,by Paul Tomkins.