Liverpool FC managers: Stat Attack

Ivan Potapov, of Russian Liverpool FC fansite has produced an in-depth comparison of the performances of Liverpool managers past and present.

As I wrote before for Russian-speaking supporters, I had been very sceptical to Roy Hodgson since I heard he would be appointed as a manager of Liverpool FC for the first time. It seemed really obvious for me he wasn’t good enough to be a manager for the club like ours, and his experience meant nothing because he was a flop with two big names he tried to manage.

Unfortunately for us my expectations were finally met when he began to work with Liverpool FC. It’s just half a year passed but we reached some lows we didn’t reach for some fifty years. Graeme Souness, probably the worst manager we had since Don Welsh, did much better in some areas than Roy did. But some people try to defend Hodgson even now when some stats for the fifty years were brought to light by one of the Daily Post journos.

They say it’s not fair to compare Roy with others because: 1. he’s been there just for half a year; 2. his work is in progress; he managed Liverpool for 30 games not hundreds of them as other managers did. Okay then, it’s time for me to suggest my little statistical overview started from December 1959. I tried to compare our managers and hoped I could find out how each of them started here at Liverpool FC. Each “period” covers just first 19 league games (or first 30 games in all competitions) for every manager. It’s fair to Hodgson, isn’t it?

My overview has its weaknesses (what doesn’t?) but I’ve tried to reduce them. For those managers who began their work in mid-season I decided to use not only a beginning of their careers but the beginning of their full season at the club as well. And for Bill Shankly, who began his work when our club languished in the second tier of English football and won the old Second Division with us in 1962, the first 30(19) games of his third full season at the club were added. For some observers who blamed Benitez for everything he did I added the beginning of 2009/2010 season, our worst as we thought at the time.

I marked extreme values with colors – green for the best and red for the worst.

First 19 league games

Coach Matches W D L + %
Roy Hodgson 19 7 4 8 23 24 36,84%
Rafael Benitez 19 9 4 6 33 20 47,36%
Rafael Benitez* 19 9 3 7 36 25 47,36%
Gerard Houllier** 19 10 4 5 28 16 52,63%
Gerard Houllier*** 19 8 4 7 38 27 42,1%
Evans/Houllier + Houllier**** 19 8 4 7 32 23 42,1%
Roy Evans***** 19 9 6 4 34 18 47,36%
Roy Evans****** 19 8 2 9 26 24 42,1%
Graeme Souness^ 19 8 8 3 22 15 42,1%
Graeme Souness^^ 19 8 6 5 26 18 42,1%
Kenny Dalglish 19 12 5 2 42 18 63,15%
Joe Fagan 19 12 4 3 33 14 63,15%
Bob Paisley 19 10 4 5 25 14 52,63%
Bill Shankly^^^ 19 7 4 8 31 27 36,84%
Bill Shankly^^^^ 19 11 4 4 39 25 57,89%
Bill Shankly^^^^^ 19 10 4 5 42 29 52,63%

First 30 games in all competitions

Coach Matches W D L + %
Roy Hodgson 30 13 9 8 40 30 43,33%
Rafael Benitez 30 15 6 9 47 25 50%
Rafael Benitez* 30 13 5 12 36 25 43,33%
Gerard Houllier** 30 17 5 8 50 27 56,66%
Gerard Houllier*** 30 12 5 13 54 41 40%
Evans/Houllier + Houllier**** 30 13 7 10 54 35 43,33%
Roy Evans***** 30 18 7 5 56 23 60%
Roy Evans****** 30 15 4 11 50 36 50%
Graeme Souness^ 30 14 10 6 48 27 46,66%
Graeme Souness^^ 30 14 9 7 50 30 46,66%
Kenny Dalglish 30 19 7 4 65 27 63,33%
Joe Fagan 30 18 8 4 53 19 60%
Bob Paisley 30 15 9 6 49 20 50%
Bill Shankly^^^ 30 15 6 9 56 37 50%
Bill Shankly^^^^ 30 15 7 8 62 44 50%
Bill Shankly^^^^^ 30 16 6 8 60 41 53,33%
  • Roy Hodgson (July 1st 2010 – Jan 1st 2011): 19 Premier League, 6 Europa League, 4 Europa League qual., 1 League Cup.
  • Rafael Benitez (July 1st – Dec 26th 2004): 19 Premier League, 6 Champions League, 2 Champions League qual., 3 League Cup.
  • Rafael Benitez (July 1st – Jan 13th 2010): 20 PL, 6 CL, 2 FAC, 2 LC.
  • Gerard Houllier (July 1st 1999 – Feb 13th 2000): 25 PL, 2 FAC, 3 LC.
  • Gerard Houllier (Nov 12th 1998 – May 16th 1999): 26 PL, 2 FAC, 2 UEFA.
  • Evans/Houllier + Gerard Houllier (July 1st 1998 – Jan 9th 1999): 21 PL, 6 UEFA, 1 FAC, 2 LC.
  • Roy Evans (July 1st 1994 – Jan 14th 1995): 24 PL, 1 FAC, 5 LC.
  • Roy Evans (Jan 31 1994 – Oct 29 1994): 27 PL, 3 LC.
  • Graeme Souness (Jul 1 1991 – Dec 18 1991): 19 1D, 6 UEFA, 5 LC.
  • Graeme Souness (Apr 16th 1991 – Nov 30 1991): 21 1D, 5 UEFA, 4 LC.
  • Kenny Dalglish (July 1 1985 – Dec 26 1985): 23 1D, 4 LC, 3 Screensport Super Cup.
  • Joe Fagan (July 1 1983 – Dec 22 1983): 18 1D, 4 EC, 7 LC, Charity Shield.
  • Bob Paisley (July 1st 1974- Dec 14 1974): 21 1D, 4 EC, 4 LC, Charity Shield.
  • Bill Shankly (July 1 1962 – Mar 5 1963): 27 1D, 3 FAC.
  • Bill Shankly (July 1 1960 – Jan 21 1961): 26 2D, 3 LC, 1 FAC.
  • Bill Shankly (Dec 1 1959 – Sep 3 1960): 28 2D, 2 FAC.

Obviously Hodgson’s statistics could be catastrophic but he was “saved” by the Europa League. Liverpool were drawn against Macedonian and Turkish minnows in the preliminary rounds, so we cruised past them.

But in league games the statistics look awful. Half a season passed with him winning less games than any Liverpool manager in his first season according to the table above. He almost reached an all time low with the number of goals we scored (23 against 22 for Souness) and lost almost as many games as Evans did in his first 19 matches (but Evans was appointed in mid season). And Hodgson is the only Liverpool manager with a negative goal difference after 19 league games; Souness did better than him!

Some of Hodgson’s defenders cry for time. “Give him some time and he will turn us into a real force,” they yell. But I cannot agree. He has great players in his squad, not Zamoras or Hangemanns, but they’re really good footballers and he had time he needed to fix his own mistakes but he didn’t. There was a period in Liverpool history when we changed the manager who worked even less than Hodgson. I don’t mean Ronnie Moran or Phil Thompson who were asked to fill the gap when Dalglish resigned and later Souness and Houllier couldn’t manage because of their health.

We had joint managers, Evans and Houllier, and the idea didn’t look good from the start. They couldn’t work together and eventually Evans resigned in November 1998. I decided to compare statistics for Evans/Houllier’s 18 games (12 in PL) with the same stat for Hodgson. And the first 18(12) games of the 2009/2010 season were added because it was a “catastrophe”, wasn’t it?

Roy Hodgson vs Evans/Houllier (in all competitions)

Coach Matches W D L + %
Roy Hodgson 18 8 6 4 23 18 44,44%
Evans/Houllier 18 7 6 5 33 20 38,88%
Rafael Benitez 18 8 2 8 32 25 44,44%

Roy Hodgson vs Evans/Houllier (league)

Coach Matches W D L + %
Roy Hodgson 12 4 4 4 13 15 33,33%
Evans/Houllier 12 4 4 4 19 14 33,33%
Rafael Benitez 12 6 1 5 27 18 50%
  • Evans/Houllier (July 1 1998 – Nov 12 1998): 12 PL, 2 LC, 4 UEFA.
  • Roy Hodgson (July 1 2010 – Oct 31 2010): 10 PL, 3 EL, 1 LC, 4 EL qual. Liverpool played their 12th league game under Hodgson on November 11 2010.
  • Rafael Benitez (July 1 2009 – Nov 9 2009): 12 PL, 2 LC, 4 CL.

Houllier and Evans failed in 1998, Benitez failed in 2009, but what about Hodgson? What about goals scored? What about goal difference? Did Liverpool play under him better than under Benitez just a year ago? Benitez won 50% of his league games but Hodgson won just a third of them.

You can do whatever you want with statistics. It’s just about numbers. But I can give you an answer to the main question we ask ourselves every morning and noon: Is Roy Hodgson the right man for the job? The answer is obvious.


*1 2 Statistics for Rafael Benitez at the beginning of the 2009/2010 season, the worst for the Spaniard at Liverpool FC
**1 2 Gerard Houllier statistics at the beginning of his first full season at the club (1999/2000)
***1 2 Gerard Houllier statistics from the point when he became the sole manager of the club (Nov 12 1998)
****1 2 Statistics for the beginning of the season 1998/1999, which we started with the Evans/Houllier duo as our managers. To match the number of matches I added some games of the season after Evans’ resignation.
*****1 2 Statistics for Roy Evans, since his first full season at the club (1994/1995) began.
******1 2 Statistics for Roy Evans from the moment when he became a manager (Jan 31 1994).
^1 2 Statistics for Graeme Souness from the beginning of his first full season (1991/1992).
^^1 2 Statistics for Graeme Souness from the point when he became manager (Apr 16 1991).
^^^1 2 Statistics for Bill Shankly at the beginning of his first season in the First Division (1962/1963).
^^^^1 2 Statistics for Bill Shankly at the beginning of his first full season (1960/1961)
^^^^^1 2 Statistics for Bill Shankly from the point when he became manager (Dec 1 1959).

Ivan Potapov,

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ingumsky.

Reports: Kenny could become caretaker

According to an exclusive report in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Liverpool FC look set to remove Roy Hodgson from his position as Liverpool manager before they have appointed a permanent replacement. Kenny Dalglish may well get to take over until that appointment is made, probably in the summer.

The King, KennyThe future of Hodgson as Reds boss was never going to be decided on the back of one result or one set of comments, but the comments he made in the aftermath of the defeat against Wolves in midweek, along with the defeat itself, seem to have hastened a departure that had already been planned.

On Friday it emerged that Fenway Sports Group (FSG, formerly NESV) had started to search in earnest for a successor to the former Fulham boss. The message was that Roy would be replaced as soon as a suitable candidate could be brought in and that although this could take until the end of the season it would definitely be happening as soon as possible.

In the meantime, however, the suggestion was that FSG continued to have sufficient faith in him to manage the club until that replacement was found. Tonight’s report suggests they no longer have even that much faith in him and will install a temporary manager to look after the club for the rest of the season.

Soon after FSG had taken over the club indications were made very quietly that they didn’t see Hodgson, already struggling, as a long-term incumbent.

That said, they no doubt hoped that Roy could at least do what Martin Broughton had suggested he could the day he was unveiled as manager and “steady the ship”. They announced a search was underway for a new CEO; they publicly gave Roy their backing.

A director of football strategy was appointed, but Roy continued to enjoy the support of the club’s hierarchy. Fans were going out of their way to send out the message that they’d no faith in Roy and weren’t even keen on him keeping the job short term, but the club did all they could to show their backing for him.

This backing appeared to weaken when FSG’s two main men, the LFC chairman Tom Werner and principal owner John W Henry appeared on the club’s official TV channel. Speaking about the hugely disappointing result against Newcastle the owners described Liverpool’s results as “unacceptable”.

There was disappointment to follow for supporters that same week. A meaningless Europa League match against Utrecht had been given some significance thanks to a gesture that saw free tickets being made available for children. Hodgson announced Torres would be playing and although an otherwise youthful line-up was expected the assumption was that the side would be sent out to entertain the young supporters making their first or rare visits to Anfield for a match.

Torres didn’t appear, Hodgson suggesting the medical staff had told him late in the day that Torres should be rested. Not just that, the team came out to defend, entertainment was a word nobody used to describe the game.

Bad weather meant Liverpool’s next two league games didn’t take place and so the next game was against Wolves, the match on Wednesday night that saw Hodgson question the support of Liverpool fans. Hodgson was forced to apologise.

A win yesterday against Bolton saw Liverpool move into ninth place, still only six points above relegation with Hodgson suggesting afterwards that he’d have been happy with a draw.

Now the Sunday Telegraph’s report says FSG “are so determined to end Roy Hodgson’s reign” that they are ready to install a caretaker manager until June, when they hope to install the permanent replacement. Dalglish has already made it clear he would jump at the chance of taking on the manager’s role if asked and the report says this news raises “the prospect of an emotional return to the club for Kenny Dalglish”.

Dalglish had put himself forward for the role in the summer, and with the club’s management team at the time fully aware that there were just over three months left before the club had to change hands (even if it meant going into the hands of the bank) it is yet to be explained exactly why Dalglish’s offer was ignored, why Roy was given a three-year contract or why there was actually vacancy in the first place.

The report also says FSG are believed to have looked at various candidates for the role, including Porto manager Andre Villas Boas and the previously-linked Didier Deschamps of Marseille.

Installing the appropriate choice now, mid-season, is likely to be problematic and expensive, but it seems that FSG’s lack of confidence in the current manager means they want someone else to fill in for now and steady the ship in readiness for the permanent appointment.

It goes without saying that The King would walk into the job with the unconditional support of the fans and also that he would be a unifying presence in the role, at a club where divide continues to cause harm.

Liverpool win, Hodgson happy and proud

Barclays Premier League – January 1st 2011

Liverpool 2 Bolton 1

Liverpool played host to Bolton for the first game of the New Year and the 2-1 win – thanks largely to a moment of brilliance from Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres – gave Liverpool supporters something to smile about. As long as they didn’t look too closely at the league table that is.

Gerrard was only on the field because of an injury to Meireles. The captain was on the bench at kick-off after – in manager Roy Hodgson’s words – he’d been left “extremely tired” from playing the full 90 minutes of his first game back from injury on Wednesday.

That tiredness meant Liverpool started with Dirk Kuyt on the right instead of out of position on the left, with Meireles starting in his natural role in the middle of the park. Gerrard was a straight swap for Meireles so nobody had to move out of position when the change was made.

Two other changes gave Liverpool a different look to Wednesday; Konchesky was replaced by Aurelio and Daniel Agger was back in the side in place of Kyrgiakos. Continue reading Liverpool win, Hodgson happy and proud

What will Henry and Werner be asked by Liverpool fans?

In what must be an unprecedented move by any English football club Liverpool Football Club are today planning to offer fans the opportunity to grill the club’s owners live on TV.

John W Henry and Tom Werner, joint owners through FSG (or NESV as it used to be called), will sit alongside commercial director Ian Ayre for the official channel’s two-hour show “LFC Now” from 5pm. Supporters can get their questions over by email, Twitter, Facebook or phone.

There are obvious questions that supporters will want to ask, and despite suspicions from some supporters about possible censorship and vetting of questions it’s expected that this would be kept to a minimum by the producers of the show. Understandably there will be some questions that can’t be answered on air and there will be others that might well result in a diplomatic rather than openly honest answer, but other than that, and as long as the question doesn’t effectively repeat earlier questions, it should be possible for any point to be put to the new owners.

Anfield Road asked on Twitter for supporters to list the kinds of question they might ask if they got through tonight.
Continue reading What will Henry and Werner be asked by Liverpool fans?

Rafa tells Roy to quit talking and concentrate on coaching

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has responded to the latest round of attacks on him by current Reds manager Roy Hodgson.

Was Kenny frozen out of Melwood - and who by?Hodgson yesterday described an 1-0 away win at Bolton, courtesy of a very late goal, as a “famous victory”. Despite Roy’s description this match is unlikely to feature in any “hall of fame” featuring Liverpool’s genuinely famous victories down the years. It was Liverpool’s first away league win since April, but Roy’s first away league win in 442 days.

Before that match came some quotes from Roy dismissing Kenny Dalglish’s credentials to become Liverpool boss  a second time and accusing Benitez of freezing Kenny out of Melwood.

Hodgson said Dalglish, who has won the league four times as a manager, was “good at” scouting, working at the academy and playing an ambassadorial role. “You cannot find a better person for that than Kenny,” said Roy, who got the manager’s job at Anfield despite a CV that raises big questions about the criteria used to select him.

As Liverpool’s season slid from bad to worse with embarrassing defeats at home to Blackpool then away to Everton there were calls for Roy to be removed from his post. Many felt it was better for the club if Kenny was to take over in a caretaker capacity until the club could secure a suitable replacement.
Continue reading Rafa tells Roy to quit talking and concentrate on coaching

Bolton 0 Liverpool 1 – Maxi leaves it late, Reds go 12th

Sunday 31 October 2010 – Premier LeagueResult

Bolton 0 Liverpool 1 (Maxi 86)

Bolton v LiverpoolRoy Hodgson finally saw the end to his personal 442-day run without a league game as Liverpool made it three wins in ten games this season and moved all the way up to twelfth.

Once again Fernando Torres was involved in the goal, his delicate backheel setting up Maxi Rodriguez for the winning goal after 86 minutes of stalemate. Bolton ‘keeper Jaaskelainen got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.

Jaaskelainen certainly had little to do the rest of the game, Liverpool rarely threatening his goal. Bolton made Pepe Reina work more often but not much harder. 0-0 would have been a fair result although a number of ignored Bolton penalty claims might give them room to dispute that.
Continue reading Bolton 0 Liverpool 1 – Maxi leaves it late, Reds go 12th

Roy has much to prove as Reds travel to Bolton

Liverpool make the short trip to Bolton tomorrow with supporters desperately hoping Roy Hodgson will use tactics becoming of a side featuring a trio of world-class players as opposed to those of a side looking for praise for avoiding relegation.

Last weekend saw Liverpool win a league game for the second time this season, but did little to change the minds of fans who feel manager Roy Hodgson is out of his depth. Comments from the manager since then have only raised the level of hostility being shown towards him by supporters who, quite frankly, are used to far better than this.

Hodgson seems content to go along with Tom Hicks’ idea that much of the blame for the disgraceful start to Liverpool’s season can be pinned on the previous manager.

It’s an epic cop-out.

When Liverpool kick-off at the Reebok it’ll be 442 days since Roy Hodgson won an away game in the Premier League.  Is that down to Rafa too?

For all the debate amongst supporters about whether or not Rafa had to go, nobody in their right mind would have said he left behind a squad that should be in the relegation zone with a quarter of the season gone.

And it’s important to recall comments Roy made in September: “We were unbelievably over-staffed when I came to the club and, if the truth be known, we still are over-staffed.” In terms of the summer’s transfer deals he said at the time: “We should be very happy. A lot of hard work has gone in and you have to mention Christian Purslow and Eduardo Macia, both worked really hard during the transfer window to do the deals I wanted to happen but also to do deals for quite a few players to leave the club.”

Roy Hodgson and two DanesAs far as what he meant by “over-staffed”, he also said: “We don’t want that middle group who are too old for reserve football but are not serving any purpose for the first team because they never feature.”

If that “middle group” of players were surplus to requirements he wouldn’t need to replace them if they were offloaded in the last minute of the transfer window. If he was happy with the rest of his squad and the deals done over the summer then he surely can’t have any complaints about what he inherited.

That was before the embarrassment that followed in the league.

Back to this week and he said: “I think you can pay an awful lot of money for poor players and you can pay not very much money for very good ones – it is all to do with how good your scouting and your eye is. There are a lot of things here that the club has got to get right. We have got a lot more expensive failures on our list than good players that we have brought in for next to nothing.”

Comments like that must work wonders for morale. Especially amongst players that Roy might come to rely on should injuries mount up like they did last season. It’s unlikely he’ll be complaining of being over-staffed then. And they may well be expensive failures, but telling them they are is hardly going to change that. Or increase their value when it comes to offloading them.

And it’s not just the ones who cost money that he’s grumbling about: “Free transfers don’t necessarily mean that you have got a bargain. My experience of them has been very mixed. You need to be sure that the player you get can do the job you want from him.” Even if he doesn’t mean Cole or Jovanovich, neither of whom have been outstanding since their arrival, his comments will sow seeds of doubt in their minds, particularly the latter one whose deal was agreed before Roy was manager.

So with the “expensive failures” and free transfers feeling a little more unwanted, Roy moved onto claims that some of the club’s most vital players are feeling down in the dumps about life under his management. None of the players themselves have come out to deny the claims, and the club are yet to deny the existence of any “get out clauses”. Roy chose to make general comments about rumours rather than say the players in question got on well with him: “This football club have a lot of players who have played for Liverpool for a long time. Every other day they’ve probably read or heard some nonsense about them and they seem to be a pretty hardened bunch.”

And he gave an insight into why he misses the point about what Liverpool FC is all about.

At a club that hadn’t long ago been playing in the old second division a Europa League place, never mind a Europa League run, might be what Roy would term “Utopia”. It’s nothing of the sort at Anfield, where fans want to be in with a chance of winning the league again, just like they were 18 months ago with a squad very similar to the one Roy inherited.

When Roy got Fulham into the Europa League, and then got them all the way to the final, he wasn’t likely to be on the wrong end of any criticism. He seems unable to see why things might be different at Anfield: “I’m relatively hardened but I’ve been spared too much at Fulham, where never a bad word was said.”

He also gave a hint at what Carragher and Gerrard might have been telling him about all those bad words he hears now he’s left Fulham: “It is an interesting thing for me to get into the type of mindset Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard are so good at. Having heard and seen it all before they are quite prepared to shrug their shoulders and write it off.”

What Roy failed to spot was that they were shrugging their shoulders and writing off criticism for different reasons, like “only” finishing second in the league, or being out of the running for the league title by this point last season.  Having played for Liverpool their whole careers, they’d never been in this position before Hodgson arrived. Perhaps they are just being polite.

Roy of the SeventiesThe criticism this season isn’t fickle knee-jerk attention-seeking nonsense. Roy, who has often answered criticism with references to his success in Scandinavia back in the days when Bob Paisley was starting out as successor to Bill Shankly, seems happy to ignore the latest questions about his abilities: “It is part and parcel of the business of working for Liverpool Football Club. I am beginning to turn it around myself.”

Last Sunday saw Liverpool play well, showing lots of reminders of how good many of the squad actually are, and pick up their second win of the season. But it was only against Blackburn and it was only a victory by one goal from a largely full-strength squad.  It was a start, but it’s far too early to get carried away. Not for Roy: “I hope we carry on from where we left off last Sunday because I thought that was a good team performance and a great victory.”

Great victories are 4-1 wins at Old Trafford, knocking Real Madrid or Barcelona out of the Champions League, that night in Istanbul.

2-1 at home to a manager with apparent delusions he’s one of the best managers in world football is not a great victory.

After that win Hodgson admitted Liverpool hadn’t played as well for the last 20 minutes as they had for the rest of the game: “If people expect us to really play a lot better football than we did for 70 minutes at the start of the Blackburn game they are going to be asking a lot.”

This week he’d forgotten about that last 20 minutes: “It is very important from the first minute at the Reebok Stadium we are as committed as we were for 90 minutes against Blackburn.”

Fans will be delighted to know that Roy has some lofty heights in mind for this club: “I’m not believing naively we are going to win seven out of nine and fly up to the top of the table but I do want us to move from out of the relegation zone.”

Thanks Roy. We didn’t really like to ask, but now you mention it we’d like to move out of that relegation zone too.

We have to win seven out of nine if we are to get back to anything like the minimum target most fans would have had for this season. If that seems a tall order it’s because we failed to win in seven out of our first nine games of the season.

And most fans predict the second nine games to go much like the first nine.

The challenge for Roy tomorrow is to prove those fans wrong.

* Fancy Liverpool’s chances against Bolton or is it going to be another day to forget for the Reds? Bet £10 and get a free £20 bet with Paddy Power. >>