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.

13 thoughts on “Liverpool FC managers: Stat Attack”

  1. Excellent work Ivan. For the statistical loving NESV this should be a must read for them. What are they waiting for? Dalglish deserves to take the reigns for the second have of the season. It would kickstart the passion from the stands and maybe some of the players who have been feeling soory for themselves (Torres) can get their backsides into gear and start sweating out much needed wins for the team.

    A very good read and thanks Ivan.

  2. Oh Good! I didn’t realize that Hodgson is one of our better managers but this surely shows it.

  3. Grazias mates.

    I’d like to see Kenny appointed for the remainder of the season. He’s been out of football for ten years so he’s probably not the best man for this job. But I’m sure he will do better than Hodgson does. Anyway FSG have to ask themselves are there any ambitions they want to achieve. If so, they have to find a manager who can move us forward.

  4. Thanks Ivan for the hard work of compiling these stats. I’m sure Paul Tomkins would be very pleased indeed, I suspect you might get a message from him ;-).

    This is undeniable proof that Roy has been regressive and not progressive to the team. I know he was hired to supposedly “stabilize” and team in “transition”, But he did not even do that.

    Okay, This is my observation. To me looking at Ancelotti’s woes as a comparison, I can’t completely blame him for the team’s slide because of all the changes and undermining behind the scenes, So its no wonder they are in the position they are in. Let Ancelotti’s example be a note to all those who said Rafa should have done better even with all the problems behind the scenes. In my opinion, Rafa did better than Ancelotti is doing now and Rafa had more problems internally at board level and player level, Plus Ancelotti has technically a better squad. So it should not surprise people why Chelsea slid this season and Liverpool slid last season.

    I agree with Ivan, That Kenny should be appointed not because of his “modern” coaching techniques. But more for the fact that he becomes a focal-point for the team and a figure head. Anyway Damian Comolli is going to sign the players he feels would be best for the team in the long term. I just hope they act soon.

  5. No mate. There’s still no messages from Paul. He’s too envious I guess -))

    Last season national press yelled there were so many good players in our ranks who didn’t play well because Rafa was too negative and had no clue how to use them properly. They ignored our injuries, beach balls and some mistakes made by players. That was all Rafa’s fault. They cried for a change. Liverpool had to approach “more offensive” style of play, they said, we had to play 4-4-2 and had to forget about zonal marking etc etc. They said – remove Benitez, replace him with a manager who “understands” British football and he would make wonders. Now Rafa’s gone and things are going from bad to worse. But there’s a silence now. Nobody wants to blame Roy for his decisions. These days they say Rafa’s “legacy” is the root of the problem. It’s not Roy’s outdated system, it’s not man marking, it’s not long balls, it’s not demotivative talks before and after our games, it’s a squad Roy inherited. 12 Liverpool players went to South Africa last summer, 4 of them reached the final but it’s “Rafa’s transfer policy” that undermines Roy’s results… I couldn’t agree with that before and I cannot agree now.

  6. Absolutely agree mate. All those events you just stated I remember very well. But its hard to explain it again and again to all the fans who are looking for a scapegoat. And you have ex-players all backing Roy to put it right even at this stage. Its very clear there is a sort of favoritism for Roy. I suppose if we get relegated its all Rafa’s fault too, Touch-wood we don’t of course.

    Last I remember Rafa was told to sell to buy after he was given Torres in 07. Every major and minor transfer from then on it had been on NET spend. So we hampered already. Every journalist seems to overlook this one. Yes he signed duds but who has not under a NET budget and hope to stay in the top 4 for a long time. It just won’t work in the long term. Other teams tried that, Notably Ipswich Town under George Burley and they did get into the UEFA Cup but they could not sustain. What happened? They got relegated. Is it such a surprise that Villa, Liverpool and Wes Ham are all struggling? They all have the wrong managers for the respective clubs.

    Another one that keeps coming up when I was watching the Blackburn game, Was constant talk among the commentators that Rafa ruined the Academy. What utter and total rubbish. He only restructured the Academy only after he signed a new contract in December 2008. Thats when he started getting really good coaches and Scouts from the “Farm” in Barcelona and other La Liga clubs (Oh yea, and Spain are Euro and WC champions as well! So thier coaching can’t be wrong and players too). Its only after December 2008 we got players like Pacheco and so on slowly coming through and now in the Team. What did Hodgson do? He sold Laurie Dalla Valle If I’m not mistaken, Sent Aquilani and Insua on loan too. I don’t see how all this is progress. These players had youth on their side. If there is one thing Rafa did before he left was he integrated the Academy back with the Reserves. And what about Josep Segura? I’m glad he is still at LFC even after Rafa left. For how long I don’t know, Maybe he can work with Comolli, I hope.

  7. Thank you!

    That’s just fantastic! My knowledge on that time is based on books, interviews and newspapers… So you’ve withessed our relegation battles in 50s, Shankly’s arrival and his rise, great success of our Bootroom boys and rapid fade of great Liverpool side in early 90s… Really impressive. Should I say I was born years after Shankly had resigned -(

    You’re right. But I’ve added that line of Shanks’ stats for those who said Roy had “really hard work” to do. Last season we were underachieving. I predicted we would be 4th-6th in May. And I predicted the same for this season but Roy couldn’t deliver even the results of the worst season we had under Rafa. He blamed Benitez for the squad he inherited (with lots of young but experienced players, full internationals and two world cup winners!), players (some of them he played out of position) and fans. The only person he forgot to blame was himself… I’ve tried to provide my readers with as many relevant data as I could provide and I think now it’s just impossible to find any reasons to defend his awful record here.

  8. Thanks for the links Ivan. I will keep a keen eye on the Russian Red Blog! I’ll just use Google to translate on Google Chrome (the best browser so far IMHO).

    We are on the same page,mate. Thanks for clarifying the Pacheco sign on date. I remember a lot of youth signings made during 2008 summer to Rafa’s last season on 2010. Like you said, If Rodolfo and Pep stay we will be fine for a few years yet. We may finally have our very own “Farm” like Arsenal.

    Yes, I also believe Rafa was the best manager we had since Shankly. Shankly was also a misunderstood man DURING his tenure. After he left people really started to appreciate him more and realized the task he actually completed and passing it on to Paisley. People have forgotten how Shanks used to tell off those above his head whom he thought knew nothing about football, Sound familiar to Rafa right( ala Parry and Purslow)? That stubborn streak is instilled in all top managers, plus their obsessive towards their profession. Too bad Carra and Gerrard lost faith, Born out of not knowing the background of the board level shenanigans. They also followed “English-Manager” brigade thinking thats the best way to bring the best out of the club that lost its way under “foreign” regimes. Also shows how detached these guys actually are to Global-Football trends and knowledge. For example the old fashioned 4-4-2 won’t work in the modern faster moving and faster passing game. Even my own country’s National Association (Singapore) are following the modern trend of having a Flexible 4-2-3-1 that can switch in real-time to 4-5-1, 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 during certain phases of the game. And not many coaches or managers in Britain (please take note Brits) CAN”T coach this well. In Europe on the other hand it has been common formation used throughout the 90’s. The flexible part was introduced in a large scale by the late 90’s. Thats when English clubs started to take notice somewhere in 2004/2005 season. And note those very English clubs were coached by foreign managers (Please note those reading, Fergie introduced this same system change into Man Utd because of Carlos Queiroz’s influence and it was all his tactics, While Fergie motivated the team, Its no surprise they struggled tactically in Europe against European opposition when he left, They won CL by beating a tactically inept Avram Grant Chelsea side, And that also on penalties.) So we need a good back room staff, reserve team coach and youth coaches to know these systems and coach the team. We don’t need Kenny to do all these things. All he needs to do is motivate and get the team playing well (Like what Fergie does, See a trend here?). Don’t forget we had someone who did these systems coaching part and manager part in Rafa.

    Eventually, People will realize (I hope) that Rafa had a progress hampering position. Even Houllier did not have the amount of uncertainty and budget constraints. And never really got the shot he should have had at the club. Who knows maybe Rafa would get the chance Kenny just did in years to come for one more shot at it in a stable environment.

    Imagine, 1 and half years ago we were sitting here complaining about why we didn’t do this or that against certain top clubs. Now we are sitting here hoping we can get a taste of that luxury back.

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