Written by Training Ground Guru – November 24, 2022
LIVERPOOL’s director of research Ian Graham has stepped down from his role and will leave Anfield after more than a decade.
Graham joined Liverpool in July 2012 and became a key figure at the club, building the leading data science department in the Premier League and perhaps even Europe.
The Welshman, who holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Cambridge, tendered his resignation in June and will serve a notice period until May, David Ornstein of The Athletic reported.
A big part of the reason for the success of Liverpool’s data science department is that it is truly integrated and affects football decisions. This is not a club that only caters to data, as some make it out to be.
Graham, for example, was involved in Jurgen Klopp’s selection to succeed Brendan Rodgers as the club’s new boss in October 2015. This was despite Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund having struggled the previous season, and ultimately managed to level up. seventh place in the Bundesliga.
This probably helped Klopp get completely on board with the data, which he certainly was.
“Jürgen is very open and receptive to our area,” Graham later revealed. “In terms of our weekly relationship, I don’t have a lot of interaction with him, but that’s not a bad thing because he knows the analysis that we do and how it feeds into the different reports and the weekly work that he does. and his team do.
“Just the fact that he’s open to it and intuitively understands the numbers, that’s enough. And if there’s something in particular that needs to be addressed, we’re there for the coaches.
“They are aware that we can help with things and give an opinion about it, which is great. Jürgen is very open to this and understands it. He doesn’t work too much day-to-day or week-to-week, but that’s not a bad thing.”
However, he admitted that recruitment remained the main area of influence for his search team at Anfield.
“Where (data science) can really help is player acquisition in terms of helping our scouting process,” he said. “In Premier League football and European football in general, there is a worldwide free market for football players.
“So if we spot a player we’d like to play for Liverpool and we can pay the price the selling club is asking, then we can buy him. And the real power of data analytics is when the data set is big. We have detailed data on hundreds of thousands of players.
“Maybe only 5% of those would be close to a Premier League-level player. But that’s still 5,000 players, which is too big a pool of players to explore all of them in depth and detail. So really we can help this filtering and identification process.”
This system helped Liverpool unearth many gems under Klopp and Graham picked out one in particular in an interview in November 2019, a few months after Liverpool had won the Champions League.
“One of my favorite players is Andy Robertson, our left-back, one of the best left-backs in Europe, and now the European champion of course,” he said.
“So Andy Robertson’s problem was his background as much as anybody. So he only started playing English Premier League football at maybe 22. And he played for Hull City, which was not a very good football
“They were relegated from the Premier League. And he was the best young full-back in Britain at the time. It was a really strange case of a very attacking full-back playing in a very poor defensive team.”
Graham is the latest football executive to leave Liverpool in recent months. Sporting director Michael Edwards left after a decade at the end of last season and his replacement, Julian Ward, is also leaving.
Meanwhile, non-executive director Mike Gordon, the conduit between the football club and owners Fenway Sports Group, is stepping down from his role.