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Charlie Adam: An Expensive Sub?

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Despite Charlie Adam’s best efforts of throwing people off the scent earlier by tweeting ‘day off today from pre-season just sat watching sky sports news’, his long-anticipated/excruciatingly drawn-out transfer to Liverpool was completed this afternoon for a reported fee of around £9m. After failing to conclude a deal during the winter transfer window for the 25-year-old the club announced today that they have “reached agreement with Blackpool for the transfer of Charlie Adam” and that “the player will now travel to Merseyside for a medical and to discuss personal terms.”

Adam becomes Liverpool’s second signing of the summer, following the arrival of fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson in a deal worth £20m from Sunderland, and reaffirms Liverpool’s policy in the transfer market of looking for young British talent with what appears to be little regard of the cost. A bid for Aston Villa’s Stewart Downing was rejected yesterday but the club remain confident that he too will shortly be on his way to Anfield in a move that could cost the club as much as £20m, which, if is the case would take Liverpool’s spending since January to over £100m. Out of the players they have brought to the club in that time the only one proven at the very highest level is Luis Suarez, whose £22.7m move appears relatively cheap alongside the likes of Carroll (£35m), Henderson (£20m), Downing (£20m) and Adam (£9m).

Liverpool’s owners New England Sports Ventures (NESV) have said from the start that they intend to implement a transfer policy loosely based on the ‘Moneyball’ approach made famous by the book of the same name by Michael Lewis that charted the remarkable rise of the baseball team the Oakland Athletics under the stewardship of Billy Beane. Beane’s approach to potential signings was based on valuing different empirical measures of a player’s performance to those commonly accepted within baseball as being the signs of a good player. Damian Commolli’s appointment as Director of Football at Liverpool underlined their commitment to this strategy. While at Spurs Commolli became good friends with Beane, who is reportedly a Spurs fan, and their friendship has flourished since then with the two in frequent conversation.

It is difficult to see how the signing of Adam fits in to the ‘Moneyball’ equation. Downing, for all his doubters, is one of the best crossers of the ball in the league, and, having spent £35m on a striker with the aerial prowess of Andy Carroll it makes sense to buy a player that can supply the ball to him. Jordan Henderson, despite a poor showing at the recent U21 European Championships is a highly talented driven young player who provided the fifth highest number of chances in the Premier League last season. One of the four players to provide more was Stewart Downing. So why do Liverpool need Adam? If it is chances they want, they have already signed a younger and arguably better player already this summer in the form of Jordan Henderson. And they look set to sign Downing. The signings of Downing and Henderson make statistical sense when you consider the finishing ability of the likes of Carroll and Suarez, as chances will lead to goals something that Commolli clearly has in mind. Charlie Adam however seems an unnecessary signing, and no better than some of the players already at the club.

Now consider his goal threat. Yes he scores goals but of the 12 that he scored in the league last season 7 were penalties, one was direct from a corner and three from free-kicks. With the likes of Gerrard, Henderson, Suarez and possibly Downing competing to take set-pieces it seems unlikely Adam will get much of a look-in, thereby stemming his number of goals. And that is assuming he is on the pitch. Looking at the players already at the club, it is hard to picture Adam anywhere but on the bench. Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva, two of Liverpool’s few outstanding performers last season, along with Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson will all be competing with Adam for one of possibly two spots in the starting eleven.

But maybe Charlie Adam has something that the everyday fan does not see, a specific talent that Commolli and Dalglish have identified as being crucial to Liverpool’s success. This would fit in with the NESV ‘Moneyball’ strategy and explain why many fans and journalists are currently bemused by his arrival at Anfield. Only time will tell what role Adam has at Liverpool, yet when considering the personnel and talent around him it appears difficult to see how he will be any more than a periphery figure at the club next season.

Note: Rangers who sold Charlie Adam to Blackpool are reportedly in line for 15% of the transfer fee, as part of a sell-on clause.

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About Author

A sometime English student and self-confessed football obsessive. As soon as I realised, at the age of about 14, that unlike in my dreams, I wasn’t going to be a professional footballer for Tottenham Hotspur I began considering alternative careers. For the past two years I’ve written about football for the Newcastle University paper, and last year spent an enjoyable month or so being The Observer’s Ghana fan as part of their ‘World Cup Fans Network’ (Damn you Luis Suarez). I try to take in as much football as I can, but focus most of my attention upon the top divisions in England, Spain and Italy along with any major european or international competitions.

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