- Last Active
With the Derby equalizer looking at the extended highlights it looked suspect to give the free-kick against Ayew for the foul on Rooney in the first place. Rooney then takes the free kick 5 yards ahead of where it should have been taken. He was also quick-witted enough to notice that we'd switched off to the danger of a short pass, so we could and should have done better to deal with what was a poor opportunity at the outset.
I thought that the Wisdom challenge on Woodman merited a yellow on first viewing, but looking on the highlights he clearly caught Woodman with his studs. A red everyday of the week. Frustrating.
One area where we could do with improvement is in being anticipatory in our actions rather than reactive. Derby's opener was a classic example. When the ball hit the post Guehi was closest to the ball and in line with Waghorn, but the latter was already on the move, anticipating that it might rebound favourably. Guehi is ball watching and reacts to the ball striking the post - but by then it's too late and Waghorn has stolen a march on him.
In general Cooper has improved our pressing game from last season, and credit to him for that. However, an area of improvement is trying to get the players to anticipate more and react less. Time and time again you see players react to a poor touch, but that second or so difference between anticipation and reaction is often all that's needed for the opposition player to regain control. Liverpool are excellent at anticipatory pressing of the ball. They assume that the opposition player will mis-control and press accordingly. We cannot hope to replicate the talent on the ball of the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino, but it's not unreasonable to think we can change our defensive mindset to being more pro-active. It's as much a psychological training as anything else.
Looking at their goals, Byers and Gallagher were nowhere for the opener. For the last goal Gallagher wasn't even in view, and Dhanda only got back belatedly. Cooper has to take some criticism for this. We were clearly flagging once Derby got their undeserved equalizer. Unsurprising as we pressed hard out of possession for the first hour. It would have been good game management to have brought Fulton on for Gallagher after we scored. Cooper needs to make better use of the bench.
Whatever happens with the academy and the Landore site looking to emulate what our competitors are doing will help us chart a way to a sustainable future. Brentford offer the most exciting and interesting model, but it will be hard to replicate their success without the top-to-bottom expertise that they possess. Apart from Brentford, Preston and Millwall offer two exemplars of relatively poorly supported Championship clubs that have punched above their weight in recent years.
This report on Millwall in 2019 is illuminating: http://financialfootballnews.com/millwall-fcs-2019-finances-record-sale/
They managed a tiny profit in the 2018/19 season, but even that was quite an achievement by Championship standards. This was partly down to a modest profit on transfers, with three players coming in for a million or so apiece, but this being more than offset by the sale of George Saville for £7 million. Interesting to see how their run to the quarter finals of the FA Cup boosted TV revenue by over £2 million - illustrating how it can be worthwhile giving a greater priority to the FA Cup for financial reasons alone.
The most significant figures from the article relate to the wage bill. At 92% of revenue their wage bill is still rather high, albeit respectable by Championship standards. I found this bit interesting "Millwall saw wages increase from £13.4m to £16.9m (26%) as the costs of being a competitive Championship team continue to rise. The new signings had to be offered competitive wages, while some existing players also received new, more lucrative contracts." This illustrates the difficulty of controlling wages through recruitment, rather than in-house development. It's all very well downgrading the academy, but how can we realistically compete, even with the likes of poorly supported Millwall, without incurring increased transfer and wage costs?
It does seem though that you don't think that there is no added value in the additional quality and level of coaching exposure that academy players get in a Category One environment, as well as the advantages in playing against a better quality of opponent, and the attractiveness of Cat 1 status to prospective recruits. I think there's a real danger, with a downgrade to a Cat 3 or worse academy, that we go back to the bad old days of producing players who largely end up in the WPL.
On the face of it it's hard to see that the modest savings of up to £3 million a year is what's driving this repeated briefing about potential downgrading of the academy - especially when set against the demonstrable return on investment in terms of developing players for the first team and net transfer income.
Could it be that the potential value of the Landore site is the driving force all this? The whole Morfa Retail park development, which kicked off nearly 20 years ago is reported to have been worth £50 million, and paid for the £27 million costs of developing the Liberty. If you look at the footprint of the Landore site on Google maps and compare it to the footprint of the retail park, you're talking probably around a third of the latter's area. Given all the development that's happened in the area subsequent to the retail park's establishment is it unreasonable to speculate that the Landore site could be worth £20 million? Crude, ball-park stuff admittedly, but I don't think we should underestimate that cashing in on the one tangible asset that the club possesses might be the main driver here.
So you think a saving of £1 million a year is the be-all-and-end-all? Even for a Championship club that's pretty modest. Also when you earlier invoked the sales of Allen and Davies you forgot to mention that they were the only two significant youth products earning transfer fees over a period of over a decade. You also fail to take account of the wage savings of academy graduates as opposed to experienced pros brought in from other clubs. The wage savings alone of fielding several Cabango's as compared to several Peterson's would probably be more than a million.
But you've not answered my question. What is your idea of long-term sustainability for the club? How are we going to punch above our weight? Or are you content for us to slip into League One/Two obscurity?