Saturday 21 April 2018

Off The Ball: Reaction to potential Shane Long transfer short on intelligence


Ger Gilroy

So who knows if the Shane Long transfer to Liverpool is anything more than a fever dream earnestly relayed to the general public for titillation during the transfer window.

It may be that Jurgen Klopp thinks a free-running striker with boundless energy, zippy pace and a good spring is perfect for his system, particularly at around £10m. It may be that Klopp hasn't once thought of Shane Long since he scored for Ireland against Germany. The truth could be in between.

Until there's a deal there's nothing. The reaction to the notion that Liverpool might be interested in Shane Long, though, was a really interesting case study in fans and former players deciding they know more than everyone who works in football. It screamed a distrust of the new manager, and clearly feels the future is just a rerun anyway of a film they've already seen.

Maybe Shane Long never improves but what if he's the type of player who benefits from good coaching and playing in a superior team? No-one is actually saying Long is "better" than Christian Benteke. Take their careers in a vacuum and no-one thinks that.

Football isn't played in a vacuum, it's played at the end of a series of training sessions, physio, family dramas, real life and arguments about money, childish egos and occasional bad days. Benteke's having a poor season and may be a square peg in Klopp's scheme. Perhaps Long is a round peg.

Danny Murphy dismissed the notion out of hand on TalkSport and he was preaching to the boys of the YNWA choir who weighed in with a torrent of abuse. Great. If the transfer does happen Long faces a difficult period of settling in as opposed to any sense that the Great Redeemer might actually know what he's doing here signing this guy.

Intelligent transfers are made with full analysis of data. Liverpool will decide on Long and others on the basis of the sprints he makes, the distance he covers, the second balls won and a thousand other data points we don't have access to.

The fans and pundits will decide on a missed one-on-one that sticks in their minds. My money is on Klopp getting it right either way but just once I'd like to see a calm reasoned response along the lines of: "I wonder why this managerial genius is interested in this player - maybe he sees things we can't."

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