Watch the video at the top of the article to learn about Liverpool ‘transfer guru’ Michael Edwards and his impact at Anfield.
He might not be front and centre in the limelight, but few have had a bigger influence on Liverpool’s recent upturn than sporting director Michael Edwards.
Jurgen Klopp quite rightly takes most of the plaudits for turning the Reds from an underperforming laughing stock into European champions and Premier League champions elect.
Given how much money they have pumped into the club, John Henry and the big wigs at Fenway Sports Group have also come in for a lot of praise for funding key signings, as well as the redevelopment of Anfield.
However, working behind the scenes of this massive club, Edwards has played a key role in bringing a new level of talent to Merseyside, helping Klopp instil a winning mentality and turning the Reds into, arguably, the most feared team in world football right now.
Edwards prefers to keep a low profile and refuses to partake in public interviews, so his role is understandably something of a mystery.
So, without further ado, let’s see what the “Edwards effect” really looks like…..
Climbing the ladder
After a short spell as a Pro Zone analyst at Portsmouth back in 2003 and a stint with Tottenham Hotspur, Edwards initially joined Liverpool back in 2011, taking over as the club’s head of analytics. That background in statistical analysis would prove key in the Reds‘ transfer approach in years to come, but Edwards’ true influence wouldn’t be felt publicly for some time.
For five years, Edwards quietly worked away behind the scenes at Anfield, earning the trust of Henry and fellow owners Mike Gordon and Tom Werner. He was later promoted to director of technical performance and then technical director.
Edwards’ influence on Liverpool‘s transfer dealings grew over time, culminating in the Southampton-born man becoming a key driver behind their 2015 capture of Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim. Such was the profound impression he made on FSG, Edwards was finally appointed Liverpool‘s sporting director in November 2016.
Key signings of the Edwards era
Given his pre-existing role on Liverpool‘s transfer committee, it’s safe to say Edwards’ ‘moneyball’ approach will have played a big part in the 2016 arrivals of the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane.
However, what about the key signings made since his promotion to sporting director? Here are some of the most important:
Virgil van Dijk
Has one man had such an impressively monumental impact on a defence as Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool?
The Netherlands international arrived at Anfield in January 2018 for a huge £75m fee – a world-record outlay for a defender at the time – and his price was initially met with scorn at the time by those outside the club.
Virgil van Dijk has now scored more Premier League goals (8) since the start of last season than any other defender.
Huge leap. Huge header. Huge goal. 🗻 pic.twitter.com/VQwFxA6Nw3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 19, 2020
Now, though, that fee is absolutely not questioned. Van Dijk has brought composure and culture to Klopp’s backline, while his sheer dominance helped him remain ‘dribble free’ between March 2018-August 2019.
Van Dijk was just pipped to the post by Lionel Messi for the 2019 Ballon d‘Or award and it’s hard to argue against him being Edwards’ greatest import – and arguably the most important Liverpool signing of the modern era.
While Van Dijk has transformed Liverpool from a mistake-prone mess into a commanding juggernaut at one end, Mohamed Salah has had an equally transformative effect at the other.
Fresh from restoring his reputation in Italy after a failed spell with Chelsea, Salah joined Firmino and Mane to become the final piece of the jigsaw in Klopp’s feared and famous front three, providing the goals to help fire Liverpool towards glory. The Reds already have one hand on the Premier League trophy and are 3/1* to go the entire 2019/20 season unbeaten.
Given Edwards’ expertise in statistically and critically identifying targets, it’s no coincidence that Salah, Mane and Firmino complement each other perfectly. Each creates space for the other, feeding chances and causing havoc for opposition defenders, while the trio form the first line of Klopp’s counter-press with unerring tactical efficiency.
Sure, Van Dijk stopped the rot, but Klopp still had to contend with the likes of Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius in goal, holding them back from becoming the all-conquering behemoth they are today.
As if overnight, the arrival of Alisson from Roma at the start of last season put an airtight seal around Liverpool’s goalmouth, while his expertise with the ball at his feet has allowed Klopp to transition his side from a pure counter-attacking force into one that dominates a game however which way they please.
Liverpool conceded a division-low 22 Premier League goals last season, ending 2018/19 with 97 points – the third-highest in competition history and the most of any runner-up. Alisson’s 21 clean sheets earned him the Premier League‘s Golden Glove award and undoubtedly played a huge role in that – and continues to do so this season.
Alisson Becker's Premier League record at Anfield:
🔴 27 games
🔴 80.3% save percentage
🔴 51 saves made
🔴 16 clean sheets
🔴 12 conceded
🔴 1 assist
The perfect goalkeeper. pic.twitter.com/6yqYDX4R9H
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 19, 2020
Liverpool fans were provided the perfect tonic to their 2018 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid with the almost immediate signing of Brazilian midfielder Fabinho.
The 26-year-old arrived from Monaco for £39m and although he initially struggled to adjust on Merseyside, he’s now firmly established himself as one of Klopp’s key generals – some even champion him as the Premier League‘s best holding midfielder right now.
Fabinho has the perfect blend of composure in possession, ruthlessness in the tackle and guile when breaking up opposition build-up play. That he seems to have lost the goalscoring touch he possessed at Monaco will be of little concern to Edwards or Klopp, who clearly had Fabinho earmarked as a solution to another of Liverpool‘s nagging problems.
You can splash the cash all you want but if you really want to pick out one signing which signifies Edwards’ expertise in the market, look no further than Andy Robertson.
The Scotland international arrived at Anfield as a rather lacklustre £8m signing from relegated Hull City in 2017 – even cheaper than that if you factor in Kevin Stewart heading the opposite way for a fee reportedly in the region of £4m.
21 Premier League assists and some truly lung-busting performances later, Robertson’s true value is absolutely not in question, with the 25-year-old providing the perfect mixture of attacking thrust and defensive solidity time after time for Klopp.
Pound for pound, Robertson might just be Edwards’ most precious gem.