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UNCOVERED: The data expert behind Liverpool's big transfer market success

Liverpool's data analyst Ian Graham has been uncovered as the man behind their recent transfer success.

A report in the New York Times magazine has revealed the influence Graham has had since moving from Tottenham to the Reds:

"Graham recommended that Liverpool acquire Mo Salah, who was thriving in Italy.

"Graham's data suggested that Salah would pair especially well with Roberto Firmino, another of Liverpool's strikers, who creates more expected goals from his passes than nearly anyone else in his position.

"That turned out to be the case. During the season that followed, 2017-18, Salah turned those expected goals into real ones 'There's this idea that Salah failed at Chelsea,' Graham said. 'I respectfully disagree.'

"Based on Graham's calculations, Salah's productivity at Chelsea was similar to how he played before coming to England, and after he left. And those 500 minutes he played for Chelsea constituted a tiny fraction of his career. 'They may be slight evidence against his quality,' Graham said, 'but they are offset by 20 times the data from thousands and thousands of minutes.' In the conventional notion that playing in England is different, Graham saw an opportunity — an inefficiency in the system."

Graham was also behind the deal last year for former RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita.

"Graham spent months building a model that calculates the chance each team had of scoring a goal before any given action - a pass, a missed shot, a slide tackle - and then what chance it had immediately after that action.

"Using his model, he can quantify how much each player affected his team's chance of winning during the game. Inevitably, some of the players who come out best in the familiar statistics end up at the top of Graham's list. But others end up at the bottom.

"Keita's pass completion rate tends to be lower than that of some other elite midfielders. Graham's figures, however, showed that Keita often tried passes that, if completed, would get the ball to a teammate in a position where he had a better than average chance of scoring.

"What scouts saw when they watched Keita was a versatile midfielder. What Graham saw on his laptop was a phenomenon.

"Here was someone continually working to move the ball into more advantageous positions, something even an attentive spectator probably wouldn't notice unless told to look for it. Beginning in 2016, Graham recommended that Liverpool try to get him. Keita arrived at Liverpool last summer."

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Paul Vegas

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