The Reds are seventh in the Premier League, out of the FA Cup and face almost a mission impossible in Madrid next week to stay in the Champions League. It has led to searching questions about Jurgen Klopp and the Fenway Sports Group strategy which has propelled them to an era of success.
A large part of that has been the smart use of data by their world-leading research team to measure things like “underlying performances” and lead club strategy. Graham, who has been at Anfield since 2012, has been a key part of that transformation.
The club’s director of research, who will depart Liverpool in the summer, told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit that the reality is that the team were not as good as results suggested last season and are not as bad as the current league position illustrates.
“In this situation when the team is going through a difficult time but the underlying numbers and underlying performances are not as bad as results would suggest, that is the time when it is nice to be the data person,” he said.
“It’s a very easy message to sell inside the club to say: ‘We’re not as bad as everyone says we are, we’re not as bad as even you may think we are given the difficulty we’ve had in achieving results. Our underlying performances are good and in the long-term, you should worry about underlying performances and not the results in the last three games.’
“I think it was Arsene Wenger who said he was not interested in the result of the next game, he was interested in the results of the next 10 games.
“If you go through a 10-game stretch without winning then that does suggest there might be something wrong with your underlying performance.
“It’s a much more difficult to sell in many ways when we had a season like last season when the message was ‘We’re not a 90 plus points team’. Very few teams in history have underlying performances that are 90 point performances.
“That message that we’re not as good as you might think we are based purely on results is a more difficult one to sell.”
Interestingly, Graham said that a downturn in form is the time to reinforce their data-driven message, rather than abandon it.
“Inside a club when we’re doing worse than performances would suggest is the time to get people onside because you have a very positive message that few other people in the club are giving,” he said.