Liverpool owners FSG face similar problem in America amid ‘ill-fated decisions’ claim
The Fenway Sports Group-owned NHL team the Pittsburgh Penguins have been eliminated from post-season contention.
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After almost creating history by claiming an unprecedented quadruple in the 2021-22 season, Liverpool’s latest campaign - by their own standards - couldn’t have gone much worse.
Falling just two games shy of booking their spots in the pantheon of great sides, the Reds have been nothing short of average in 2022-23. They’ve scarcely challenged for silverware, with defences of their FA Cup and Carabao Cup crowns surrendered both at the fourth-round stage.
After finishing a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League, Jurgen Klopp’s side haven’t looked like even being in the title race - right from a 2-2 draw against Fulham on the opening day. Liverpool sit just eighth in the table and face the stark reality of missing out on Champions League qualification.
The Reds have been in Europe’s elite club competition for six successive seasons. A sixth title was added to the Anfield trophy cabinet in 2019 while they’ve also been beaten in two finals by Real Madrid during that time. European nights are synonymous with the club.
Liverpool have faced severe scrutiny throughout this campaign. The strength of the midfield and the age of the squad have all been questioned, in particular. Heading into the summer transfer window, there are widespread calls for owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) to back Klopp. Getting back into the Champions League in 2024-25 is paramount.
As summers go, this might be Klopp’s most important since 2016. Against the backdrop of the Reds pulling out of the race to sign Jude Bellingham, the pressure is on both the manager and the owners.
And across the Atlantic, FSG look set for an important off-season when it comes to one of their other teams - the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The NHL team were purchased by FSG for a reported $900 million in November 2021. The Pens are one of the most popular teams in ice hockey and have won the Stanley Cup five times - most recently in 2017. They became FSG’s fourth major fourth team after Liverpool, MLB outfit the Boston Red Sox and NASCAR team Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.
However, dreams of a sixth title this year have very much been put paid to. The Pennsylvania-based outfit have officially been eliminated from post-season contention after the New York Islanders have claimed the Eastern Conference’s final wildcard spot following a 4-2 win over Montreal Canadiens.
As a result, the Penguins’ run of making the play-offs for 16 successive seasons - which was the longest in the NHL salary-cap era and in any of North America’s fourth biggest sports leagues (along with the NBA, NFL and MLB) - is over. Only two years ago, the Pens finished top of the Eastern Conference.
The Athletic reports that the Penguins’ downfalls has been down to ‘ill-fated personnel decisions’ and a ‘mix of misguided player evaluation and poorly conceived trades and signings’ by general manager Ron Hextall.
Now it is said that FSG ‘might view the end of the franchise’s heralded postseason streak as an opportunity to bring in its own management team’. Much like Liverpool, the Penguins have an ageing team. The Athletic reports that Hextall has made ‘ the NHL’s oldest team even older’.