A few hours ago, news emerged that Damien Comolli's time at Liverpool had ended by "mutual consent." The only surprising thing about it is the timing. Though some of the more blindly loyal amongst the fanbase had continued to argue that there was a solid plan in place and that the club was on the right track, to most it had become clear that somebody was going to have to take the blame for a thoroughly underwhelming league campaign.
Given the turnover of the playing staff over the previous summer's transfer window and that most of the club's big money signings have so far seemed a jumbled collection of pieces that don't quite fit together, there was always a decent chance that Comolli would be the one to take the fall. Though of course that he is now gone doesn't mean Kenny Dalglish is safe.
That will likely largely depend on two things: Whether Liverpool can win the FA Cup, and the exact role Dalglish played in player transfers. Dalglish has talked of being involved in every player move, saying that he agreed with Comolli on every purchase and sale, yet it's difficult to imagine the manager publicly dismissing a player as an unwanted Comolli signing two days before the club face Everton at Wembley.
Regardless of public statements, questions will remain over just how much of a role Comolli played in targeting players like Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, both of whom have been locks on the starting eleven for most of the season. Certainly he will be the one who takes the blame for the Andy Carroll panic buy, though beyond that the waters get fairly murky. It will be telling, however, if his departure signals the end of any plan that may have existed by way of a major shift in team selection in what remains of the season.
Nobody outside the club will likely ever know exactly who was the driving force behind every transfer, just as it's unlikely to ever be public knowledge which of Dalglish, Comolli, or the men above them in the ownership group were primarily responsible for the move towards investing heavily in so-called proven Premier League talent while marginalising players already at the club who had previously proven their value. For now, Damien Comolli takes the blame. It's hard to be certain, though, if that's a fair reflection of the entire story—or if in fact it's the end of this part of the story.
Note: With the story continuing to develop, updates follow bellow the fold.
Update: Peter Brukner, Liverpool's head of sports medicine, has now left the club as well. Much as the timing of Comolli's departure and that there were no whispers beforehand made it unexpected, Bruckner leaving with the season still on and a continuing cup run has to be more surprising given that in his second year at the club there has seemed a drop in the sorts of injuries a medical staff can work to prevent. He was, however, a legacy signing of from the days of Christian Purslow and Roy Hodgson, which may have played some role in FSG's decision to dismiss him at a time when they appear to be cleaning house.
Update: The official site has now released an interview with Tom Werner about the club deciding it was time to part ways with Damien Comolli. The key pull on Comolli comes when Wener discusses the rationale for firing him with a month and at least six games remaining before the end of Liverpool's season:
I think it's fair to say no supporter would be delighted with the results we've achieved this year. We feel we are a club that needs to be perceived as the strongest club in football and we want to get there. Frankly, we make these decisions with a great deal of care because it's our track record in Boston to give people authority and we've had great success with our manager, who was there for eight years, and our general manager, so we prefer stability. But when it's time to act, we need to act. We're coming close to the end of the season and the transfer window for the summer, and we felt it was important to make this change expeditiously.
He further talks about FSG's belief in the current set-up, suggesting that a replacement for Comolli will be brought in to fill the director of football role in the coming weeks. He also says that no further changes to senior management are planned, with Kenny Dalglish and Ian Ayre in particular being mentioned as two who the owners fully expect will remain at the club moving forward. Of course, sometimes the last thing a coach or manager wants is a statement of support from the owners, though if you take Werner at his word then Comolli is almost certain to be the biggest name leaving the club—at least until the transfer window opens and players can be shipped out.
Update: Two more names have been added to the growing list of departures, with goalkeeping coach John Achterberg and club lawyer Natalie Wignall also on the way out. Goalkeeping coach has been a rumoured sore point since Xavi Valero left, with whispers that Pepe Reina has been less than thrilled by subsequent coaches brought in and fans quick to point at a perceived decline in the stopper's game in recent seasons, and so that Achtenberg finds himself joining Comolli and Brukner without a job after today's bloodletting is hardly a shock.
As for Wignall, though hers is a name few fans would have known before now, it stands to reason that John Henry and FSG will not have been happy with the handling of the Luis Suarez affair. As such her departure cannot be considered hugely shocking given the rest of the day's events, either.
Correction: Contrary to earlier reports, it appears that Natalie Wignall is in fact still with the club. Given her relative obscurity, that many believed she had been dismissed along with Comolli, Brukner, and Achterberg when that appears to have not been the case seems curious, but that does seem to be where things stand roughly twelve hours after the chaos kicked off with Comolli's dismissal. If anything changes, we'll let you know.