Ever since Tom Hicks and George Gillett arrived at Anfield Rafael Benitez has been forced into a trade-off in the transfer market. This season the effects are all too clear.
Since the arrival of our American owners at the club we have seen progressive improvement in our first team season after season, from the addition of Torres the summer after the arrived to challenging for the title in last seasons campaign everything has been up hill. The first eleven have certainly got stronger in those years, boasting a host of world-class players, all with international caps under their belt. This improvement in the starting eleven has shown in Europe as well, since our last final in 2007 our most disappointing end to a European campaign has come in the quarter-finals, something Liverpool fans could only dream of throughout the 90’s and early in this decade.
This season, however, has been a different matter altogether. An injury crippled team has put in a number of poor performances that have seen us knocked out of the European Cup and our title dreams crushed even before New Year has arrived. In times like this all anyone thinks about is where to allocate the blame. Are the players not trying hard enough? Is the manager not making the right decisions? Are the owners not supporting the manager enough? All these questions have been asked over recent weeks and in my opinion the majority of the blame has to be placed upon our owners shoulders.
Since the very start of our current owners tenure we’ve adopted a sell to buy policy, mainly due to the fact the club has to pay toward the interest payments on the loan currently placed on the clubs holding company. Over the last few years we’ve seen a number of quality squad players sold in order to finance the purchase of top-quality players for the starting eleven. A prime example of this is the sale of Bellamy in order to fund the Torres deal. Whilst we would all rather have Torres than the Welsh striker it would have been nice to have had him in the squad this season, but our financial restraints means that he had to make way in order to improve the quality of the starting eleven.
This has had to be done to bring in a host of first-team players, including Javier Mascherano, Robbie Keane and Glen Johnson. It’s a position that no other top four club has been forced into. When Alex Ferguson wants a player he feels will be essential if United want to meet their goals for the seasons he is given the funds, without the need to sell one or two squad players to finance the deal. Chelsea are in the same position. No major players had to make way for signings such as Anelka in recent years, meaning they have maintained a strong squad whilst improving their starting eleven.
Due to our need to sell in order to buy we’ve seen our squad become weaker season-on-season whilst our first team has improved. This means when we are hit by a host of injuries as we have been this season we don’t have the backup to cover for the injured first team players. Selling to buy a high-price player once every couple of seasons is acceptable and can be done without damaging strength in depth too much, but when you’re forced by the owners to sell in order to buy in every transfer window the squad will become weaker even if the first team is getting stronger.
It’s a bad trade-off for any manager, either sell quality squad players and have a strong first eleven or don’t sell and have an average squad and an average starting eleven. What does it all boil down to? A lack of funds given to the manager by the owners, that’s what has made Liverpool’s squad as weak as it is today and it will only get worse, no matter who is the manager, unless the owners inject some capital into the club now.