By Akshay Nadkarni
As Liverpool Football Club push on through the final third of the season, I’d like to take a minute and reflect on the events that led the team up to this point, as well as give my feedback on what has transpired. I don’t pretend to be a football pundit; I’m actually a fan who is very new to the EPL, having only followed LFC and the premier league in general since the middle of last season. I’ve been reading EOTK for almost the same amount of time, and am encouraged by the diversity of opinions and the passion of fans who comment on the club’s doings. I’d like to give my perspective, as a new fan of the club. When I began watching, LFC was right in the middle of the 2009-2010 EPL season. This was apparently a disappointing season for supporters, and as a person who wasn’t at the time familiar of LFC fans’ expectations, I was appalled at the sentiment during the season and immediately after. The media were lambasting Rafael Benitez, a manager who had won a Champions’ League trophy for the club and finished second in the table a year before. Sure, it was a bad season, but it was one bad season. Looking back now, that season seemed like a purge of the bad clouds hanging over the club. From the wreckage of that season came the appointment of a new manager in Roy Hodgson, and the sale of the club to new owners (along with a clearance of the debt).
There were not many positives to take from the short-lived Hodgson regime. Right from the beginning, the club was dropping points in the EPL where, even two years ago, anything other than a win would have been unacceptable. Many people were calling for Hodgson to be fired, and others were urging fans to support him, and give him more time. It was easy to see his tactics were not working, and I feel most of the blame falls on the players here. A squad which was itching to play free-flowing football now had to play conservatively, and as a result games were lost due to lack of team coordination. Once we started dropping farther down the table, players seemed unmotivated, which exacerbated the problem. Could we have won under Hodgson? I believe so. His tactics worked for a Fulham squad which was miles below us in terms of quality. I think it was the lack of willingness from the players, combined with the lack of immediate success, which mired us in the middle of the table. At this point, the ownership took the only remaining option and fired Roy, citing that his tactics did not fit the club’s idea of football.
And in came King Kenny. What a refreshing change of pace he brought! Bringing in an Anfield legend to manage the club, combined with more free flowing tactics and attacking football, has motivated the players to a six-game unbeaten streak. Realizing that it was futile to play a style of football that the players themselves did not want to adopt made it clear that firing Hodgson for a more attack minded coach was the best way to move forward. In the middle of this run, we have strengthened the team both through subtraction and addition. The club saw Torres and Babel leave for a gain of about 55 million pounds. In came Suarez and Carroll at a combined cost of 58 million. After Torres handed in his transfer request he was useless to us, as he showed he didn’t want to play for us anymore. If you ask me, getting a world-class striker and the best young English forward in the league, all at a cost of two ineffective players and about 3 million pounds, was a huge success.
After the frenzied beginning to the season, we find the club still in European competition, and with an outside shot of qualifying for the CL next year. The aim for the rest of the season must be to finish as high as possible in the EPL, with a deep run in the Europa league an added bonus. There is also a golden opportunity to develop the future of the team. As the Gerrard generation enters its twilight, I am excited to see the likes of Kelly, Shelvey, Spearing, and Pacheco come to the forefront, as these players will be the ones the club depends on for success in the future. In the upcoming summer, I am sure we will see the team address key deficiencies in the squad by buying one or two big-name players. I am also looking forward to the young prospects we will sign. NESV’s model is not one of spending exorbitant amounts of money for immediate success. It is one of building a foundation of youth and only splurging on a few key supplements. Normally this approach would take a few years to come to fruition, but with the squad we already have as a base, I am sure we will be back challenging for a top spot in the EPL next year. This is truly an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan. With the right owners behind the club, the right manager in the dugout, and a top squad being developed, the stage is set for LFC to have another golden era.