I often am one of the first, if not the only, to spank the Reds on their ass when they churn out a performance which I feel is way below their standards. Frequently, my reality checks stimulate condescending comments such as ‘We are still works in progress’, or ‘Give Kenny some time’, or better still, ‘The team is only beginning to gel’. The best ones are ‘Go support someone else!’ Objectively all reasonable reactions (minus the latter one which is the epitome of stupidity), but is this the same perspective with which Henry, Warner, Comolli, Kenny and all our players view this season?
I feel that the plan was, and still is, a quick return to Champions League football. That is priority number one! The Club wants it, the owners demand it, the manager believes in it and the players crave for it! We have witnessed that the Club is finally giving the domestic cups their due importance and respect, and even though we played Stoke the other day with 8 changes from the previous game, the starting line-up was jam packed with quality players and the performance reflected this quality in depth, playing a full strength Stoke team at the Britannia which is renowned to be a difficult hurdle for any visiting team.
So let’s not beat around the bush. Those that believe the Club is not targeting this goal are either living in a parallel world or else have their computations completely wrong. Competing in Champions League football has a multiple ripple effects that all point towards positivity: top tier of European football, substantial financial benefits, brand exposure leading to stronger sponsorship deals, helps keeping your best players from wanting to go elsewhere, and helps you attract quality star players to the Club. Indirectly (so to speak), the same target helps you remain within striking distance of landing the Premier League title, unless of course the team leading the pack is flying at unreachable heights.
Those who believe that Henry & Co put in the money they have (and I am not referring to the purchase of the Club) just for the Reds to finish ‘a bit better than last year’ think again, because you are mistaken. The money has been provided and the team has been radically overhauled. The players that did not ‘sell’ but either did not want to stay (see Aquilani), or were not part of the plans (see Cole) were sent out on loan for three reasons: the first not to remain a heavy burden to carry, the second to keep their careers and their value on track, and the third to have them half-way away from a guaranteed commercially viable sale.
There was good turnover of money which resulted in some good business for the Club. Seven new players coming in and almost double that moving out is, in effect, an overhaul! New owners, new management and a squad with depth are the foundations on which success is built, and not one, not least us passionate supporters, will be happy with finishing one spot better than last year!
We need to be bold and brave, and we need to be consistent. We need to remain humble but we also need to foster ambition. We ‘avoided’ Europa League this season to concentrate starting with a fresh slate. Let’s make the most of it, because if the PL title may not be within our sights, Champions League football and the domestic cups most certainly are!
And, lest we forget, the January transfer window is only 60 days away, and yes, there might be a couple of pleasant surprises around the corner……!