By Kevin Eze
I can see someone out there already attacking me for saying this. I can hear someone yelling at me…keep quiet! Shut up! Shut the filthy mouth! What do you know? But…wait, am I being presumptuous? No, rather being optimistic and I predicate my optimism on facts. Of course, the club have to be proactive.
After watching the game against a newly promoted side Swansea City FC, there was little left to believe that Liverpool will still finish in top come May 2012. Also, when you consider the tactics, changes and particularly ‘a mediocre display’ of players deemed average at the moment, but who are still expected to do better as the season wears on, there is no doubt one is left frustrated. But is there time for such luxury? I remember during the summer transfer window many fans clamored for English players, including senior English players (xenophobia?). We all know their performances in the league at their respective clubs, bar Carrol who scored about 15 goals in a season, so I still believe would deliver with the right personnels around him; had Kenny really pushed for foreign players for the same price of players like Downing and Henderson, it would have been better today. Point is some section has to be satisfied (English). Home grown talents needed. Interestingly, same section of fans are now moaning about those players today especially seeing their performance against Swansea. Kenny had a fantastic blue print for signing them but got it wrong for thinking Henderson would thrive on the right, Carrol needs better. To me it’s just like buying a car withot getting the manual to enjoy driving it. I recall that Fernando Torres success was down to Gerrard effectiveness; in a way Gerrard was his success manual. Which is why is suffering in CFC up until now. So to Kenny’s dismay it’s just not working out the way he expected it this time of the season. This is evidenced in his post match conferences against Rangers and the one against Swansea. Well, it’s a little crazy but there are some permutations and combinations to consider as everyone cannot be satisfied and no one knows the future. Every manager has passion for certain things. Kenny did say Henderson and Carrol are for 5 years. But I ask; how many fans want to wait for 5 years after all the shocking displays that almost game many heart attack under Roy Hodgeson? So I won’t blame any fan that is not showing patience at this period, as they need and want something sweet, i.e good football, results and reward for their monies.
Like the owner Mr. John W. Henry modestly said top 4 is crucial to the club at the end of May 2012, in terms of commercial status, naming rights? finance plus their overall smart plan for the club. So, he understands the importance and significance of top 4 to Liverpool. Many of us do.
In fairness, Kenny has to shoulder some responsibility as to the team/squad performance thus far. After all Benitez was constantly unfairly criticized by the media who wanted him out, plus his haters in the league, Roy Hodgeson also was criticized. Like many unbiased fans would agree with me, Downing and Henderson in particular are not what the team need right now, it needs better. Henderson is for the future. Both can be classified as squad players. As for Carrol, Kenny failed to sign players that would bring the best out of him (top class left/right wingers) in Europe. According to reliable rumors, Juan Mata was there for grab, but Kenny preferred Downing over him. Obviously it did not take weeks for Mata to adapt. He has been a hit in his present club, scored goals plus couple of assists so far this season. Yes, Downing and Henderson were both the best players at for their respective former clubs before LFC signed them but, Villa and Sunderland are not Liverpool. That is the difference. They are not players with tricks and dribbles. That is the sort of player Carrol and Suarez need. Suarez can’t do it alone. True I do not doubt the ability of Henderson but now he’s being played out of position, so lacks confidence and unsettled.
Well, having said that the premier league is no doubt the best league in the world in terms of its competitiveness, the hype it enjoys, the marketing and the amount of pounce being invested in it, notably in recent years.
Each season we see clubs deemed as ‘lesser’ clubs challenging for top 7, so as to be involved in the Europa league in the following season. As a result, this season has not been different. A club like New Castle United although not a lesser Club in terms of its history, that have been out of top 6 for long now occupy top 4 spot for weeks in this present season. Before now, Liverpool FC, Manu, Arsenal FC, and Chelsea FC are known for sitting in the top 4 by this time of the season. However, like I said and as we all know things have changed, new owners have taken over some clubs that were close to administration; they are really splashing the cash as in the case of LFC. The league has also witnessed the revival of Manchester City FC. Their owners have been investing heavily on the club for the past 3 seasons. It is as result of this investment that they are able to buy quality players; quality in the team makes them a formidable club both home and abroad. Little wonder they occupy the 1st spot of the league table.
Tottenham Hot Spurs is another club that comes to mind. Since last two seasons they have invested as well. Last two seasons saw them finished top 4 spot and last season saw them finishing in top 5 of the league table. So, we can see that as result of big investment from the past three seasons this has completely changed the complexion of the EPl and the table in terms of which club finished in top 4. These two clubs mentioned had no off and on field issues, their managers have enjoyed financial backing from the owners. Albeit NCUFC first mentioned above did have, but got over it as time went by. I am still in awe that they would be doing this fine this season despite Mike Ashley’s crazy attitude towards the club and the fans.
Unfortunately, Liverpool football club was facing difficult and perilous times. Fortunately, those days are history today. They now have new owners who are ready to invest wisely. The owners have done that already and would still invest coming this January window. Also they have a new a manager who completely represents what the club stands for, a manager who won trophies as a player and as a player manager with the club and as a manager with another club in the epl (Blackburn), plus a first team coach who worked with a successful title winning manager in the same league.
First half of last season all these positive factors were not in place for Lfc, in fact they were almost fighting relegation under past regime, it was almost zero for them. But today the aim of the club is to finish within top 3/4 of the league table. To be honest I would wish they finish top 3 come May 2012; this may also be the manager’s silent aim, after all they say if the heaven drops the plum you open your mouth and swallow it. That said, below are my reasons for the above caption:
I have being following the Liverpool Football Club for some years; this includes not just regular league fixtures but also during transfer windows, notably during the regime of a certain genius and Spaniard and a legend Rafael Benitez. Regardless of the issues associated with the club as mentioned above, from my experience with the club it is not known to be a quick starter both in the domestic league and foreign competitions, and yet they could still end up finishing in top 4 in most of the seasons he was in charge. Interestingly, the 08/09 season was exceptional, it saw Liverpool starting very quickly, they were very good in that season finishing 2nd in the league table, narrowly missed out on winning the league title. So, apart from this beautiful season for LFC the rest seasons have been slow start. The second half of the season is usually their best time they pick form. The 09/10 season was dissapointing due to on/off field issues that included injuries plus many more we all know about; Liverpool finished 5th. Now, drawing a parallel from this history we can see that same thing has happened to the club at the moment.
Although they started pretty well, but not with convincing displays. Since then it’s been a mixture of stop start and slow start for them.
Second reason is because the team that started playing this season has been almost a whole new team (8new players brought in). It was always going to take time for it to gel. Some of them it appears are/were playing under the pressure of the fee they are signed. But consider last two league fixtures against Stoke and Westbrom, they showed better improvement, especially against Westbrom, we could see the understanding between Suarez and Carrol that the manager talked about. We could see the surplus of qualities making up for the deficiency of some who may be deemed average in their performances due to the understanding and cohesion in the team. Apart from that there was no Carra, so the pass and move started from the backline, it was really impressive.
Third reason is because of the squad/team strength that was lacking in the immediate past regime. Unlike those days when the team relied much on a player or two, that is gradually changing now. Without Gerrard and Carra the club performed well against Westbrom. We also saw that against MCFC towards the end of last season. As we can see the team is gradually finding its form, but still slow (consider Swansea game) very annoying and frustrating. If I am not wrong in most seasons Liverpool pick up their good form from December, meanwhile the index have started showing from late October in the past 2 fixtures. The club performs better from second half of the season. The team in my opinion has gelled, the problem is turning chances into goals and killing it off. Killing off lesser teams seems to be a huge task for them. This may be down the rigid 4-4-2 system that the manager has refused to change against lesser teams. We saw what Swansea did against Suarez. Besides, the team tends to rely on Suarez. But surely Liverpool have no time for luxury and sentiment, i.e Why keep Maxi and Kuyt with experience on bench remembering what Maxi did towards end of last season? What is happening now is purely to the detriment of top 4 aim/target. I agree the squad has the strength to cope till January but the 4-4-2 system must be flexible (using the right players). Henderson definitely not useful on the right wing, he plays better in the middle. This is where the manager has to be proactive.
Fourth reason is backing of the owners (FSG) during the transfer windows. Coming this January transfer window clubs and fans will witness yet another interesting transfer activities. No doubt, Liverpool would not be left out.
Kenny and Comoli will surely deem it fit to sign another striker in the mould of Torres to add to the depth of the strike force that the club is lacking at the moment. From the look of things, why Kenny cannot play another system may be down to Carrol’s style of play, he is not like Torres who could play a lone striker role. Then apart from a striker the team very importantly needs a right winger and an attacking midfielder as the club’s fantastic and famous captain Gerrard may not be fit for most part of the season due to injuries. As we can see Adam is already filling his shoes, but would surely need another support. Very soon, Adam would rediscover his pin point passes that made the club to sign him. And maybe they need not sign another midfielder; they may have to recall very talented, a Gerrard’s proto type Jonjo Shelvey when his loan spell expires in December ’11 to assist Adam. Let’s also hope that Kenny would not be too stubborn and refuse adding to his strike force as Carrol alone is not what is needed. To be in the top 4 you more than 2 quality strikers. You can say Kuyt, Bellers, Suarez and Carrol are all strikers, but then I ask; why then the goal drought? When Torres was in the mix it was not that way. Kuyt thrives better from the wings. Carrol need betters services. The team needs a goal poacher. I hear someone mention Bellamy; yes he’s good but question is: Why does Kenny comfortably leave him on the bench even bringing him on at the deep end of most game played so far, if he truly trust his ability and judgment? If you don’t trust in experience, why convince him to sign in the first place, after all we all know his ability to change a game. For me it’s a mystery I don’t comprehend only the manager does. He must avoid over using Suarez; long season ahead.
Non Involvement in Europe
Liverpool missing out on Europa front this season would help them as the season wears on. There would be lesser games to play unlike Tottenham and other clubs involved in UCL that would play plenty of games, so it would be a long season for them. And as such plenty of games lead to injuries and fatigue, albeit they might try to sign in January as well. Considering also that Liverpool have a very good and average young players this would go a long way to curb fatigue. For example, Chelsea’s squad is presently suffering from ageing players, even if they sell a couple of them and sign new ones in January it should take some time before the team would gel. That is not to say they should be written off. But then, in this area Liverpool are already ahead of them.
Unlike the immediate past season when a certain English manager who was busy making friends with the media and some managers in the league to the detriment of the club, Liverpool now have a manager who is an effigy of the club, he understands the ethos of the club, it’s cultural heritage; a manager who won trophies and understands what it takes to get to top 4, plus a 1st team coach that has almost same chemistry with him.
Turn of Fortune
No matter how good you are at whatever profession you chose without ‘fortune’ your plans would be practically frustrating. Although some people call it luck, but I prefer using the term fortune for my personal reasons. Last weekend Man U narrowly won their game due to fortune. They didn’t play better, were outplayed but won in the end. That is what Liverpool are lacking at the moment. We have seen some referees’ decision being hard on the club at the outset of the season e.g., Carrol’s goals cancelled, refusal to award penalties, e.t.c. However, this also means that the team must work hard to avoid finding themselves is such tight corners. Interestingly in his post match conference we heard Kenny saying they would find a solution to it. He also claimed that Liverpool is close to rediscovering their ruthless streak. Suarez also have same believe when he said that the club will finish in top 4 come May 2012.
In summary, with the backing of the owners, intelligent/flexible system of play by the manager, the physios, the depth in the squad, turn of fortune, non involvement in europa league, counting on the history of the club, excluding Hodgeson’s short term that nearly cost the club its presence in the premier league; new young but experienced signings already signed (Enrique, Adam, Downing? Carrol,) plus the new quality additions expected in January I confidently see no reason why Liverpool would not make top 4 or top 3 come Many 2012. Meanwhile, if Kenny can get to read this we hope he adjusts his policy on timing of his substitution. Yes, I am not a manager neither am I the manager, he knows and understands better, but let’s hope he is doing the right thing. You recall Spurs game in which Liverpool were thrashed 4-0? The timing of the substitution? The ability of the new team? The strength and the experienced been benched? We can count on and on.
NB: I purposely put top 4 in order not to be under unnecessary pressure. Europe is where Liverpool FC belongs.
Post is purely writer’s opinion. Comments appreciated.