Last weekend I thought that this was the lowest we could be and the only way is up. This weekend, I am revising the thought and updating the new ‘lowest’. Unfortunately, I had done that last week too. So every weekend we sink lower and lower, our hearts meet a new way of getting broken. The usual terms like disappointed, frustrated, angry feel slightly insufficient to sound of what we feel right now.
The fact of the matter is that we are closer to relegation tonight that we are to a Champions League place (4th 58, LFC 42, 18th 28). At the start of the season, a Champions League place would have been the target and I’d really like to see someone deny that. On 01.01.12, we were 6th, 2 points Arsenal who were 4th and equal on points but 4 goals behind Chelsea in 5th. In the next 12 games we lost a remarkable 16 points on Arsenal. Being so far away from Champions League, surely the season has to be termed a failure in that respect, although every target should have some buffer for failure and Carling Cup victory plus FA Cup semi (and possibly the cup itself) can be the balm. Sometime back I thought fairly beaten to a Champions League place would be less hurtful than finishing 5th and being tantalizingly close to 4th. However, the commotion that I watch every weekend hoping the Liverpool that turns up would be from before Suarez was banned, is, euphemistically speaking, depressing.
Bad performances divides the Liverpool fan-base into two sections. One who criticize the manager, the other who criticize the critics stating that we need to support the team. I am not someone who slates the manager (slightly subjective though) but as a fan, I think people have the right criticize the team/ performance/ tactics/ selections et. al. just as they are expected to praise the team when it puts in a good shift. Name calling is uncalled for though. Just to clarify, I am a Kenny supporter through and through but I have some little questions that beg to be answered:
1. What is our best formation? I don’t suppose we’ve kept the same formation for two games in a row. That’s probably also apparent in those passes that go to places where a player was expected to be but wasn’t even close. We’ve been seeing a lot of that lately. Some (two) of our better games were when Suarez and Carroll were upfront and Gerrard behind them in what could be called a 4-1-3-2 or 4-3-1-2. Although those games were against a lower league opposition (Brighton) or an under-strength team (Everton) so it does not establish itself as a rule but if that was when we saw Liverpool play their best football why wasn’t it persisted with in at least the game immediately following those two?
2. What’s Stevie’s role? I suppose Stevie played his best when he is entrusted with the role behind the striker. Since Stevie and Suarez are our best players, why don’t we give them roles that bring out the best in them and select the rest of the 8 (apart from GK) around them? Is it that the rest of the squad is inept to fit in vacant roles (like DM, or Downing/Bellamy as RW) and thus our best players are summoned to roles that only bring out half of what they can be.
3. On that note, since most of the players are new, why can’t the new signings play will in two different positions while the Stevie & Suarez are expected to excel wherever they are placed? Jordan Henderson hasn’t been the best on right, so has Downing, Bellamy has struggled on right as well, Adam has struggled at most places. While Stevie is expected to play AM, DM, or slightly wide, Suarez is expected to play CF, CAM, LF and whatever else, why aren’t any of the new ones doing anything of note in any of the unnatural positions?
4. Why did we buy Charlie Adam? I remember a quote from Damien Comolli when Aqua was loaned off that while he is a good player, he isn’t going to get much gametime at Liverpool since ‘he plays in a position for which we have a certain Steven Gerrard’. I can understand that the position being talked about is that of an AM. We also had Joe Cole who does well behind the striker although he wasn’t given many opportunities there. I can also understand that Stevie is aging and for the future we might need someone young like Jordan Henderson. But Charlie Adam is about the same age as Aqua. If Aqua was at £80,000 per week, I don’t suppose Charlie is less than £50,000 and we had to pay another £9 million to get Charlie. Also, I believe Raul Meireles was only asking for a pay revision since he was at an incredibly low wage. Why refuse that? Let’s understand, we sell off (or loan with an option) Aqua, Joe Cole and Meireles to be replaced by Adam and with someone with promise for future because all 3 of them occupy Stevie’s position but then play Adam as AM and Stevie as DM?
5. Why do we have a thin squad? Kenny recently complained that the squad was thin and tired after the loss against Wigan. That said, he has had a number of outgoing players in the past 3 windows. What’s baffling are the loans. Ever since Lucas’ injury, our midfield has looked shaky. While it is a credit to Lucas, it also points out the fact that we do not have enough cover. The squad is trimmed too thin with younger players not ripe enough for first team, fringe players loaned off and first team players injured.
6. Who is the striker? Dirk Kuyt is a workhorse, Craig Bellamy is more of a winger, Luis Suarez is more of a creator and Andy Carroll, well let’s just say that he is out of form. Who is our striker? Again, three windows have passed and we’ve not addressed this issue. At the start of the 2010/11 season we did not have Torres and looked a little edge-less upfront. As a measure, we would have wanted to sign Suarez. But then Torres wanted out so we bought Carroll who wasn’t fit at that time. While we needed other strikers, may be even someone like Ryan Babel or David N’gog, Ryan was sold in January and N’gog in summer. A lot of good things were said about Pacheco but he too is away on loan. Effectively since December 2010, good or bad, we sent off 4 strikers and bought 1 half-fit/out-of-form striker (since Suarez was already needed and is no one’s replacement). The lack of ammunition upfront was noticed in the first half of the season but wasn’t addressed in January either.
7. Big one: was Andy Carroll a panic buy? He came to LFC injured so we can’t question him about his contribution last season although the strike against City at home last season was something to behold. However, almost one full season with him fit is about to finish and he has shown nothing to give us any confidence. While he is young, there is a gulf in his game from when he was a year and a half younger to what it is now. If he doesn’t fit how LFC play their football, why was he bought? To partially answer some of the above questions, some of us feel that Downing, Adam and others were bought to provide for Andy. How can the entire line of attack fail so miserably? Was Andy Carroll just bought at that time because his was the only club willing to sell at that time (considering it was Deadline Day and that foreigners might have a problem with work permit etc)?
8. What’s the ‘plan B’? The Kenny Dalglish that we all know conquered Stamford Bridge with his sheer tactical prowess despite being without an out and out striker in February 2011. In 2011-12, teams have come to Liverpool fearing Liverpool and parking the bus. In the process they leave with a point and at times three. While the teams have changed, what hasn’t is the fact that we don’t seem to be having a plan B for those situations. On similar lines is what’s happening these days. We’ve suddenly lost our rhythm and confidence and just can’t seem to get out of the whirlpool. This is when a plan B is needed but where is it when we need it the most?
9. Finally, what happens to those players who haven’t done well? All the new signings would never work. Sometimes more flop than succeed as 2011-12 has witnessed in the case of Liverpool. While we haven’t played players like Maxi and Dirk who did well last season because there had to be room for the new signings, their omission has costed us more than we’ve gained. For players who have come to the club and haven’t done well, are we willing to swallow our pride and sell them? What’s been spent has been spent and can’t be helped but at least it clears positions for new signings and lessens the amortization bills for subsequent years.
As I said I am a huge Kenny fan but I never wanted him to come back to managing the club for I feared that if it didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be the best last image of Kenny in active duty. While our best laid plans are falling, I still don’t think Kenny should go. As a manager, if there is anyone on this planet who can arrest this free fall, it is Kenny. All he has to do now is to shrug off whatever happened (he looks extremely weighed by the recent run), swallow some of his pride (and let some flops go) and do what he does best, take Liverpool to their deserved position. Europa League next season should expose the young guns and a few changes in the first team personnel should help us go back (comfortably please) to top-4 or further.
Here’s looking forward to the next weekend and hoping we turn up in the 2011 avatar.
Kaushal (twitter: @kaushal__ )