Anyone who has listened to Brendan Rodgers giving his post match verdicts this season will have noticed a familiar pattern. If any of you have only heard one of these interviews don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. All his interviews are pretty much the same: We played well. We deserved more from the game. If we keep playing like this we’ll climb the table. We aren’t getting decisions from referees. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Well he may be right – a lot of decisions aren’t going in our favour. The fact that we haven’t been awarded a penalty in a league game so far this season speaks volumes. But he can’t keep talking about our style of play regardless of the results. Football is all about results. Yes we’ve played good football at times this season. But we did that last season too. Arsenal have played good football for the last 8 years and not won a trophy. Besides, whilst it’s true we’ve played well, we have hardly been scintillating.
The passing style Rodgers is implementing seems to be all about keeping possession rather than playing cutting edge passes which open up a defence and catch a team on the break. And the stats don’t really back up what Rodgers is saying. Against Tottenham, for example, possession was shared equally. Yes we had one shot more than Spurs but many of our shots were blocked and more of theirs were on target. So you would conclude they went closest to scoring with their shots.
Much of the criticism aimed at Kenny Dalglish last season was that he persisted to start the likes of Downing and Henderson, as well as leaving them on the pitch for too long when they were adding very little. Both these players have started the last two games and only been subbed in the last half hour. Of course, we are in the position where we need to rest players yet we don’t have the quality in depth and this problem goes back to last summer when we failed to add enough players. We let more people go than we brought in and what’s more, in Downing, Henderson and Joe Cole we kept three who should have been allowed to leave. On top of that we didn’t add the proven, prolific striker that we so obviously needed, instead opting to take a gamble on the potential of Fabio Borini.
We are being told there isn’t a lot of money yet we continue to waste it, regularly getting our fingers burnt in the transfer market. If rumours of us buying Tom Ince for £6m just 18 months after we sold him for £250,000 are true, and it’s worth noting they are only rumours at the moment, this would be a prime example. Nobody in any other business would sell something and then buy it back for 24 times the value they sold it. That’s sheer madness.
Another criticism aimed at Kenny is that he wasted much of the money he was given. And whilst it’s true the players brought in during his reign haven’t been anywhere near good enough, this problem existed long before he was managing the club. In the late 90s, Barcelona wanted to buy McManaman for £12m. We kept him and he left on a free transfer a year later. In 2004, Owen was valued at £30m yet he was allowed to run his contract down and we had to cash in on him or lose him for nothing. We got a paltry £8m plus Nunez, which is the equivalent of receiving £8.1m. And I’m being complimentary to Nunez when I say that.
These kinds of awful dealings in the transfer market have been an ongoing problem at the club for around fifteen years now and they show no sign of being rectified. We refuse to pay enough for top quality players, overpay for mediocre ones and lose money when we sell players on. Last summer we lost on all the players who left. Kuyt, Bellamy and Rodriguez went for nothing, Adam left for almost half what we had paid a year earlier and we are never going to recoup what we paid for Carroll.
Obviously it’s not all the manager’s fault. He inherited a squad that wasn’t good enough and has not been given the financial backing that he needs to change things. However, I can’t help feeling that he was only given the job because the owners see him as a patsy, someone who won’t demand the transfer funds. Can you imagine if they had decided to reinstate Benitez as manager and let him down so badly by not backing him? His reaction would have been very different.
Personally I hate the way money is ruining the game. Players are paid far too much and the fees they go for mean some clubs simply cannot keep up. But sadly, there also lies the solution. In order to challenge for trophies, clubs need to compete in the transfer market, which means they have to spend money. Occasionally managers will find hidden gems and buy players for small transfer fees. However, if they can’t then pay them top wages, they will lose those players. Again Arsenal can be used as an example. They might have continually made money over the years by selling players rather than breaking their wage structure but they don’t then reinvest that money on top players, which means as soon as the ones already at the club reach their peak they decide to leave so they can win things and earn more money. If that’s the model FSG are following it’s a big mistake. I’m not saying Liverpool should get into hundreds of millions of pounds worth of debt like we were a few years ago but we either have to compete or face the reality that we are a mid table team.