Haven’t really posted on here about Liverpool for a while now. Mostly that’s down to the fact that I just haven’t found the time to get on here and blog. As my kid gets bigger and more active, it’s just more enjoyable to spend time chasing him around and cleaning up after him than it is to post about what has been, let’s be honest, a fairly below par start to the season from Liverpool. However, to me that was kind of expected for this season, particularly after the transfer window closed. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing though…..
For a number of people the current status of the club goes back a number of years, even a number of managers. Too many managers have come to the club, and been asked to take the then current team, and make us successful with relatively minimal coffers (in comparison to the spending going on around). For a club to have long term success, for me, the manager has to be given a fair chance. That to me is crucial regardless of the funds that manager is given, but it becomes that much more important when the man is given a limited budget.
When people look back at Kenny Dalglish’s time in charge under the new owners, many will ultimately blame him for squandering a big war chest. That amount of spending, with so little to show for it at the end would not have impressed many owners, particularly not ones that are not the sort to throw masses of cash up against the wall in the hopes of buying success. However, for me the blame for all that lay in the fact that we made it abundantly clear that we had the cash and were willing to spend it. Suddenly the likes of Downing and Henderson shot up double in value, just because they were young, English, and Liverpool wanted them. Even the Andy Carroll signing was to me handled badly. The world knew we had the money to spend after Torres went to Chelsea, but to go out and spend 35 million on a player that was injured at the time was just silly. By the time Andy Carroll was fit to play so much had been written about his value and whether he would be worth the money that there was just too much pressure on a young man…. The club acted like a kid in a candy shop having just been paid his pocket money. Even then though, you still felt that although we over paid, the players that were bought should be able to bring something to the club. However, it just seemed like the tactics were consistently wrong… we played the likes of Downing and Adam when Carroll was on the bench, and then we would bring Carroll on and sub Downing out. Statistics showed (at least until about March when I stopped to care any more) that Downing was getting as many crosses into the box at Liverpool as he had done at Villa; he was also getting the same percentage of those crosses onto the head of a team mate, yet people were solely blaming Downing, because he wasn’t getting the assists and the goals that he had at Villa.
So in stepped Brendan Rodgers, with what would clearly be a different playing style, and everybody pretty much knowing that there would not be the sort of spending that Kenny Dalglish enjoyed in the previous season. It was always going to be hard for him. He went about it the right way, by getting rid of some of the players that were on the squad. I’m not entirely convinced the right players went, but he had to get rid of peripheral players that would not fit into his vision. I was slightly disappointed that Dirk and Maxi went as I actually think they could have fitted into the system, especially when the likes of Cole remain. The problem with Cole for me isn’t necessarily his actions on the pitch. It’s the fact that he is on such a high wage, and just seems to be injured most of the time, or not selected. He can be a great player, when he chooses to be, and as a result I would rather have the likes of Maxi, than Cole.
The biggest issue for me during the transfer window though was the sort of players we seemed to be looking to sign, but were unwilling to go that little bit further. Dempsey and Sigurdsson ended up going for slightly more than we were willing to pay for them. Ignoring the fact of whether they were the right sort of talent to bring to the club, it just seems so disappointing to hear that we missed out on targets by a “mere” million here or there when we happily bent over and got shafted by the odd five or ten million here or there the previous season. Borini could still be a decent signing, but we do need another striker. Luis Suarez has been on form, but let’s be honest he is more than likely to get a suspension and for that one game (or longer) we would surely struggle without him.
Given all of that, the performances on the pitch have for the most part been a pleasure to watch. Results have not gone the right way, but it is at least entertaining to watch, and we do look dangerous at times. You get the impression that we could come back from a goal or two down because we can create openings. The problem has been, as seems the case in the last few season, not being able to put away enough of the chances that we get. Brendan Rodgers does however seem to be a manger that is willing to make changes when things are going badly. Too many times you could see it was all going wrong under King Kenny but nothing was done, or Rafa would only make substitutions at certain times dictated by the science. Brendan Rodgers has made tactical changes in the first half, something that I have rarely ever seen done (injuries aside).
The silver lining in the whole transfer window issue is that it has given the youngsters a great opportunity to show what they can do. Sterling, Suso, Wisdom and co have been impressive early on this season. Would they have been given that chance had we bought one or two more players? Maybe, maybe not. Would Sterling even have considered signing a new contract had he still been sat on the bench this season? Again maybe, maybe not. I personally thing they should have all been given more of a chance last season, when it was clear we were no longer in the running for a top four finish. At least, however, they are now being given the chance. There are times where you can see that inexperience, but the more games they play the more they are impressing. Sterling is no longer just a quick player happy to just run at people. He looks up, he sees what’s around him and he seems to be infinitely better at knowing when to run with the ball and when to release it.
I will make another post on this maybe around Christmas. By that stage we will be coming up to the January window, we will know whether we made it out of the Europa League group stages, and we would be roughly halfway through the season. At this stage, obviously no Liverpool fan can be happy with the results and current standings, but I do feel that we are slowly getting a side that can compete. The youth players are getting the experience they need, they are growing with every game it seems, and with a signing or two (not necessarily in January although I guess that would help out this season) we could go on and start to compete for a top four and eventually the title again.
There is a long way to go to the end of the season, but what has been good is that nobody seems to be clamouring for Brendan Rodgers to step down. There finally seems to be a level of realistic expectations at Liverpool, that we are just not quite at the level we want to be if we’re to get regular Champions League football again. However, we’re building towards that in what seems to be the right way, a mixture of youth and experience, that would see us, assuming the manager is given a decent amount of time, a far better team in a season or two. That requires the team and fans to get behind their manager, and the players, and look to the long term.