Posts Tagged ‘sports’

If you believe everything you read then Liverpool are on the verge of signing Karim Benzema, Niko Kranjar, Dimitri Payet, Carlton Cole, Mirko Vucinic, Fernando Llorente, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, Romelu Lukaku,Valentin Stockel, Andy Carrol, Luuk De Jong, Keisuke Honda, Juan Mata, Ibrahim Affelay,  Charles N’Zogbia, Antonio Cassano, Diego Forlan, Royston Drenthe, Ashley Young,  Phillip Mexes, Alexander Kerskakov, David Wheater, Antoine Griezman, Rod Fanni, Urby Emanuelson, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Mathieu Valbuena, Oscar Wendt, Armin Bacinovic, Blaise Matuidi, and Shaun Wright-Phillips.  All players tipped (within the past month) by respectable news sources for which Liverpool “are preparing to break the bank” to add to the roster.

There are two reasons why this nonsense gets regurgitated in the sports press everyday ; the first that journalists are usually so desperate for stories they will print any nonsense, the second being that it is a tool for agents to promote the name of their athletic clients. That much is obvious and well known to all sports fans. But what I don’t really understand is why, even though everyone knows it’s B.S., do people bother to read it? Myself included.  Soon as I see an unfamiliar name being linked with Liverpool, I look up their highlight reels on Youtube to see if they are interesting or not.  And here things get even more irrational.

I know that it’s impossible to tell how good or bad a player is from edited highlights on Youtube. But I still bother watching them, even though most of the time it’s just a collection of easy tap-ins and headers set to bad dance music.  So there I am- watching bad videos, on the basis of tabloid journalism, about players I know will never sign for Liverpool.
Why on earth do I bother?

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It’s not all doom and gloom for Liverpool, as the seeds for a succesful team have already been planted.  With some investment coming in from the new owners it won’t be long before Liverpool can contest for the title again.

Here’s why I am still optimistic about the future

The new owners

NESV appear to know what they are doing. The two things that have impressed me the most so far is the apointment of Damien Comolli as Director of Football Strategy and their plans to implement sabermetrics as part of the new recruitment policies. These two initiatives show that they are different from our past owners and I think they’re finally pulling Liverpool into the 21st century.  In the past we have been lagging behind our rivals in terms of innovation and smart strategic planning.  NESV on the other hand are the kind of Americans who are willing to try new methods.  I think this will increase efficiency around the club, and we will start to more bang per buck.

The addition of a Damien Comolli has some very obvious advantages, the first one being his scouting ability. The last time Liverpool showed any competence in scouring Europe for unknown future stars of the game was back when Gerard Houllier plucked Sami Hypia from out of nowhere for 1.5 million pounds.  With the over-inflation of the transfer market, finding good young players at bargain prices is more important than ever. Comolli has a proven track record in this area. He was responsible for Arsenal and Spurs signing the likes of Kolo Toure and Gareth Bale for a pittance of their true market value.  If you look at the current LFC squad you will see a lot of players who were signed relatively cheaply, but represent poor value. With the greater amount of over-sight that the new owners are demanding in our transfer dealings, calamitous errors like this summers signing of Paul Konchesky should cease to happen. It’s impossible to guarantee that a club won’t sign the odd dud but I expect that future mistakes will not be as financially costly.

The new transfer policy

If you think about Manchester United or Arsenal, you can also imagine a certain archetype player that each club likes to sign. That’s because they have a coherent transfer policy that they stick to.  Both clubs rarely sign players over the 25-26 year mark.  Arsenal tend to go for more technical, graceful players and a Manchester United player is usually more of a tenacious and competitive sort. Often if I’m watching a La Liga or Champions League game I will see a young attack-minded player and think ‘oh there’s one for Wenger’.  I never see a young up and coming talent and go ‘he’ll be wearing a Liverpool jersey soon enough’. I do however say to myself  ‘God I wish that was the sort of player we would go after’.  Frequently. It’s because I never know what to expect from Liverpool in the transfer market.  The only common thread in our signings for the last 3 years has been that we’re signing players the PR department at the club can tout as world-beaters.  But they’re world-beaters on the cheap, and a mish mash group of individuals.

It’s all speculation at this point in time, but the transfer targets of the club will be something like this I hope:

  • More local players signed, going into the first team and not rotting in the reserves or on loan to 2nd Division clubs. Given the stature and resources of Liverpool, no decent player from the North-West should be allowed to slip into the hands of lesser clubs. LFC are sitting on a gold mine and letting other teams plunder it.
  • An emphasis on signing only young players
  • Hopefully a big improvement on players signed in the under 5 million mark if NESV increase scouting efforts as expected
  • If a player’s transfer fee is in the 5-10+ million region then he will have to actually be worth the money. Using more objective data (sabremetrics) to evaluate the quality of a player will put an end to the likes of Carlton Cole being linked with the club.

I don’t believe in 5 year plans – it didn’t work for the Soviets and it doesn’t work in football

Having looked at the long term strategy the club may be taking, let us now consider the immediate future of the first team.  I’m not a fan the thinking that goes like “if we do this, and we do X, we will win the title in 5 years”. In politics two weeks is a long time, and in football it can be an eternity. The club cannot accept anything below a fourth spot finish this year without the managers head going on the chopping block. Champions League place this season, win the title next year is still my thinking. The common press (or hacks if you will) would say that I’m crazy for still having these expectations. But I’m a Liverpool supporter, and like Shanks said “first place is everything, second is nowhere”.  Beyond blind faith I think there are still  rational reasons for keeping my hopes up.

A world class spine

The line of Reina-Carragher-Gerrard-Torres is as good if not better than any other back bone in the EPL. And as Rafa pointed out, he did leave us with 13 internationals in the squad. When Liverpool actually get around to signing a real replacement for our departed Rafa, the critics will be made to eat their words. A man who knows how to motivate the troops could do a lot with the current players we have. The squad as it is right now needs much more depth, but our best 11 would be a handful for any opponent as Chelsea found.

With Martin Kelly, Kyriakgos, Carra, Daniel Agger (when he is not injured), Fabio Aurelio and Skrtel to choose from in defense there isn’t a need for massive spending to solve our problems at the back.  I think Martin Kelly has been very impressive when included in the team and should be made a regular starter. This would allow Glen Johnson, who is useless at defending, to be moved up the pitch to the right wing position where he would flourish.  Another left back is still a requirement however. If the club act correctly all that needs to be done to solve this problem is to bring back, and keep, Emilano Insua.  If you add Danny Wilson to this picture, and sign one more defender, there would be a good mix of experience, youth, and competition between the players.

That’s the good news. The bad news the midfield and forward line need a big overhaul.

In central midfield the quality has gone downhill, fast. Out of Lucas, Poulsen, and what I have so far seen from Meireles , Liverpool do not have a quality player who can create attacks from deep positions in midfield.  In the holding position we lack both ball-winning and passing abilities.  Sissoko, Mascherano, and Alonso have all been allowed to leave without anyone coming in as direct replacements.  This is an area where a lot of money will have to be spent as good midfielders never come cheap. Lucas could still fetch a good price if sold to a Spanish or Italian team where he might fit in better.  Players of the highest calibre, possibly Lassana Diarra (who incidentally isn’t getting enough playing time Real) will be required to raise the bar and support Stevie G. Better possession and distribution will allow Gerrard to continue being his own brilliant self.

Considering that Alberto Aquilani is still under contract, and a move for Diarra is entirely realistic, it wouldn’t be difficult to dramatically improve central midfield with just one signing.  An axis of Aquilani-Diarra and Gerrard at the head of the triangle would terrify other teams.

Looking at the wings, Glen Johnson would finally prove that he is a world class player if he was moved to the RW position. On the left side I’m just hoping that Joe Cole will come good eventually. And then there is also Maxi Rodrigez who seems to be improving every time I see him.  He is the perfect example of a “squad player” versus a regular starter in terms of quality however. A handy player but he won’t single-handedly win many games.

Which brings me to the forward line. The problems in this area of the pitch are well-known so I won’t say too much about the striker situation, other than  WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T LIVERPOOL SIGN KLASS JAN HUNTELAAR?

So there. If the manager situation is sorted out, it won’t require a massive rebuilding job to get Liverpool back into the title race again. Never mind the salaried press, and hold your head up high.