Posts Tagged ‘Steven Gerrard’

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.

The most inspiring men are not those who excel at what they do.  The ones who inspire me at least are the ones who somehow have slipped through the cracks and bungled their way to wealth and fame.  Men who are inexplicably paid high wages in a field which they clearly have zero aptitude.  That moment when you’re watching a schmuk  on tv and you think to yourself ‘I could do X better than that guy’ is a sorely underrated boost for ones self esteem.  For me that moment usually comes when I’m watching the news and some wooden generic news anchor drones along in a colourless monotone and over-enunciates every foreign name.  I think at least half a billion people had the ‘I could do a better job’ moment throughout G W Bush’s  two terms in office.   And depending on which football team you support, you probably have that moment on a weekly basis.  Daily if you support Newcastle, and maybe monthly or bi-monthly if you support Chelsea.  If you support Barcelona, the feeling I’m talking about has probably never overcome you while watching football.

Since the introduction of modern sports coverage and the increased amount of monies involved, people easily forget that football is a game, and the object of a game is to have fun.  And,  unless you are a sociopath with no sense of humour,  winning is not the only fun part of sports.  Drama and hi-jinks add to the soap opera nature of football, and is one crucial element which helps make it so addictive.  It is for this reason that Liverpool FC supporters are truly the luckiest fans in the world.  We get to experience the full spectrum of what it is to be a football supporter.  We can match Real Madrid in terms of how famous we are.  Inter Milan  for the amount of silver ware we’ve won.  We also have more stories of  nail biting moments of glory and failure than a team like West Brom who are continuously in relegation and promotion battles.   It is not just the fact that we have more trophies than any other club in Britain which makes us the greatest, it’s how we won those trophies. Five years ago we were crowned European champions after the greatest comeback in history, and now we are sitting in the relegation zone.  You need a sense of humour to support this club, one thing scousers are legendary for.

Which brings me back to the original reason I started this article. Bad players.  Winning the European Cup in 2005 still makes me go all misty eyed when I think about it.  When the expert pundits run down a list of the ‘greatest’ teams in football history, none of them will mention Liverpool of 2005.  But for me and every other Liverpool supporter,  that lineup which orchestrated the Miracle of Istanbul will always be the one in our hearts because they embodied the best aspects of the game.  That was a team which had Sami Hypia, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Dietmar Hamann – ALL brilliant players who were arguably some the best players in their particular positions.  But rounding out the team were guys who were continuously derided by the press, their own supporters, and all the other so called experts.  Jerzey Dudek, Igor Biscan, Djimi Traore, Josemi, Antonio Nunez….

I’m about as a loyal a Liverpool supporter there is, but I will admit that Djimi Traore was not very good, and Josemi was downright bad.  The number of times anyone watching Josemi stumble around the pitch thought ‘I can play football better than that’ , would have left you convinced you actually had what it takes to be a pro footballer- no matter how fat you are, or how bad at hitting a cross field pass you happen to be.  But all these players had some part in Liverpool hoisting the trophy against the much more talented  AC Milan team.

Ultimately, all those George Bush moments we had to endure throughout that long season made us feel closer to the players on the pitch, and more united as a sports family.  Perhaps we broke through the glossy veneer television producers try to attach to professional players.  In hindsight I look at George W as an ordinary man who somehow ended up with the worst job in the world.  W was a mere human burdened with unrealistic expectations.  For us Liverpool supporters, the players became human too.  We identified with them, largely because they had some clear and obvious short-comings to go along with their brilliant gifts.  But through good old fashioned pluck, determination and grit they kept on running as hard they could til they got to the finish line.  And they beat the bookies favourite to do it in the process.

The moral of the story is to never say die when pursuing your goals, and never be distracted or intimidated because your opponent has a flash car or is married to a lingerie model.  Let people misunderestimate you, and when you win it will feel all that much better.

On a final note, just think about the fact that Pascal Cygan made 51 appearances for Arsenal the season that they went undefeated.