Welcome to the first edition of my thoughts on the world of football. I bore people to death with my analysis on a regular basis so thought I would take it digital, enjoy!
With the Euros in full flow, the Premiership takes a back seat for a while. For me International football is a nice to have, the circus that surrounds England year after year is rather tedious, there is always something apart from us being a distinctly average team that acts as a distraction. This time round it’s the Rio Ferdinand saga which has been dealt with in typical fashion by the FA. Once we have been knocked out of the Euros, Terry has been banged up and Ferdinand is Knighted, all eyes will be swiftly back to the Premiership, for what promises to be a fascinating campaign.
2011/12 was a great season (even for a United fan!), City and United were immense for most parts. City’s football in the first half of the season was up there with the best I have seen. United’s post St James Park (sorry, Sports Direct Arena) run wont be remembered for years to come, but it was as good as I remember, that was until they visited the JJB and it all went wrong. You have probably never heard that statement before, and are unlikely to again. Arsenal recovered well, Spurs went from being impressive to the same old, Chelsea similar to Arsenal and the rest are a million miles away. There were individual success stories throughout the league, Norwich, Swansea, West Brom but let’s be fair they are never going to battling it out for the league. Even Newcastle who did amazingly well last year I think are still well off the pace. I’m putting it out there early doors but I think they will drop away next year and be a decent mid table team. Which is a good place to be looking at where they have been over recent years, ask Leeds fans it they would like to be a mid table Premiership club. (I’m getting side tracked, all the points above I may come back to in due course)
It’s just outside the top four that I will focus my thoughts, and in-particular Liverpool.
Just to be clear, I’m a United fan. We don’t like Liverpool, in fact we hate them and visa versa. This will never change but if forges a fantastic rivalry, a rivalry that no matter what happens to both clubs in the future will remain. Despite this my views are coming from the head not the heart. Liverpool are a great club (Suarez ordeal aside), they have a great history and their time will come again, I think! The next zillionaire must surely have his eyes on Anfield, along with Elland Road, Villa Park and the Sports Direct Arena, really! (topic for another article). However I think Liverpool might have a couple more years of heartache before the good times return, they might not be far off City’s 34 years before it happens, and when I say ‘happens’ I mean a league title, the measure of a top football team. Forget the Champions Leagues, a great competition but Liverpool & Chelsea showed the best teams don’t always win. In my opinion, winning a league title is the measure of a great team.
So Liverpool, the sacking or standing down of ‘King’ Kenny was sad to see, he was a great player (so I’m told, slightly before my time) and a Liverpool legend which makes his failure sad to watch. Let’s be fair, it was a failure.
So the king is dead, long live the king and all that. Brendan Rogers has been given the task of turning things around at Anfield, it’s a tough task but not an impossible one. I think all connected with Liverpool now realise they have lost ground on the elite and they have a rebuilding job to do, this acceptance will allow him a little more time to get things right.
This is a luxury that Roy Hodgson didn’t have and it made his job impossible, the fans still thought they were close to being a force. This meant Roy had to deliver instantly and with the players he had, we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. At least everyone not connected with the club did!
Rogers is a great acquisition, it’s good to see a promising young British manager getting the opportunity to show what he can do. He did a great job at Swansea (not so well at Reading!) and it will be interesting to see if he can get Liverpool playing the free flowing football seen at the Liberty Stadium last season.
Since Rogers took charge I have been interested to read about the numerous average players linked with Liverpool, and it’s these players that provoked me into writing this article. I know it’s only speculation, but if I was a Liverpool supporter I would be concerned, very concerned.
It’s no surprise that City, United and Chelsea are linked with the top players in the world this summer and they will battle it out for the major honours next season. Arsenal, who I’m guessing have similar budgets to Liverpool are linked with the likes of M’villa and Gotze, both seem to have genuine talent and show an ambition by Arsenal. Either of these players on top of Podolski and Arsenal could be a dark horse next season. I don’t understand why Liverpool are not being linked or interested in such rising stars.
I see the gossip columns and as I said if I was a Liverpool fan I would be concerned. My point above is simple, but top players win you the top trophies.
For me recent Liverpool managers have had a scatter gun effect in the transfer market, it doesn’t work at the top level. The margins are to fine, you need a squad where every player must be able to deliver at any given point. Recent Liverpool signings, Bellamy, Konchesky, Cole, Adam, Shelvey, Coates I could go on, smack of desperation and highlight a lack of a long term plan. Don’t get me wrong Bellamy and Cole are decent players but are they really going to win you league titles? I don’t think this is a money thing, City & Chelsea may top the charts when it comes to spending power, but United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool certainly spend their fair share, enough at least that they should be competing and three of them do.
Interestingly enough, since Sheikh Mansour took over at City they have spent approximately £300m on transfers, in the same period Liverpool have spent approximately £220m. An £80 million difference yes, but is this really enough to justify the gap that has opened between the two clubs? Robinho, Jo, Santa Cruz and Boateng came to £78m, would City be where they are now without these players, yes! Other factors play there apart agreed, but you get my point.
Rogers is a top talent but he needs a long term plan that is going to return Liverpool to former glories. For me Rogers needs to identify two or three areas of his team that he feels need improving and spend the summer bringing in genuine world class talent in these areas. He isn’t going to turn them into a championship winning side over night, but he can go a long way by buying smartly. Since when have the likes of Matt Jarvis, Client Dempsey, Joe Allen, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Nicklas Bendtner, Leon Britton the list goes on, been good enough for Liverpool. They are at a cross roads, one or two really good players this season and they could really kick on, another one or two the season after and who knows. Then again, if they continue to look at short term targets to fill a hole they are in danger of dropping off the radar completely.
I may have laboured my point slightly but Rogers needs to be strong and execute against his long term vision for the club. He must resist panic buying and filling holes with short term solutions. Have a plan and stick to, Fergie and Wenger do, and I’m sure Bob Paisley did! Slag Wenger off at will, but Liverpool (and Spurs) would give a lot to have an average season and finish in third.
The Liverpool board must also play their part, they keep hiring, spending furiously and sacking. When is the penny going to drop?
My brother has just read this and highlighted what I’m saying is really obvious, it is, but nobody at Liverpool seems to be able to identify why they have been in decline since they started selling off their assets (Fowler, Owen, Alonso, Mascherano, Arbeloa, Torres) and replacing them with five or six Charlie Adams every season.
Quality not quantity!