Liverpool's Small Club Mentality
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome”
– Isaac Asimov
There is a myopic idealism amongst many Liverpool fans that once Daniel Sturridge makes his long awaited return everything will fall into place and the Reds will once again get Champions League football. The void left by the former Chelsea man has been used as an excuse for how the season has turned out. How the club is once again in transition, a transition that doesn’t seem to have an ending. Could it be too farfetched to think Liverpool Football Club could be in permanent transition?
The League is in a poor state this season, and yes the man with no song would have eased the clubs lack of goals this season, but after a spending spree in the summer the clubs progress shouldn’t halt when one player gets injured. It highlights how Ill prepared they were for the current season, a season they’d longed for since the days of Champions League gone by. That short lived foray in Europes Elite competition highlighted how out of depth the club was as a whole. How lack of experience cost a team, and manager, in their infancy.
If the return of Liverpool’s number 15 is to inspire a charge at the Champions League, then Liverpool need to replicate, or even better, the form of last season; 14 wins and 2 draws gets you a top 4 finish. Last season Sturridge was assisted by the mercurial Uruguayan, a player with a wealth of experience. This year it’s all down to the England international. Will the pressure alone be too much? Will his body be able cope with the demands? Or will Brendan Rodgers offer him some assistance and find a way to get the best out of both him and Balotelli? The latter question may well impact the future of Brendan Rodgers.
You also have to consider the fact the rivals for top four, Arsenal and Utd, both have more players coming back to full fitness. Arsenal have Walcott and Ozil to name but two of the players returning whilst Utd have a whole backline coming back to fitness. Both teams have had more injuries this season, yet both teams are better placed than Liverpool currently are.
As touched upon earlier, the club seems to be in a never ending period of transition. Why? Well, world class players don’t stick around at Anfield. When they do leave they’re rarely ever replaced and the club ‘make do’ with above average players. That’s the truth of it and could well be highlighted in the summer when Mr Liverpool himself, Steven Gerrard, leaves. The first player I remember leaving and not being replaced was Michael Owen, we’ve since seen the likes of Alonso, Mascherano, Suarez, Hyypia and even Reina leave without being replaced adequately enough. Cast your eyes towards Manchester United 2009/2010 season, they lost Ronaldo and Tevez, didn’t replace them in the same summer and lost their Premier League crown. That was one season, Liverpool haven’t replaced their stars, ever.
The Gerrard debate needs to be put to bed, stop talk of replacing the Liverpool legend, it can’t be done. You need an attraction, a match winner and a personality. The club need a marquee signing that fills the void left by him. This player doesn’t have to be a midfielder, it would probably help more if they weren’t as to stop the Gerrard comparisons. The midfielders mentioned; Milner and Delph, would be decent squad players. The former, if the club get Champions League football, would be a good addition with the experience he brings, but by no means should either be the only midfield reinforcements the club bring in.
Lucas Leiva has certainly been reminding Liverpool fans of his DM’ing abilities as of late, he’s also having a positive influence on the field too, so much so that some fans don’t want him to be sold. Let me remind you, Inter Milan are offering real money for a player the club should have sold years ago. A player who only seems to ‘excel’ when the club are doing poorly. Could Lucas’ resurgence be due to the formation being implemented currently? The 3421 formation offers Lucas extra protection which means he has to do less leg work. The classy Sakho behind him, Moreno and his pace covering whenever needed and the tenacious yet skilful Coutinho ahead of him.
Due to the history of not replacing players, fans are pandering over Lucas. Selling the only recognised defensive midfielder in the squad leaves the fans questioning if the club will buy another, and if not, will we see a Gerrard-Henderson pivot once again. The effectiveness of Lucas is being blown out of proportion because there isn’t anybody else in that mould to compare him to.
Another player whose influence on the team is wrongly viewed in the media as positive is Martin Skrtel, the master of the last ditch block, a skill he had to develop due to his poor positioning. News broke that the 30 year old is to be offered a new deal, and with that the vice captaincy, in the summer. How times have changed for the Slovakian, a man dubbed not good enough in the summer of 2013, Rodgers tried to sell him but had no offers. This just one summer after the club rejected a big money offer from Man City. This highlights the stagnation at Liverpool, how a man dubbed not good enough and the opposite of how Rodgers wanted his defenders to defend (high line proactive defence) is now going to be the vice captain. Alarmingly, this also draws attention to Rodgers being a poor judge of players, having tried to offload, come summer, the current captain and vice in the past. Both players seemingly not good enough for Liverpool are now leading the line just shows how inexperienced this current squad is.
If this is true, and Skrtel is to be VC it once again shows how little Sakho is rated at Liverpool by the manager. A player who could be at the heart of the Liverpool defence for another 10 years, with experience of leading a side having been the youngest ever captain at PSG and being the current VC of France. An ideal VC for this currently young Liverpool squad. Having lost the leadership qualities of Pepe, Agger, Gerrard, Suarez over the past 18 months the club should be trying to get as much leadership experience into the squad.
The culmination of all of the above points and it’s little wonder the club is in ‘another’ period of transition. The club already have an excuse for another season of transition next season with the Gerrard sized hole in the team. I for one am fed up, it’s time to start acting like a big club.