I remember one of my first experiences with Championship Manager, probably in the early to mid 1990’s. I would often be sat round my friend’s house, scouring the entirety of Europe for players, whilst trying to build the most attacking and fanciful team of superstars. A 4-3-3 system was the formation I used back then, which was in not entirely in line with how the game was actually evolving. My desire was to put as attacking a team on the pitch as possible, thereby thriving in way which the game allowed you. My footballing genius was confirmed by the Milan team winning everything (every year), whilst scoring an obscene number of goals. Players would routinely be marked as 9’s and 10’s in their match ratings, whilst I tried to find new ways to make my team even more offensive.
My most successful team had to be that emphatic spell as AC Milan ‘manager’, with my preferred team listed below. Though the squad would be constantly added to, it would always struggle to disrupt the starting line-up, as that iteration of the Italian giants was nothing short of masterful.
GK – Sebastiano Rossi
RB – Christian Panucci
LB – Paolo Maldini
CB – Franco Baresi
CB – Alessandro Costacurta
ACM – Zvonimir Boban
CDM – Marcel Desailly
CM – Demetrio Albertini
RF – Roberto Donadoni
CF – George Weah
LF – Gianluigi Lentini
That’s a very well rounded starting eleven, with the San Siro giants simply irresistible throughout much of the 90’s. Whereas my initial thoughts (on my old team) were that of being too cavalier, it’s probably the perfect blend of how a team should be set up. In terms of Liverpool and what they need to accomplish this summer, it has to be based upon the needs and requirements of the team, in order to achieve the desired balance. Above shows a perfectly balanced midfield, with Marcel Desailly the ultimate shield in the middle, Demetrio Albertini the controlling presence beside him, with Zvonimir Boban supporting the attack. This was an exceptional rebuild by AC, especially after the departures of world class talents, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. On either side of the world’s finest ever striker, George Weah, was the trickery of both Gianluigi Lentini and Roberto Donadoni. The likes of Roberto Baggio and Dejan Savićević were also part of the rebuild, after the loss of mercurial talents, Marco van Basten and Jean-Pierre Papin.
Though the stated players and ideologies were perfect, it required a structure to be implemented by Fabio Capello. The Italian manager is perhaps the greatest tactician and team builder of all time, with a list of honours that is staggering. His team was able to control possession and suffocate teams of the ball, with teams so reluctant to engage them. The winning mentality was ingrained within some wonderful leaders, yet it was still the structure of the side which created a legendary team to continue their brilliance, even through their own transitional stages. With four Serie A titles over a glorious five year period, the former England manager was able to navigate and develop a much changed team, with a bedrock designed around dominance. Though it is easy to point to world class teams of old and say ‘that’s what we should do’, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The reds were once this level of footballing side, therefore must now look at the way back. It can be done, though only with a ruthless endeavour to win at all costs.
Jürgen Klopp isn’t the man that invented the footballing wheel, but he certainly helped drive the sport into the modern world. With the likes of Arrigo Sacchi incorporating the gegenpressing style into his own Milan team of the 80’s, many of his ideals were taken on by Fabio Capello through to the next phase. The method and style was all about control through chaos, yet the pieces on the board needed both the mind and body the enable such a plan to be executed. Our German manager brought his own gegenpressing style from the Bundesliga, with a clear mindset of how to bring greatness back to Anfield. His confidence and absolute determination in his vision enabled greatness to unfold. With a near perfect recruitment strategy (under the leadership of Michael Edwards), a truly remarkable group of players were assembled that allowed the Reds to conquer all of world football. Over time has come the inevitable regression, therefore as AC Milan once did, it is now time to reinvent themselves.
Though I would love us to sign Jude Bellingham, it must be alongside at least two more critical midfield additions. I would say that a destructive and dominant defensive midfielder is now imperative, due to the failing body of Fabinho. With Jude brought in to be that box to box outlet, it would then need a Thiago alternative on the left hand side. Though I want the Spaniard to remain at Anfield for a couple more years, it must be a very measured stay, that sees him play only the games that befit his talents and fitness. The same scenario is being undertaken with Luka Modrić at Real Madrid, with a supporting cast designed to prolong the brilliance of the Croatian captain. With three key signings, the reds can regenerate an entire area of their team, whilst hopefully adding depth to the defensive line. Above all else (even Jude), we must be targeting powerful players that can run over opposing teams with strength and determination. With the window (and certain deals) soon approaching, the names are continuing to filter through, which will give a better indication of what is to come.
Later today, I’ll be writing about a young man that could offer that idea solution in defensive midfield. Romeo Lavia is a player that is both gettable and affordable, whilst having the skill set to improve our some of our current weaknesses. This Southampton player’s name popped up earlier this week, which is an encouraging sign for all. This is not Championship Manager and the most elaborate and attacking players will not fix our problems, as reality simply doesn’t work that way. We have to get back to what made the system the envy of the world, which means Klopp has to replace those which have now regressed too far. We must build a new dynasty side, just as AC Milan once did, but it has to start with our celebrated German coach.