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Football

Something Old, Something New – Liverpool FC prospects

It’s that time of the year once again. If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, like me, the pre-season friendlies have commenced, there are plenty of rumours of new players to be signed and the main sport on TV is Tour De Drugs France and rugby. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere the pre-season friendlies have commenced, there are plenty of rumours of new players to be signed and half of your colleagues are working on their tans on sunny beach somewhere. Aside from the transfer speculation, the other important consideration is what are the prospects for the new season for my team?

Expectations

For most clubs, expectations can be calculated and calibrated with a degree of ease.

Manchester United – more of the same please (knocked those pesky Scousers off their perch); no change of manager (he’s #winning); find a replacement for van der Sar (done!); find a replacement for Scholes (Sneijder’s en route!); find a long term solution for Giggs (Ashley Young’s pretty handy); get rid of some squad players (Brown, O’Shea); and get some younger replacements for them (Jones).

Chelsea – we didn’t win the Champs League which means the last manager was crap which means let’s get our 8th manager since the year 2000; new manager guided Porto to undefeated season and he’s Portuguese (new Mourinho!); John “JT” Terry and Frank “Lamps” Lampard are still there to provide the English spine for us; Torres will double his scoring output this season (2 goals this season!); Drogba is still a goal machine.

Arsenal – keep playing attractive football; our keepers are crap (let’s not buy a new one, these three are okay); our defence is crap (we don’t need anybody – Vermalen will be like a “new” player); Cesc wants to leave (that’s fine as long as we get enough moola to buy replacements; Van Persie will surely last a whole season injury-free (see how good he was from Jan to May this year!);

Everton – don’t sell Leighton Baines.

Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City  – Stay up.

This brings us to “my” team – Liverpool and their chances in the coming season. My thoughts are structured around what has not changed (the old) and what has changed (the new)

The Old

Liverpool will continue to play their home games at Anfield. The talks around the possible move to a new stadium are still at the possible stage and there has been no confirmation from the owners about that. This means that Liverpool’s capacity of 45 000 is still significantly lower than some of Liverpool’s peers including the likes of Manchester United (75 000) and Arsenal (60 000), on par with Manchester City (47 000) and higher than Chelsea (41 000). As a result, Liverpool’s match day revenue was £43m compared to Man United’s £100m and Arsenal’s £94m in the 2009/10 season. This has implications for the revenue generating ability of the club as any increase in revenue has to come from a hike in ticket prices, which would not be popular with those buying the tickets.

Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are entering their 14th and 16th seasons with Liverpool, respectively. Both players are born and bred Scousers and have become key members of the team over the years and have seen five managers come and go during their professional careers. In my opinion, both players still have contributions to make to Liverpool in providing much need leadership and inspiration to the younger players and to those new to the club. Although the manager has the last word on this, my thoughts are that they should not be playing every single game and should be rotated in and out of the team in a similar manner to Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Man United.

The “Almost New”

The owners of Liverpool fall into the almost new category as they first appeared midway through the 2010-11 season. The introduction of the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) was met with widespread approval from the Liverpool faithful as well as the players. After the calamitous relationship with the previous owners Hicks & Gillette, which clearly had a profound effect on the players’ morale and thus impacted the on-field performances, FSG has impressed by making funds available to the manager to bring in new players as well as their professional approach to ownership. This has provided much-needed stability and FSG has indicated they intend to improve the commercial capabilities of the club.

“King” Kenny Dalglish likewise, is under the almost new category as he was appointed (on a caretaker basis) in January 2011 and then appointed on a permanent basis following the end of the season. Dalglish brought in a sense of hope, belief and unity which definitely improved the morale of the players, and this was evident in the general style of play for the majority of the games following his arrival. There are two things that Dalglish has achieved since being re-appointed as manager that have impressed me – the style of play and the philosophy of Liverpool have improved dramatically. If he can ensure that these two things, combined with his good man-management skills, happen on a consistent basis the coming season will be good for the club.

Luis Suarez has earned rave reviews since his arrival from Ajax Amsterdam. His performances in a Liverpool shirt were full of energy, trickery and guile and he has quickly established himself as a fan favourite with the Liverpool faithful. He appears to be a great team player, working hard to win back the ball and then joining in the attack as Liverpool move the ball forward. The hope is that he will continue with last season’s success and his current Copa America form when he returns to for the new season.

The New

The most eagerly anticipated time for the supporters of Liverpool is when new players are brought into the club. This is how the club infers or indicates how it is positioning itself for the future. As usual, the signings made by Liverpool have divided opinion with comments of “overpaying for average English talent” and “these signings are not big enough for a club like Liverpool”.

It is important to remember that Liverpool is not playing any European football this season. This fact alone is enough to deter any prospective players from moving to the club as they have their own personal objectives which may include playing on a European stage. There are those players (e.g. Suarez) who have bought into the long-term vision for the club and will be making every effort to ensure that Liverpool returns to compete in Europe’s premier football competition.

Andy Carroll suffered from injury problems from the time he was signed and did not have many chances to display his best performances for Liverpool. As such, to paraphrase Arsene Wenger, he will be “like a new signing” for the club. There are still those muttering about his excessive price tag, but I have taken the views of Warren Buffett to heart who states “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”. Aside from his much eulogised aerial ability, I believe that Liverpool will get good value from his high work rate, energy and general team play.

I must admit that I did not watch a lot of Sunderland games during the past season and Jordan Henderson is a bit of an enigma to me. Statistically, he was a big success creating more chances for Sunderland than anyone else and ranked in the top three in the entire division for key passes. He comes into the team to add to the swelling ranks of central midfield players, but I feel the youngster should be given a chance to prove himself in the coming season.

Stewart Downing provides something Liverpool have lacked for many seasons – an orthodox winger, nominally a left-sided player but can be equally effective cutting in from the right. I don’t think he’s a particularly flashy, or some might say exciting, but his job will be to provide quality crosses on a consistent basis and that he is capable of doing.

Charlie Adam appears at first sight to be something of a “luxury” player at first sight. He would give Carragher competition in the lack of pace department and there have been rumours about his lack of conditioning. However, he has great vision and his set piece delivery over the last season was consistently good. I believe he has that bit of guile to unlock a wall of defensive players that Liverpool has struggled with in the past.

Conclusions

My feeling is that Liverpool appears to have a strategy in place and are building a team towards specific objectives. The man management and tactical guidance from Kenny Dalglish and his team will be vital to ensure they can bring out the best from the players.

The main target for the coming season, in my opinion, is to improve upon last season’s 6th place position and to be among the Champions League places. The promise of top-tier European competition is vital if Liverpool is to lure marquee signings to the club and to get back into position to challenge for that long-awaited and elusive Premier League crown.

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About Ticha Pfupajena

I'm beginning to get the sense that my career as a professional footballer may not happen. As a result, I'll try write about football and sports instead....

Discussion

11 thoughts on “Something Old, Something New – Liverpool FC prospects

  1. Nice post, analyses the current situation of our club quite well.
    1) New signings: i would think we need a biki more pace in the team, especially out wide. Downing, good player for Aston Villa, not holding my breath just yet. How good would Juan Mata look in the all Red strip?
    2) On the subject: definitely need to get rid of the deadwood (Jovanovic’s, Cole’s and Poulsen’s of the world).
    3) Defence has been shaky at best since the start of 2009. Massive team effort to improve on the defence, and not lose games to the Wolves’, and Blackburn Rovers of the world (no offence to anyone). Wouldn’t mind seeing Leigton Baines in the mix either (sacrilege, i know).
    4) Stadium issue should be resolved ASAP, we need closure and spades in the ground soon, if Stanley Park is the way forward.

    Anyhow, decent article, keep up the solid work.

    Posted by Tino 'El Pistolero' Chaza | 21/07/2011, 12:36
    • Thanks for your feedback and comments Tino.

      Agree on the Mata comment – linked, I think, to the lack of CL football on offer and perhaps also wages and/or fee. In addition, I think Liverpool is taking the Brit player thing very seriously so that could have been another spanner in the works.

      Will cover deadwood in a separate post. There is a lot at the club I think!

      Defence also to cover in a separate post.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 21/07/2011, 12:43
  2. I think you hit the nail on the head about what Utd fans want but a year too late. This year we are looking to be able to compete with Barca. SAF will always balls up big European games tactically so we have to be on the same level as Barca so maybe Sneijder can help us in that regard but I feel Lass is necessary. So an mid of Sneijder, Lass , Anderson/Fletcher and an attack of Young, Rooney and Nani is competitive.

    Posted by Tafadzwa | 21/07/2011, 15:35
    • My view is that Lass is required also – cover in front of defence and a spoiler. No thoughts on Liv then?

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 21/07/2011, 15:49
      • I think Jenks below has hit the nail on the head regards my sentiments on Liverpool. Are they following the Barca model?? That getting a lot of the same guys from one national team will win you things??? Pity he’s just getting British CM’s when he’s got loads already

        Posted by Tafadzwa | 25/07/2011, 08:53
  3. I’m looking forward to see the 2-7-1 formation that Kenny clearly has in mind with all the central midfielders we’re stockpiling! Gerrard, Meireles, Lucas, Henderson, Adam, Aquilani, Poulsen, Spearing and Shelvey… Clearly a few sales on the cards, and when that’s done, I’m feeling pretty good about the season to come. In the past Liverpool have lacked the width, pace and creativity to really challenge the top clubs. We’ve also been guilty of excessive stevie-reliance. With the additions of Downing, Meireles Suarez, Carroll, Adam and Henderson, those issues seem to have been addressed. Kuyt, Cole and Aquilani will all feel they have something to contribute too, in terms of width, flair and goals.

    The areas Kenny and Co have not yet improved are the void of quality at left back and the fragility of our defense against anything played in the air. I’d be lynched on Merseyside for saying this, but from the secure distance of Cape Town, I’m hoping not to see a lot of Jamie Carragher in our starting 11 this season. All the heart in the world can’t cover his lack of pace and arial deficiencies anymore. From our current defenders I’d prefer Agger and Skrtel (and would like to see Kelly given a run with Agger in his preferred central position too). However, I feel that a world-class partner for Agger with some pace and power in the air would complete the squad nicely. Cissoko and Cahill perhaps?

    Posted by Jenks | 22/07/2011, 07:41
    • Jenks, you mean the 0-11-0 formation?

      Yes, I agree with the comments you raise about having some depth to the squad. This has been our biggest drawback in seasons past – a lack of quality impact players who can slot seamlessly into the team when required to do so.

      Also had similar thoughts on defence. No doubt DC and KK are working hard to strengthen this element. That’s why I wanted a separate post on the state of defence. There are a couple of issues in there I feel.

      I will let you know if I see Carradona headed your way!

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 22/07/2011, 09:32
  4. Nice one baba. I think at this point two things are key. The first is strategy. Liverpool has tended to rely too much on talent and heart as opposed to tactics and strategy.This was exposed two seasons ago when Rafa Benitez lost Stevie G and Torres for spells during the season and we tumbled horriblely. And when Roy “Hoof ‘n Hope” Hodgeson took over with both these players at hand, his poor strategic ability didnt make the most of the return of Stevie and Torres. It was ss if having these two players on the field with a soccer ball was a guarenteed win.

    The second point, which is closely linked to strategy is squad depth. For many seasons Liverpool has been bemoaned at its lack of depth. But as we have a seen, with a decent strategy, you can get away with it and win a premier league title (Man U) or at the very least be a close contender (Chelsea and Asrenal). Having a large, talented squad is one thing, but if the tactics do not match the players on the field it will never work. It will be expecting Luis Suarez to be at the end of every one of Stewart Downing’c crosses or have Ngog run from depth when he comes on for Suarez.

    In the Marathon that is the premier league, Liverpool wins a lot of sprint races (managing to beat most of out top 4 competitors) but its the “easier” game that tend to trip us up.

    Can’t wait to see how King Kenny runs with this campaign that looks ever more exciting.

    Posted by D Rock | 22/07/2011, 09:16
    • So right D Rock with regards to our approach to the so-called “bigger” teams in Prem games. Our approach has always been to plan well and be extremely motivated for these teams and then we appear to be almost lethargic and cannot be bothered in the rest of the games. This is what KK’s challenge will be for the season – to ensure the consistent level of performance throughout the campaign.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 22/07/2011, 09:34
  5. What makes a cup winning team? A friend once said that – players in the english premier league are equaly talented; confidence is what makes them ordinary or extraordinary. Looking at ManU and what it’s achieved with relatively ordinary players, I think my friend was right. Liverpool just needs an extraordinary manager. Only then can it entertain hopes of a League victory. I’m not convinced that Daglish is the that man.

    Posted by mmatu | 22/07/2011, 11:57
  6. As a non-Liverpool fan I can understand why Kenny is buying average english players. Continuity! Liverpool needs to create a core team of local english players who will not seek greener pastures elsewhere in a seasons time. Its the foundation of my great club Manchester United. You need these players to establish a history and benchmark to new big money signings, create competition for places and to eventually have senior players who know what liverpool legacy is about. These senior players will eventually become coaches etc and keep the legacy going. Foreign big name signings win you titles and championships but are really only mercenaries waiting on Real or Barca to call. Liverpool squad is too small and realistically liverpool is 3 seasons away from challenging for the title but these signings are a good start and form a goood base. i would sign an English Central Defender next and keep Insua as left back.

    Posted by Farai Dhliwayo | 22/07/2011, 12:59

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