FACT – Liverpool’s main problem was the inability to turn quality possession into goals and was their main undoing in the league.
FACT – their big money signings of last summer massively disappointed.
These three facts bring me on to the subject of Charlie Adam. The Scottish international has received a huge amount of criticism from many Liverpudlians since his arrival from Blackpool. Many have claimed him to be of an insufficient standard to play for our great club.
While he is not in the world class bracket of Steven Gerrard or Graeme Souness, it is my belief that Adam has been very harshly judged by many Reds. True, Adam was purchased with the intention of helping us to score more goals and be more of a threat from set pieces. While neither of these issues can be deemed a success from last season, Adam should be viewed as one of the least culpable members of our squad.
Granted, his return of two league goals is not up to scratch for a midfielder, however this problem was massively symptomatic of the club as a whole. It can be argued that Adam has received much more criticism than Stewart Downing, a man who contributed much less to the cause last season, despite the fact that he cost around three times as much.
In my opinion, this can only be put down to fan expectations. What did we expect from Downing? Despite the fact that he scored 7 goals and weighed in with numerous assists in the season before his arrival, he has never done much to really catch the eye for any team that he has played for before. (Hopefully that will change now considering his start to this season). With Adam, we saw a player excelling for a massive underdog of a club, scoring spectacular goals, taking responsibility and fantastic set pieces, and in the mean time attracting attention from the elite clubs in the league. Alex Ferguson, perhaps mischievously, even suggested that Adam’s set pieces alone were worth £10 million.
For the past seven to ten years Liverpool have generally been labelled as a one man team (occasionally two man – see Torres or Suarez) with Gerrard regularly labelled as our only hope. While such a suggestion is nonsense, it is understandable that others have chosen to describe Liverpool in this way. The man was gargantuan in Rafa’s finals of Istanbul and Cardiff and throughout countless seasons has long been associated with lung bursting runs, improbable tackles, impossible goals and glorious passing.
Of course, we have had the masterful Xabi Alonso in recent times, helping Gerrard out with the sublime from the centre of the park, but generally the outside feeling has been; ‘If you stop Gerrard, then you stop Liverpool.’ Our fans can relate to this to a certain extent as we have long bemoaned the fact that others sometimes look to pass responsibility on to our captain instead of taking it themselves.
I argue that Adam, during his first season at the club, did not shirk responsibility one iota and in fact regularly took it upon himself to take risks and carve out goalscoring opportunities on a regular basis.
In November came Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Glen Johnson’s brilliant last minute goal may understandably be remembered as a fine solo effort, but it would never have happened had Adam not picked him out with a perfect 40 yard cross field pass. This pass may not have been attempted by a less flamboyant or confident player, and was the type of decisive ball we have been lacking in since Alonso’s departure. With Liverpool having lacked pace out wide for many a year, this different style of transition from defence to attack, through Adam’s quarterback style pass, was a joy to see.
Soon after came quality assists against QPR at Anfield and two against Wolves at Molyneux. Two of these assists came from wide positions and showed a quality of delivery that had been distinctly lacking from others.
Adam was less effective in the second half of the season, largely due to a knee injury suffered during the desperate defeat at QPR, which kept him out for the rest of the season. His confidence probably wasn’t at an all time high either, with many fans choosing to blame him (amongst a few others) for poor league results. A poor penalty in the shoot out win against Cardiff didn’t help relations with those that were already on his back, and as he ended the season on the treatment table, few were itching to see his name back on the team sheet. Many fans think that he should be sold already.
I am one who believes that he still has a lot to offer the club. Compared with fees paid for certain other players recently, Adam cannot be considered a big money signing anyway. A quality squad player at the very least, if fans provide him with a bit of leeway and appreciate that he is a player who takes risks with his expansive passing and speculative, yet often accurate shooting, we should have a confident, effective midfielder on our hands.
We have a few central midfielders on our books. Lucas and Jay Spearing are anchormen, and with Gerrard ageing and unable to produce heroic performances every week, we need someone else to step up to the plate and show offensive flair and creativity from the middle of the park. Jonjo Shelvey is another player I see capable of filling this role, with the youngster also never afraid to attempt the unexpected. Sure, such players may concede possession but it should be recognised that at least they are trying to create themselves, rather than pass the buck.
Brendan Rodgers’ preferred style of play promotes patience as top priority, and with the potential signing of Joe Allen, space for the likes of Adam may be limited. However, if and when he gets the chance, expect the Scotsman to take risks and responsibility, hopefully leading to more quality, less woodwork, and a few more goals.