Replace Carroll by another out-and-out striker like Dempsey or Sturridge? Replace Carroll by a completely different player to fit in with the new Rodgers concept, like Theo Walcott?
Keep Carroll on, at least for want of a better solution?
How many of us felt like we’d had a sharp jab in the solar plexus as the transfer window closed and we found we’d got rid of Carroll and replaced him with…nobody?
Well, those of us who didn’t immediately throw our toys out of the pram thought, this will be the test of the mettle in the man. If we’ve decided that no centre-forward at all is better than a misfiring centre-forward who cost £35m and is still costing £5m a year or thereabouts, maybe the gaffer is sufficiently confident that the “system” is everything, and that players like Joe Allen (for whom he can take full credit) and Raheem Sterling (for whom he can’t) will explode onto the scene and save our bacon.
Well, patience is everything, and we’re now reliant on it as never before. One point out of the first three games, with Man Utd just around the corner, and an undignified scrape through Europa League qualifying; it’s not looking good so far. Under Rafa we got quite used to thinking “well, I hope the boss knows what he’s doing, because I certainly haven’t a clue!”
Yes, there’s still dispute about how we found ourselves in this position, and it’s certainly wrong to put all the blame on Brendan for it. Clearly, on deadline day, we fell between the three stools inhabited by Brendan, FSG and Ian Ayre. But the manager really has to step up to the plate on these occasions. He’s got to be able to manage his owners as well as his players. He has to make it clear that without the right players he won’t win matches, and that “so what, we’re keeping the books balanced” is an answer which should provoke a direct resignation threat.
The worst of it is that the rot is spreading to those players who are normally the most reliable. Pepe Reina was looking distinctly off-colour by the end of last season, and even now he clearly is losing confidence in his defensive shield and inclining to make mistakes himself. And the positioning error by Gerrard, of all people, for the second goal…*facepalm*…if it weren’t for the metronomically unflappable Joe Allen and the flashes of genius from Raheem Sterling, who seems to live in blissful unawareness of how it’s all falling to pieces around him, we’d have been a sorry sight.
OK, Suarez didn’t have a great game by his own standards, but that will happen occasionally. And we still haven’t quite worked out what Fabio Borini is for. But, if we’re going to play without up-front-in-yer-face forwards, we’re going to have to be at least a bit creative in the final third. There’s nothing wrong in principle with playing like that: Spain, World and European champions, often play without an out-and-out striker (and we know as well as anyone how Torres can come and go) and they do all right. But they’ve got Xavi and Iniesta, and we, er, haven’t.
So a promising transfer window might have bought the new regime a bit more time. Now Brendan has got a lot less time in which to prove himself with the team he’s got. It could be looking very dark indeed next spring. Still, at least Ian Ayre has got some nice clean books to show FSG when they come calling. As a business, LFC might well be flourishing if it weren’t for the pesky necessity of winning a football match once in a while.