BACK on the 3rd of October last year I wrote a piece for this site in which I set out ‘5 things I wanted to see happen come January’.
Now this was written off the back of our first back-to-back wins of the season after our poor start in terms of results, and the disappointment the final 48 hours of the transfer window brought.
The more optimistic of us saw green shoots of encouragement despite league tables, whereas the doom and gloomers saw…well…doom and gloom.
Never mind which side of the fence you stood on; the agreed consensus was that we had been left very light in terms of squad, and January was a distant dream. Now we are halfway through the promised month and I thought it the perfect time to revisit this piece and see if the genie granted my wishes!
The first point I made was in relation to contracts. We had just seen the likes of Sterling, Suso and Wisdom make their breakthrough, and as is the way, sharks were circling. With a change of tact in the transfer market it was always crucial for us to tie down those who make the grade, and I am happy to say this has been done.
We have blooded these young men and given time they will develop into real star talents for us. We have also seen Skrtel, Agger and Suarez commit, leaving us a Gerrard short of a full house in my eyes. Whereas I remain wary of FSG and seemingly baffled by some of their decisions, this paragraph as a whole makes a mockery of suggestions that they are asset stripping.
The second point was directed towards the established names in our squad. One of the big frustrations at the time of writing that last piece was that despite the promise of youth, the guys that we look to were far too quiet.
Has this changed? I certainly think so, but not yet to the consistent level that we require. In recent weeks we have seen the best of Stevie once more, the old Pepe is becoming more visible, and through impressive man-management we are seeing what Downing can actually do. The United game was testament to where we are at; our season’s inconsistency confined to 90 minutes – abject first-half replaced by dominant second. If we can level at the disparity and reproduce that second-half more often we will be a happier bunch no doubt.
I fondly recall a conversation I had with John Barnes, which I wholeheartedly agree with, in which he suggested that financial focus should fall firmly on the squad in the short-term to get us to a level where we challenge again at the top in order to generate the funds for the stadium. Investing in ‘ready-made’ players is always a gamble, but can help bring on the young players which will save money in the long run. Such a simple thing on paper eh!
The fourth point related to Sebastian Coates. Now I remain steadfast in my opinion of him, I think he is a beast. I have high hopes for him as he offers up quality options both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for him he has Skrtel and Agger in front of him. The rumour mill suggests that he may be leaving on loan this month and this will be a good move. He gets game time and can settle. For me, selling him at this stage would be a huge mistake.
Lastly I wanted Suarez to get a pen! He did, we scored…my mind has forgotten what happened next in that game!
So, since that piece I think the club has moved forwards along the lines I had hoped for. It was vital to secure the players we already have – both the established stars as well as the youngsters. I still believe we have a solid core in Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas, Gerrard and Suarez with an abundance of potential in the younger players from the Academy as well as those brought in such as Allen, Henderson and Borini, but these guys need time to develop.
The relative security provided by long-term contracts can keep attention on the pitch allowing the squad to settle and familiarise with each other.
Like it or not this side needs time and we need patience. We have seen how well we can play, as well as how poorly we can play. For me, Sturridge is a good addition as he gives something new to the squad, but we are still light.
FSG need to spend in the short-term to give us that solidity and quality that can ease the first team introductions of our young stars. Will they do it? They have 2 weeks to give us an idea of their intentions.