View from the Kop

Why United’s Number 19 Could be a Blessing in Disguise for LFC


So, as all (Premier League) eyes looked to Anfield on Sunday as Liverpool faced Chelsea, the obvious and much-spouted semi-conspiracy theory was that the Reds would not try too hard to win, as doing so would have been handing Manchester United a massive favour in their pursuit of the championship. The double significance here, this year, as we all know, is that it would finally have taken them clear of Liverpool’s joint record of 18 league titles. In the end, Liverpool did not lose for lack of trying, but their 120-minute midweek excursion was painfully apparent and the disparity in class between the two sides was probably not even reflected in the 2-0 score line. It means United will probably not win their 19th league trophy.

This overtaking is a big deal for Liverpool fans – very big. It will mean that we can no longer proclaim to be the most successful club in the country, as we have done throughout the last two decades of United dominance, and will mean that Ferguson will have finally and comprehensively completed his 25-year operation of knocking Liverpool off our perch. However, I think that United winning the league this year (or next year, or whenever it eventually happens) could perversely be a good thing for Liverpool Football Club.

The club is in a mess. We have two owners who have done their very best to prevent any progression throughout the four years they have been in charge, and are finally selling up, leaving the club in relative financial turmoil. We are fortunate enough to have one of the few world-class, proven, managers in the game, (he could be managing Real Madrid if he fancied it last summer, or Juventus this) but he is on the verge of throwing in the towel and leaving his project at Anfield unfinished, due to having the rug continuously pulled out from under his feet with regards to promises made to him by his employers (which is why we ended up with Jermaine Pennant and not Simao, for instance). We have one of the best collections of players that we have had since the days of Hanson, Barnes et al, but yet one that is significantly short of a title-winning squad, and is painfully thin in terms of strength-in-depth. The fact that we finished our Europa League semi-final this week with Nabil El Zhar and Philipp Degen on the pitch is not, as many would have you believe, due to Benitez’s misjudgement of his players’ quality, but because he hasn’t had the funds to enlarge the squad (beyond those that he’s raised himself from sales, which doesn’t really expand the squad at all). The club needs a shake up from the top downwards.

So what does this have to do with United winning the league? Well, them doing so would possibly, finally, dispel the delusion among many Liverpool fans that we should be up there challenging for the title every season. We shouldn’t – not with this group of players. While we have a very good framework of truly top-class players – namely Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Mascherano, Gerrard, Kuyt and Torres – most of whom are of a very decent age, they need to be complimented with better, and more, ‘squad players’. Players like Wes Brown, Yuri Zhirkov and even Nicklas Bendtner, who may not be automatic selections, but have proven quality when they do play, instead of having to either field free transfers (Degen), players out of position (Mascherano and Agger recently) or fast-track promising youngsters into the starting XI (Insua). Spurs’s bench against Bolton today consisted of Bassong, Lennon, Palacios, Jenas, Crouch and Gudjohnsen – £39 million worth of players. Villa’s most recent bench was ‘worth’ £26 million, Chelsea’s £27 million. Liverpool’s on Thursday night was Kyrgiakos, Degen, Ngog, Pacheco, Ayala, and El Zhar – acquired for a combined fee of £3.5 million. Some very decent young players there, but they should not be the first port of call in an important European game – no laughing please. It needs to be accepted that United are the better team, (arguably) the better run club, and that in reality it will probably be a few years until we can genuinely, consistently, challenge them (and Chelsea, Arsenal, and possibly Man City) across a 38-game league season. United will almost definitely have won the mythical Number 19 by then, and in all likelihood numbers 20, 21 and maybe more, but I truly believe that, under a proper ownership structure, Rafa Benitez can build Liverpool Football Club back into being a properly title-worthy side year in, year out.

As painful as it will be seeing United finally overtake our record (and it would be utterly, utterly horrid watching a certain horse-racing-following, injury-prone midget receive a thoroughly undeserved league winner’s medal), it is and has for a while been an inevitability. Hopefully, though, it will help everyone involved, or indeed potentially involved (in the case of prospective buyers) with Liverpool Football Club attain some proper perspective in terms of the size of the top-down task necessary in order for us to return to our perch.

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  • stephen mccourt says:

    Alex Hess?

    Dont give up you day job!
    RAFA – six years two trophys both on pens and both with Houlliers team. £225M spent, and we have a squad which cant finish TOP FOUR, Boring, mind numbing defensive football, continually plays sub standard players. OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT NOW!!!
    Roadend and Kemlyn Season Ticket holder since 1978.

  • Colie says:

    All I want to say is excellently researched and wll put together article. Hopefully the LFC fans out there who lay the blame at Rafa’s feet can read this and gain some proper perspective and not what they read week in week out in the tabloids. I was watching the Sunday Supplement a few weeks back and they were speaking about Wenger and how good a job he is doing at Arsenal and they forgo him having to win the league considering the types of player Wenger could attract in the transfer market, compared to the money bags of Fergie and Abromovich at Chelsea and now City……it’s a pity they don’t extend that same gratitude to Rafa…instead they focus on money spent when in fact he has to raise the majority of that himself, rather than like the others where they are given a blank cheque book.

  • Colie says:

    Stephen season ticket holder or not…..try and see the forest through the trees……wake up and smell the coffee…When you have four teams above you who can afford a higher wage bill, you are not going to be able to compete for top players if they are offered better wages elsewhere.225 m spent over 6 years……City practiclly spent that in one season…what does that tell you. Rafa has the same nett spend as Martin O’Neill, yet Villa fans don’t expect a league title do they…..this what the article is pointing at…..you expect a League title but how do you suppose we get there. Put it this way…if you went to Sevilla or Valencia would you expect to win the league after being given a transfer budget of 20 mill a season. Not a fuppin hope, because Barca and Real have their full squad in place and only now need to add one or two players season on season……grasp some reality will you.

  • Dave says:

    Well said. I really can’t these LFC fan’s who cant see the big picture. We have 1 player who cost over 20Mill in Torres who many have united and Chelsea got and City have soon.
    We are a 6th place team which is where we will remain without serious investment.

  • tone says:

    @steven mccourt – so Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso were Houlliers team were they? Both played key parts in our winning of the trophies and both were bought for a small price and sold for great return (cash in Alonso’s case and Torres’ arrival in Garcia’s).

    Keep your ill informed hating to yourself. You’re just the same as all the other plastic Liverpool fans shouting their mouths off about Rafa.

    The man is a top manager who has spent 90 million (net) during his tenure, which is significantly less than most other top flight sides, and he’s delivered silverware.

  • Xabi14 says:

    Apart from the first post, I don’t think I’ve seen so many fans with their heads screwed on in the same place for a while. Completely agree with all your comments. Lets hope we can keep Rafa and the club gets sold to the right people as soon as possible.


  • Alex Hess says:

    Stephen Mccourt:

    1) Yes the trophies were won on penalites. They were also won by knocking out teams like Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester United. The majority of the team (as said above, aside from KEY PLAYERS such as Alonso and Luis Garcia, who scored 6 CL goals on the way to the trophy) were purchased by Houllier, but surely this makes it an even more impressive achivement – transforming another manager’s side into Champions’ League winners? Also, the second shootout was won by Reina – a superb Benitez signing.

    2) Every other top 4 candidate has a significantly bigger squad than us. Why do you think that this is the case? Do you not think that Rafa would enlarge it if he could? £225 million is an easy figure to band around, but a) it’s not in fact that much in football terms over six years, and b) Benitez has raised much of it himself, therefore not enlarging the squad in the most effeicent way possible. Bellamy was sold to fund the Torres transfer, Sissoko for Mascherano. Other clubs can casually and regualurly splash out £15-20 million on bit-part players like Anderson, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Crouch and Santa Cruz. We have nowhere near this level of luxury.

    3) I take it the sub-standard players you are referring to are, for example, Insua, Lucas, and Kuyt. Who would you play instead of these? Gerrard in midfield? It happened against Wigan away pal, remember that? Babel for Kuyt? Behave.

    4) As for boring football, I think Alonso leaving has indeed meant that we don’t move the ball as quick as we did last season. But if we find a regular role for Aquliani next year in the way that we have been doing in recent weeks, I think this can be at least partially rectified, he look to have an eye for an incisive pass and the vision to spot it even before he has received the ball. Is replacing Arbeloa with Johnson syptomatic of Rafa’s tendency for “boring, mind numbing defensive football”? Scoring 8 in a week against Real Madrid and Man United? Finishing last season with the highest points tally for a second placed-team since 1992 and the most amount of goals scored by a distance?

  • samuel charles says:

    good writtern work, aston villa have spent over 104 million in under 3 years.

    spurs have spent over 114 million in under 3 years.

    chelsea brought on a 18 million pound left back, and no one says a thing about any of this spending, yet more media shite form sky, daily mail, telegraph, talk sports and mark saggers( he is a total twa**).

    we missed johnson and torres and reira and skrtel and aurelio and kelly v chelsea, please somone tell me that did we not match chelsea for 35 minutes untill we gave them the platform to go on.

    tell me why nothing ever gets picked up, no points of anything positive this year, rafa has tried to bring youth through, nothing is ever said?
    rafa has played aquilani in a forward role, nothing is said, lucus for 6 mill has made great progress, world class he is not but squad player for 6n mill he is, what do you want for 6 mill?

    ask yourself why sky never ask where fergie’s x 12 buys on two russian misfits kids have gone, why do not ask that, because this country is drip fed what they want to hear thats why, do you know where these two kids are, they are being sold for half the cash,,, er hello richard keys you never says that do you?
    what about forlan and pique who have gone on the be two of best players over the last 3 years in spain, yet no reference to that is this countries media? funny that, shall i go on,,, this all means that for the fact that they dislike rafa, its strange to know why, when he never ducks the press he never ducks questions and they are rude ones at that, oh buy the way fergie still does not speak to bbc, what a kid he is… give rafa a break and let him stay and with investment you watch lfc win things, if he goes we are done for at least 5 years, take my word for it

  • Colie says:

    Samuel…..well put…..but on a side note…you posted on another site a few weeks back that you had some inside info as to possible transfers coming into Anfield this close season and you stated if e-mails were posted you would reply in cofidence to this. I never heard a word from you so am wondering are you still privy to these so called tranfer(s). If so can you post away on here.

  • derrick says:

    RAFA is the only thing that is keeping Liverpool from a complete meltdown.He could have easily jumped ship on several occasions and he did not, because he loves the club and the fans,some of the Liverpool fans need to learn some respect, i dont think any other manager could have achieved what rafa did with the same resources that he had.just hope he stays and we get some investment from a company that cares about our club and our history, and then all the rafa haters will be eating humble pie.

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