THE FA Cup final has come and gone, like a devastating storm that has left many Liverpool fans heartbroken and distraught. There goes our final hope for face-saving glory this season, and with nothing left to play for anymore in this campaign, it’s time to start looking to the future.
I’ve got to admit, even with all that’s happened (or failed to happen) this season, I’m quite eager to see what the transfer window and next season has to offer. Something tells me that in spite of our way-off-the-mark season, we’re not actually that far off from having a pretty decent squad. And I’m sure many of you out there reading this right now are scoffing. Not far off from a decent squad?
How on earth could any Liverpool fan arrive at such a deluded conclusion?? Well, I think it’s not that ridiculous, if you look at our season a little more closely.
I’ll start by sticking my neck out and saying that I don’t think that the majority of our transfers were actually all that bad, despite what everyone seems to be saying.
When Dalglish took over at Liverpool, the first thing he needed to do was oversee the sale of one striker (Torres) and the purchase of two other strikers (Suarez and Carroll). Of the two, not many would argue the quality of Suarez.
Carroll’s quality is a lot more contentious. He started off at Liverpool very poor, and it has only been in recent games that we’ve begun to see some of what the England man is capable off. Against Chelsea in the FA Cup, Carroll took his goal brilliantly and was arguably our man of the match.
Regardless, many still see Carroll as a clumsy, lazy, and ineffective focal point for our front line, and having seen many of his less-than-impressive displays this season, it’s not difficult to imagine why.
Most, however, are perhaps a little too quick to forget that our pony-tailed hit-man joined Liverpool injured. He was then mistakenly thrust into the action a little too soon, and as a result, he injured himself again.
Andy Carroll has in fact been injured / recovering from injury / regaining his fitness for most of his Liverpool career, and it has only been in recent games that he has played fully fit. It is interesting to note though that Carroll’s return to fitness happens to coincide with his rediscovery of form.
In the transfer window leading up to the 2011/12 season, Liverpool added quite a few other reinforcements to the squad. Some of the prominent names we brought in included Enrique, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, and Craig Bellamy. Of these, Enrique and Bellamy have impressed. The others unfortunately seem to have left a less positive impression on the Anfield faithful. I feel however that much of the criticism suffered by some of our newer signings is unjustified.
Stewart Downing has undoubtedly failed to live up to the high standards he set for himself back at Aston Villa, but I can’t help but feel that a big part of this is because the only width Liverpool have to offer seems to be on the left wing. Our lack of natural width or pace on the right makes Downing an easy player to isolate and shut out. At villa, Downing and Ashley Young played in tandem, and this made both wingers twice as effective since defences had to concentrate on containing both wide outlets.
As for Charlie Adam, many were pleased with some of his earlier performances for the club, but feel that his form dipped to the point of mediocrity as the games went by. Many have noticed though that Adam’s dip in form coincided quite closely with Gerrard’s return to fitness and the starting eleven. It is quite apparent that Charlie Adam is the type of player used to pulling the strings in midfield. It’s difficult to do that though when the role is already taken up by a player of Steven Gerrard’s caliber. Try asking Frank Lampard if you don’t believe me.
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Lastly, we have Jordan Henderson, who as we all know, is very young. Many see poor Jordan Henderson as a sort of iconic representation of all that was wrong with Liverpool’s transfers last year, but I think this is harsh. The midfielder, who performed stunningly well for Sunderland in the centre of the park last season, has unfortunately been forced to play out wide much too often because of Liverpool’s aforementioned lack of width on the right.
With Liverpool’s many midfield injuries this season, Henderson has had more chances to play in his favoured centre midfield. While he’s clearly no Xavi, he has gone about his job with a quiet industry that for some reason reminds me of a young Lucas Leiva.
Jordan Henderson is a quality player for his age, and is one for the future. We probably should give him more time (as we did with Lucas) before passing judgment, because I do feel that the potential is there, even if right now the confidence isn’t.
All of these new Liverpool players combined well with the with the rest of the Liverpool team on Saturday to outplay (in the second half at least) a Chelsea side that boasted of many star names.
To be able to pull of such a feat against such a side evidences a certain amount of quality within the team. The problem therefore isn’t that our players are bad, or that they lack quality. The problem (the one that most of our fans seem to have, at least) is that our players aren’t ‘value for money’.
I too feel this way. We definitely overpaid for some of our players, and I certainly do not think that Andy Carroll is worth anywhere near £35m.However, having overpriced players does not mean that our players are bad.
While it wasn’t up to the players to decide their own transfer fees, many fans seem to expect players to account for their own imposed hefty price tags. We don’t need to look far back to see how ironic this all is. Not too long ago, one of the biggest complaints many Liverpool fans had was exactly the opposite – that we would never pay over the odds to get the players we wanted or needed.
While it is quite clear we do not have a title winning squad at the moment, my point is that things aren’t all doom and gloom. Our overpriced squad isn’t a bad one, especially when you consider that we’ve had quite a few long term absentees this season in the form of Lucas, Gerrard, Suarez, Carroll, Adam, Agger, and Johnson.
With all these players fit, we do have a decent squad in place to build on. We just need to bolster a few key positions, and here’s what I think we ought to do.
For our attack to really gel, we need to bring some balance to it by adding some pace and width on the right. A new striker would not necessarily be the best solution, and if we can stretch teams on both wings regularly, that ought to create a lot more holes in defences for our two strikers to exploit.
The next thing we need is more defensive cover. Our season seemed to take a nosedive when both Agger and Johnson got injured. Carragher seems to be the player who offers cover for both the centre and right back positions, but while we all love Carragher for what he’s done for the club, the years do seem to be taking their toll. Kelly would be an ideal replacement, if he could only stay fit. He seems to be a little too injury prone though.
Lastly, while I do appreciate Charlie Adam’s range of passing, we need a centre midfielder with a little more flair and guile, and whole lot more killer instinct. Gerrard isn’t getting any younger, and we need to start looking immediately for someone to eventually take over his mantle.
If we find the right people in at least two out of these three areas and get back our injured players, then I’m confident that we’d be in serious contention for a top-four finish next season. This season has been miserable to say the least, but with the backing of supportive owners, I see no reason why we can’t emerge from this storm much stronger than before.
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