With the new season almost upon us, guest columnist Marc discusses our transfer policy and if Brendan Rodgers can overcome the usual runners-up slump…
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
I don’t like starting articles with – pardon the language here – grandiose bullshit quotes from the past but that particular one could become very relevant to Liverpool’s season if past trends are anything to go by.
The biggest question mark hanging over Liverpool at the moment is how well the club can adapt to a post-Luis Suarez life. Many observers fear we’re ‘Doing a Spurs’ by selling a Ferrari and buying ten Peugeots.
Personally I believe what’s happening now is better judged against Liverpool’s own mistakes of the past rather than those of Tottenham last year.
It’s worth noting that the last three occasions Liverpool have finished runners up in the league a collapse in form has followed the very next season.
That said, it’s important to make clear that this article is not meant to question Fenway Sports Group’s competence as owners or Brendan Rodgers abilities as a manager, although in the interests of full disclosure I will admit to not being the biggest FSG fan when it comes to certain issues.
Anyway, at the moment it’s very hard to judge whether or not another post-second place collapse is on the cards this season; there’s plenty to suggest it won’t happen but there’s also some worrying signs that it could do.
Each time it’s happened previously, transfer mistakes have arguably been the biggest contributing factor.
Following the 1990-91 season Graeme Souness simply didn’t have the managerial nous to sign the players needed to see the club through a time between Kenny Dalglish’s ageing final team and the emergence of the Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Judas twat generation.
Gerard Houllier, following an encouraging run to second in 2001-02, thought it would be in everyone`s interest to not make Nicholas Anelka’s loan permanent and to ignore a very clear come and get me plea from a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
Instead he favoured bringing us El Hadji Diouf and Bruno Cheyrou; a crash landing outside the Champions League places followed and despite Ged’s constant prattle about ‘turning corners’ he eventually received the old ‘by mutual consent’ treatment.
Rafa Benitez’s final season followed the club’s highest ever Premier League points haul and it collapsed spectacularly for a variety of reasons including the loss of Xabi Alonso and our transfer funds disappearing into the Tom Hicks/George Gillett debt black hole.
So what about the current situation? Is another collapse coming? It’s very hard to judge at the moment but let’s examine what evidence is available to try and ascertain where the club is.
We all know losing Suarez is a massive blow and it’s pointless to pretend otherwise. Replacing his 31 goals and influence on the players around him is a pretty hopeless task but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to fight at the top of table again next season. We just need to be smart and get the right type of business done.
Everyone knew last season that Liverpool’s biggest problem was not the goals we were scoring but the ones we were leaking at the other end. A massive 50 goals were given away in 2013-14 – a record for any team that’s qualified for the Champions League – so surely plugging that leak should have been the top priority this summer?
Amazingly no defender was signed until July 27th when Dejan Lovren joined the club as our fifth signing of the summer. Maybe it was Southampton stalling the situation that led to such a delay or maybe our strategy is just as random as it’s appeared at times?
If the club always knew they’d land Lovren eventually they could focus on strengthening the attack, however the mass procrastination over the full-back positions would indicate otherwise.
None of us want to see the club get ripped off but the problematic left-back spot still remains unresolved while Javier Manquillo – a young Spanish right-back who has arrived on loan – probably represents someone for the future.
If Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno is finally secured in the coming days, the first time a new back four including him and Lovren, plus potentially Manquillo, could play together is the opening Premier League fixture of the season against a team who beat us in the same fixture last season (Southampton).
A new defence surely needs a pre-season together rather than being thrown in at the deep end – it’s a worry to say the least.
Lallana is currently injured and Markovic will need time to adapt to the English game but if all three can gel quickly there’s potential for the blow of losing Suarez’s 31 goals to be cushioned.
It would have been a lot more cushioned had the Loic Remy transfer gone ahead. Granted he’s no Suarez but he does knows how to score in the Premier League and playing with better players, as he would have done at Anfield, could have seen him cause a lot more damage than in previous campaigns.
Now the Frenchman won’t be coming it’s important to ask who, if any, other striker(s) will be brought in. During the last few days eye-catching rumours of Radamel Falcao and Edison Cavani have emerged.
Even if both of those links are not merely blatant attempts at rumour spreading, it’s a big stretch to believe either would take the sort of hit in their pay packets they would surely need to to join Liverpool.
Neither one seems to fit the FSG policy of spending heavily on young players with big potential as opposed to stars who are already established. If however, and it’s a big if, Falcao is open to moving to LFC, and is available for a fee similar to what Monaco paid to land him in the first place, maybe the club should seriously think of going against the grain and make it happen?
Falcao would undoubtedly bring goals and, with the new BT Sport Champions League TV deal set to almost double the money top four teams will get from 2015-16 onwards, the cost of not splashing out on a big name could be significantly higher than a premium transfer fee.
If LFC miss the top four next season the ladder could well be pulled up by those who do make it, such is the financial impact. If no new striker is incoming and the club genuinely believe Daniel Sturridge, Lambert and Fabio Borini will be adequate to see the season through then there’s a very real chance that could happen and serious questions would then need to be asked about the transfer strategy.
There is no excuse for one of the top 10 richest clubs in the world going into a season without the required fire-power. If signing such a striker can make the difference it needs to be done asap.
It certainly isn’t all doom & gloom though; Sturridge may well flourish being the main man, as Jamie Carragher has predicted, Raheem Sterling will no doubt continue to grow while Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson have the potential to add more goals to their games. There’s also Jordon Ibe, who is widely tipped to have a Sterling type impact in the near future, to look out for.
In any case it’s certain nobody will work harder or be more determined to break the post-second place dip than Brendan Rodgers. Let’s hope he’s successful!
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcsterChief
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