Liverpool FC, are know throughout the game, as one of the most successful teams, in Europe having been a formidable side during the seventies and eighties, a club which is built on great football history; five European Cups, 18 league titles, seven FA Cups, eight League Cups and three UEFA Cups. That was the Liverpool we all came to know, in football history, but what has been the reason behind their staggering fall from grace that Liverpool have suffered over the past few seasons?
However the clubs crown has fallen in recent years. They have been out of the of the Champions League for three years and have had issues both on and off the pitch under Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and ‘King Kenny’. Brendan Rodgers appointment was bold, dynamic decision which looked to the future for Liverpool rather than the present, both on the pitch as well as off it, for one the greatest clubs of the game.
Seven years ago; Steven Gerrard was the 25-year-old captain of the European champions, Liverpool, with his heart set on securing the club’s first title in the Premier League era. Now, at the age of 32 he finds himself hoping the Reds can get back into the top four before his time at Anfield comes to an end.
In the glory days, Liverpool did their talking on the pitch and kept the day-to-day business of running the club as low key as possible. With the likes of chairman John Smith and chief executive Peter Robinson in charge, Liverpool’s off-field matters were dealt with behind closed doors, while an air of public humility was projected as the team won trophy-after-trophy. That approach was a large part of the so-called ‘Liverpool Way’, but these days the reverse way of operating appears to hold true. As the club aims in the modern age of football of money; to conquer new ‘markets’ in North America and Asia, documentary Being: Liverpool is beaming the club’s inner workings – albeit a heavily edited version – to anyone who cares to watch. Managers, from other Premier League teams, can see the training methods adopted by the club and the match tactics on TV.
Football should never be a documentary played in front of the cameras. Meanwhile, the team is struggling on the pitch. Perhaps someone should tell FSG that good publicity comes from winning matches, regardless of whether you show your managing director riding a Harley Davidson.
It was important, that Liverpool, as a club, to do their talking on the pitch and avoid the clubs worse start to a season in their history. The crucial first home win against, Reading , may very well act as the catalyst needed to revolutionise, the club under the leadership of Brandon Rodgers. Liverpool were unfortunate not to get all three points in the entertaining Merseyside Derby but the poor decision to rule their winning goal as offside was costly. It would been the much needed lift for Liverpool with a win over their fierce rivals Everton but instead they were knocked out the league cup as holders against Swansea at Anfield the following match.
Under Rafael Benitez, Liverpool were top of the European crop, however fans began to moan and criticise their manager, because they weren’t challenging for the league regardless being second during the 2008/2009 season. On reflection, I’m sure a lot of Liverpool fans would agree that they were far to critical of Rafa at the time, demanding instant Premier League success when in reality they didn’t have the squad of players and were competing in the worlds most competitive league.
As much, at the time Liverpool fans criticised, Rafa, they were at least, in the Champions League year in year out and more prominently Rafa delivered them a European trophy and also another final on the big stage. Where are Liverpool now? A fourth season out of the Champions League and under management of a young and dynamic pioneer with Brandon Rodgers. Rafa was under pressure and left under mutual consent in 2010, but Liverpool fans criticism clearly drove one of their most successful managers in recent years out.
In 2011 and the arrival of Kenny Dalglish to the helm at Anfield was supposed to have led Liverpool out of the storm and towards the golden skies that the club had been so used to until just a couple of seasons ago. Kenny Dalglish wasn’t quite the manager he once was back in his heyday. His transfers were questioned as they have not been as astute as they could have been. Dalglish did steady the ship and cleared out some of the sub-standard players such as Christian Poulsen and Joe Cole but Liverpool’s results have not improved as the fans, the manager and the board would have hoped. The need of a consistent goal scorer is evident, the £35m spent on Andy Carroll has not materialised into goals and his form has been criticised for his entire time at the club which why he was loaned out to West Ham this season.
Liverpool’s home form is where the heart of the problem lies. Seven draws out eleven games, last season was worrying form and not the form needed to get them back into the Champions League. Home draws with Norwich, Swansea, Blackburn, Sunderland and Stoke City have cost Liverpool dearly, last season. In theory if you are paying over £100m in two transfer windows you expect to win home games against likes of Swansea, Norwich, Sunderland and Blackburn . This season this problem under Brandon Rodgers, short reign so far, is still a underlining problem, with Liverpool having not won game at home until today with a narrow win over Reading.
The key issue, with Liverpool lies within their off the field business with the clubs transfer policy and activity. Liverpool’s dealings under FSG have left Brendan Rodgers with an unbalanced, paper-thin squad in which he is being forced to rely on unproven youngsters. It could be the making of Suso and Raheem Sterling, but for now it’s not going to help Liverpool challenge at the top end of the Premier League. The idea was to lower the average age of the team, but surely not in this way. The situation hasn’t been helped by the instability at management level.
Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish were hired and fired, Roy Hodgson was sacked and now Brendan Rodgers is the latest manager given the tough task of turning things around. Having spent a fortune on players like; Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Hederson, FSG wouldn’t give Rodgers – the man they supposedly trust with Liverpool’s future – another million to sign a proven Premier League goal scorer in Clint Dempsey. It’s that kind of logic that has left Rodgers’ Liverpool dangerously exposed.
If Liverpool look towards; United and Arsenal as examples who have built teams with their transfer money. Javier Hernandez at around £7m, Ashley Young at £16m, Chris Smalling at around £10m and so on. Arsenal won’t usually go above the £10m mark, but when they do exceptions being; Santi Cazorla, who so far seems to have been the best summer signing and has shown “world class” for a reasonable transfer fee. Whereas Liverpool went and spent; serious money on Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson, who last season all showed how the money was poorly invested and were ridiculously overpriced, Downing and Henderson cost around £20 million whilst Adam is now plying his trade at Stoke which is arguably his level. Those players, plus Carroll, are not worth a combined total of nearly £100m.
Another issue all together for the club which tarnished it last season was the “racism scandal” surrounding, Luis Suarez, who we know has talent but is controversial player who reputation is also damaging the great name of Liverpool as the liability he can be with racism saga or his diving on the pitch. His disciplinary record is poor, racial abuse and hand gestures at opposing fans have earned him a total of 9 matches suspended last season which has cost Liverpool dearly and tarnished the reputation of a respected club.
The name of such a successful club built on history, would be one attraction to world class players but in this day and age of modern football, the attraction of playing top level football in the Champions League week in and week out, is a bigger pull factor to many of the “world class” players. Liverpool cannot afford to slip any further behind the likes of Spurs and Newcastle if they are to stand any chance of regaining a Champions League spot in the coming seasons.
Liverpool are without a doubt one of football’s biggest sleeping giants and I would not bet against a new pioneer and dynamic manager with a set of new ideas and philosophy which Brendan Rodgers will bring the club in next few years to change their fortunes around. Above anything else Brendan Rodgers, as a young and promising manager, will need time to change Liverpool and to put forward his philosophy and his own ideas.
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