The Liverpool Problem wouldn’t be a problem for a lot of clubs – League Cups, FA Cups, Community Shields, UEFA Cup and Champions League with regular top 4 finishes is a ‘problem’ that all but the top four clubs would love to have. This is Liverpool, though. So following the problem before Dalglish and then considering how things progressed/stalled/regressed under Dalglish, let’s have a look at where we go from here.
Some Liverpool fans were upset at the sacking of Dalglish. Having said that, it was not as though there was a huge outcry – there wasn’t a massive supporter lead campaign against the owner. There was just a sense that the club should have treated its favourite son better. That’s understandable. The sentiment can be appreciated, and there are those who could make the argument that he should have been given a bit more time to turn the club around.
I, however, was not among those who were sad at his departure. It wasn’t a case of feeling for him as I’d felt towards Benitez. I didn’t feel sympathetic to Dalglish. I didn’t because I got the impression he would take this on the chin and move on. I didn’t because I understood the decision made to relieve him of his duties. Not only did I understand it I support it. There was nothing in Dalglish’s performance as a manager that gave me any sense of comfort or that he understood the changes that were needed to get the club addressing the problems. As a result I had no problem with the decision.
There then followed the recruitment process which was the subject of much media chat that in essence was the usual hot air that people spout when they’re not a part of the decision-making process. I had no issue with the manner in which the owners went about looking for the next manager. It made sense to me. Talk to people, consider their qualities, approach your preferred candidate. Even mentioning Dave Whelan’s contribution to it is laughable in itself, but it kept Sky Sports News with enough headlines to keep them busy.
In the recent press conference announcing the new manager, Werner stated that the man was the only person they offered the job to, and the guy accepted it. He’s the No. 1 choice, he is the only choice and to some extent he is the right choice.
Brendan Rodgers is the new manager, then, and again as with most of the decisions FSG has made to date, I have no objections. Rodgers is young and hungry enough to see this as just the challenge he needs to push on and establish himself as a big manager in the game. Enough has been written about what the man has done at Swansea and the credentials that made him the man for the job.
Of course only time will tell whether he is up to it, but his initial performance at the press conference and the noises he’s been making regarding players and style of play leaves much to be optimistic, but if you’ve read this piece, you know where previous optimistic feelings have ended up. So it’s a case of seeing what is produced by the guy.
Now the targets again should be straightforward and clear – we have to do a lot better in the Premier League – we have to be at least competitive for the Champions League spots. We’ve spent three seasons outside the top five so we have no right to even consider ourselves as in a great position for those places, and yet consider the following. Everton and Newcastle United, who both finished above us are clubs that we should be finishing above.
Newcastle had an outstanding season, but it’s one thing to have such a season, and it’s another thing to continue that on a consistent basis. Anyone looking at Liverpool and Everton know full well that Liverpool had to do badly to let Everton finish above them – the Liverpool squad, even in this condition is a better squad than Everton’s.
That takes Liverpool to the top six and brings us to sides who can rightly claim to be superior to Liverpool at least in terms of recent league performances. The champions Man City are too far away from Liverpool at the moment – their financial clout, the quality of the squad, the quality of the manager are at present miles ahead of Liverpool. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s too far for the next season or so.
Man Utd also are ahead – although not as far ahead as City. They have the greatest manager in the history of English football and that in itself is an advantage that has seen them take a relatively mediocre side to perform better than they appear. It is for that reason, why the gap between Utd and Liverpool isn’t as great as City and Liverpool. Yet there remains a significant gap between Liverpool and those Manchester clubs.
Hope emerges, though, when we consider the other members of the top five. Chelsea – still have the financial muscle, sure, but you look at the squad and although the ‘old-timers’ got them over the line last season, there’s nothing to suggest they are the men to put together a Premier League winning run. Yet choosing Di Matteo to carry on as is an interesting choice seeing as though it was good getting a group of players to perform as they could. It’s another thing to turn the ageing squad into Premier League contenders and this is a big test. Getting Hazard is an indication that they are ready to invest to push forward, but new signings don’t always guarantee success and progress – just ask Kenny.
Arsenal – well this is an interesting scenario, here you have a team who finished third, but it wasn’t a sure thing, and although things kinda settled into the season, there is enough to suggest that Arsenal aren’t to be afraid of. Even if Van Persie stays at Arsenal, their issue is having a squad capable of pushing on and actually winning things. The gap can be reduced significantly, if we make the right moves.
Finally Spurs. Now they were lauded over the season for playing the best football in the league, but seriously, playing that well and not getting to finish in a position to get to the Champions League has not been exactly what Spurs were planning for. Also their top players might be getting itchy feet again, and with Redknapp leaving this level of overall uncertainty is just the thing Liverpool needs for hope to catch them up as well.
All this is hope, though. It’s all speculation. At the end of the day, as ever, all the club can do is sort out its own business. If Rodgers is given time and if he makes the most of that time to show promise and progress then it won’t matter what the other teams do, because Liverpool will go out confident in every game to be competitive, creative and compulsive in winning. It’s about time I saw a Liverpool team that could do that and perhaps eventually do something that almost a generation of football fans have never seen – Liverpool winning the title.