‘It shows just how Liverpool’s standards have fallen’, ‘None of the other big clubs would have even considered buying him’, ‘Not a Liverpool player’, ‘Too old’.
Just some of the reactions that I’ve heard and read regarding Paul Konchesky and his move to Liverpool. I’m not going to deny that I wasn’t particularly excited when the rumours of Roy Hodgson raiding his former club Fulham for the 29 year old left back began, and I didn’t exactly jump for joy when the signing was confirmed on Sky Sports News’ favourite day of the year, the transfer deadline day. But I also wasn’t disappointed either. I suppose understanding, satisfied and quietly optimistic would be the most accurate adjectives of my feelings regarding the deal.
Understanding because Liverpool needed a left back. Insua, despite his undoubted potential, clearly hadn’t impressed Hodgson enough to convince him to make the young Argentinean his first choice for the season, and the 21 year old has subsequently moved to Galatasary on a season-long loan. Aurelio, who on his day is one of the most talented left backs in Europe, but also the most injury prone, impressed Hodgson and the new medical team at Anfield enough in a 2 week trial (following his release at the start of the summer) for Hodgson to re-sign him. However, following an injury record that restricted him to just 79 starts in his first 4 years at Anfield, there are understandably still doubts about whether he can be consistently available for selection. Konchesky on the other hand has started 134 games in that same time period, for clubs who have played far fewer games, and that figure would be higher still had he not fallen out of favour at Upton Park during the 06/07 season.
Satisfied as, though he may not be a top-class full back, or even near that level, he’s been a consistently good Premier League full-back for a few years now, especially so since playing under Hodgson. It’s a safe transfer from the new manager- he knows what he’s getting. I’ve heard people say that by signing Salcido as Konchesky’s replacement, Fulham have gone one better and that it was the Mexican international that Liverpool should have signed. Salcido may have impressed at the World Cup and has been a regular for PSV for a few years, but as always when signing players from abroad there is a question over whether or not they’ll successfully adapt to the English game. No worries there with Konchesky. That the other ‘big’ clubs may not have considered him is a fair and correct point, but at the same time would Ancellotti consider signing John O’Shea, or Wenger consider signing Paulo Ferreira, both of whom started their respective team’s previous Premier League outings? Highly doubtful.
Quietly optimistic because there’s a sense of déjà-vu here, like we’ve been here before, which indeed we have. In 2003 Liverpool signed a full back from Fulham for approximately £3.5m, and that turned out to be a shrewd piece of business. Steve Finnan may not have grabbed the headlines or set fans pulses racing when he moved to Anfield, but yet the Irish right-back became one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers, a fan favourite and a mainstay in the team that won the European Cup and FA Cup in successive seasons, and reached the European Cup final again in 2007. He was, above all else, reliable, and was voted in the clubs ‘Team of the Decade’. And it is that reliability which the Liverpool team is calling out for at the moment. The signing of right-back Glen Johnson for £18m last summer did grab the headlines, and fired further the optimism among fans that had been fuelled by the clubs 2nd place finish the previous season, but despite his obvious ability the inconsistency in his performances- tearing up the right flank one week then getting torn up himself the next- didn’t help in a team that lost its way early on and eventually stumbled to 7th place finish. With the ownership of the club seemingly stuck at a crossroads and resources thin on the ground, Hodgson needs to steady the Anfield ship and produce a team that, though on paper may seem weaker following the departure of Javier Mascherano, can be stronger and more consistent on the pitch and improve on last season’s results. It may be a sign of how the standards have dropped, but let’s have some perspective here- under the current owners there was very little available in the transfer kitty. Konchesky, at £3.5m, is good value, low risk and, should he continue where he left off under Hodgson, will provide a consistency and reliability at left back that has been missing for too long.