This years BAFTA’s have been announced and yet again the best continuing drama has gone to Eastenders. If you like that sort of thing then I suppose it must be a worthy winner. However, for twists and turns, back stabbing and love stories, highs and lows, hero’s and villains, hopes and fears, expulsions and the eventual return of a legend…a beloved son, you can not look much further than the unrivalled drama of the 2010-1011 season at Anfield.
After the dismissal of Rafa 12 months ago, the season began with the average Liverpool supporter feeling genuinely nervous but optimistic following the appointment of Roy Hodgson. Here was a manager who was English, experienced and had done great thing’s for Fulham and despite not having any previous association with the club, deserved to be given a chance to see if he could turn around a team who only 12 months previously had come second in the league, collecting more points than have won it this season. Oh how hindsight is beautiful thing….
In fairness it started okay. Hodgson said the right things – although never offering riches – and the club said the right things – although demanding more. The future look brighter. But things on the pitch went from fair to bad to worse with Hodgson turning to a tried and trusted method of how to get the sack by using the ex-managers tactics of defend, defend, defend and play 1 up front. Ultimately, after accusing the fans of neither liking or supporting him from day one, his ship was preparing to sail. This collided with the struggle for power in the boardroom and one of the highlights of the season, the eventual sale of the club.
With new owners came a new start and after determining a swift exit strategy for the now named ‘Woy’, fresh optimism was injected throughout the club and the fans with the appointment, albeit on a temporary basis, of the King. Kenny Dalglish was back.
Then, from the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime ….. With a record transfer fee to boot, the pretender to the throne, the man who maybe, just maybe could have been the new king, Fernando Torres left for greener grass (or so he thought). Yet despite the misery and disbelief of the supporters there came a spark which bloomed into a flame when Kenny and the team brought in Andy Carroll and potentially one of the greatest signing’s of last season Luis Suarez.
From this, the season moved into gear and Liverpool fans started to see the football which they had longed to see all season with more emphasis on attack. Beating the majority of teams put out in front of them, slowly they moved up the league and despite a disappointing final 2 games, the optimism is still there with hopes resting solely on how the now permanent manager, Kenny Dalglish, will rejuvenate and re-invent the squad in the close season.
Oh and what a close season….
Think what you like but this one is massive. A pre-season which as well as being new territory for the owners, will be a time of unparalleled pressure for Dalglish, Comolli and the backroom staff who must surely be thinking…”where do we start?”.
From outside appearances do not look to bad. The squad which finished the season does not seem to be in that poor a condition. There is the spine of a good team in Reina (who has now said he wants to stay), Carragher, Gerrard and Suarez. Fitted around them are Kuyt, Carroll, Agger, Skrtel, Maxi, an improving Lucas, Glen Johnson and Hodgson’s one success story Meireles. Added to the mix are a healthy smattering of potentially good young players in Kelly, Shelvey, Spearing, Flanagan and Robinson who have all gained invaluable experience this season. However there is still something not quite right. One would expect the fringe players such as Cole, Poulsen, Ngog, Jovanovic, Aurelio to be let go but then the squad is a lot shorter in depth. So does the management look at buying in bulk or buying in quality and thus putting a dependance on the youth players to come through. If the latter is the case, can a team of Liverpool ilk afford to rely on youth to see them through a season and get them back into the Champions League places where they need to be? As a great man once asked (or maybe it was just Alan Hansen stating that you couldn’t) can you win anything with youth? And Liverpool surely need to win something next year.
However, it may be that to much emphasis will put on winning a trophy especially in a transitional period that Liverpool are surely going through. And yet this is Liverpool Football Club. It is in their nature to win things. It was only 6 years ago that they were celebrating being Champions of Europe. 5 years since the FA cup victory over West Ham. 3 since finishing second in the league and just over 12 months to bowing out in the semi-finals of the Europa League. So you can see they have not been too far away, yet on closer reflection the demise from Champions of Europe to finishing sixth in the premier league and no European place has been steady and has occurred far to fast for both the club and supporters.
The pressure is on. Players need to be brought in. But not just any old player…quality players. Despite a strong spine in the team, time is starting to catch up on Gerrard and Carragher. Surely the time is now when replacements should be brought in and developed under the stewardship of these 2 greats whilst the opportunity is still there. But does Dalglish try and buy somebody like a Gary Cahill with a price close to £15-20 million or does he look at a relative unknown? Should he be spending £20-30 million on a Benzema or Lukaku or look for potential. I’m not so sure. That’s a question he can only have the answer to but he’ll know that Liverpool have to be pushing next season. They need to be at the top end of the league and the latter stages of the cups and they’ll have more time to do this without the distraction of Europe. Yet that will be levelled at him every time they slip up and with the added pressure of United taking the crown of most league titles, once again it’s going to be an interesting time at Anfield. But let’s just hope not to interesting. Then again, as the old shirt sponsor would have said, if Liverpool Football Club was a soap it would ‘probably be the best soap in the world’.
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