Liverpool FC: 6 Reasons It's Hard to Be a Liverpool Fan This Season
Let me begin by saying that no matter how tough things get for Liverpool fans, we can always look at certain things to reaffirm our faith in our club:
1) Liverpool Football Club is the greatest club in the world.
2) Liverpool Football Club are the most successful club in England. I'm talking about real success here, not preseason friendlies like the Community Shields, which those in Salford shamefully attempt to put forward as a sign of success.
3) Things are a lot better now than they were under Hicks and Gillett.
So Liverpool fans, when you're feeling down, just consider those four things and then consider yourself blessed.
However, it cannot be denied that over the past year things have been tough. In this article, I will focus on six reasons for that, but because I don't wish to write an entirely negative article, for each reason it's been hard, I'll give a bright spot to focus on. Or at least, I'll try to.
I hope you enjoy.
I figured I'd start with the obvious one just to get it out of the way.
Luis Suarez received an eight-match suspension because a three-man panel appointed by the FA decided that, in their opinion, it was "probable" that he used racial language to abuse Patrice Evra.
Their decision has denied Liverpool the services of their best player for the past four matches and they will have to do without him for their next four matches as well.
The controversy surrounding this incident has cast somewhat of a shadow over the club, and members of the media (and the supporters of other clubs), have taken great enjoyment from attempting to tarnish the great name of Liverpool Football Club.
The club did not cover themselves in glory in all aspects of their defence of Suarez, and Damien Comolli in particular should be having a long, hard think about his role in the fiasco, as his statements to the match officials and the FA played a part in Suarez receiving such a lengthy ban.
That certain media outlets took such glee in denouncing Suarez as a racist, despite the fact that he was neither charged nor found guilty of racism, has been quite painful to sit through—as has the delight in which fans of certain clubs have taken to trying to tarnish his name.
Not for one second am I disputing that the player was abused, nor am I trying to say that Tom Adeyemi lied to the police in regards to this incident, but the fact of the matter is that thus far, there has been no charges brought against anyone, nor has any evidence arisen that suggests that there was any racist element to the abuse shouted at Adeyemi.
A Liverpool fan was arrested the following day but was released without charge, pending further investigations. It has been alleged by numerous Liverpool fans who were actually present at the game and in the vicinity of the incident that what was shouted was "Manc" rather than "Black" followed by an insulting word.
One would think that in the name of properly investigating the facts of the case, all journalists would report the facts available rather than deciding to jump on the bandwagon and scream racism as fast as their fingers carried across the keyboard.
The very same newspaper which carried the slanderous back-page about Suarez rushed to produce an article claiming police had confirmed a fan was arrested, denouncing Liverpool and their fans and claiming that the incident involved people wearing the infamous Luis Suarez t-shirts.
This article completely ignored the fact that police confirmed no arrests were made, as well as the fact that the people wearing the Suarez t-shirts were located quite a distance from the section of the crowd from which the abuse came.
As you can clearly see in this video, the fans wearing the Suarez shirts are beside the corner flag, the portion of the crowd that Adeyemi confronts is much nearer to the goal.
They later edited this article and republished it, yet issued no apology for the incorrect reporting they had produced. That this article was left in the public domain for almost a full day before being edited could potentially have caused great damage to Liverpool's reputation. No apology was issue for that, either. They also continued to maintain that the fans involved were wearing the Suarez t-shirts.
Now, if it turns out that the abuse shouted at Adeyemi was indeed racial, then I would have no issues with any article condemning that specific fan for his actions. But one person does not represent the 45,000 that frequent Anfield, nor the millions that support from around the world.
Most importantly, they do not represent Liverpool FC. Regardless of the outcome of this case, articles by journalists and comments by ignorant fans of other clubs degrading the club and its following will still be unacceptable.
Liverpool have already stated that any fan found guilty of racial abuse will be banned for life, which is quite clearly the correct thing for the club to do. Liverpool FC does not condone racism by any means and have always shown that.
To those journalists who have been part of the slander, I ask you to consider the noble art which your profession used to be and ask yourself what part you have played in tarnishing it, whilst attempting to tarnish others. To the fans of other clubs, I simply say, "jog on soft lads, you've got nothing to say."
THE BRIGHT LIGHT:
The unity displayed by the club and the vast majority of the fans in their support of Luis Suarez will only strengthen his ties to the club and make him feel more wanted and loved, thus ensuring he remains at Anfield for many years to come.
2. Questionable Transfer Policy
Another obvious one.
Liverpool's transfer policy over the past year has been questionable, to say the least. Babel, Torres, Aquilani and Meireles have all been either sold or forced out of the club in the last year, and with the exception of Luis Suarez, the replacements for those four attacking players have fallen well short of the mark.
Sabermetrics is the name of the game when it comes to Liverpool's transfer strategy under Damien Comolli.
Andy Carroll was signed from Newcastle United for £35 million as a replacement for Fernando Torres in a move which reeked of blind panic. Carroll was signed off the back of one good run of form which saw him score 11 goals in 19 games.
Now, some Liverpool fans will point to that impressive run of form and claim that it is proof that Carroll has great ability, great potential and is a great goalscorer. I will point to Michael Ricketts as proof that one good run of scoring in your first full Premier League season means nothing in the long run.
Ricketts was actually more impressive than Carroll in the Championship and Premier League with Bolton Wanderers. Not only did he score a lot of goals, he made a lot of goals, too. He played for England, just like Carroll. Then his true talents shone through, and he was last seen playing for Tranmere Rovers nearly two years before being released. He has been without a club, or the interest of a club, since.
For fans of sabermetrics, Carroll did represent a good signing, transfer fee not withstanding. His chances to goals ratio at Newcastle was pretty impressive, as long as he got his shot on target, of course.
In a season and a half with Newcastle before his move to Liverpool, Carroll took a total of 171 shots at goal. Unfortunately, only 60 of these actually managed to go in the direction of the goal. What was encouraging is that of those 60, 30 resulted in goals.
The answer seemed simple for those with sabermetric inclinations: Sign players who create a lot of chances and Carroll is the man who can convert them at a high rate. For a further £49 million, Liverpool added Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam.
All three ranked among the top chance creators in the Premier League the season before, and Adam's prowess from deadballs was also seen as a great opportunity to make use of Carroll's dominance in the area.
The system was built, the system was tried, the system has failed. Two league goals from Carroll thus far this season, as well as a couple of goals in the cup competitions against League One opposition, is quite frankly, a pathetic return for such an expensively assembled experiment.
Even when you factor in the goals and assists of Downing, Adam and Henderson, they still don't come close to being acceptable statistics, and the performances have been just as poor.
Some will claim that Carroll has not had enough time on the pitch, and that's the reason he hasn't delivered. 14 starts and 10 substitute appearances is more than enough time on the pitch when you're not earning your keep.
Others will claim that Carroll has not had the service require to score goals. 42 shots on goal in the league, with 14 on target, suggests that he has had far better service than has been suggested.
There might be some offset if Carroll was working hard for the team, displaying the correct attitude or improving week after week, but he's not. And in all three cases, far from it.
It's not just Carroll, of course, but he is the biggest and most expensive failure of the lot.
Downing was overpriced and has flopped thus far, and both Henderson and Adam have failed to live up to the billing.
But Downing is at least working hard for the team, Henderson has shown signs that he can be a major player for Liverpool in the long run and Adam is both working hard and providing goals and assists, which is about as much as you can ask for £8 million on today's market.
Liverpool must address their strategy in the transfer market and should spend more time focusing on players who can bring the best out of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, rather than buying people to make Andy Carroll look good and expecting Suarez and Gerrard to do it all by themselves.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT:
Luis Suarez, Jose Enrique and Craig Bellamy have all been excellent, and signings of young players like Jordon Ibe, Seyi Ojo and Joao Carlos ensure that the club has a bright future.
3. Questionable Team Selections and Tactics
Criticism of Kenny Dalglish is somewhat of a taboo subject. Dare one suggest that the King has made a mistake, and certain sections of the Liverpool fan base will jump up in indignation, suggest that you are a "plastic fan" and demand that you "support the club." This has caused division amongst the fans, and I'll get to that a little bit later.
Let me say here and now that supporting the club means always wanting what's best for the club. If that did mean a change of management, then I would support a change of management.
Personally, however, I do not for one second believe that Kenny Dalglish is not the right man to lead Liverpool forward. He is the ideal man for the job. He is a man within whom this club is so deeply ingrained he might well be called Mr. Liverpool.
That is not to say that he has not made mistakes this season when it has come to his team selections or the tactics he has used. On more than one occasion, most recently the home match against Stoke, he has gotten both team selection and tactics completely wrong.
A prime example which has bugged me since that day was the home match against Norwich. Liverpool needed a goal and Dalglish summoned Andy Carroll from the bench in the hope that the big man could either score or use his size and presence to unnerve and distract the Norwich defence and create a chance for someone else.
This was all well and good, but the main supply line for Carroll and the style of play Liverpool undertook with him on the pitch was surely Stewart Downing. Downing had been substituted shortly beforehand and was sitting on the bench when Carroll took to the field.
Why bring on a target man and proceed to pump crosses in the box when you've taken off your best available crosser of the ball? It made no sense to me at the time, and try as I might, I have not been able to understand it since.
These are just a couple of examples, but there are others. Everyone has seen them, everyone knows they were mistakes, it's likely that even the manager knows he has made mistakes. If they continue to happen, they could jeopardize Liverpool's chances of a top four finish.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT:
He's Kenny Dalglish. He's a great manager with a proven track record of being a great manager. And most importantly, because it's worthy of repeating, he's Kenny Dalglish.
He will get things right, but he will need some time. He's learning new aspects of the game each week, just as any new manager would. Remember, he was out of the game for a long time, and while he might have been involved in football during that time, and might have watched a lot of football during that time, there will be aspects that he's unfamiliar with.
4. Disappointing Home Form
Seven home draws would be just about acceptable over an entire season for Liverpool, but seven home draws in 11 home matches is not.
Liverpool's home form has been very poor this season, as they have managed only four wins at Anfield while dropping points against teams like Sunderland, Norwich, Swansea, Blackburn and Stoke.
Many have accused the Kop of going quiet over the past few seasons, and to be perfectly honest, it's not really hard to see why.
A lack of goals, a lack of excitement and a lack of quality football have led to a distinct lack of home wins and given the Anfield faithful little to cheer since the end of the 2008/09 season.
Anfield has been referred to as a "Cathedral of Football" many times over the years, as watching games at the famous stadium was considered to be a religious experience when the team and the fans were in top form.
It is now becoming known as a Cathedral for reasons similar to those which landed Highbury with the nickname "The Library" during Bruce Rioch's time in charge of Arsenal.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT:
Liverpool remain unbeaten at home, and while drawing with Blackburn was a poor result, it's not nearly as bad as losing at home to Blackburn
Picture courtesy of www.thehardtackle.com
5. Top Four Finish Seems Unlikely
Liverpool currently sit seventh in the Premier League table, and to be completely honest, that's exactly where they deserve to be.
Yes, they have been unlucky in a number of games. Yes, they have been denied the services of at least one of their two best players for all but a couple of matches this season. Yes, opposition goalkeepers seem to save their best performances for matches against Liverpool. And yes, numerous refereeing decisions have gone against the Reds this season.
But at the end of the day, Liverpool simply have not been good enough on a consistent basis to deserve being higher in the table.
There are seven clubs competing for the top four positions this season and, unfortunately for Liverpool, three of those positions are out of reach. Manchester City are the cream of the Premier League right now and will likely go on to win the title. Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United will battle it out for second, and the loser will take third.
That leaves Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Liverpool battling it out for fourth position. Can anyone truthfully say that right now they fancy Liverpool to win that battle with their current group of players?
It's very clear that the Reds needs reinforcements, but if Kenny Dalglish's recent comments are to be believed and Liverpool are not going to buy players in this transfer window then, as Peter Webster states in this excellent article, fourth place is extremely unlikely.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT:
Liverpool are still in both domestic cup competitions and a cup double is not out of the question. Liverpool are a club built on success, and winning trophies is what being successful is all about, not finishing fourth in the league—which really just makes you third best loser in the league.
Personally, I would take a cup double and a sixth place finish over a fourth place finish and no silverware any day.
Picture courtesy of www.androidized.com
6. Divisions Among the Fans
Liverpool fans have historically been, by and large, a tight-knit group of people who shared a singular love for all that is red on Merseyside. They stood behind their club through thick and thin, and every man, woman and child wanted what was best for the club. Bill Shankly taught his to be this way.
Unfortunately, in recent years cracks have began to appear and divisions have formed amongst the fan base. Right now, the main divisions can be categorized as follows:
The Premature Brigade: These are fans who are already calling for Kenny Dalglish to be removed as manager and some have called for the return of Rafa Benitez, which would represent an enormous step backwards for the club.
Many of these were calling for Rafa's head the day after Rafa threw away the title race in 08/09. Their passion is to be admired, but their anger and displeasure is misplaced and aimed in the wrong direction.
The Blind Faith Brigade: These are the fans I referred to earlier, who will never accept a bad word being said about the manager. These same fans backed Houllier and Benitez as they led Liverpool from success to failure, and viciously attacked anyone that dared to criticize.
These are often the fans that will stand up for any decision the manager has made and back it to the hilt, even if the manager is not the one that has actually made the decision. Their counter argument to everything has been and will remain "In Gerard/Rafa/Kenny I trust."
They are to be admired for their faith, but seems to lack a clear grasp on the direction a club like Liverpool need to be moving as well as an understanding of the standards required at Liverpool Football Club.
The Inbetweeners: These are the vast majority of the fans. The ones that understand that criticism of the manager is okay, as long as it has a basis and doesn't descend into slagging and abuse.
The ones that understand that sometimes, things don't work out and a manager needs to be replaced when the time is right.
The ones that can see the wood for the trees and understand that not all problems are the fault of the manager and just because the manager is, to steal a phrase from Jose Mourinho, "a special one" they are going to be able to perform immediate miracles.
These divisions have caused disharmony on many Liverpool forums and Facebook pages, as well as at the stadium itself. These divisions are not healthy for the club, and people who fall into first two of the three groups I mentioned above need to have a look at themselves in the mirror and remember who they support, and the morals this club was built on.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT:
Liverpool fans are still the best in the land, and remember, we don't support a team from Salford, who masquerade as something they are not.
That completes my breakdown of things that have made the last year, in particular the last few months, a tough time to be a Liverpool fan.
I do want to emphasis the point that there is never a bad time to be a Liverpool fan. There are times that aren't as good as others, and times when things get a little bit tough, but your belief in the club and your support for the club should never wane.
18, five, three, seven and seven. Those are numbers to keep in mind. Real honours won by England's most successful club.
I hope you've enjoyed the article and I hope that the bright lights gave you reason to be cheerful. Check out my homepage for a full archive of my articles here on the Bleacher Report. You will also find links to my Facebook and twitter pages, so feel free to follow me on both.
And please visit myself and Karl Matchett on our new website.
Thanks for reading.