Liverpool: Why 2013 Can Be the Year the Reds Turn the Corner
Since a second-place finish in the Premier League at the end of the 2008-09 season, it has largely been a destructive and disappointing path that Liverpool Football Club have trodden down, but 2013 perhaps offers a chance to step lightly onto a new road, one with clear directions and a visible end in sight.
From the hesitant, stodgy and inherently negative "reign" of Roy Hodgson to the return of—and subsequent sacking of—the King, the club has lurched from one identity crisis to the next on the pitch and matters off it have not been all that much better.
True, the parasitic spell of Hicks and Gillette came to an inglorious end in a courtroom shortly after Roy was appointed—thank Robbie for that mercy at least.
But a continual chopping and changing of both managerial—and with it, backroom and technical—staff and the players required to suit those in charge have left the team broken in parts, sorely lacking in depth in others and hugely slanted in quality and value.
At one end of the scale, the immovable wages and tiny on-pitch contribution of Joe Cole, at the other, the incomparable genius and saleable asset that is Luis Suarez.
It's a skewed squad, no doubt about it, and Brendan Rodgers has had seven months now to get to grips with the fact. But now comes January, a second transfer window and—seemingly—some decision making which has for once been done ahead of time.
The Reds have had four whole months to stew over the mismanagement of the final days of the summer window which saw precisely nobody come in to replace the outgoing Andy Carroll, leaving Suarez alone up front once Fabio Borini picked up his Annual October Injury.
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Daniel Sturridge is set to be the most immediate arrival, perhaps for showing off in a shiny Red top ahead of the match with Sunderland at Anfield, but he is a single piece in a jigsaw which needs many more additions before aspirations of a top four finish will be achieved.
Unfortunately for Rodgers, his particular jigsaw box is cluttered with remnants of older, wasted puzzles just as much as pieces of the one he is trying to build himself and the juggling act of replacing the unwanted parts without leaving himself short is a difficult one.
2013 though provides the chance of a thorough sorting out of the playing staff for the manager.
Immediate success was never on the cards for Liverpool in terms of challenging for the title, but a top four tilt might have been hoped for with more initial success in the transfer market. The challenge for Rodgers now, along with his coaching and scouting team, is to correctly have assessed where the side is still weak and exactly who can improve it.
Liverpool have the chance to add significantly to their squad over the next eight months.
January should see three new faces at the club, with maybe just one going the other way. Summer will present a further opportunity to bring in fresh talent; at Rodgers discretion this could realistically be up to another seven new names.
Perhaps that much of an overhaul will not be seen as necessary, but the point is that Liverpool should, by August, finally have a squad which is pointing the right way for a manager who has the backing of the board, of the Anfield crowd and of his players.
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Since Rafa Benitez left the club, Roy Hodgson had but a single transfer window to fill the squad with inadequate and ageing high-earners, while Kenny Dalglish arrived part-way through the first window, spent heavily in the second and completely ignored his third.
The mish-mash of players that Brendan Rodgers inherited fit neither system of play that Liverpool attempted to use last season nor the one the new boss wanted to implement this time around.
Year Zero, as it has been termed, was always going to be about finding enough players to fill the squad's weak spots while trying to aim higher than the club has reached for three years; in the latter Rodgers might look to be falling short at present but in truth Liverpool need very little to press into the top seven or so of the Premier League.
Just one additional source of goals might make the difference of two or three places in the table over the next few months, yet Liverpool are going beyond merely splashing out on players who can hit the back of the net.
Instead they are persevering with a plan of action laid out months ago, one which has drawn barbed comments and criticism with the Reds not flying as high or higher than Charlie Adam's League Cup Final penalty.
Liverpool have decided upon their route and they are following it. There remains a belief within (and without, for many supporters) the club that the path they have chosen is the right one and that it will lead to eventual success, on and off the field.
It isn't the quickest route, it certainly isn't proving the easiest—but the Reds, as a club, continue to believe that it will get them to their destination.
Fans might be familiar with the saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions are what brought Kenny back, are what saw Liverpool spend big on home-grown players—and are now what sees the club investing in the work of the Academy.
Not every decision taken will be the right one, not every step walked will be a successful one.
But while tricky times have already passed in Rodgers' short spell in charge, perhaps supporters might do well to consider a couple of alternative "road to" quotes which could just as easily describe the forthcoming 12 months.
The first is the road to success is always under construction.
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No further proof of this should be needed than looking at the current Barcelona team; seen as the best in the world they have not stood still, rather continued to add to their playing staff and even changing the best manager in their long history.
Liverpool are a million miles away from being Barça, but the point remains.
The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.
It would be extremely easy for Liverpool to this summer, or even this month, decide to abandon all pretence of future success and offer Barcelona £16 million for David Villa, or offer Wesley Sneijder a continuation of his £200,000 per week contract.
That alone might not be enough to tempt either player—but forget about it anyway, the Reds are walking a different path to success.
Casting aside all plans for the journey is a tempting offer when the going gets tough.
But over just one more rise, around just one more blind corner, could be the straight and narrow; the gleaming, enticing, smooth surface that free-flowing football seems to glide along.
Give the manager and the team the time to turn around that they really need, and Liverpool might have travelled a lot more distance than seemed possible on the opening day of the season when West Brom beat them 3-0.
Liverpool Football Club can be turned around in a big way in 2013.
Make sure you're along for the journey.
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