Of all the things created by god the Premier League crown is the one you want to talk about most in the City of Liverpool (well at least to the Red half of it). With nineteen long and hard years of wait in agony, so much has been talked, discussed and dissected - about what went wrong, when and where at the club, and in all the baffling desperation to catch the "holy grail", how to win the league has been the biggest question unanswered in Liverpool. Years have come and gone, one weak challenge after another withering away in the winter cold yet nothing has changed - NO Premier League Crown for LIVERPOOL.....at least not yet.
However things did take a massive change since the arrival of Manager Rafael Benitez and his Spanish contingency. What seemed like a distant dying dream of a passionate Liverpool fan has become increasingly possible. With a Champions League cup and an F.A. cup already in his Anfield cabinet, Rafa has come closest to answering the fans desperate calls for the eluding League trophy. There is no doubting the managers quality, 4 points is what you will call "being ALMOST there". Compare it with the tens and twenty of the previous season, Liverpool FC is definitely headed in the right direction under Rafa in claiming the English throne back, long held by the 'wrong' reds - their North west rivals from Manchester.
Every season starts with renewed hope of optimism and positiveness. And this year its not much different for the Reds. Coming as close as they did last year in winning the league from Manchester United, Liverpool has the best chance yet to end their wait, but its not going to be easy. Unlike the Spanish League, which is predominantly fought between Barcelona and Real Madrid, The English League has grown stronger with the so called "Big Four" joined by the exorbitant riches of Manchester City.With the exit of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Tevez , you would expect chinks in the fast and formidable United attack, I doubt they would be able to break the strong walls of premier league defense easily without the tricks and techniques of Ronaldo. A number of players moving in and out, lack of experienced match winners and lack of a strong commanding holding midfielder makes Arsenal look like a pale shadow of a forgotten giant with nothing but only a good promise for a bright future. Ancelloti's appointment may be a master stroke for Chelsea's ambition to end the Champion's League duck, however Ancelloti is yet to prove as a manager who can win week in and week out and cope up with the rigors of the premier league and his command over english will be his biggest challenge for a silverware this season.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, more than Manchester United winning the premier league, its Liverpool who lost it last season[2008-2009]. This article being my first is about ten important lessons Liverpool should learn from their previous campaign where they came so close to winning the league.
Liverpool FC is one of the most respected and successful clubs in English History. And Success is always built on Stability - both on and off the pitch.
The two infamous owners of Liverpool, Hicks and Gillet, still pilloried by the Liverpool fans must learn from the naivety of their mistakes from the past and accept their ineptitude in understanding the English game and try to work around it. Broken promises and Lack of trust in their manager has to end. "Team Liverpool" has to move forward together that includes the manager, players, fans and more importantly the owners all pulling in the same right direction.
On the pitch, the addition of Kenny Dalglish is bound to calm nerves and add to the players confidence in being around people who have been there and done it before. Babel and Agger look like two players who need the most attention this season as both of them are in a position where they may not get too many chances this season which can harm team morale.
On the transfer front Liverpool needs to analyze their squad necessities in thorough detail. With the kind of funds the two "generous" owners of Liverpool have promised [virtually nothing], Money is not a commodity the Reds can afford to throw away carelessly. It is no rocket science that Liverpool needs another striker of Torres quality to support him. Also in the wings Liverpool lack a trick bag like Ronaldo, for breaking the smaller defensive mentality teams which is key for winning the league. Yossi is more suited for cutting in through the middle rather than crossing from the wings. Kuyt is more a fighter and quick passer. His first touch and dribbling skills still need working.Riera is not consistent and Babel as a winger tries taking the defenders on his own and loses the ball and his cross needs working too. If Alonso leaves, Liverpool will definitely be bare in the middle especially the creative aspects of Alonso in driving the team forward will be sorely missed.
Glen Johnson is a great addition. He can fit in the wings if needed and can play in both flanks. His defensive duties is expected to tighten and he is English,In all Glen is the exactly the right guy Liverpool needed. If given a choice between striker and a winger, Liverpool needs a winger more. Ideally Liverpool needs both, but with shortage of funds, Rafa plans to use Gerrard as a second striker and In case Torres is injured Babel or Voronin can fill in. An out and out winger like Lennon, Silva or Young is what Liverpool need to improve their chances of winning the league.
Astute Transfer in the coming months is necessary. Keane or Degen type fiascos are completely unaffordable considering Liverpool's tight pockets
For any good title charge the start of the season is the most important one. Most of Liverpool's Success last season is due to their relentless start in the campaign.Goals, Goals and more Goals Liverpool needs a string of consecutive wins in the start.
Liverpool where the comeback kings of last season. Against Middlesbrough, Manchester United, Wigan Athletic, Manchester City, Portsmouth etc.. Liverpool proved time and again their ability to handle pressure situations and their famous "Never-say-Die" attitude carried on by the teams from generation to generation.
But Luck will not be always favoring the brave. It is better to follow the Italian Philosophy of football "No matter what you do you cant win a game if you cant score a goal". Its better to win games more comprehensively than edge of the seat last minute Gerrard scorchers for a winner. Liverpool must avoid comebacks.
Liverpool has one of the strongest defensive line up in the League. With Alonso and Mascherano Liverpool's organized defense is literally unassailable. By nature Liverpool's game plan has been around its defense,stop the oppositions attack and then counter them. Liverpool loves to defend they are very good at it.
However in the premier league it is more important to develop a fast and relentless attacking mentality against teams which play to defend. The secret of winning the league lies in killing teams with intense attack, something Liverpool Greats of the past would have done with flair and flamboyance.
"The best chance of winning a game is to field your best team". More easily said than done. Sometimes a team needs to adapt according to opponents weakness. Different kinds of players will be used for different types of opponents. Aerially weak , Slow aging defense, Physically not strong etc.. depending on nature of opposition team selections vary. However, the team always has a chance to win when it fields its best team. Its the chemistry which the players develop playing together which helps them anticipate each others moves. Rotation in Premier league has not been effective unless players are of equal quality in the bench like those of Manchester United and Chelsea. Moreover other than big tough teams its better to play to your strength against the weaker teams than to try counter them with their weakness. Its better to rotate less in Premier league as the quality of opposition is comparatively easy unlike Champions league and can be win by playing to the team's strengths.
Rafa Benitez tends to rests key players like Alonso, or Gerrard for big matches against Chelsea and Manchester United and play the like of Lucas in their place for matches against Wigan and West Ham. In my opinion its much wiser to play the likes of Alonso and Gerrard against Wigan and gain the definite 3 points rather than playing them against strong teams like Chelsea and Manchester United and still not manage 3 points. Liverpool lost a lot of points due to this last season. Its high time they play their strongest 11 against weaker teams.
A calculative genius like Rafa believes in leaving no loop holes when it comes to analyzing the opponent and preparing for a match. However there will be situations in which Liverpool cannot afford to not kill games and play safe according to their game plan. For example last season Liverpool could have killed of a 10 man Arsenal team at Emirates, instead they played for a single point since they were already on top of the league and wanted to maintain the lead for which a simple draw was enough then.
Momentum is an important thing in a game. Gaining momentum depends a lot on the attitude of the two teams. Even a weaker team like Middlesbrough will become a strong hurdle if you allow them to settle down and build momentum. Liverpool has to develop a Killer mentality of relentless attack and finishing the game when they know they are in a stronger position. Taking calculated risks is always worthy than to play cautiously and regret when it matters most in the end.
Of the 4 big teams there hasn't been much of a difference when it comes to first team. Its the quality you have in bench which singlehandedly won the premier league for Manchester United in 2008-09 campaign. Liverpool never had the players to replace Gerrard and Torres one of the main reasons why they exited from FA cup and had too many draws last season. Take Gerrard and Torres out, Liverpool have lost 45 goals for the season. The Quality of the bench is highly decisive in winning a tight league.
Liverpool should have virtually wrapped the league when they beat Manchester United and Chelsea Home and Away. But it was not to be. Liverpool lost fewer matches than any other in the league at least then they should have won the league. Well again it was not to be.. The single most important reason why Liverpool lost the league last season is their inability to break down small teams. Well the draws are merely a reflection of many of the other reasons we discussed before, like lack of bench strength, irreplaceable Torres and Gerrard, Fielding weaker sides, Rotation, lack of Killing edge and attacking mentality. How well Liverpool address these issues is the Key to the long awaited 19 year old dream of a Liverpool Fan. Its a dream of people like me. Hope they make it happen - You'll Never Walk Alone