Liverpool's Summer Of Woe?
OK, so at the time of writing it's mid-May 2010.
I'm typing this on an old-fashioned typewriter from a secret bunker made to look like the Anfield Boot Room, stocked with supplies and old Liverpool DVDs, wrapped in a giant Robbie Fowler scarf and wearing the '89-90 kit.
Actually, I'm not, but I would be if I was the sort of person who believed pundits and newspaper columnists. The type of people who would have us convinced that Liverpool FC is one step away from administration. The guys that predict we'll have to sell Steven Gerrard just to survive. All of which is pish.
This is a summer of speculation unlike anything any Liverpool fan has ever seen, simply because there's never previously been as much up in the air at the same time.
By Liverpool's opening Europa League qualifier (there's a perfectly normal English sentence), Liverpool could potentially have new owners, a new manager, a new captain, a new team, and work may or may not have begun on a new stadium.
But while these potentials are possible, that doesn't mean they're even likely. It's possible that the Pope could move to Las Vegas and become an Elvis impersonator, but it's unlikely.
Firstly, Rafa Benitez is looking increasingly likely to remain Liverpool's manager, and has reiterated his desire to stay. The board will not sack him, partly because they know it would be a silly idea but mainly because they'd have to pay him off unless he leaves of his own volition.
Steven Gerrard has expressed no desire to leave Liverpool and Benitez would not be interested in selling him (since he'd only have to replace him with someone costing the same or more). Liverpool also do not need to do so to pay off any debts, since money garnered from transfers has not once gone in to paying off the debts of Liverpool's parent company, Kop Football Holdings. Transfer funds and company finance are kept very separate.
Administration only occurs when a creditor, such as the Inland Revenue with Portsmouth, demand unpaid money back. Liverpool's creditors (the bank) are being paid with interest, and until this ceases to be the case no one's calling in the bailiffs
Liverpool, with the greatest respect, aren't Portsmouth or Leeds. Liverpool are one of the top five household names around the globe, with massive fan-bases across Europe, Africa and in particular, Asia. Even saddled with debt, the resources and revenue at Liverpool's command (such as the joint biggest sponsorship deal in world football, as well as massive revenue from merchandise, memberships, and shirt sales) make the club a very interesting proposition.
Fernando Torres has also been the subject of speculation. Given that he recently voiced his concerns that playing in the rough-and-tumble of the Premier League might be contributing to his injury woes, I find it very unlikely that he'd consider moves to either Chelsea or Man City, and again, Benitez and the board would not put their star striker (and money-spinner in world markets) on the transfer list. Players like Gerrard and Torres are worth far more in merchandise and prize-money than short-term transfer fees.
So what will happen this summer? Aside from the sideshow of the World Cup obviously.
Well, if Torres does leave it'll be because he wants to, and he'll most likely move abroad if he does. I can't see it though, personally.
Gerrard will stay. Aquilani will stay. Benitez will stay.
Some players will have to leave. Ryan Babel and Albert Riera seem certain to lose out, and with other players coming in (the likeliest being Danny Wilson, Madjid Bougherra, Ever Banega, Dida, and Milan Jovanovic) competition for places may force out Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Diego Cavalieri, and Philip Degen.
As with last summer there will be no so-called "marquee" signings. Should we be concerned about that?
No, not in my opinion.
The problem with Liverpool last season was not the players that were first on the teamsheet, but what Rafa had in reserve to fill in when they were injured, as most of them were for large sections of the season.
Of the most likely starters last season we had:
Reina (outstanding), Johnson (injured), Carragher (off-form), Agger (injured), Skrtel (injured), Aurelio (injured), Insua (progressing), Mascherano (started badly), Aquilani (injured), Lucas (best season so far), Benayoun (injured), Kuyt (off-form), Maxi (joined in January, cup-tied in Europe, but impressive), Gerrard (injured/off-form), Babel (poor), Riera (lost his mind), Torres (injured).
And there simply wasn't the back up needed to fill in. The first 11 potential is there, all Liverpool need are the Jovanovic's and Banega's to fit in for Benayoun or Mascherano. Another striker to help Torres until Ngog is strong enough.
Beyond that there isn't a huge amount to do, as long as things remain mostly the same at player and manager level. There doesn't need to be huge sweeping changes, which would do nothing but further destabilise the team. We just need to fill in the gaps. We don't need to rebuild the house, we just need some pointing done and maybe a new boiler.
Do that, and with Aquilani and Torres over their injuries from last summer, Maxi integrated and ready from the start, Lucas looking more and more like a proper midfielder, the dead weight gone, a few new players in key areas, and World Cup experiences behind them, who knows what Liverpool might have achieved by May next year.
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