Liverpool FC: A Sleeping Giant

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Liverpool FC: A Sleeping Giant
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

30 April 1990 – Led by player-coach (and club legend) Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool FC beats Queen Park Rangers and clinches their 10th league title in 15 years and eighteenth overall (while Manchester United only had seven). Add 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 13 Community Shields, 2 Uefa Cups, 1 European Supercup and 4 Champions League titles and you have, by far, the most successful English clubs and one of the most successful clubs in the world. Liverpool fans have every reason to be on cloud nine.

Sadly for Liverpool fans, this was more than 20 years ago…

20 years have passed and Liverpool’s league titles count remains at eighteen, the same as… Manchester United!

From 1990 to 2010, Liverpool won 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 Community Shields, 1 Uefa Cup, 2 European Supercups and 1 Champions League. In short, 11 titles in 20 seasons. Impressive numbers for an average club, but terrible for a club with Liverpool’s history.

A giant in world football just can’t be 20 seasons without winning their domestic league. Worse: since 1990, the best Liverpool did was 3 second-place and 5 third-place finishes! This means that in 12 of the last 20 seasons they didn’t even manage to be in the final podium!

Since the English league started being called Premier League (1992), Liverpool has never won the title (Manchester has won 11). That’s right: the most successful English club has never won a Premier League!

Since Dalglish left in 1991, Liverpool has had 5 different coaches: Roonie Moran, Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gérard Houlier and Rafa Benitez. None of them managed to win a league, even though Houllier and especially Benitez did bring some European glory to the club.

Actually, Benitez was arguably the most successful coach in Liverpool since Dalglish. His first season was extremely promising as Liverpool sensationally won the Champions League. After conquering Europe, Liverpool’s fans expected Benitez to lead them to the league title. Benitez failed to deliver, even if, in 2007, he led the club to another Champions League final.

The club didn’t contend for the league, but they were widely recognized as a major threat in Europe and, during Benitez’s reign, their European campaigns were nothing short of brilliant.

2009 seemed to be the year where everything would change. Liverpool only lost 2 matches during the league, but some unexpected draws against small teams saw them lose the title to Manchester United by a narrow 4-point margin. Liverpool did beat United 2-1 at home and 4-1 at Old Trafford, which made them feel that they had lost a tremendous opportunity to end their title drought.

Those who thought Liverpool’s 2009 season could be a platform for success in 2010 couldn’t be more mistaken…

2010 was the year Liverpool FC hit rock bottom. They were 7th (!) in the League and were easily beaten by Fiorentina and Lyon (both hardly European giants) in the Champions League group stage. They were relegated to the Europa League, which seemed theirs to win, until they were surprisingly knocked out, at home, by Atletico Madrid. Worse than ever in English competitions, Liverpool had now also lost their edge in Europe. It was the end of the line for Benitez.

But can we really blame Benitez? I mean, since Dalglish, no coach has managed to succeed in this club. Something deeper must be wrong… but what?

Liverpool’s fans are among the most devoted fans in the world. Even in this disastrous season, they kept cheering for their team with all their hearts. They deserve more from the club. They deserve a team that can be competitive enough to contend for the league and to go far in Europe. But my guess is that they won’t have that any time soon.

 

Where’s this club headed?

 

In the aftermath of 2010’s disaster, Liverpool hired a new coach: Roy Hodgson. Not exactly a very popular choice, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt before we judge him.

They’ve also signed Serbian player Milan Jovanovic (in Benitez’s last contribution to the club), who, theoretically, will be a good addition to the squad.

They sold Benayoun to rivals Chelsea, which was by all means a terrible decision. In a squad so short of quality options, how can you sell one of your good players to a rival?

Truth is the 2010 roster wasn’t competitive enough and, until now, I don’t see any change. One player in, one player out. Liverpool needs much more if they want to come back in full strength and surprise everyone.

With their current roster, Liverpool has no chance of putting an end to the title-drought in 2011.

If Gerrard and Torres (that is, if they stay in the club) can both be injury-free for the entire season, Liverpool can contend for a Champions League spot and go far in Europa League, but nothing more.

Unless their millionaire owners bring new, talented players to the club, 2011 will be another dark season for Liverpool.

Honestly, does anyone think Liverpool can get the better of Chelsea and Manchester United (not to mention Arsenal and City) in the Premier League?

Liverpool fans’ worst nightmare will become real quite soon: Manchester United will win their 19th title and Liverpool’s count risks remaining at 18 for many years…

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