It has certainly been a turbulent time at Anfield of late; in the past five months a much-liked manager has left, a much-derided new manager has come in, the much-hated owners have left and a new group of Americans have bought Liverpool Football Club for the second time in three years.
Opinion amongst Liverpool fans has never been so divided - which players should stay or go, which manager would have been best to replace Rafa Benitez and what to do with the stadium issue. In fact about the only glue which has held the Liverpool supporters together recently has been the overwhelming insistence and persistence in getting rid of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
But now they are gone, Liverpool fans are back to looking forward, as it were.
With poor on-field results of late the Reds lie a disappointing 19th in the Premier League table and have been knocked out of the League Cup by lowly Northampton, though they do top their Europa League group with five points and are undefeated in the opening three games.
So to find out what Liverpool fans around the globe really think about the current state of Liverpool Football Club, this writer decided to group together a further four Reds fans to ask the burning questions of the moment and to try to find out once and for all whether supporters are behind Roy Hodgson, what sort of tactics the club needs to employ in the upcoming transfer market and whether or not a shared stadium with Everton really is an option.
Meet The Fans:
Karl is 27 and has been a Reds supporter since he knew what football was all about. A regular visitor to Anfield during his time spent living in Liverpool, he now lives in Spain and rarely misses a match. Best moments as a Reds supporter include being at the Nou Camp for the 2-1 win over Barcelona and the Santiago Bernabeu for the 1-0 victory over Real Madrid - as well as of course momentous times such as Istanbul, Dortmund and countless Cardiff moments.
Nabeel, 41, counts FA Cup Final wins in '86 (vs Everton) and '06 (vs West Ham) amongst his finest Reds memories, plus the famous 4-3 double over Newcastle and of course the Istanbul Champions League final. He is a lifelong Reds supporter and a fellow Featured Writer for the club on Bleacher Report.
Kaustav is the third Featured Writer to be included in this discussion. He has written extensively in recent times on Liverpool's progress and counts Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard as some of his favourite athletes on his profile.
Waheed is 18 and is our youngest fan to join in the discussion. He has supported Liverpool for 12 years and lives in Ireland, and is another who counts the Istanbul final as his finest Reds moment.
Choon, 20, lives in Malaysia and has followed Liverpool for nine years. While the Istanbul night lives long in the memory he also hopes to watch Liverpool live one day - both at Anfield and in a preseason friendly in his home country.
1) Roy Hodgson – would you keep him on as manager? How long would you give him to turn things around at Liverpool? If you would choose to replace him, name the ONE manager you would like to see take over from him.
Choon: Liverpool’s current standing in the league is worrying enough, but the way they are playing is worrying me, and probably other Liverpool fans, more. And in my opinion, Roy Hodgson is to blame there.
However, I think he deserves at most two more league matches (against Blackburn and Bolton) to prove that he knows what he is doing at Liverpool.
As for his replacement, I’m fine with either Manuel Pellegrini or Frank Rijkaard, both heavily linked to become Liverpool’s next manager at the moment. They are both top managers who have managed top clubs, and shape their teams to play contemporary football, which in my opinion, would suit players like Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles better.
Kaustav: Now with NESV having taken over, I think keeping Roy Hodgson makes little sense to me and the 8 games he managed this season bears ample testimony to his impotency as a Top club manager. I would see him at best till the Blackburn fixture this weekend.If Liverpool wins and shows signs of recovery, then we could give him two more matches to see how it goes till the end of the Chelsea game.Any less than 6 points in the coming three matches...Fire Hodgson.
One man whom I would want to replace him now — I would be happy with anyone among Pellegrini and Rijkaard, but going by the severity of the circumstance I would slightly favor Manuel Pellegrini because of his experience.
Nabeel: No! If we don't win against Blackburn then he should be sacked. If we do win then he should be sacked at Xmas if we have not moved up the table.
Kenny Dalglish should be installed as caretaker manager, given a little cash at in Jan and told to top it up with sales. Then buy a striker and get us into the Europa League places or top 4. Then at the end of the season his performance should be looked at and if the board think he is the right man to continue, appoint him as full time manager and give him a ton load of money to strengthen the squad.
People say that he cannot take the pressure and left due to that. Managers should have to deal with pressures of football and things involved in football. But football managers should not have to deal with attending funerals of fans of the club they manage which preparing the team for games and leading them in the dressing room. I think most managers would have not survived that ordeal. So the view that Dalglish cannot take pressure in unfounded.
Again people say that he has been away from the management game for too long and has lost touch with the modern game. I think not, he will appoint a head coach and assistant manager who will assist him. Also Kenny has never really been away from the game. He has been around the game for always and has opinions and knows players, the leagues and tactics and strategies.
Most of all he will have the respect of the players and will galvanise the club. He is a proven winner and he love for the club is infectious. We saw such an insipid performance in the Merseyside derby as Hodgson was not able to motivate the players who were playing their first derby or think it is just a game. His love for Liverpool FC would rub off on the players and we would see players being proud to play for the club and see it as something special and not just a payer of their wages.
Waheed: I would not give Roy Hodgson any more time to demoralise this team so in other words no I wouldn’t keep him as manager. Personally I don’t think he should be given more time as he said himself judge him after ten league games , it’s been eight and I see no reason to give him two more matches to prove himself worthy. If I were to choose a realistic target as a replacement it would be between Guus Hiddink and Frank Rijkaard but I’ll go for Frank because he seems the most likely to get the job.
Karl: I think Roy Hodgson will and should be gone by Christmas if Liverpool haven't taken an absolute minimum of 20 points, and really it should be closer to 25, by after the match vs Blackpool on 26th December. So far not just our points tally but also our style of play has been horrendous and it is difficult to see where the next run of victories can come from. One home win and none away from home by late October is unforgivable, no matter who the opposition has been.
Aside from the points tally, I think the signings Hodgson has made have been indifferent at best and I would not be keen for more of the same level of quality as Poulsen and Konchesky to come into this club in January. That type of player is NOT going to get Liverpool far enough back up the table.
We should be beating Blackburn at home this weekend — if we do, then we may be able to string some run of form together but our attacking threat is looking very weak recently. More movement, quicker attacks and more pressuring of the opposition is required. Roy has yet to sort out the defence either — 17 goals conceded in 16 games this season is unheard of for Liverpool.
As for who could take over, it really could go either way if Dalglish was in charge but I would certainly be for appointing him on a temporary basis if need be, perhaps until the end of the season. Rijkaard has yet to truly convince me - from what little I read it was his assistant Henk ten Cate largely responsible for the scintillating play of FC Barcelona - but I'm not one of the ones who would like to see Pellegrini at the club. Quique Sanchez Flores or Unai Emery, or perhaps even Michael Laudrup would be good coaches for our club. I definitely do NOT want to see Martin O'Neill take over!
2)What do you think LFC’s transfer policy should be for both January and Summer 2011? Do you think a complete squad overhaul is required in the summer or should the club continue to add 4 or 5 signings where possible to increase the quality level already at the club? Do you believe serious investment is required for the club to challenge at the top end of the Premier League again or is it more important to stop loaning senior players and either play them or sell them, and use the proceeds to invest wisely?
Karl: In January I would like to see first and foremost a forward and an attacking midfielder/winger, depending on which formation we eventually settle on. If targets and funds allow, I would also like to see a ball-playing central midfielder and a quality left back, though I suspect we will have to wait until Summer 2011 to see these players arrive — January is notoriously difficult to do business in. Maxi, Poulsen and Konchesky are in no way suitable for this team, but I would be extremely surprised to see the new boys leave.
In summer it is another matter. I feel this squad's time has come to an end and I would be fully supportive of a complete overhaul - in fact I believe up to 25 players (seniors, reserves and loans) could feasibly leave the club. Many are not, nor will ever be, good enough to play for Liverpool at the top level and others, although have been good servants, I feel it is just time to move them on and allow a fresh crop the chance to take us further. Jones, Konchesky, Aurelio, Maxi, Kuyt, Babel, Lucas, Ngog, Poulsen, Itandje, Darby, Skrtel, Ayala, Bruna, Brouwer, Mendy, Mavinga, Saric, Simon, El Zhar, Aquilani, Insua, Degen and Chamberlain could all leave the club with my thanks (except Itandje, he can just leave).
This would give us as a conservative estimate in the region of £45m and upwards to spend on first team replacements, meaning a huge investment would not be needed from the new owners — but of course we would still expect them to allow £20 million or so as a transfer kitty to the coach.
Kaustav: Liverpool FC needs to spend wisely. However, I think to be world beaters they need an overhaul of sorts. Better Wingers on the flanks both sides, a better striker, at least one better right and left back and maybe another better CDM (if that position is really under consideration)..So that is an overhaul of sorts. Five to six signings are a must this winter , a total outlay to about 60-75m is a necessity , however selling dead wood and with the money left over after selling Masch… the Net outlay could be down to about 40-45m.
Choon: I don’t think Liverpool need a total overhaul, and so, no Manchester City-like spending is needed. But the average age of Liverpool’s starting eleven (around 28 in the last few league matches) is concerning me, so I would want to see Liverpool signing players under the age of 25. Younger players have better resale value, hence they can be offloaded to reinvest in the squad in the future (like Xabi Alonso’s case for example, bought at the age of 23 for £10.5m, sold at the age of 28 for £30m).
Maintaining the core of the team and signing the right players will get Liverpool back to the top, not heavy spending.
Waheed: Transfer policy should be a focus on young talented player and maybe one or two experienced players. I do believe that there should be a complete overhaul because this group of lads lack the passion and hunger that you need from players. There should be big investment in players from NESV as they claim they want to bring success back to Liverpool and the only way to do that is through a big cash injection in the transfer kitty.
Nabeel: In Jan 11, we should not be spending the big bucks. Players are more expensive at this time and there are not many on the market. Contracts are still in place. It is a good time to get some loans in. I would for sure look to bring in a striker in Jan 11. That is about as much as we should do. Then on the selling front, try to generate some money with sales of players and loan out some too. But we should not be too active in Jan. Also we have a pretty strong squad that needs adjusting in areas but it does not need a complete overhaul.
In Summer 2011, we NESV need to put their money where their mouths are. We don't need a whole new squad but some top quality in a few positions. A top winger, left back and another striker should be top of the list. If we go for the top drawer player those two players alone could be £40 plus.
As I said, I don't think we are a poor squad, in fact we are pretty strong but we need a few more top top players to really put us into the next level. Quality is needed but you don't need to spend fortunes to be successful. Spend wisely and on quality but not over the top. The most important point is that you can have the most expensive players in the world but they need to be managed and so it is all about a balance. That is where the key is. But for sure we need to bring in a few top quality players and not a complete overhaul.
Loaning senior players like Aquilani etc is a fact of the modern game and we not get away from that. It is always better to sell and use the money than to loan out but sometimes it is the only option to trim a squad.
3) Who is the ONE single must-keep player in the current squad in your opinion?
Nabeel: Steven Gerrard. No question. He is the heart and soul of LFC. Some players are replaceable but SG really is not as he is more than just a player for Liverpool. He is the symbol, the leader, the go to man, the talisman of the club. So many time when LFC have needed saving he has stepped up to the plate. The 2006 FA Cup Final, the CL game against Olympiacos, the CL final in Istanbul and so many more. And most important of all, he can STILL do it. It is not nostalgia why he is irreplaceable, it is because he can still do it.
Liverpool could replace every other player in the squad but not Steven Gerrard.
Waheed: Pepe Reina, the man is my eyes the best in the premier league if not Europe. His performance against Birmingham showed how a good goalkeeper is the difference in between winning and losing.
Karl: Pepe Reina. The best goalkeeper in the world in my eyes and the one single consistent player we have had over the past 18 months.
Choon: There are few obvious important players Liverpool can’t afford to lose, but if I were to choose one, it has got to be Fernando Torres!
Kaustav: I doubt there will be any if one of the Top three players (Gerrard, Torres, Reina) leaving. However going by current form our must keep player would be Pepe Reina.
4) The new owners NESV have already begun re-structuring the senior hierarchy of the club; do you feel they should appoint a figure-head Chairman? Should a person or group be appointed to the board or as an advisory to the board regarding purely football matters? Do you think Kenny Dalglish will or should be involved at all at board level?
Kaustav: This is a pretty much off the pitch issue and I trust NESV completely in this. They may not be experts in Football but as per administration is considered, they have my backing going by what they did for the Red Sox. Kenny Dalglish should be involved but only in the capacities that directly relate to footballing matters and nothing else. I think his current position is a good one anyways.
Waheed: I’d rather have a board that is in the background then constantly in the media with comments about the team or manager. This has shown in the past to have negative effects on the team. Instead of Christian Purslow advising NESV in football matters it should be Kenny Dalglish. Kenny is the heart and soul of Liverpool still and would never look for a personal gain.
Nabeel: The chairman of the board should be more than just a figure head. He is the leader of the whole show and the buck ends with him. NESV have started to make the changes. I do not know what their corp policy is and how they run their business affairs so it is hard to say. But I think that Mr. Henry himself should be the chairman.
I think that that there should be an advisory position to the board when it comes to football matter but it should be non-executive. The running of the club as a business is not for football men, leave that to those who run businesses. It is like saying the Henry should be the manager. No that is to be done by a football man and not a business man. Each should work in their respected role, the businessmen run the business side and football men run the playing side and to bridge the gap a non-exc advisor to the the board.
This should be a man that knows the club and the history behind it and knows football. The best person I guess is Kenny Dalglish. If he is not manager then this would also be a position he could fill.
Karl: I have no problem with Mr. Henry or whoever from NESV being the Chairman of the club - after all, they own it. But that does not mean they should be making the football decisions. I firmly believe they need to appoint someone or a group either on the board or as a consultant or advisor to the board who is deep-rooted in football and has been involved in the game at Premiership level. This should also be somebody the manager can communicate with. Personally, I don't think Kenny Dalglish will be involved at board level.
Choon: I have no comment on this. Sorry, but I don’t know much about the boardroom stuffs.
5) Where do you stand on the Stadium issue? What is your preferred option and what do you actually think will happen – expansion to Anfield, entirely new stadium built or a shared stadium with Everton?
Karl: New stadium for me, heart and head. Expanding Anfield would be great but lets face it, we've known for 20 years that it can't be done. I don't blame them for looking into it but unless we dig into the ground and go down instead of up and out, I think it's a dead-end route. No way in hell would I ever consent to a ground-share with the blue shite.
Kaustav: I think there have been talks by NESV before the takeover with regards to the stadium and sharing one with Everton surely wasn’t a part of that. I think NESV will go through a cost-benefit analysis and choose either among redevelopment of Anfield or a Stanley park ground..I would prefer Stanley Park even if it mean selling of naming rights like The Emirites.
Waheed: There should be no stadium sharing as it won’t benefit anyone. The pitch would be in bits after the week is done and this is more money being taken away that could benefit the team. Both sides of Liverpool don’t want it so it should be avoided all together.
Choon: Sharing stadium with Everton is a big no no. Like what John W. Henry has said prior to purchasing Liverpool, they will look at the option of expanding Anfield as well. If the capacity of Anfield can be expanded to 60,000, why not? But then again, I would prefer a new stadium, with a room to expand it up to a capacity of 80,000.
Nabeel: What we need at LFC is a new modern game day experience, with better parking, concessions, toilets etc. That is hard to do within the confines to Anfield and its surroundings. But it can be done. My first choice would be to redevelop Anfield. I like my football stadia to be square, not into these oval bowls. If we are able to put a new modern arena on the current footprint of Anfield, that would be awesome. We needs 70k capacity or close to it.
If this is not possible then building a new stadium from scratch is the next option but please no oval bowls. Lets look at a football arena the likes of Dortmund’s stadium. It seats 80k, has four stands with steep sloping terraces, you are close to the pitch and the atmosphere is daunting. LFC fans will remember it from our victory in the UEFA Cup final against Alves.
I am not interested in sharing a stadium with Everton.
6) Tell us your feelings on Jamie Carragher’s performances this season; some have said he is ‘past it’ again, some feel he should not be relied on so much at his age and some feel he is still one of the most important members of the team. What is your view?
Waheed: I think he should be gradually taken out of the first eleven and give a chance to Martin Kelly who I will hope fill Carragher’s spot. But I still think he is vital to Liverpool and will go down in history as a legend.
Choon: Jamie Carragher is still a very important member of the team. If I were the manager, the first defender I would select is Jamie Carragher. People talk about him being slow, but people don’t realise that modern centre-forwards are normally faster than centre-backs. But because he reads the game so well, it compensates his “slowness”.
Another important thing is the players sharing the defensive duties. Last season, Carragher had Javier Mascherano protecting the back-four, making Carragher less vulnerable. While this time around, it’s Christian Poulsen—an arguably worse player compared to Mascherano—doing the job.
Kaustav: I agree with most on this. Jamie is a Liverpool legend but is very much past his prime. He is too slow at times and highly ineffective at most times. All he manages then is to shout at others. In an ideal world, I would be eager to see Agger and Skrtel at Liverpool’s Centre back positions and see how things pan out. I disagree that Carra is undroppable for footballing reasons.
Nabeel: Carra is Mr.Liverpool, he is a legend and no one can say otherwise. His performances this season has reflected the team’s overall displays… below par. But he also did not have the best season last term. Carra is not blessed with blistering pace, he never has. That is not to say he is a slow poke. At his age he relies on his reading of the game which is great, maybe not to the level that Sami Hyypia’s was, but still up there.
But, Carra will be the first to hold up his hand and say that he is no longer good enough to be a 1st team regular. For him it is all about what is best for the club not himself. I think this will be his last season as an automatic first choice. He will still have a lot to offer the club as a player but it is important that a new pairing is blooded and bedded.
As I said this season may be his last as a regular. But his influence on the team will not stop just because he is not playing regularly. He is a natural leader and you can lead whether you are on the field of battle or on the sidelines.
Carra influence as a player may be coming to an end but as a member of LFC, he will be like Kenny, here for life.
Karl: Carragher is best when Liverpool are playing well. This is no reference to him not being able to defend, simply that when we are playing badly he feels required to compensate for more players and perhaps lets himself try to do too much at once, resulting in doing nothing properly.
In my opinion he's still the best centre back Liverpool have got and if he and Agger had games without injury interruptions etc, I feel they would become a formidable partnership. Over the next season or so, certainly, his game time will reduce and rightly so. He should perhaps by the end of this season and for next season be playing three or four games out of every five or six, while the likes of Kelly, Wilson and perhaps Palsson are tested, or a new signing is given chances.
Right now, we need him, because Agger is injured, Wilson not bedded in enough and Skrtel suffering an epic meltdown of his game. He is our best organiser in defence and once we start playing properly he will be one of the players to lead us through.
7) Any followers of Liverpool’s youth and reserve teams will know there are several interesting potential talents on show each week; tell us the ONE player you recommend to keep an eye on over the next season and a half.
Karl: Dani Pacheco. By far the most talented youngster signed by Rafa and I am alternately bemused and annoyed that he is not being given more playing time while the likes of Maxi, Babel and Jovanovic are not even close to performing well. If he doesn't count as a 'youngster' any more, then Tom Ince has impressed me hugely.
Choon: Jonjo Shelvey.
Waheed: I think Eccleston looks a good prospect. He has pace, good control and a good finisher. Suso and Sterling also look very good and could break into the squad in two or three years. Liverpool current youth squad looks very promising so we’ll have something to look forward to as Liverpool fans.
Nabeel: That is probably the toughest question posed. To pick one and only one for the group of youngsters we have is hard. But the one that will make a break this season and next more than the others will be Jay Spearing.
This boy reminds me of Steve McMahon. He was our midfield enforcer in the late 80s. Spearing has all the right qualities to make it to the top. And more than anything else is his desire and ambition to make it. This lad is Liverpool through and through and would run himself into the ground for the team. His qualities are fitness, desire, work-rate, good tackler, breaks forward well, good passer and great leadership… future LFC captain in the making there.
Kaustav: Again a tough question. I think there are at least three players who can be a Liverpool regular in 2 years time, namely Kelly, Pacheco and Shelvey.
If you insist on one , I think it has to be Pacheco… it is a waste to see him waiting on the sidelines forever.
8) Finally, based on your answers given regarding the owners, the manager, the playing staff and the club’s transfer policy, what would be your hopes and expectations for the remainder of this season 2010/11? What are your expectations for Liverpool for next season?
Kaustav: After this atrocious start, I think Liverpool will have to be extremely good to finish in the Top 6. With Roy Hodgson as a manager I don’t expect any better than a 10th spot finish. With a new and better management (as I expect from NESV), I expect a 6th place finish. Any better would be a bonus and very welcome, any worse would defeat the purpose of firing Rafa in the first place and would be demoralizing.
Waheed: My hopes are that NESV come good on their promises. That we have a good attack minded manager. Also we buy six or seven players top quality players. My expectations for the rest of the season are hopefully a top six finish. Hopefully next season we will be able to attack on all fronts and have a squad that has strength and depth.
Choon: It will be difficult to finish in the top six this season, let alone getting back into the top four this season, judging by how Tottenham and Manchester City are performing at the moment and the quality of both squads. Therefore, I won’t complain as long as Liverpool finish this season in the top half, and have a good run in the Europa League and FA Cup.
But challenging for the title is a must next season. The club is financially more stable, and there is no more excuse next season.
But then again, it depends on who the new manager will be, if any, and when will he be signed.
Nabeel: This season is by no means lost. But some hard decisions need to be made. Hodgson has to go. If we get it right, I expect that this team, even with no additions to it has the ability if managed correctly to finish in the Europa League positions. If we get a real run going, the top four is not out of reach yet. If we don't improve, and under Hodgson I don't see it, before Xmas then the best we can hope for is the Europa League finish.
Next season, we will be the break out season for LFC. NESV should be embedded and a few top quality players should be added to the squad. As I said in previous questions, no wholesale changes are needed but a few world class additions and we should be sorted.
With a top drawer manager install from Christmas this year or during next summer. LFC should be back up to challenging for a top four finish and even for the Championship.
Karl: Well if we finish lower than seventh an awful lot of fans are going to be furious that Rafa was let go and no progress has been made. On current evidence it would be difficult to see us even finishing in the top half. Dramatic improvements are needed and I'm sorry but I only see that happening if Hodgson is replaced; his mentality, his style of play, his use of players and subs and even his post match answers all point to him not being suitable or capable for being in charge of Liverpool FC.
This season we need to secure some form of European football for next season, that should be about our only aim at the moment. No sarcastic comments about avoiding relegation. Whether it comes by way of an FA Cup win, getting back into the top 6 or 7 in the league or winning the Europa League, we need to secure continental football for 2011/12, both for the club as a whole and for getting new players in next summer.
Next season, assuming a new manager in place and a vastly changed squad, we should be back to looking at challenging for the top four and beyond.
Well that wraps up the discussion; how much do you agree with each person? Where are the biggest dividers of opinion within the club and which players or managers would you choose if asked the same questions above?
All the writers taking part in this discussion agreed that Roy Hodgson should and will sooner or later be given the boot from Anfield, though the transfer target approach seemed to be a bone of contention amongst most.
Pepe Reina was the majority vote of which player must be kept at all costs, whilst perhaps unsurprisingly nobody wants to have a ground share with Everton.
Thanks to all the contributors and also thanks in advance to those of you who further take part in this discussion with your comments below!