The Blogger Round Table returns with Nik's comments on the future of Liverpool. Nik is better known as the YFF Assistant Manager. If you're just joining the conversation, you can see the beginning here...
I'll start with the current ownership of Liverpool Football Club, and it's clear to see things can't continue as they are. There has been some recent reshuffling within the Anfield hierarchy with a new chairmen appointed, but at this point in time the club is still owned by Tom Hicks & George Gillette and with that comes the huge debt that we all know about. It's clear they have now decided to cut their losses, but considering the state Liverpool are in they seem to have placed a ridiculously high price tag on it, scaring off any potential buyers.
They still claim they have the club's best interests at heart, but if they do then they should get real. If they put the club on the market at a reasonable price then I simply cannot believe that a club like Liverpool FC, the most successful in English football, famous for it it's history, it's fans, the Kop, European nights etc, would be unable to find a new buyer to help clear the debt and move things forward. I can't see any new investment coming in until this is resolved, so in my opinion selling is the only option, and I'd imagine this is what the new chairman would be working towards - new owners, new money, a new stadium and a new era.
However, I'd have to agree with Mohamed's first point, and it's something many Liverpool fans seem to overlook - the state of the playing side of club cannot be solely attributed to the American owners...the manager has to take a fair proportion of the blame.
Once thing is clear to me - Rafa Benitez has had plenty of money to spend during his 5 years at the club. It may not have been as much as some of their rivals, but it's certainly more than Arsenal, and I feel he's wasted a lot of it. There are exceptions - Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano, Glen Johnson etc, but these are big names that any fan who's had a stab at watching European football would know about, while two of his biggest players, Gerrard & Carragher, were already there. I read recently that he's bought in close to 80 players during his time at the club, which is phenomenal really, and very few have gone on to be a success. You have to look at the manager.
I'd also like to raise the key point regarding last summer's transfer activity - spending £20m of the money received from Alonso's sale on a reasonably unproven injury prone midfielder who was already certain to miss the first few months of the season was crazy. And how could he start a season with only David Ngog as back-up to Torres? This was bad judgment by Benitez and these aren't isolated case during his time at the club. Mohammed detailed many of this poor signing, and while he's done some great things for Liverpool, I don't think their squad is much stronger than it was when Houllier left, which was no more apparent when looking at their bench towards the end of the season. It's also worth noting that his greatest achievement, the Champions League, was essentially won with Houllier's team. He's since had 5 years to shape it how he wants, but it has brought just one FA Cup.
On top of his disappointing transfer record, his tactics are often negative with the team set up "not to lose". In fact, the only time I have consistently found Benitez's Liverpool a genuinely exciting side to watch was during the final few months of the 2008-09 season. By this point they had been written off for the title but almost staged a miraculous recovery by playing with pace, flair & freedom that had never been seen under the Spaniard. They seemed to thrive with the pressure lifted and it was down to the manager to harness this confidence and bring it in to the new season. Alas, as soon as the pressure returned with many backing them for the title in 2009-10, they wilted, with defensive systems leading to disappointing football and most worryingly, poor body language from many of the players on the pitch.
Perhaps he's simply become stale at the club? It happens with players so it can certainly happen with managers. Many Liverpool fans I know love the man and appreciate everything he's done, but are starting to feel it might finally be time for a change. I'd have to agree - their loyalty is admirable but I think it's time for Liverpool to start again with new owners and a new manager with fresh ideas. Whether it can all happen in one summer I don't know, but they need to do something quickly to avoid falling behind clubs moving in the other direction, such as Man City, Spurs, Aston Villa & Everton. If they can't find new owners then they'll probably need to consider selling one of their star players to raise funds to strengthen other areas of the squad. If they did go this route then it would have to be Gerrard in my opinion - they must do everything they can to keep Fernando Torres.
Whatever happens, it's sure to be an interesting summer for neutrals, and a vital one for everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club.
Neal Get’s The Next Word(s) In…I think we have covered the negatives of the current situation at Liverpool in a fair amount of detail. As I was reading down Rafa's list of transgressions, I had a thought and I'm curious if it piques the interest of others in the Round Table. Sure, Rafa has his faults and they mostly have to do with his record in the transfer market which is much more "miss" than "hit" by most people's accounting. That said, I think the criticisms of his tactics are a bit overblown. If he had a full squad and were still playing "negative" then that's one thing, but with a depleted squad that was minus Torres and a full-strength Gerrard, I'm not sure how many other choices he had. On the one hand, this leads us right back to the fact that the only person to blame for the squad being thin after those two star attackers was Rafa himself. On the other hand, it also leads me to the possible conclusion that perhaps what Rafa and Liverpool need is a Technical Director with sufficient power in the management of the club to allow Rafa to do what he does best - manage. Not many other managers out there with multiple Champions League Final appearances on their resume and fewer still who would consider Liverpool given their current situation. It HAS been pointed out that his best seasons came with players who were acquired under a different regime.
Do you think Liverpool would be better served hiring and giving power to a Technical Director who is more savvy in assembling a roster and spending transfer funds wisely? Or blowing it all up, firing Rafa, and risking the loss of their two biggest stars (Gerrard and Nando) and a number of good supporting players (Reina? Masch?) in the process? I don't know if Rafa would agree to working with a Technical Director but it certainly seems like a better solution than sacking him.
If they DO sack him, I suspect that Villa, Spurs, and Citeh will all rest pretty secure in the fact that they will start the 2010-2011 season in a better position than Liverpool in the chase for 4th place.
Mike? Jeremy? Ses? What do you think about Liverpool's situation and what they should do about the things in their control (which doesn't include outside investment or the sale of the club to a filthy rich Russian or Middle Eastern concern).
One other thing to think about as you contemplate your answers - in my estimation, the hardest thing for a club to do is to accumulate enough match-winning players to challenge for honors. Chelsea have 2 who fall in that category with no arguments in Lampard and Drogba and you might be able to put Anelka in that category but my sense is he's just short of that class; ManU have one in Rooney; Arsenal have two in Cesc and RvP; and Liverpool have Gerrard and Torres. Chelsea and ManU (when they had Rooney and Ronaldo) have shown that you can win titles in England if you have two such players surrounded by a lot of above average players. Arsenal and Liverpool have proven that you not only need two such players but that they need to be healthy. Looking at the other teams fighting for 4th, I'd say that none of the three primary contenders – Villa, Man City, and Spurs - have even one player you'd consider a match-winner (although Bale certainly started emerging as one in the last third of the season).
Assuming that Liverpool can add one or two more above average players this summer (not THAT difficult really) AND assuming that they can keep Gerrard and Torres more healthy next season, are they still the favorites for fourth next season?
Next up, Ses gets his two cents in…