With the impending silly season coming a day closer every day, the cries of disappointment and anger at our board (and Rafa) for Liverpool not being linked with the likes of Messi, Quaresma, Huntelaar and Villa are already giving me a shrill reminder of why I’m more aprehensive than usual going into this summer.
This time last year we were clueless about the impact our summer signings would make. We knew what needed to happen, we needed a quality striker. That was priority. Bellamy and Fowler were already gone, as had Gonzalez, Zenden, and Dudek.
When you look at the incomers, Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, Lucas Leiva, Fernando Torres and in January the unexpected Martin Skrtel and the permanent signing of Javier Mascherano, it has been one hell of a year for the Shankly Gates. Plenty of big-name new faces have arrived, and all of them impressed at some point throughout the course of the season.
It’s only now I look back on the season, and how it has all unfolded that I see we were the closest we have been in a long time to lifting number 19. If we had converted 4 of the draws which saw us slip so close to a UEFA Cup spot into wins, we would now be celebrating the best trophy of them all filling the void in our trophy cabinet it left in 1990. Thats so long ago I was still in pampers.
We all know the Redknapps, Grays and Keys of this world are more often than not when it comes to Liverpool, way off the mark in their brash statements about Benitez, Rotation, Zonal Marking etc.. (the list goes on for so long when it comes to the medias gripes against our club!) However there are very vital lessons which need to be learnt from this season. I beleive strongly we will go into next season spearheading a very similar first team to what we have seen this season, possibly only with a couple of names coming in who we will see week-in, week-out.
‘Rotation’ suffered a lot of stick this season, but for all the wrong reasons. It is very, very true that in the modern game, especially for a side playing in Europe, that changes must be made to keep players fresh and playing at their peak performances until the last day of the season. However, the reason we have taken so much of the flak for employing this tactic but Fergie and Grant haven’t is because its not that we’re ‘rotating’ per se, its who we’re rotating with. The gulf between first team and squad is growing bigger by the season, as the like of Torres and Babel come in, infinitley improving the strength of the first team, the squad has been left behind and whenever its called upon, they have giant shoes to fill.
It has been reported here and there since around about February that Benitez is planning a ‘Holocaust’ this summer in terms of transfers, and i think while a lot of the players leaving us have played well for us, and done their job in the past, sometimes in football there is no room for sentiment and they have to be ‘sacrificed’ much like last seasons squad, in order to make room for the next step up. We can’t afford to have Â£15m players to come in in the January window and not even make the bench for the remainder of the season, but Rafa has proven already that if he is given the money he will deliver. He has brought some top-draw players to this club and I have no reason to believe this won’t keep happening, but I think this summer people need to prepare themselves for a lot of players coming in who you wouldn’t really want to get the name of on the back of your shirt.
Harry Kewell is the first player that has been released, and the future dosen’t look too good for Riise, Pennant, Voronin or Finnan either, and with a price been put on Crouch’s head of Â£15m, he could very well make an exit aswell. As I said previously, all players that have served their time but it has become clear over the season that they are not quality backups for the ever-improving first team. If you do not have this quality it is very clear that you can fall of the pace, just look at how Arsenal crumbled in the final run-in of the season.
Its hard to suggest our first-team is the problem when we have completley killed some teams this season, set a record for the highest amount of goals won by in Europe, and also come up against, and beaten, the favourites to win the competition two rounds in a row. Large contrast to the squad that is put out and falters against Luton, concedes two against Havant and Waterlooville and gets dragged out of the competition by Barnsley. Bloody Barnsley.
This summer will inevitably produce silly rumors about Quaresma et al. again, but I expect, although am not certain, that there will be disappointment when it comes to August and the only big name we’re getting on the back of the new shirts is “Mascherano”, but if we’ve brought in strength for our weak positions, and can kill games off week after week, then maybe we can drag out some more vital points here and there, and make a challenge on all fronts next time around.