It’s July 9th and a definite sense of void torments my summer. What’s exactly missing from my seasonal break is hard to pinpoint. Sunshine, possibly, a shortage of money, probably, a lack of English representation in the Euros – defiantly. But there’s something else – a matter of habit no longer constant. After racking my brains like a hell-bent detective it suddenly dawns. Summer 2008 will go down as the first in my time supporting Liverpool that I feel somewhat laboured at the thought of a new campaign.
The reason – a lack of optimism. Strange really considering such remained in times when Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan lined up in red. But the fact is a combination of details undermine expectancy. Admitedly, the so-called title challenge seldom materialises anyway but to start a season without hope is a new low.
Jamie Carragher, who I admire no-end for total honesty, echoed these sentiments this week. Loathe to predict a 19th title, he instead hinted at more realistic targets – i.e. not drowning 10 points adrift.
My sullen mood is downcast further when analysing recent transfer activity. Indeed to date, the club’s dealings have proven as inspirational as the lyrics of a Busted song. Stagnancy looms large, or so I fear.
Last year, despite falling to fourth, aspects of our play hinted at a potential push. A big factor behind that promise was the arrival of two top class players – Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel. For once, we spent big, but matched quantity with quality. Martin Skrtel may also be added to that list.
Progression can surely only flow with a similar splash in the Premier League pond. We are a further two world class players short of a serious challenge. In what positions is open to debate, but when you take a glance at our enviable spine the answer is clear. Building around that with brilliance, not mediocrity, is key.
But then again, so too is maintaining the best of the current crop. Why oh why then are we surrendering to external pursuits of Peter Crouch and Xabi Alonso? It’s illogical and infuriating.
Each have their critics but even the harshest of them must concede the worth of both.
Crouch, despite stealing my ideal girlfriend, is top notch. His hold-up play is elegant, controlling expertly without ever surrendering possession. Sure, his wait for a first goal dragged until it exceeded the borders of embarrassment but since such time the return has been more than sufficient (42 in 135) – and do not forget a lot of the latter has arose from the bench.
Let us remember the way he tore apart Arsenal single-handedly last year. If that was Wayne Rooney the press would still be churning waxy lyrical.
He also works so hard, a fact often ignored by fans and media alike.
I’m all for improving the side but are we going to replace Crouch with a better model? Unlikely.
The talk of the town pinpoints David Villa as a possible recruit. Those spearheading such gossip have obviously forgotten the fact we are being forced to use players as currency due to our gross lack of financial clout. There is more chance of me agonising over marriage proposals from Kylie and Rihanna than Messer’s Hicks and Gillett forking out Â£33 million for the Valencia forward.
In addition, any money recouped will surely need to be put towards this imaginary stadium of ours…
We will be left with Torres, Kuyt (now seemingly a midfielder) and Voronin – who is … well, words fail me, as goals do him.
The purported Alonso to Juventus deal also puzzles. Though a big admirer of Gareth Barry I’m split over whether his capture is worth the sacrifice of the Spaniard. Sure, he weighs-in with a few more goals and is better suited to the English game. But who else possesses Alonso’s array of passing, his ability to slow a game down then pick the telling pass, unlock a defence with killer distribution? I’m struggling for answers.
Rafa has been criticised throughout his Anfield tenure for adoption of a European mindset. Perhaps this bit of business is a symbol of his relent.
Our transfer activity in general this summer has been baffling. A couple of weeks ago I spoke of the need to avoid free signings of inferior quality to our top four peers. Therefore you can imagine my absolute delight at the news of Phillip Degen’s capture!
He deserves a chance I suppose but we’ve afforded lifelines to too many of his ilk – Antonio Nunez, Erik Meijer, Sean Dundee…
If he’s THAT good, why were Borussia Dortmund prepared to let him run-down his contract? You don’t get anything for free.
For me, signing Albert Riera would be a travesty. I’d rather see Bernard Diomede return to the left-wing. Judging from his brief stint at Manchester City the Spaniard was distinctly average, certainly not of the calibre required for a title challenge. So why are figures like Â£9 million being bandied about? Is Harry Hill suddenly operating our kitty?
So as I sit writing this article I pray for positive intervention. Without it a true assault on the Premiership is unlikely, especially considering the inroads Chelsea will make courtesy of a certain Russian’s bank balance.
Perhaps I’ve just been dealt a dose of the summer blues but I see little by way of hope – no Torres or Babel has come in and ignited the usual ‘It’s our year!’ hullabaloo.
Next season is pivotal. Its judgement time for Benitez, not in the eyes of supporters but those of the board. Our record haul of Championship’s is also under threat, not to mention the prospect of a third trophyless season.
We need to get moving, fast. For thus far the entire rhetoric has reeked, with Crouch central to that. His imminent exit bemuses me and I only hope we don’t come to regret it. I also hope for a real signal of intent – without that, mine, and many other Kopites’ summers could prove a total washout.