Given an avalanche of off-field difficulties its somewhat bamboozling to see Liverpool sitting second in the Premier League. For a settled side merely papers-over a catalogue of cracks behind the scenes, all of which threaten to destabilise this – a genuine title challenge.
Indeed the list is as long and incriminating as a Christian Bale rant. It ranges too from squabbling owners to a phantom stadium. This charge sheet, which also denotes a dearth of spending power, contract wrangling of plenty and the desperate hunt for investment, rather shames our great club.
While this hurricane of uncertainty hovers overhead, we, the fans, channel our energy toward the business that matters most – the football. But the undeniable irritancy is that before long the insidious dilemmas of boardroom level filter through here as well. Right now there is no better case in point than Daniel Agger.
Our Danish centre-half is by no means angelic. Last week’s outburst geared towards his manager’s recent team selection was inexcusable. To some quarters it could be interpreted as the primitive murmurs of a want-away. That said, the prospect of any departure would have extinguished had contract talks not dragged in the manner of a Guns N’ Roses solo. Why they continue to prolong is surely down to the shortcomings of Messers Hicks and Gillet. Regardless, it’s a scenario which must be corrected – and fast.
Losing Agger would be criminal but the likelihood builds with each passing day.
With just 18 months to run on his current deal, his seeming isolation has alerted numerous suitors. Interest if of course inevitable. For the 24 year old is one of a rare breed, a footballing defender. Not since Hansen has the Kop boasted a centre-back with both the quality and arrogance to glide forward at will. Combine this skill with a fine array of passing as well as a lethal shooting ability and you’re talking about a truly top class individual. Lest we forget the lad can defend too!
Agger’s biggest obstacle at present comes in the form of a mean Slovak named Martin Skrtel. He may look like a cross between David Wheater’s evil twin brother and the Terminator, but this big brute of a defender has won the hearts of all Kopites. Bought, primarily as the interim stop-gap, he has managed to topple Agger in the defensive pecking order.
The attributes Skrtel brings to the fore differ greatly. Beastly challenges compliment great aerial supremacy. He has also manifested a telepathic understanding with Jamie Carragher, no mean feat given the enforcers harsh linguistics.
Battling back from his own injury hell underlines the character of the man. The ligament damage sustained at Eastland’s threatened to kill off a campaign which began with an abundance of promise. To return so seamlessly is frankly remarkable and testament to the deep-routed determination that has endeared him.
Keeping both players happy was never going to be easy. That predicament is hindered further by the immovable Carragher. The latter remains the lynchpin of the reds defence and three into two equals’ one unsettled individual. Intriguingly, this is also the sole department where the great rotator is loathe to tinker. A consistent backline provides the bedrock to all Benitez teams. Caution rules in the Rafa mantra so chopping and changing here is rather infrequent.
At any one given time, someone will be banished to the doldrums of bench duty.
The key then is man-management, the occasional arm around the shoulder and jolt of encouragement. This however is not our manager’s forte. Peter Crouch was exiled all too often and sentenced without explanation. His frustrations led to a summer departure. This angered many fans who felt the lanky forward may have knuckled-down a little longer had more been done to convince him of his worth. It is up to the coach to ensure that ethos of team spirit and importance is felt by all. This could be a major factor in the Agger drama, swaying him to commit.
Yet, compromising one in allowing him to jump ship would be a major error, not least due to the negative signals it would emit. Surrendering to the pursuits of Madrid or Milan hardly bodes well.
All stops must be pulled out in a bid to maintain Agger’s services. When push comes to shove, for me, he is still first choice alongside the magnificent Carra.
The spine of the Liverpool side is enviable; it must be built around rather than etched away.
Whether a positive conclusion unfolds is anyone’s guess. Contract negotiations are notoriously complicated at the best of times. They become almost impossible whence the player in question is disillusioned; both at a lack of opportunities and a lack of effort on the part of others to resolve his dilemma.
If the immediate future promises much the long-term is decidedly less predictable.
A brief note on current affairs; The return of Emiliano Insua will spark a wrestle for that left-back berth. After showcasing much promise during the festive period, the tenacious Argentine will be hoping for an immediate recall. Nevertheless, his chances may be hampered by the resurgent Fabio Aurelio. If the Brazilian could only add consistency to his game he’d solve this Achilles heel of the side. More displays like that at Portsmouth would too enhance his chances (the only snag being – he played midfield that day!).
Debate rages over whether or not Andriy Voronin should be recalled from Hertha Berlin. Our attacking options do seem worryingly threadbare but let’s be serious! In all honesty, it would be refreshing, and for me more productive, if the likes of Kristian Nemeth and Dani Pacheco were eased into the fray.
And finally, The suspended Xabi Alonso will be a huge miss on Sunday. Manchester City will pose a real test and already deprived of our captain we could struggle creatively. This is where the depth of our squad will truly be tested, but is it good enough?