They say the table doesn’t lie but the bitter truth is that I just can’t face looking to see how far down the pack we eventually finished, I am that underwhelmed.
In a season that began with so much anticipation with Kenny at the helm and in excess of 100 million pounds spent, the very least we could have expected, surely, was a return on that investment and at least a concerted attempt on that top four finish. In the absence of European football, with all our competition playing potentially at least a dozen games more over the season, was that really too much to ask? Bill Shankly used to call the league our bread and butter, but we have been served stale milk loaf and margarine from the outset. The warning signs rang out loud and clear with that shambolic performance at White Hart Lane and in truth we never looked a semblance of a team that could challenge for a Champions League spot after that.
The absence of Stevie for large parts of the season, the Evra fiasco and Luis’s subsequent ban, the injury to Lucas and our love affair with the woodwork are the reasons that any of us can proffer as contributory reasons for our malaise but it is difficult to remember a stage at any part of this season when we have put a run of games together which has given us any sort of optimism that we were moving in the right direction and after the free scoring run in to the previous season, that has been hard to take in and indeed comprehend.
The “buy British” policy might have given us the necessary quotas in terms of satisfying any potential UEFA home grown criteria, but the subsequent overall lack of quality within our ranks was and remains a real concern and it was exposed on a regular basis, especially when our profligacy in front of goal regularly bordered on the ridiculous. It is difficult to argue the case, in terms of value for money, from any of our signings, when even Bellamy and Enrique’s form slipped into the general overall trend of mediocrity over the last few months.
Damien Comoli appears to have paid the ultimate price for the lack of return on the investment here and only time will tell if his tenure will eventually prove to be beneficial or not. Now all of us will forgive players who are trying hard to make their way in their first season at a new club, that is a given at Anfield and no other fans stand by their players so loyally, but we are not just talking about odd individuals here, we are talking about half the team. The “jury” will certainly need to do a lot more deliberating, having been out all year long, with regards to whether these lads are the answer or otherwise in the long term.
Our former director of football was not the only casualty of course, as our owners exercised their prerogative to evaluate the performance of each of their employees and act accordingly and that ruthless streak may well extend even further throughout the club over the next few weeks and months as their ongoing business analysis continues. Long gone are the days of sentiment in football and a bad day at the office means exactly that nowadays. FSG and Mr Henry did not invest all that money to see it squandered away needlessly. If we, at last, are getting it right off the pitch, it is a bad time for those concerned to get it wrong on it and even the iconic name of our manager will carry no weight in their corridors of power where our world wide brand name is being cultivated further to bring in the expected return.
Accordingly then, regardless of the facts and interpretation of the situation, the PR disaster following the Patrice Evra / Luis Suarez issue was an own goal of epic proportions with damage limitation about on par with our goals for column and as a club, we came out of it badly. This sort of adverse publicity, when you are looking to tie up sponsorship deals, is categorically the last thing you need and this whole scenario would have precipitated a trend for even tighter control and may yet be the cause of even further “restructuring” at Anfield whether it be personnel or otherwise.
So where do we go from here then?
The points tally deficit up to the top teams is once again massive after several seasons where we were in touching distance of a serious challenge for the title under Rafa. Only a super optimist would be confident that this squad is capable of improving their game to the level required and suddenly the task looks to be an ominous and arduous one. So are we as bad as the table shows or are we in a false position and unlucky, as our manager suggests?
Certainly in most of the drawn home games earlier in the season it was fair to say that were the better team but I cannot remember a season of such consistently poor finishing and I understand that our goals to shots ratio is amongst the worst in Europe never mind the premiership. Clinical finishing is absolutely crucial in top flight football and we found this to our cost time and again, when even the so called lesser teams survived our wastefulness to snatch unlikely results. As the season wore on, some of our lads seemed to be developing a phobia with regards to taking on a shot and the level of performance suffered accordingly as the self confidence receded.
We removed the monkey off our backs to gain some silverware and the cup runs were a wonderful distraction but I remain of the view that the League and the Champions League are the only real competitions in which the big teams challenge for. Obviously, I include ourselves in that bracket but the prospect of us struggling to be in contention even for third or fourth place, never mind the title leaves me totally despondent.
As I write this, stories are circulating regarding Kenny going over to see the owners in America to discuss the ongoing situation. I hope they all know what they are doing.
Deflating times to be a red.