The aftermath of any Liverpool defeat is always followed by questions, often pointing to a long-term rot, hierarchical problems or root cause for said loss.
Newspapers, websites, social media and forums will be awash with theories, often, but not exclusively, kneejerk and by the Reds’ win the next week, everything is rosy again.
Sunday’s gloomy FA Cup semi-final exit to the hands of Aston Villa at Wembley, however, feels different. It has some unromantic conclusions that play Liverpool’s 2014/15 campaign out as a tragic narrative.
Steven Gerrard’s “fairytale” goodbye was put to bed (though the campaign to #getgerrardtowembley did succeed, so well done you), and coupled with Manchester City’s win over West Ham, it looks, without want of hope, like the season is over.
The defeat to Villa epitomised Liverpool’s season—a drab display lacking inspiration or ideas, too many passengers on a mediocre journey.
Dejan Lovren’s wayward effort in the dying embers of the ordeal ranks alongside Victor Moses’ miskick at Selhurst Park last season and Iago Aspas’ appalling corner at home to Cheslea.
Unsurprisingly a large focus in the post-match debate is Liverpool’s spend on players under Brendan Rodger—a worrying issue that is raised time and time again.
The Northern Irishamn is approaching the end of his third season at Anfield, having spent over £212 million on 20 players, with an additional four loanees.
What it amounts to, writes Sam Cunningham in the Daily Mail, is the lack of return on such a heavy investment:
During Rodgers’ time in charge, Manchester United and Chelsea had spent more than their Merseyside rivals – so too have City by a fraction – but each of those have brought home something. United and City have won two trophies – including the Premier League title – while Chelsea have one and are sure to add the league title to that soon.
Arsene Wenger has spent £183m, comparatively little, but managed to win two trophies over the past two seasons. That is less than rivals Tottenham, who have spent just under £200m and, like Liverpool, have won nothing.
Cunningham claims, based on 22 of players bought under Rodgers, only seven have proved a success, and says the club’s failings in the transfer market will heap more pressure on young signings such as Divock Origi.
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Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph delivers a similar line, counting 23 players signed by Rodgers and the rest of the Liverpool transfer committee made up of Michael Edwards, Ian Ayre, Michael Gordon, Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter.
Both Cunningham and Bascombe agree there are success stories in Daniel Sturridge (£12m), Philippe Coutinho (£8.6m) and, to an extent, Simon Mignolet (£10m), whilst younger members of the squad, such as Emre Can (£9.75m), are afforded “promising” evaluations.
There is little praise for last summer’s signings from Bascombe who, whilst describing Lazar Markovic’s (£19.8m) impact so far, says the “soundtrack of Liverpool’s season could be agent Pini Zahavi laughing at the £10m he cashed in for this dud. Chelsea had first option and ignored it. They’re reaped the benefits at Liverpool’s cost.”
Adam Lallana (£25m), Dejan Lovren (£20m) and Mario Balotelli (£16m) all fail to impress too, whilst the assessment of Fabio Borini (£10.4m), signed upon Rodgers’ arrival in 2012, reads like a bad hangover.
Bascombe says of Spaniard Alberto Moreno (£12m) that he “started off well enough but has deteriorated as the season has progressed. Not a clever defender and offering little in attack. Will need a vast improvement next season.”
In essence the jury is still out on a few players, but patience is wearing thin on a large proportion of Rodgers’ signings and as the director’s clapperboard begins to close on 2014/15, the questions are all about Liverpool in the transfer market.
How many of Rodgers’ signings can be considered a success? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and share your ideas on what needs to be done at club-level to improve things.