What next for Liverpool FC?

Posted: May 18, 2012 by thecognitivenomad in Barclays Premier League, Football, Opinion
Tags: , , , , ,

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

In some way, this is a narrative of a crisis foretold. The Fenway Sports Group claims to have made its decision based on ‘footballing reasons’, contrasting to those made by Hodgson as to the exclusion of Rio Ferdinand from the England squad. They’ve decided to take matters to their own hands for the problem, as obvious as it is in prospect now, is that Liverpool, presently, lacks some of the key attributes that other successful clubs have.

Primarily, FSG needs to address the central problem of the 2011-12 season debacles: a handful of players had cost so much money that they should not be allowed to fail, lest the perennial problems will sustain – lack of goals, and lack of imagination. A few pessimists, half way through the season, had already begun lamenting that the owners weren’t bolder – that a club like Liverpool simply couldn’t afford to wait and watch.

What makes FSG’s emphasis even more compelling is that it is part of a vision that draws on their (ill-fated) experience in managing the Boston Red Sox – a team that finds itself several rungs below where it once was. They didn’t even make it to the playoffs last time around – as one journalist had put it: ‘a far greater failure than Liverpool’s inability to make it to the Champions League.’

Happier Days: John Henry’s belief that Dalglish would turn around things didn’t work out as expected.  © NewsRT

Under Kenny’s leadership, FSG did have belief that a turn-around was possible, for disappointments are common in football. Disasters are the ones that are rare, and during a time when the club seemed to be heading for a feared collision course, it was commendable for a club legend like Kenny, who’d had nothing more to prove, to step up and assist a club he loved. Although, in hindsight, to finish eight in the league, and below arch rivals Everton, is disastrous.

The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing heavy-price-tagged signings being the root cause behind Kenny’s downfall. Even back then, no one in their right senses would’ve paid an amount so high to acquire the services of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and, to an extent, Stewart Downing (although he was voted Aston Villa’s player of the season and looked every bit as exciting as wingers the club had never had). Their episodes of improvement towards the end of the season weren’t enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and it ultimately cost their manager his job, albeit the owners stating that even a Cup Double wouldn’t have changed their minds.

I’m not totally sure that the FSG’s new theme would shake up things at Anfield, but certainly this is the closest that any owner has come to sacking a club legend in order to diagnose the real problems at the heart of Liverpool’s performances. Kenny is to Liverpool what Tendulkar is to the Indians, and not to forget that no rational path forward has been proposed yet.

The pool of candidates being short-listed for the job don’t exactly send shivers down your spine – with the exception of Pep Guardiola, but this would be addressed if we prefix the word ‘candidates’ with ‘realistic’. A few theorists mention Villas-Boas as a top contender, and argue that the blemish on his CV (spelt Chelsea) is more due to the impatience of his ex-Russian boss.

Are they looking at me? AVB would love the opportunity to set his credentials right in the EPL.  © TheFootballReviews

Sure, AVB would find company in the form of Jamie Carragher if he chose to fly in football’s cerebral stratosphere. But given his proclaimed track-record on being a micro manager, he’s likely to fall out of favor with most – unless he’s mended his mentality over the un-opted sabbatical. His methods are believed to be so relentless (and rigid) that it might prove too heavy a dosage for those who’re getting used to seeing the newer teams play successful, attacking football. Players might agree to his theories, but they’re not likely to buy them.

The owners are also believed to be flirting with the thoughts of approaching managers lesser known outside the BPL fan following base: Martinez, Rodgers and Lambert – in that very order. AVB’s Chelsea stint, in itself, had dispelled the case for a young, talented (and inexperienced) manager to be thrown into a gauntlet of fire and expectations. Although, in fairness to the Portuguese, his case proliferates the notion that no one would’ve stood a chance against Roman and his over-optimistic ambitions.

Coming back to the case of three managers under the microscope, it isn’t rocket science to understand and admit that they’ve had their sides carrying more payload than they can handle. Which is good because no one would hate to see new / lesser-known sides do well against the Goliaths – remember FC Rubin Kazan doing a ‘David’ against the mighty Barcelona?

But an awful truth that became apparent when Liverpool had appointed Roy Hodgson as manager a couple of seasons ago was that one simply couldn’t bank on the results they’ve amassed with lesser teams. Roy, current England boss, has built a reputation of being one who can make lesser mortals push above their own weights – something English fans would hope that he does at the Euros.

Surely, the FSG wouldn’t be willing to take a risk along these lines – especially at the aftermath of sacking a legend. Like how the EU is a byword for failed economic policies these days, a post-Roy era still sees the club suffering from slow growth, if not decline. In simple words, the club has already conducted a dress-rehearsal for a crisis that would persist if such a move were to be made again. The worst part is that such a tenet would seem so unfair on these three managers, whose true potential to handle such enormous expectations we will never know unless such a step is taken.

It is a near certainty that the restructured management must have names that would partially, if not entirely, overshadow the Dalglish episode. And that the new manager must bring in, and instill, a philosophy that preaches attacking, attractive football. Kenny, incidentally, was quoted a number of times saying that Liverpool were pleasing to the eye, but darn unlucky with the woodwork, among others. The real challenge is that there isn’t too much money to spend for the new boss, and some of the existing players don’t look a bunch that promises fluid football.

The limited transfer kitty needs to be used to address three primary areas of concern: a poacher, a tricky winger, and a creative central midfielder. Not too long ago, Liverpool were in possession of players that had addressed two of these three areas – Torres and Xabi Alonso. Albert Riera was a good winger, but never world class. The real challenge today, however, is to attract names purely on the basis of Liverpool FC being a brand, for the club doesn’t promise Champions League football for potential targets.

Such a fate would’ve been considered unthinkable, for the same reasons that we thought for Greece leaving the Euro being impossible. But when you’ve ruled out everything else, few options are left.

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