LIVERPOOL FC, ONE STEP FORWARD TWO STEPS BACK!

I swear, for every Liverpool FC fan it has become both a comical and extremely frustrating version of groundhog day. We find ourselves in a constant loop. Rising from mediocrity, to being offered a slither of hope, to achieving excellence and then back to mediocrity. Liverpool FC, and its fans, have gone through that whole loop of emotional, mind numbing, ball crushing football in the past 18 months. Sadly, it is the last in a long history of vicious circles we the fans have had to endure. And to be completely honest with you, the longer it goes on the more unbearable it’s becoming.

Let me take you back exactly 14 days ago. Liverpool FC just smashed high flying Manchester City’s unbeaten record in an enthralling 4-3 victory at Anfield. It was a typical Liverpool performance. Magnificent attacking endeavor mixed with the usual display of shambolic defending. But it was a key victory and supposed to lay down a marker that Liverpool FC had finally turned the corner.

Fast forward that 8 days. On an unbeaten run of 18 games in a row and with the buzz of the City victory still fresh the club heads to bottom placed Swansea. A team that have been in turmoil since the beginning of the season and quite clearly the worst in this years league. What happened? Well Swansea out fought, out strategized and out played a Liverpool side that looked like it had reached its peak and were ready to come crashing back down to earth. Some fans might have claimed that was just a small blip, but I saw it for what it was. Another turn in the Liverpool loop and a sign that the season was about to change.

My worst fears were made reality yesterday at Anfield when a full strength Liverpool took on West Brom. It was the 4th round of the FA Cup. It would turn out to be an extremely frustrating game of football. One many Liverpool fans have typically witnessed before. After taking an early lead, the wheels, quite simply fell off. In a first half of horrid defending, the reds went into the half time break 3-1 down and all over the place. The introduction of VAR might not of helped. It clearly interrupted the flow of play, even though it did seem to be working in Liverpool’s favour. But VAR is a conversation for another blog piece and must not be used as an excuse in this case. Liverpool did pull a goal back in the second half but were still subjected to a much deserved defeat. Obtaining a draw or an unlikely win would have been harsh on a West Brom side totally deserving of their place in the next round. For Liverpool, it means they have been dumped out of the cup early 3 seasons in a row.

The reasons for defeat in this game are clear. The Liverpool fullbacks were awful, particularly Alberto Moreno. The centre backs, not much better, including Virgil van Dijk. The midfield lacked any creative spark and lost out in the battle against a hard working West Brom engine. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, after a recent good run was particularly poor. And even the front three, Firmino’s sublime finish aside, look disjointed, impatient and ill prepared for the battle. It comes down to two things in this match. The horrendous team defending and inability to break down a well set defensive unit through a total lack of creative minded midfield players.

We can clearly say that the problem lies with the playing squad and the lack of overall quality in key areas of the pitch. However that is not where the problems end. If we were to look at the manager, Juergen Klopp, he is far from being perfect. His confidence in “his way” and stubborn nature is starting to get in the way of moving the team forward. His decision to work “with what he” has at times, whilst admirable, is hindering the development of the squads quality. And when you match that to the massive spending power and obvious squad development of teams such as Manchester’s United and City, it is painfully obvious to anyone who knows either football or business that your never going to have a chance to compete. Sad but true. Unfortunately Klopp’s success in developing a winning team with little funds in Germany, a significantly different and less competitive league, is clouding his ability to see what needs to be done in his current role. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. But I am hoping that even he has the ability to “learn” at this stage of his career.

And then we can address briefly the ownership situation at Liverpool. Stating the obvious first, messers Henry and co. did save the club from a far worse fate than mid table mediocrity. So for that we must always be thankful. However one thing has also become obvious over the years of their tenure. They see this only as a business and not as a chance for glory. No matter how much they try and spin the rhetoric otherwise, that they are willing to splash the cash should the right players become available, the data unfortunately tells the real story.

According the The Liverpool Echo publication, Liverpool Football Club has a net spend on transfers over the 7 year period under the current owners of £164 million. That surmounts to a yearly net spend of approximately £24 million. In comparison, table toppers Manchester City, spent £568 million at an average of £81 million per season. It shows a very clear blueprint for what needs to be done to gain success in this very competitive and obscenely rich league. To be brutally honest, it’s truly sad that our beautiful game has become so, but the fact of the matter is, without spending you just cannot compete, simple. For anyone who just had Leicester City pop into their head, erase that thought immediately. That was an anomaly. A freak of nature and surely a one off never to be witnessed again.

So there it is. For Liverpool Football Club it’s a case of one step forward and two steps back. So close, but yet so far. A glimmer of hope followed by a large dose of reality. For us fans it has become a part of life. We still hang onto the glory days, but those memories are becoming increasing faded. Instead they are replaced by the reality that we are far away from competing at the very top level. And whilst there is a clear blueprint for success, currently the club is not structured in a way to follow such a plan. And it will take a drastic change in structure and thinking for the club to take the next step.

 

 

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