We all know that football is a fickle old business but sometimes I’m still amazed by just how short-sighted and narrow-minded those involved in the game can be. That statement applies to everyone from FIFA bigwigs and club owners down, but can most commonly be used in relation to supporters.
At Liverpool we are widely accepted to have one of the most passionate and knowledgable fan bases around but recently many of them seem to have lost their marbles. Brendan Rodgers out? Absolutely ridiculous!
Is it that hard to accept that we massively overachieved last season and that this year was never going to match those heady heights? Of course it’s true that performances and results should be a lot better than they have been but we were never likely to be title challengers again this time around.
That said, when it comes to the reasons/excuses (depending on how you look at it) behind our struggles, I do accept that too much has been made of the impact a high number of new players has on a team’s performance and consistency.
Southampton and West Ham United also made wholesale changes over the summer but, in stark contrast to us, are flying right now. Overhauling the squad can therefore clearly be done far more successfully than we have managed. However, you have to bear in mind that neither of those sides have had to replace a player of Luis Suarez’s ability and influence, endured the amount of injuries we have, nor crucially do they have to contend with playing in the Champions League. Unlike us they have had the time to integrate their new players on the training ground, as opposed to spending much of each week recuperating and traveling.
That is arguably the main issue at the heart of our troubles and it’s something that I’m sure we will adapt to over time. To put things into perspective, the match against Chelsea before the international break was our seventh in 21 days. By contrast the Hammers have played just four times in that period.
Last season we had no European football and exited the League Cup early, thus allowing Brendan Rodgers a full week to fully prepare for each league game. It’s no coincidence. Consequently, although I might not agree, I can totally understand why he decided to change practically the whole team against Real Madrid and we can only hope that it bares fruit further down the track.
Regardless of the roots of our current problems, some fans need to cast their minds back to where this team has come from. It’s only a little over four years since Roy Hodgson was in charge and we were on the verge of going out of business!
They may have started slowly but I would put my mortgage on the fact that Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli et al will forge more successful careers at Anfield than the likes of Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic managed. Of course the current crop of signings were assembled at a far greater cost but even that becomes a slightly moot point when you consider our net spend after outgoings was ‘only’ around £35m.
That figure is broadly the same as Everton, Manchester City and West Ham spent, £10m less than Arsenal and almost £90m less than Manchester United outlaid in the last transfer window.
It should also be remembered that we are less than a third through the season. We were outside of the top four at the end of the last calendar year, but turned it around in dramatic fashion, so everything is still to play for.
I therefore appeal to the many discontented fans to get behind the manager and his players. Rodgers has earned time and deserves our respect. Scurrilous scrutiny and assessment should be saved until the end of the season or, at the very earliest, January when things on the pitch can actually be altered!
In the meantime, keep the faith and try to remember that things could be, and have been, far worse!
Expertly written by Gavin Day