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Liverpool Way Lost?

Written by on September 10, 2012 | 10 Comments »
Posted in Liverpool

This article has been contributed by Fred Haas. Fred has been a Liverpool supporter since he was a boy during the first Dalglish era. He teaches high school in the Boston area.

There is a dark irony in John Henry’s invoking “The Liverpool Way” in his recent letter to supporters about his disappointment regarding what can only be called a catastrophic final day of the transfer window. While winning is supposed to be part of the ethos established by the Boot Room Boys, so is keeping your business behind closed doors.

While I can absolutely appreciate an attempt to concede mistakes, demonstrate a modicum of accountability, and even placate fans loyal to the club, the very fact that anyone felt the need to provide a public statement of this order not only rings a little hollow but exposes the fact that Fenway Sports Group is still searching to get it – The Liverpool Way.

There is no question that it is early in yet another new Anfield “project,” possibly the most annoying word being bandied about in club football at the moment. Yet, the worst start in forty years, coupled with a series of significantly questionable decisions warrant every supporter around the globe to pause.

There is little doubt that new manager Brendan Rogers has a plan. He wasted no time in clearing out nearly all of Dalglish’s players, letting a handful of others leave of their own accord, and trying to purge the wasted wages from the squad. From the rumors nearly every Commoli-Dalglish target may be moved before the season’s end. In fact, it is without question Rodgers wants a certain type of player but has it even looked remotely like Steven Gerrard is that type?

Yet, in retooling the side, Rodgers has bought or rented a handful of youngsters, unproven under the weight of Premier League performance, let alone at a club that continues to suffer under the weight of expectations. Moreover, Rodgers is being quoted saying things like, “Young Players will run through a fence for you,” and “I think of my players like sons.” There is a lot to be said for building with youth, but at the moment, it looks more like Rogers is running an academy team than an historic club to which he has “dedicated his life.”

Sorely lacking experience, Clint Dempsey may have been a quality addition. I am not convinced he would have been the answer to their scoring woes, but he might have been an answer. There is no way he would have been enough quality talent folded into the club. Then to botch things so badly as the transfer window slammed shut just makes everyone at the club look bad. To lose a player of proven quality, still in the prime of his career, over $2 or 3million, especially considering it was significantly under $9-10 million early summer valuation seems completely mad.

Had Fenway Sports Group signed him before their preseason trip to Boston’s Fenway Park, they could have likely made up the difference in shirt sales alone. American owners bringing in the most successful American player in Europe, as part of a rebuilding effort for one of the greatest historic clubs in England, makes for a pretty compelling storyline.

The story alone may have had resell value. It surely would have drawn even more American soccer fans the Reds way. Plus, he clearly wanted to go to the club. How many players do they have making that abundantly clear at the moment?

Now the cupboard is practically bare and there are even less hints as to where the goals will come from for a team that finished last season with the most dreadful of finishing percentages. While it is way too early to cast judgments about new manager Brendan Rodgers, I think every supporter has at least wondered if the wrong Swansea manager was selected, as Michael Laudrup’s Swansealona opened the season with a decided surge and goals galore.

Prior to the season’s start it was hard to find a more compelling narrative in the Premier League than what was going on at Liverpool Football Club. There was both a sense of the Liverpool being at a crossroads and the hope of a hungry regime beginning to impose a new turn in a restorative vision. Maybe, just maybe, some of the old Liverpool Way could be re-energized.

Soon there may be no one left that could even find it let alone give it new life. That once compelling narrative could well turn out to look a whole lot more like B-movie horror show, low on money, low on talent, and scary for all the wrong reasons.

 


10 Responses to “Liverpool Way Lost?”

  1. Redfan says:

    FSG firing Dalglish and hiring Rodgers was a change to many end of.
    All the changes married with all the statements FSG have made since taking over ownership reflect just one thing: they haven’t got a clue about running a Premier League Football club.
    To have cleared out the old owners leavings I could well understand but to hire a novice in management terms to replace one of Britain’s most successful managers in history made about as much sense as trying raise the Titanic. If John Henry thinks Kenny was too old to do the job, he should look in the mirrot and retire. Steve Clarke has got WBA to where Liverpool would likely have been this season had Henry left well alone.
    As is and with the decisions he has made. I doubt Liverpool will win anything inside the next 3 years and that this Rodgers episode will go down in the annals of Liverpool history eclipsed only by Graham Souness as the worst period in modern times. I for one know that Liverpool will only run as it should in the Liverpool way when it is Liverpudlian and locally based owners control.
    This last summer was an absolute abortion in terms of developing and establishing a foundation for the supposed future. All Rodgers did was to highlight his inneptitude by clearing out all his assets and leaving the squad devoid of any depth. A woeful exhibition of management, simply a first rate hatchet job and John Henry is pleased! Sell and sell soon please Mr Henry!!

  2. Seattle_Loon says:

    Great article.

    I and countless other LFC fans and practically every pundit accepted FSG as perfect saviours of Liverpool given their track record with the Boston Red Sox. Oh how wrong we all were.

    - 3 managers in less than 2 years
    - free spenders to tight spenders in less time than that
    - belief in a director of football system and then abandonment of that idea
    - complete abdication of control over the Suarez/Evra affair until all of the damage had been done
    - promotion of Ian Ayre as chief executive despite him having no direct experience of running a club.

    Put simply a record of inconsistency and incompetence. Yes, by their own admission, they had little knowledge of football but that doesn’t excuse a record that at times makes it look as if John Henry and co. are making it up as they go.

    And after the transfer business of the summer you can’t help but think what is the point of changing manager if you don’t address your team’s most glaring weakness – scoring goals?

    I wish Brendan Rodgers well (even if he does come across often like a Northern Irish David Brent) but fear like Fred we are heading into unchartered waters. Top 4 this season? A squad with 2 recognised strikers (one who is 21 and untested in the EPL and the other who shoots more blanks than a castrated eunuch when he dons a red shirt), one left- back, a dodgy goalie with no back-up and 5 central defenders looks a lot more likely to flirt with the bottom four.

  3. Ed Gomes says:

    I really enjoyed the piece. Let me first say I’m a Liverpool and Red Sox hater.

    I do disagree with the comments in regards to Dalglish. He brought in very expensive talent, and by all accounts had no vision or clear cut way of using it. He had a bunch of players that really didn’t fit with each other no matter what system he was going for. To the point where Liverpool changed tactics in middle of matches, never mind throughout the season. That may seem like a good thing to be able to do, but the fact is that it isn’t if you’re not any good at any of those tactics. When FSG brought him for review, maybe they saw someone who just wanted to stay the course and were looking at another non CL qualification. If that was to be the case, they might as well change and put someone in with a plan. I admit that whether Rodgers is the man could be debatable and become a disaster. But, a change was needed.
    FSG, in my opinion, will put Liverpool in a better financial situation. They have already begun with the FSC Show, and more things will come to widen the appeal. Ultimately winning will enrich the coffers. Yes they could have made a quick buck on Dempsey, but maybe he just didn’t fit. Wasn’t he the guy that wanted CL play, yet was moving to Liverpool? Dempsey pulled the same stuff when he wanted out of the US. I’m afraid that he’s getting a pass from the US media/pundits/posters due to him being American. If a South American player pulled what he did, people would have jumped all over him. Just my opinion.

    Last week I read an article on Rafa and his new book, where he blames Gillette and Hicks for Liverpool’s troubles. He says that he thought that Liverpool had a real shot at winning something/everything in 2010, but he wasn’t provided the funds for transfers. This from the guy who Gillette and Hicks trusted completely and let him run the show. This was the offseason, where Alonso forced his way out due to Rafa and Arbeloa also got out of dodge. This is the offseason where he spent 20 mil on Glen Johnson and another 20 or so on an injured Aquilani, who everyone knew was going to miss half the campaign. Maxi came on a free, yet over 40 million pounds was spent. The previous year he spent over 60 million pounds in he transfer market. Crouch and Riise left.
    The problem is that fans bought into this clown of a manager. He had done nothing for more than a long time, and when he did accomplish something, it was with previous managers players. I don’t want to completely say that he’s an awful manager, but while Mourinho has gotten better even with his ego ever expanding, Rafa only got worse the more power or self worth he had. Yes Gillette and Hicks did it all wrong from a financial perspective, although it could have been all right. They over extended and had no real backup plan. But putting their trust in Rafa was just as big a mistake for Liverpool itself. Let me add that it was Gillette and Hicks that signed the record breaking jersey sponsorship with Standard Chartered.

    I do find it amazing that the Red Sox have gone from the model franchise to a disaster. Keep in mind that they had the second highest payroll, yet they were supposedly doing it the right way.
    As for Liverpool, I may root against them, but I have always recognized the importance of big clubs. Liverpool is a big club and the EPL and CL would be better served if they were in both competitions. Even with Chelsea finally winning the CL last season, in my opinion, they can’t bring the reverence that Liverpool could to that competition. Spurs and Newcastle would have been a nice story, but not even close. Even with all the expenditures, City is in the same boat as Chelsea. Now that doesn’t mean you should get a free pass, but let’s not dismiss their importance to British futebol.

  4. Seattle_Loon says:

    Ed

    So a manager who took Liverpool to two Champion’s League finals winning one was a clown? The manager who came as close as any other Liverpool manager to winning the EPL in the last 20 years is a clown? Who despite a reputation as a poor judge of players by some brought Pepe Reina, Torres, Alonso, Mascherano and Arbeloa to Anfield and who is also responsible for LFC’s current two best youngsters (Sterling and Shelvey) being there is a clown? The manager who orchestrated a complete overall of the youth system is a clown?

    While there’s always room for healthy disagreement calling Rafa Benitez a clown seems disrespectful at best. We’ll never know three managers later where Liverpool might be if he was still in charge especially with FSG’s initial funds. My guess is significantly better off.

  5. Alberta Gooner says:

    @Fred

    A few financial-related comments. The biggest failure of FSG is in making any progress on a new stadium that will put them on a better financial footing to compete with both Manchester sides, Chelsea and even Arsenal. I recently read a report that Arsenal’s commercial income will increase by 60 million pounds when the long-term sponsorship deals they used to help pay for Ashburon Grove expire in 2014.

    Liverpool spent 37m pounds on bringing in new players and raised 9m in selling Aqulani, Adam, Kuyt and loaning Carroll. According to Rory Smith of The Times (and a respected journo on Merseyside), they also cut 450k a week in their payroll with their moves this summer. And it would have been even more if Joe Cole had not tweaked his hamstring just before the deadline because they were actively shopping him.

    On the positive side, FSG has managed to secure some fantastic deals of their own in that area, punching far above their current weight as a club who does not participate in the Champions League. But the longer they muddle around on the stadium issue, the tougher it will be to close the financial gap.

    On the field, people need to relax. They drew with the league champions, lost to the third-place side (despite outplaying them for long stretches) and lost to an unbeaten West Brom. The fixture computer was tough on them to start the year. It’s way too early to write off Rodgers (which I’m not suggesting you are doing, btw).

    @SL

    Excellent point about the constant turnover in the technical area creating churn in the squad as every new manager has wanted to bring in their buys and impose their style. LFC needs a period of stability. Four different managers have started the past four PL seasons for the club.

    Also appreciated your point about the 360 on the whole DoF position by FSG. I happen to believe it’s going to eventually come to England.

    Also agree with your point on the Suarez-Evra affair, which was a distraction for the club and an excellent case study of how to completely mangle an incident from a PR perspective (which is my line of work).

    They won’t be in the bottom half of the table. Rodgers needs time. Arsenal looked much, much worse at this juncture last year.

    @Ed

    Agreed Clint Dempsey’s actions would have been cast one hell of a lot differently if he held a different passport. I killed myself laughing at all the apologists on this side of the pond taking their talking points directly from his agent.

    Completely disagree with you on Rafa. No clown wins the Champions League with the squad he inherited from Houllier. And Statler and Waldorf did a lot to tie his hands. Now Rafa did not help himself with those two with some of his politicking behind the scenes, but he deserved a lot better from them.

  6. John Bladen says:

    While I wouldn’t call Benitez a “clown”, I do believe he got a great deal more credit than he actually deserved as a team builder. His success was achieved very early on, for the most part with talent others had brought to the club and developed.

    That doesn’t make him useless, and nothing can take away the CL title he won. Still, I think even the most ardent LFC fan would admit that once the ‘Benitez way’ had a chance to take root, the club was clearly on the downside.

    Hicks (mostly) and Gillett did not help matters. But look at what Benitez spent during their years. He was far from underfunded, he just wasted most of the funds they gave him. A couple of the younger guys he brought in are looking good these days. That doesn’t cover up the horrendous errors.

    As for the Dalglish comments, again no-one can take away his success during the first spell at Anfield. No-one should by trying to sugar coat what was a colossal failure during his second, though. It is hard to imagine player moves and even game management worse than that shown by Dalglish during his return. It was an epic failure, and has surely tarnished his legacy in football management (though clearly not at Anfield, where some seem to hunger for a ‘third bash’).

    Fred, the only answer I see for LFC is to rebuild patiently. It will be painful, it will take time. Undoing careless mistakes at the top of the football pyramid is expensive and time consuming. And LFC has many mistakes to undo.

    Like Arsenal, they will always be a ‘big’ club with money to spend. So worries about relegation or a bottom 5 finish aren’t warranted. It will be some time before they trouble the top three, though, I’d wager.

  7. Seattle_Loon says:

    In terms of transfers overall and I think you could point to four clubs as prime examples: Liverpool,Spurs,Man City and Arsenal being great examples – your ratio of success is almost about the same – 50% at best. Bobby’s great article in Forbes re: the purchases made by EPL clubs prior to 2008/2009 would show a far lower percentage. For every Luca Modric you get a David Bentley. So bashing Rafa for poor purchases might be valid but could be applied to most managers.

    Which brings you to the next conclusion re: clubs. Manager longevity is not a pre-requisite of success but all the evidence shows it is usually associated with it very closely. Wenger at Arsenal and SAF at Utd are of course being the best examples of this.

    I am a little sentimental in this respect but Dalglish on the basis of improvement in making two cup-finals (winning one) deserved another season in charge. Liverpool weren’t far off where they needed to be. They conceded a lot less than most clubs but had a very obvious problem in the lack of a goal-scorer.

  8. Ed Gomes says:

    I think that people are misunderstanding my comments on Rafa. Yes, I do feel that he was a good manager. But as the years went by and the wanted/demanded results didn’t come he had the perfect foils in Hicks & Gillette. Yes the owners were to blame for a great deal of the mess, but I believe off the field not on it. Yes, one affects the other, but Rafa only enflamed the situation instead of helping. He used the owners as an excuse for the on field results and that just wasn’t fair considering he did spend a lot and had total control.
    My point to Rafa was, as his power and ego grew he got worst as a manager. He proved as such when he went to Inter. Let me remind people that when he got that job, he said the squad would play and be better than Mourinho’s. This after Inter had just won everything. There’s confidence, which I endorse, and there’s stupidity.

    All I’m saying is that he should have done better with what he had. In the end all you got were excuses. Excuses he’s still using to this day.

  9. JEC says:

    Fred,
    I am also frustrated by many things at LFC at the moment. There is a lot of instability and I’m not sure the owners have a clear direction. I fear we have much suffering ahead of us this season. After watching them play 4 matches I would not be shocked to see Liverpool in the bottom half of the table. They have only scored one goal from the run of play this year and that was a lucky bounce back to Suarez. Perhaps I am more worried than I need to be but adding to the frustration is this sycophantic documentary now airing, each episode just adds to irony as Liverpool look at an ever increasing chasm between them and the teams at the top of the table. There is no reason to expect that to change this season. But I genuinely hope that FSG give Rodgers a chance to let his philosophy take root, not just for continuity’s sake but also because I would like to see what Rodgers can do with more resources. I am still hopeful he can get Liverpool winning again but at the moment I am just hoping not to be embarrassed by LFC, I didn’t realize that was a luxury.

  10. Seattle Loon says:

    Ed:

    Point taken on Benitez. With a smaller ego he’s probably still be manager today.

    JEC

    With you a 100%. YES – 1 goal from open play in 4 games and little to suggest that will change. A simple team talk for every opposing manager who plays Liverpool. “Look lads all we have to do is keep it tight. They won’t create much, will miss chances and we just need to take one of our when it comes our way”. Tactics – “Let them have the ball – they can’t do anything with it anyway”.

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