Liverpool will return under Rodgers, but not this season
Confusion and consternation off the pitch, inconsistency and inadequacy on it. After a difficult start to the campaign, Liverpool supporters must be wondering what the rest of this season holds in store for them. Allow me to make a prediction; it’s going to be more of the same.
Having written a column in early August suggesting Liverpool would find it very difficult to finish in the top four, my Twitter feed vanished under a landslide of objection, with a number of supporters asking me to define exactly why I thought Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham were going to finish higher than their club. The fact they never even considered Everton or Newcastle spoke volumes. Whether through blind loyalty, wilful ignorance or sheer bloody-mindedness, it’s a fact that a great number of Liverpool supporters are refusing to accept their new status. The club is not yet, as some have cruelly suggested, a mid-table outfit. But it’s not far off.
Liverpool have finished seventh, sixth and eighth in the past three seasons. They haven’t played a Champions League match since 2009 and they no longer sit at the top table in Europe. Instead, they stand outside the restaurant with everyone else, noses pressed against the glass, all too aware that re-admittance will not be easy. As former members of the now-defunct G14, the super-clique of elite European clubs that pushed UEFA for larger shares of the revenue from this competition, this is an irony worth pondering.
The G14 created chasms in every European league, making it almost impossible for others to join in. The gap is so wide that even Manchester City, with their almost limitless resources, needed three years to bridge it. Liverpool, now on the other side of that gap they helped to create, do not have City’s resources.
It has been suggested that Liverpool’s quibbling over the odd £1m in the proposed Clint Dempsey deal is evidence that they do not have any kind of resources, but that’s not the case. Liverpool have money, they’re just traumatised by the results of their last shopping spree. Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson may go on to be excellent footballers, but even the most myopic supporter would struggle to spin their recruitment, or that of the risible Stewart Downing, as a success.
Dempsey, rightly or wrongly, didn’t tick enough boxes in the new, committee-led reality of Liverpool’s transfer policy. Daniel Sturridge, on the other hand, did and the club was prepared to pay a sizeable fee for his signature until Brendan Rodgers objected, citing his troublesome reputation. The end result was that Liverpool went without a striker and will have to survive until January with only Luis Suárez and Fabio Borini. Again, it’s very difficult to spin that as a positive, especially given that Liverpool have picked up only one point from nine, scoring just two goals in the process. The outlook really is very gloomy.
If only there was some kind of symbolic song about walking through storms, holding heads up high and not being afraid of the dark. That kind of song would be really useful right now. You see, there’s a chance that there really is a golden dawn at the other end of all of this. Rodgers cannot promise sweet, silver-lark songs, but he is already showing signs of a pleasing style of football and the steely single-mindedness required at the top. That should be enough for now.
This transfer window has been disappointing, but it hasn’t been a disaster. Joe Allen has instantly settled into life on Merseyside, without even a hint of the apprehension that has held Henderson back. Nuri Sahin and Borini promise much, and perhaps the chance to use young talent, such as Raheem Sterling and Suso, will benefit in the long term. This club isn’t going to be rebuilt with a windfall spending spree. It’s going to be rebuilt with a steady return to the values that made it strong in the first place; passing, moving and not freaking out.
But that can only happen if people are patient. Talk to the core of Liverpool fans – the ones who go to games, the ones who can watch them on TV without squealing out their frustrations on a phone-in – and they’ll tell you a period of calm is required. They’ll tell you they’ll accept a mid-table finish if there are visible signs of progression. Liverpool will return and I think Rodgers will be the man at the helm when they do. But it won’t happen this year. And Dempsey’s arrival wouldn’t have made any difference.
Follow Iain Macintosh on Twitter @iainmacintosh
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Watch Liverpool live on BT Vision:
Liverpool v Man Utd, 1.30pm, 23 September, Sky Sports 1
Everton v Liverpool, 1.30pm, 28 October, Sky Sports 1
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