BRENDAN RODGERS couldn’t have made it any clearer.
He wanted, expected, and probably demanded that there be additions to Liverpool’s squad on transfer deadline day.
Namely, he wanted goalscorers:
“I’ve been given as much confidence as I can possibly get that we will have someone to come in,” Rodgers said last week.
“I’ve said all along that I have Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini as front line strikers, and the young lads like Adam Morgan are getting experience, but between now and January I need more than that.
“Hopefully on Friday we can do some work and get something complete because we certainly need it. I am hoping for one or two. We need one, that’s for sure.”
He got minus one. No-one in and Andy Carroll loaned out, lessening the options up front further, supposedly to help pave the way for the incoming player(s).
Top target Clint Dempsey, who was desperate to join the club, was passed over for the sake of £1m or so.
For all the talk of plans, and strategies and approaches, it made no sense. No sense whatsoever. The squad is weaker, the manager is pissed off, the fans are unhappy and the fingers are being pointed at the boardroom (and Boston) again.
PR-wise, too, it’s a disaster.
Dempsey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and, at 29, he doesn’t fit the Moneyball/Soccernomics/Whateveritscallednow model.
But football-wise, and reputation-wise, the deal made a lot of sense. Ultimately, the manager wanted him. That should have been good enough. It wasn’t a massive ask – it’s not like he was calling for the signature of Radamel Falcao…
“There’s no doubt we need to add goals to the team,” said Rodgers. “Getting people who are recognised goalscorers to come in is the number one objective.”
Dempsey scored 23 in 45 appearances last season. Hardworking and flexible positionally, the American offered a great sticking plaster solution for a squad short on numbers and for ‘just’ £6m – a million over the fee raised from Adam’s sale to Stoke and the loan fee West Ham have coughed up for Carroll.
Instead, the club’s administration has been made to look amateur. Again.
It’s not just about Dempsey – it’s more than that. Why did the club wait to so late in the window to try to strike deals? Why wasn’t there a back-up plan?
Not only did Liverpool miss out on a player the manager clearly wanted, he’s ended up at a direct rival in Spurs. That’s the second time since Rodgers arrived that he’s been gazumped for a target by the Londoners when the Reds appeared to be firmly in the driving seat.
Many say that Gylfi Sigurðsson, too, should have been a Liverpool player.
So what does this say about the club and its standing?
Club chairman Tom Werner said in April: “I would say we certainly have the resources to compete with anybody in football.”
And a club statement at Rodgers’ unveiling read: “The owners are always willing to provide funds where necessary to strengthen the squad. There will be no requirement to sell players this summer in order to fund new purchases.”
It would appear that’s not the case, Tom.
There’s conflicting accounts doing the rounds of what exactly happened on Friday. It seems someone somewhere is suggesting that Fulham tried to screw Liverpool over, asking for more cash then they’d accepted from Aston Villa.
Elsewhere, reputable sources suggest the exact opposite – that Liverpool in fact tried to undercut that offer knowing the player wanted to come to the club and never offered the asking price.
It could be argued that Fulham had every right to be pissed off and demand a premium, even if the alternative view is correct.
The article on the NESN site about Dempsey was cringeworthy and sparked the rolling of a dirty snowball that led to the manager confirming his interest which was then reported on the official LFC site. That prompted Fulham to put in an official complaint to the Premier League, accusing Liverpool of tapping up the player.
If the boot was on the other foot…well you’d be pissed off, wouldn’t you?
But back to the key point – the manager has been undermined. On the one hand, the club was seemingly happy to sanction a puzzling swap deal for Dempsey involving Jordan Henderson but on the other wouldn’t stump up what in football terms was buttons cash-wise. It makes little sense, and seems to be a classic case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.
So who should the finger be pointed at? Well FSG, or more specifically John Henry and Tom Werner, are undoubtedly pulling the strings from afar, and beyond that, well again the manager said it within the last week: “Ian Ayre, our managing director…has worked tirelessly over the course of this window to manage deals, in and out.”
A bit more successfully with the outs than the ins it seems, Ian. Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Alberto Aquilani, Andy Carroll, Maxi Rodriguez, Fabio Aurelio, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing, and Nathan Eccleston have all moved on in recent times, saving at least £20m a year in wages. If the club had had its way, Stewart Downing, Henderson, Danny Wilson and Dani Pacheco would have gone too.
Strength in depth, anyone? Yes, many of the names above are past their best or were never good enough in the first place, but this isn’t the 70s – the athletic nature of modern football coupled with the cramped fixture list means squad rotation is a necessity.
As it is, Liverpool are approaching four months of football with one senior striker.
The owners have been selling us a vision since they walked through the door: we’re competitive, we’ve got money, we can win stuff – we’ll be back among the elite in no time, stick with it. Many, myself included, have given them the benefit of the doubt. Now? Well, it’s all starting to feel a bit over promise, under deliver.
Judge for yourself…
- “The owners and supporters of Liverpool have a common goal and that is to see the club play among the best teams in Europe and be the best team in England.”- Tom Werner
- “It is critical we make the Champions League because there is so much revenue associated with that. We see our competitors not just as Chelsea or Manchester City and Manchester United but we see Barcelona and Real Madrid as teams that are iconic and playing good football. We know our competitors are working hard. We need to work just as hard and be just as smart.” – Tom Werner
- “When we came in our goal was to be the best team in England, not just the top four, to compete with the best teams in Europe. We believe that Brendan’s philosophy and his tactics will bring us there. We have no set target for when to do that, we’ve always looked for slow and measured improvement and we believe that we will be more successful going forward, not just this year but in the future.” – Tom Werner
Where’s the logic in denying the manager Dempsey? Where’s the logic in actually reducing the options in the area of the pitch that Liverpool struggled so badly last season?
Last season, Liverpool scored just 47 goals in 38 league games. Fourth-placed Spurs scored 66, Arsenal 74, Man United 89 and champions Man City 93, almost double the Reds’ goal haul.
The season before the fourth-placed team was Arsenal (72 goals). In 09-10 it was Spurs (67 goals), 08-09 Arsenal (68 goals) and in 07-08 it was Liverpool (67 goals).
Across five seasons there’s a range of just six goals for fourth spot. It looks pretty nailed on that to qualify for the Champions League you need to score more than 65 goals. To do that, well, guess what, you’ll need a few goalscorers at the club.
In 07-08, Fernando Torres scored 24 Premier League goals while Steven Gerrard managed 11. Peter Crouch and Andriy Voronin weighed in with five, and Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel both scored four. All in all, 13 players scored for Liverpool in the league that season.
Last season, Suarez was the top goalscorer in the Premier League with 11. Craig Bellamy got six, Gerrard five, and Andy Carroll and Maxi Rodriguez scored four each. Again, 13 Liverpool players scored in the Premier League but five have now left: Bellamy, Carroll, Rodriguez, Kuyt (2) and Charlie Adam (2).
In the games so far this season, the same old problem has reared its ugly head – Liverpool aren’t clinical enough in front of goal. The side needs more goalscorers and the responsibility needs to be lifted from the shoulders of Suarez.
Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil – two 18-year-olds – will not provide that lift. Borini is only 21 and the jury is out. He should be eased into the side rather than be expected to notch 20-odd goals from the get go.
If Suarez is injured for a long period, Liverpool will be ridiculously short up top, relying on rookies to cut the mustard in a league that takes no prisoners.
In July, when asked about Carroll, Werner said: “Brendan is clearly the leader here. The only thing I can say is we will do what is best for the club.”
On Friday, that promise was broken. None in and one out up front was football negligence.