By Paul Wilkes
If you’re crap you’re crap, if you’re great you’re great. How about the age-old problem though that has faced us as supporters of Liverpool Football Club, we’re both. Consistency for a number of years has been the holy shrine, for every Burnley performance there has been a Real Madrid or for every Sunderland away there has been an Everton at home to use more recent parameters. All managers since Dalglish the first time have been dogged with the problem to varying degrees and for different reasons.
Last summer, was the real start of something new. Proper investment in the squad, a new philosophy, approach, scouting by numbers. One of our biggest problems was creating chances from open play, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing had created more chances between them than our entire squad the season before. This season the creation of chances hasn’t been a problem, but scoring those allotted goal scoring opportunities has. Is it the lack of a goal poacher? or is that a little simplistic. Is it the type of chances created? A look at Suárez’s goals since he came to Anfield, show a good number either created by himself or scored from what seems like impossible positions, for every couple that hits the net another twenty will not.
This leads me to our 2nd trip to the new Wembley this season and ever. In the last 11 years we have only reached the quarterfinals of the FA cup twice. A competition which was once our bread and butter, has alluded us too frequently in recent times. The media will cite Rafa’s lack of understanding of the tournament, the fans will point to the poor squad depth due to previous owners duties to pay the banks and balance the books.
José Mourinho always tries to win the first available competition at any club which he arrives. This, he says, ensures a winning mentality and gives the players the hunger to create more, but this isn’t a given. The teams have to be in and around the top of the divisions in order to push them to the next level – winning the league. Many clubs have won the Carling Cup only to see their bubble burst, Birmingham City a fine example last season.
So where do we stand, on the brink of excellence or on the edge of demise?
Kenny said last week: “There are many ways you can judge a season, and the best way is progress at the football club as a whole. I don’t think it necessarily relates to trophies or points.
“Off the pitch, especially, the club is a lot stronger than what it was. You go off the pitch and see how much money we are getting through sponsorship and kit deals. What other areas are there to improve on — apart from points?”
This was his way of saying look what the club have been through as a whole, yes there was investment in the summer, but this was long overdue after seasons of having our best assets stripped. To win a trophy 18 months after potential administration is remarkable whilst potentially on the verge of another, we certainly shouldn’t complain about the new-found status we have. Competing for silverware with indifferent league form sounds a lot better than struggling mid-table side sailing towards potential relegation with Roy as captain of the ship.
The mentality of the players is certainly an area that the scouting team can work on. Players might have the attributes and statistics to deliver on paper, but do they have the personalities to deal with the expectation that comes of playing for a club the size of Liverpool. Performing in one-off cup games and derbies are standard, but punishing the least fancied sides in the league is something some of the players are yet to take to. Wearing the red shirt is not just about the glory games. Squad members will learn off the likes of Gerrard, Carra and Kenny as to what is expected, some will rise to the challenge and others will shirk the responsibility. Obviously, tactics, team selection, fitness issues and momentum will all play a part, but the mentality against inferior sides needs to be addressed within the current squad and all future purchases.
By Paul Wilkes
Editor of LaLigaUK.com – All things Spanish Football with the occasional hint of LFC