By David Lynch
I DIDN’T WORRY at all last summer.
Nope. The ‘Great Spurs Splurge of 2013’ never once raised even mild trepidation in me.
Back then, we were regularly informed that Tottenham had constructed a team to end Liverpool’s top four push before a ball had been kicked.
“They could even win the title!”
But I didn’t care because, basically, ignorance is bliss. They say you most fear the things you don’t know. But in football, that is only true of your own team, not others. No amount of hype could convince me that Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chriches or any of the players I had never seen would set the league alight. I didn’t fear them.
And the ones I did know?
Roberto Soldado switching leagues at 28? Christian Eriksen coping with the physicality? Question marks, unknowns, problems to solve. And so it proved.
It is for this reason that I was initially less fearful that Liverpool faced a similar situation. Things that I know include this:
Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge are ridiculously good.
There’s no uncertainty around that. I can rely upon it to be true. That’ll be worth something next season. But there’s a fear hewn in Luis Suarez’s image that continues to niggle. I just can’t shake it. It’s getting worse.
To be honest, its grip has tightened since the deal to bring in Loic Remy collapsed. Of course, that is not because I believe the French striker could come even close to doing what Suarez did for the Reds. There’s a fairly sizeable talent gap to bridge there, for starters.
But the root of my concern are my strongly held beliefs over what actually made Liverpool great last season.
While words such as “mad”, “crazy”, and “breathtaking” were thrown about in attempts to describe the team, I always hoped that a deep cynicism was behind the remarkable football. (Romantic, I know). I honestly preferred the idea that FSG, along with Brendan Rodgers, had effectively worked this silly game of football out. Their plan – in my head, at least – was based upon the premise that teams who end up at the top tend to have scored more than the others.
The Boston-based hedge fund experts had officially realised that the clichéd pundit was right all along: Goals win games.
“Let’s be good at doing that above all else and we’ll be up there,” John Henry says, in my weird boardroom dreams.
Now Remy might not be Suarez, but he would have, you’d have hoped, brought at least 15 goals to the table. Get slightly better at doing the other bits of football – defending, controlling, yada yada… boring – then plug the gap with 15 goals instead of 31.
That seems logical to me.
Unfortunately, that deal fell through. And now we must head into the unknown which, as I noted earlier, is not a good thing when it comes to your own team.
People might get excited by foreign stars who they have seen little of coming in, but not me.
I wanted Remy. I wanted the cynical 15 goals.
What I see now is a team that is likely to be better in a lot of areas, but one of them might not be winning football matches. You can control, you can defend well, but you can still get beat by accumulating fewer goals than your opponent. As things stand, Rodgers is relying on the likes of Henderson, Sterling and Coutinho upping their output. That, to me, feels like heading into a season without guarantees. It’s an approach full of hope, not cynicism.
And it worries me.