SO now we know what it looks like to watch a team play for an entire season without a centre forward. It’s been fascinating, soul destroying stuff. Let it be an experiment we never see repeated.
Ok, Daniel Sturridge started half a dozen games, and Balotelli, Borini and Lambert took turns in nominally spearheading Liverpool’s ‘attack’, but none of it, or them, looked remotely close to the real deal. That real deal, meanwhile, was banging them in for Barcelona. The £75million we earned from his transfer would have been better used gaining interest in a Post Office savings account.
The race is run now and we didn’t finish where we needed to. Thinking about it though, that really shouldn’t come as any great shock. The lads we put in the striker position have clocked up eight goals between the four of them. We don’t need to be picking through the bones of this Liverpool season and wondering about the seaworthiness of the three centre back experiment, or Gerrard’s fading powers, or wondering whether Lovren or Lallana were worth the money.
Red herrings abound. Outrage as Rodgers throws Glen Johnson back into the fray. Horror as Sterling gets switched to wing back. Wailing at every attempt to accommodate Gerrard’s long goodbye. None of these things mattered.
All we needed was a good forward on the pitch. Just the one. If Liverpool pip Arsenal to Alexis Sanchez last August how do the two teams’ respective seasons pan out? How many points would Sanchez have been worth to Liverpool? Let’s assume that everything else was constant — all the perceived selection mistakes and tactical over indulgences — all the reliance on supposedly mediocre players. All the inconsistencies. Every bad buy still applicable. Every managerial press conference goof still acted out. Just that we get Sanchez, instead of Arsenal.
If that inversion had taken place, which marginal games might have swung Liverpool’s way? How many Arsenal wins might have turned to draws? With the season now all but over it looks like Wenger’s team will finish around 10 points ahead of Rodgers’ team. The Sanchez — just one decent forward — switch could surely have allowed Liverpool to have turned at least three draws to wins, and conversely without him, surely Arsenal would have suffered a few more disappointments.
Let’s be modest and say Arsenal draw three they have marginally won. The points swing is therefore, on this incredibly conservative projection, 12 points, and more than enough to have seen this season’s — warts and all — model of LFC finish comfortably ahead of Arsenal.
Looking at the riches that await next season’s Champions League participants, Liverpool FC’s owners FSG must now be wondering about the efficacy of a transfer budgetary policy that saw them miss out on Alexis Sanchez purely on the grounds that he preferred a London lifestyle.
It was not as though LFC weren’t stronger than Arsenal in August 2014, having narrowly missed out on the title. LFC also had certain Champions League football to offer whilst Arsenal still had to hurdle a qualifier. The decks were loaded in our favour in many ways. It seems overly simplisitic, but in the absence of clear alternatives Liverpool had to pay what it would take to persuade Alexis Sanchez — our need was greater than Arsenal’s.
Sanchez proved literally ‘the one’ that got away, as Liverpool were unable to source any remotely comparable player in his stead. Combine this set back with the subsequent plague of injuries that beached Daniel Sturridge for nigh on an entire season, and the scene is set for a Liverpool season without goals. Hence Brendan Rodgers’ simple but withering assessment of the campaign just over a week ago:
“It’s not rocket science. We haven’t scored enough goals this year. We’re on course to be, if the sequence goes on, 60 goals down on last year. That’s a huge amount.
“The season before I came in we had 49 goals — so you’re taking nearly a season of goals out of the team. We need more of a scoring threat, we’ve missed it immensely.
“What the players have done to arrive where we have is credit to them without those goals. But in the summer we have to try and find goals again.”
In the summer we have to try and find goals again. Simply stated, incredibly complex to implement. Well, it is given all prevailing factors at Liverpool these days. Brendan and the gang hoped they were buying some goals last season in signing Lambert and Balotelli. They in fact bought four Premier League goals. No nightmare scenario could have predicted so paltry a haul.
Conclusions? When the facts are laid bare — and it’s clear that the line between perceptions of Liverpool’s success and failure was in truth marginal — then it’s hard not to be reasonably generous in assessing the best of the rest of the club’s season. Shorn of Sturridge, and the resources (in the widest sense) to find him a strike partner (it really didn’t need to be another Luis Suarez), the fifth place Liverpool will surely now achieve has to be seen as something of a positive.
The progression of the likes of Sterling, Coutinho, Ibe, Can, Sakho and Henderson were major gains for the club. The returns to high levels of perfomance by Mignolet, Skrtel and Lucas are not to be taken lightly. The tactical flexibility demonstrated by both manager and his charges are portents for a bright red future. IF. If a way can be found to locate and lure a goals-for-hire forward (or two) in time for the start of next season.
If this happens and Daniel Sturridge can be truly rehabilitated then there need be no ceilings imposed on ambitions. Teams can’t win football matches without strikers. Let’s laud this season’s crop for having a worthy go at it, whilst simultaneously invoking the transfer gods to make sure we never see the like of this insane experiment ever again.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo
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Absolutely spot on. LFC have the easiest summer really, in that the problem is so obvious you’d think it would be easily solved.
Except that our answer is Christian Benteke and Danny Ings.
Good piece, but the key question is -who?
Neil spoke in one of the earlier podcasts about 5 strikers who are quick, good movement and are essentially busy. I like that idea, but those attributes could make Leicesters Jamie Vardy a great target for us. All well and good, but we all know we need goals and finishing has to be amongst the attributes required.
The problem is when you add all those attributes together you get a very expensive striker, and we may go into that shop, but we rarely come out with anything.
So again we’re back to who?
All those pre-requisites leave a very small pool of players who could help us get to where we want to.
And even when we do have a good idea that 3 will be origi, Ings and sturridge I still find it difficult to identify number 4 and the very unlikely number 5.
In short it will be an extremely tough assignment for Brendan and the committee and on previous form I have little confidence that they will find the right solutions.
Fingers crossed though!
Indeed. I find this constant referral to “buying goals”, as if every club in the country doesn’t try and do that, bizarre. There are no players that score every game, regardless of the system. The closest would be the ones playing for real and Barcelona – and they’re not coming to us. The best we can hope for is benteke. We’ll probably end up with Charlie Austin
“FSG must now be wondering about the efficacy of a transfer budgetary policy that saw them miss out on Alexis Sanchez purely on the grounds that he preferred a London lifestyle.”
I enjoyed the article, and agree for the most part. I don’t see what FSG could have possibly done in the case of Sanchez, though. Surely, the answer can’t be to pay so much over the rate to convince players to the northwest. As many have observed, transfers are only successful a fraction of the time. For every Sanchez you might overspend into Liverpool, there will be some mediocrity that we’ll be overspending for.
I agree that had Sanchez signed with LFC, we’d have improved on our results this year (and mightn’t have been tempted to the late signing of Mario).
Here’s hoping he’s an outlier and other world class players aren’t as precious.
I do broadly agree, although I wonder what would have happened had we flatly refused to sell Suarez without Sancreed in return.
Not sure how my phone auto-corrected Sanchez to a word I’ve never used, but you know what I mean.
the sanchez thing is old news and shouldn’t even be worth anyone wasting their time writing an article about a none happening (again lfc showing their non intent to really challenge) oh and its that easy isn’t it. except as henry says ooops. if our targets are benteke and ings then it just goes to show how little ambition we really have. we should be going and getting the likes of benzema , pogba and khedira to name a few regardless of the cost because if we were to win the premier league then the rewards would be far greater than the initial outlay and we would be in a greater position to at least make top four and the message it would send to the other teams would be massive in terms of REAL intent. I love lfc and it is about time fsg grew a pair and got a manager who can attract the best players and the best players who will win us trophies. YNWA
“The returns to high levels of perfomance by Mignolet, Skrtel and Lucas are not to be taken lightly.”
Only Mignolet is relevant to BR. Skrtel has not changed since last season. Lucas? BR has zero positive to do with Lucas’s performances. If anything, Lucas has repeatedly shown BR that he marginalizes him, for whatever reason, to his peril and the club’s detriment.
More generally, we cannot work backwards from our strikeforce’s goal drought and Sanchez’s goals scored and “conclude” that “it’s not rocket-science”. How many goals Borini, Balotelli and Lambert scored is not merely the result of their incompetence or lack of top quality. The manager’s choices, tactics, etc are also PARTLY responsible.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Sanchez would score for us as he has for Arsenal.
In short, you have to provide a defensible rationale for which variables you’re going to treat as either constant or as exogenous parameters in your analysis. Brendan Rodgers is not a great logician and causal analyst. Let’s not imitate him.
Regarding this year’s transfers, I’m okay with being linked with Ings & Benteke, as long as there’s other work going on behind the scenes. The earlier people know who we really want, the more chance of fucking it up.
Ings is basically taking Lambert’s place, right down to the price and the early deal. While Benteke turns into the usual saga then we can be lining up a Jackson Martinez for example…..
Lambert, Borini and Balotelli would each have scored 10+ goals if they had been playing for any of the teams above us. Because the teams above us have played better than us for most of the season. I’m sorry but I’ve just not been watching the same team if you think we’ve been battering teams but missing a cutting edge. We’ve been crap.
Excellent Rob, succuint and straight to the point. I remember you saying pre-season how excited you were about the prospect of signing Alexis Sanchez. We should have of course given we held the trump card with Suarez going the opposite way. This says as much about our negotiating skills as believing Sanchez preferred the capital lifestyle.
Of course in hindsight we can’t say he would have scored as many as he has for Arsenal but he would have provided the movement and game intellegence we have so sadly missed this season.
“make sure we never see the like of this insane experiment ever again.”
We are Liverpool, this was no experiment. Transfer fuck ups are business as usual.
I still can’t believe we basically went from going after Sanchez to Remy then scrapping the barrel and told ourselves let’s get that Mario lad or Eto’o
Surely, surely, surely we have to be more competent in the market than that, especially for us who often miss out on our first choice, we gotta have a list of targets.
We need a very good striker, follow by a central mid and a right back, but I really don’t have the confidence of anyone at the club doing the right transfers atm, from manager to TC to Ian bloody Ayre.
What if they elbow Rodgers and draft a manager who loves Balotelli and builds a team around him, ditching £216 million of recent buys? What if? Is that worse than building a team
around Joe Allen. (I didn’t mean that; just stirring Robin of Chester).
Haha, I think you know me by now Kev and I can’t let that pass without saying I don’t advocate building a team around Joe Allen. My point is that Allen doesn’t stand out as a match winner but actually he’s a hugely important cog of the machine Rodgers is trying to build.
The question to that is whether any team that has Joe Allen as a “hugely important part of the machine” can ever achieve what we strive to achieve?
Last year would suggest yes
Last year Joe Allen largely came off the bench, he wasn’t an important part of anything, he was a bit part player
John O’ Shea, Darren Fletcher, Wes Brown, Anderson, Jonny Evans: Joe Allen’s head and shoulders above these title winners.
None of those guys are “an important part of the Man Utd machine”, they’re just squad players who did a job, who at times went in a good patch of form and played above themselves
And I think Darren Fletcher’s a better player than him easily, when he was fit
Allen is a squad player in this team, if he starts most games for us we must not be very good
If you don’t know how you’re going to play you’re not going to know who the best strikers are for your system.
Answer me this: how do we play? We were a great counter-attacking team last season, a dull possession-based team this season. We’ve played a diamond, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-4-2-1, a false 2 – you name it, we’ve played it. It’s hard to sign the right striker if we don’t know how we plan to play, you could say it’s rocket science.
Bob Paisley reverted from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 in the 70s. He knew what he was doing. 4-3-3 only works if you have wide players who can score. Sterling and Ibe are never going to get the goals that two proper strikers will get you. Strikers rock. Bob knew this, as did Clough and Ferguson. You’ve more chance or guaranteeing goals from a striker than a midfielder or a winger. It really is that simple.