THERE’S a tension knocking about. I am happy to accept that Liverpool have tried to spend over £120million on two players and would have gladly done so. I will take that at face value. Some might not but I will. The tension comes at the point where Liverpool may choose to spend £120m on no one if deals for those two players can’t be brought about.
The tension is best described as having spent too many years wondering “what if” versus having a long-term plan for development of a football club.
Wondering “what if” is the worst feeling to be left with in football when football is done properly, when clubs are run properly and not like madhouses. It happens up and down the country every week. Better to be vanquished than to wonder “what if” in many senses. What if the offside goal had been rightly disallowed? What if we’d made our sub earlier? What if we started Peter Crouch against Milan? What if he leaves Didi Hamann on?
Better the question is put to bed rather than to be left pondering, there comes a point on some level where it is better to be outclassed than left with small margins haunting your memories. Liverpool in 2008-9 is a what if. What if Federico Macheda’s football career never really started in reality? What if the hierarchy of Liverpool wasn’t a madhouse? What if we had had one more very good player?
That “what if”, that last one, what if we’d have had one more very good player is the one which has marked all Liverpool title disappointments. It’s there in 1996, when Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman are left one attacker light far too often, Liverpool one more good player away which led to the cliche of the final piece of the puzzle. It is there in 2002 when Arsenal steam the league but Liverpool are out on their feet having signed only one outfield player the previous summer, adding Abel Xavier during the campaign. What if.
It’s there in 2009 when Robbie Keane goes and Liverpool replace him with no one. I remember talk of Emile Heskey coming home. I remember Nabil El Zhar replacing Dirk Kuyt at the death against Arsenal. I remember being jealous of Manchester United four deep in attack, what a front four. And it happened in 2013-14, when Liverpool got on the march but when Liverpool’s legs fell off in the home straight, unable to replace Jordan Henderson, unable to replace Daniel Sturridge; Luis Suarez blunted just enough.
In all these instances Liverpool managers can be questioned. What if Roy Evans/Gerard Houllier/Rafa Benitez/Brendan Rodgers had done X differently? What if? But the fact of the matter is that all lost league titles to squads who look that “what if” stronger. That one more, two good players more deep. This fact isn’t true in retrospect, it was true before balls were kicked, before seasons were started. Only perhaps Houllier looked sufficiently equipped and then his heart stopped in the dugout.
Currently Liverpool look a quality centre back light, one or two light in the middle of the park and in wide areas. It was thrown into sharp focus by Adam Lallana’s injury, putting him out of action till December. The focus was stronger still when the Hoffenheim draw was made — the fixture list filled to the brim. Five games in 15 days. In truth, it should have made no odds. Liverpool will face Southampton in their cup final on November 18. They face Burnley on January 1. Forty four days and between them 11 league games. Not great. A league game every four days. But add into that a League Cup tie if Liverpool are through and two European fixtures, likely with a lot riding on them. That averages out at 3.14. Liverpool may well play a game for every value of Pi across a month and a half.
This is the tension. This is the potential “what if” writ large across a season. This is the “what if” we have lived over and over again.
Make no mistake, this Liverpool side has the potential to be very good indeed. They played the best football in the country until November last season and they look stronger now than they did then. The Liverpool manager is clearly a brilliant manager of elite players. He isn’t alone, so are the rest of the managers in the top six. Last season Liverpool played the best football in country till November, held on till New Year’s Day and then the wheels fell off in January and early February (while still getting some creditable results) before straightening up and knuckling down and finishing strongly, albeit strongly with an often very weak bench.
Jürgen Klopp may look at this and rightly think he and his squad are stronger now than this time last season. He will muse on Sadio Mane staying for the duration and thrill at Mohamed Salah. He will see many of his players are another year older and reflect this is really only bad news for James Milner of his starting crop. It’s good news for many others in the squad. Older, wiser, stronger. We know the names and the profile of the two extra players Klopp wanted to add but we can also surmise there aren’t a load of alternatives Liverpool are looking at.
Klopp may well be thinking he doesn’t want to compromise on a signing to get in the way of some of his young talent. This would make sense. It does make sense. It might even be the right course of action in building a football squad if one can be properly detached from the process. If there is the idea that you will be Liverpool manager for five more years then why take those chances if you aren’t sure, if you know how good your young players can be, if you remember these lads got you 76 points last season and if you already expect more from them, if you have the experience of getting a side to two titles with passion and excitement and free-flowing football.
The point of football is that there are no guarantees. No side can feel as though they can precisely pinpoint everything that will happen across the course of a campaign. People who run football clubs take gambles all the time. Paris Saint-Germain have just taken an enormous one. Tottenham are taking another, very different one. These two sides could meet over two legs this season and we couldn’t predict the outcome with any real certainty. Football isn’t rugby union and is far, far better for that fact.
And yet. I can think Klopp is right and wrong simultaneously. He can actually be right and wrong simultaneously. There are no guarantees but there is getting as close to a guarantee as you can. When six sides can win the league that means there are six who will fancy top four. Not finishing top four jeopardises the whole five years. There may be the right way to do things, the right way to go about a project, but sometimes the ends justify the means. I have no doubt Liverpool will try to sign Virgil van Dijk between now and August 31. I don’t know if they will look to add in other areas but I can worry myself sick that failing to do so means we will yet again be left with a “what if”.
Further, the league title would mean everything to this football club. It has been just too, too long. Risking the best possible shot at that now because we may well act in a way which means our shot could be better in two years is difficult to compute.
Lastly, I can think these three thoughts simultaneously:
1. The way this club mostly likely wins the league is by being somebody’s project.
2. I don’t want Liverpool Football Club to be somebody’s project.
3. You know I need you more than want you. And I want you for all time.
Your correspondent turns on the shower and gets in and says to himself “we can be champions”. He toasts drinks to “a championship season”. I make myself do things I don’t want to do by pretending if I do them it brings the title closer. My inner monologue is never far away from referring to the football league. There’s a tension knocking about. Football managers may think about process and may be right to do so, may be right not to get embroiled in the above madness, may need to stay away from the fray. But I need you more than want you. And I want you for all time.
See you Saturday, handsome. See you Saturday, gorgeous. Until then, charge your glasses. Here’s to a Championship season. Here’s to not asking “what if”.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Yeah, I’m worried. I’m worried about being too light on numbers. I’m worried about not landing Van Dijk. I’m increasingly and possibly irrationally worried about our Phil Coutinho somehow pitching up at Camp Nou in the coming weeks. I’m worried about the possibility of nuclear war.
However, will any of those fears be allayed if we buy Danny Drinkwater and some random centre-half from Serie A? Honestly, probably not. Let’s hope we land what we need and hold on to our Phil and that Rex Tillerson and the Chinese talk is down from world war 3. Let’s hope, let’s believe. Here’s to LFC, league champions.
Glen Campbell RIP.
We have 5 mids plus grujic milner woodburn. Why do you think we might need 2? Cb clearly and we are a mane or salah injury away from problems in a crowded fixture list.
Baggio? I’d dearly love for you to be the great Roberto….What a player!
Agree with your point about midfield. But what do you think about Gomez as cover at CB instead of buying someone? AND should we hold on to Ojo/Kent to cover Mane/Salah instead of letting them go out on loan?
Management of fsg don’t understand football, rather unfortunate they attached themselves as Bank rollers of the club. Liverpool is not just a club but a religion. We the fans are tied of their lackadaisical attitude in terms of buying the right players for the club. Buy Van dirjk and shame the devil for once, he is a future captain in making for the club.
so – how do you buy a player if the club are not willing to sell? I’d imagine the religious zealots at Barcelona are saying the self, same thing: “Buy the fucking lad, any lad, and pay whatever…it doesn’t matter its not my money! I’m fucking panicking here, get the deal done…”. Yet, the club on the other end of the line are coolly telling them to get lost – what do you do?
What an absolutely awful article!
I have no problem with the content…I think. It was just so difficult to read. Poor grammar, jumbled thoughts, no flow, repeated comments. I had to re-read some parts of it 3, 4 or even 5 times before I understood what you were trying to say. Even now, I’m still unsure what you mean about Southampton being a cup final. I ‘think’ you mean that they will want to beat us because we’ve tried to sign another one of their players. But that’s not clear at all, I’m only guessing really.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. The line “In truth, it should have made no odds.” should have been, “In truth it should have made no ‘difference'” And the line “…Forty four days and between them 11 league games.” should have read “….Forty four days and 11 league games between them.”.
That’s just two examples, but the whole article was littered with things like that. I shouldn’t have to spend time trying to decipher your content, If your publishing an article, it should be clear and easy to read. Unfortunately this one wasn’t and because of that, it didn’t do the content justice.
Phil, I wouldn’t question your grammar skills, but you’re no stylist. Let a little romance into your life.
Haha, fair enough. I’m no stylist that’s true. But i’m not a professional writer either. And in truth, it was only really this article I’ve encountered problems with. I get the sense that it was written in a hurry, or late at night. Other articles are generally fine.
Southampton in November will be THEIR Cup final – think about it. Its pretty obvious.
Let me repeat……I shouldn’t have to spend time trying to decipher your content.
This is a poorly written article and if you think it’s not poorly written, then you need to go back to school.
decipher what? Its pretty fucking self explanatory.
No it’s not self explanatory at all! The whole article is littered with Poor grammar, jumbled thoughts, no flow and repeated comments. The fact that you think that’s acceptable tells me all I need to know about your level of education. As does your use of profanities in your last answer to me. You clearly can’t express yourself without swearing, which shows you have a limited vocabulary and therefore a limited education. As such, I don’t expect you to understand what I’m talking about anyway. But I’ll try to dumb it down for you and give you the idiots version.
The use of THEIR in this sentence “Liverpool will face Southampton in their cup final on November 18” is extremely ambiguous and could refer to either Southampton OR Liverpool. “…THEIR cup final…” could mean Liverpool’s cup final. And so therefore it is not “fucking self explanatory” at all. If I wrote “Liverpool will face “X” in their cup final”. Who does THEIR refer to in that sentence?
Go back to school. Learn how to read and write English. Then come back to me. I’ll speak to you again in two years. Fool!
if you do not understand the context of that statement then you’re in the wrong place mate.
Hahaha, I understand the context perfectly, which is why this particular paragraph was so difficult to read. He’s talking about Liverpool. So when he uses the word THEIR, their should refer to Liverpool not Southampton. It’s even more confusing when you take the sentence out of isolation and include the sentence that follows. ” Liverpool will face Southampton in their cup final on November 18. They face Burnley on January 1.” This makes it sound like he’s specifically talking about Liverpool, which makes the THEIR in the previous sentence Liverpool not Southampton. The context is about Liverpool, and so therefore the use of the word THEIR should refer to Liverpool.
Someone please educate this idiot. I’m tired of it now and i’m not sure i can think on a low enough level to get through to him.
“If your publishing an article”
Sorry to be a *****, but given your message, I must point out it should be
“If you’re publishing an article”
Yeah, good point. well spotted. Do you want to comb through the rest of it and find another one.
Top four will be City,Chavs ,Mu,Arse. Ds,Moreno,Lovren,Kavlan,Ings , Migs shud be sold.
Interesting point of view. So you don’t rate either Spurs or Liverpool’s chances of top 4 this year then. Why’s that?
Also, is it wise to sell Moreno, Lovren, Klaven and leave ourselves with just Matip and Gomez as CB’s??
‘… I shouldn’t have to spend time trying to decipher your content, If your publishing an article, it should be clear and easy to read …’
It’s his style, and the way he speaks on the pods sometimes as well. It may not be your cup of tea, but there’s nothing wrong with having a particular writing style. I’d google some of the things you question too, maybe there are British expressions you’re not aware of, e.g. “make no odds”. Neil’s writing is an acquired taste, is what I’m trying to say.
Your guess about the Southampton line is on the right track though (I think).
It was just this particular article really Amy. I generally don’t have a problem with Neil’s style. I just found this article difficult to read that’s all.
Oh and for the record, I am from England and I’m familiar with the expression “makes no odds”. It’s just a bit too colloquial for the written word though.
Fair enough! (I had to google it myself). I quite like him mixing up the written with the colloquial every now and then – but I can see how it might be too much at times.
Shakespeare, Salinger and, in more recent times, Irvine Welsh are all known and celebrated for their use of colloquial language. Makes no odds but it looks like Neil is in some pretty salubrious company.
Funny how you pick those authors. None of them are easy reads. Thanks for helping to make my point that colloquial is not easy to read.
Eccentric nutters often write like that. If you’re passionate about something you’re writing about it should never be structured, surely. You gotta get it out while you’re the flow. I like that.
*in the flow
I understand your point Robin. But you can be passionate and structured at the same time. Jumbled thoughts written in haste may well be passionate. But rarely do they make for a good read.
I find it funny that you picked up on grammatical mistakes yet made two in your last paragraph! (Full stop required and you’re not your). If you’re going to act like a ball ache you should at least be accurate in your own writing! The Features on this site are free. I can understand you complaining if you were paying for it, but as you’re not and nobody is forcing you to read it, you haven’t got much of a leg to stand on.
Phil, this isn’t a Times or Telegraph article on the machinations of a transfer deal or whatever. It is a fanzine piece about Liverpool, by a Liverpool fan, and what comes across to me very clearly is not just the sentiment of what Neil is saying, but more than anything the pure emotion of it – what it means to him as a fan, how important it is in his life. And I’d hope for anyone on here reading it, that matches up with how important it is in our lives – it’s all I can fucking think about this week, in the run up to the new season! It exactly the kind of writing and article I come back time and again to the Anfield Wrap for
Personally I think Neil and Rob G have become brilliant football writers over the past couple of years, getting the emotion of supporting Liverpool into their pieces like no journalist ever could, or should
Up the Reds, let’s smash this fucking league
I’m a bit late, but I totally agree. Up the reds
Getting Van Dijk and Ox I would be content. Coutinho’s Back problem is a worry. He needs to start vs Hoffenheim.
Yeah, it’s good to progress the kids but Fergie had it right. Don’t rely on them but use them. Weekend before a CL game 3-0 up you rest 3 players on 60 mins. If we have 2 big games with an important CL game in between the likelihood is with our current squad we’d be playing a number of inferior players. One loss can lose you the league. The bench against Watford won’t inspire me much. We’re vvd, 1 quality midfielder and perhaps two others who just need to be of a good quality, short. Ox would be perfect for 1 of them.
@Phil: The line “…if your publishing an article,” should read “…if you’re publishing an article,”.
F’in’ brilliant Neil! Nice Jimmy Webb shout out. Klopp’s the snail on the razor’s edge. He needs a couple of players, and if doesn’t get them and they finish outside the top 4 his 5 year experiment might effectively be toast.
I’ve stopped reading after you said Lallana is out until December. You obviously wrote this article on a bad day. Generally I’m in love with your articles, but sorry, not this time. The answer to your concerns is: we are going to rip apart EPL this year. Whoever will be on the pitch, will be absolutelly amazing, espetially the young guns TTA and Solanke. Cheers.
Guess I’m dumb but don’t Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham also need players? There’s three more weeks to go before the madness ends and a load of late deals will be done so let us all cool our boots and trust our beloved manager.
A wise man once said that handling a transfer window is like making love to a beautiful woman . . . .
Neil referred to this yesterday – look under the covers of the rumours, the bile, the hype and the bullshit and there’s not actually much going on – clubs signing 2 or 3 lads that they need. City have spent around 150m to replace 4 full backs they let go with 3 new ones for example – are they light on numbers now? United’s big move is to replace 28 goal Ibrahimovich with Lukaku – not sure that’s necessarily going to result in a huge goal spike from what they had. And, Neymar aside for a whole host of reasons, despite the cash numbers thrown around, Lukaku is the most expansive transfer at 75m – less than last seasons record. I could go on like this….But I agree, I think there’s a mad couple of weeks about to explode.
our business is, I think, far more reliant on the outcome of the Hoffenheim tie than we might imagine. We don’t have Champions League football yet. Closing out Van Dijk and Keita could be hinging on this – they might not fully commit until they know they aren’t going to end up in Astana on a Thursday night – especially Keita who has CL football lined up already. This could also be why back up targets aren’t in the picture yet.
Nice article Neil. I don’t know how to feel about the new season. The end of the last one seemed to last an eternity and the close season has been torturous (the VVD fiasco, the Keita non story and now the Coutinho worries). I’m incredibly frustrated supporting this club. I want to trust Klopp and I love that he believes in the Woodburns and Trents of this world but, as you say, I can absolutely see us coming up just that little bit short this season and wonder if we can all see it then why can’t the management? I really hope they can and will surprise us before the window shuts. Overall, however, this summer has been really depressing. I just can’t seem to find in myself that innocent love of the game that I’ve always had. The innocence of the fan that is so well encapsulated by all you guys at the Anfield Wrap. It’s the reason I subscribe. I just don’t give a fuck about how much money we have or don’t have. New sponsors etc. The disconnect is huge now between the fans, the celebrities (A Shearer and your £400k, I’m looking at you!) and the players. How much money is enough when people on minimum wage and zero hours contracts can’t afford to pay their TV licence never mind actually go to the game? I try not to let it prevent me from loving the club but increasingly I’m being tested. Today was perhaps a new low. This £25m sleeve sponsorship deal is a fucking disgrace. The shirt should be sacred..it’s bad enough with the Standard Chartered logo being massive but the sleeve too? Come on. It’s awful. And we had an executive from our new ‘partner’ telling people who bought the new shirt without the logo that they can get a free transfer from the company to stick it on themselves. It’s not simply the brazen cheek of that ‘offer’. No. What makes me despair is some idiots will probably actually do it. We have become corporate sandwich boards who pay £50 or more to advertise for these organisations. And what will they do with this money? Pay themselves big fat dividends probably. Why not use the funds to redevelop the Kop or the Annie road end or other parts of the ground to help local, young, ordinary people go to the match and support the club? I hope they are thinking along these lines but sadly I just think greed is winning every day and no one is protecting our game. Shankly knew football clubs made people happy. They shod be treated as collectives, or co-ops, not corporations, me protected by the state or local governments. I’m disappointed in Corbyn the Gooner. I haven’t heard him challenge the economic model that’s ruining the game before our eyes. You often make the point on the Wrap that football seems to make people mad rather than happy these days but to me it’s becoming increasingly clear why. A completely unregulated market is enriching shareholders, owners, select media celebrities and players while alienating the working people who pay them. And it’s sad.
Thank you so so much every body. I enjoyed all your writings and comments.But before we begin to put too much of confidence on this present squad going by last season’s performance, let us consider the fact that the strength of the league across all clubs is not the same compared to last season. A lot of clubs have added quality to their sides especially Chelsea, man City and Man United and we also have the burden of champions league football. So, by all means, we need to add more quality otherwise we might still arrive at the same “what if” at the end of the season.
Glen Campbell also did a great version (is there any other kind?) of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” .
Nice one Neil.
Great article. Messy and nuanced and made me feel a bit better. This is why TAW is the best LFC writing out there.
This question “what if” is a really scary question, you begin to wonder the moment it crosses your mind because there is absolutely no direct answer to this question; there never was.
I hope its going to be a positive “what if”, but i’m absolutely worried about LFC this coming season.
To be honest, i dont see liverpool any where near the tittle.
I think Liverpool and Tottenham will be very happy if they can manage a top 6 position.
here is my prediction which i hope will never come to pass:
1. Manchester United
2. Manchester City
3. Arsenal Fc
4. Chelsea Fc
5. Tottenham Fc
Would be an absolute nightmare for me though….
It’s gonna be a ‘what if’ once again, I’m afraid… In all honesty I think the spine of this team is great, we have some lovely footballers, we can be a great team we on the day. But we lack a few last pieces of the jigsaw. A classy central defender is the main position right now, I think. The only one I really trust there in the current team, is Matip. Lovren and Klavan won’t do enough for me. And although I like the raw talent of Joe Gomez, missing a season with injury, it will be extremely difficult for him to be a regular starter for the young man. So we desperately need someone there with the amount of games we are going to play next season. Central midfield looks a bit thin as well. With te departure of Lucas and Stewart, we are left with Henderson and Can. And I just don’t see Hendo play the entire season. I understand perfectely why Klopp was pushing so hard for Keita, but not getting your eyes on a decent alternative, looks a bit like suicide to me. And finally: keep Coutinho at Anfield this season! If you have the ambition to really do something in the league, in Europe and have some good cup run (how I’d like to see Liverpool lift the FA Cup once again!), you simply need to keep your best players!
Top four? Yes, this squad should have enough quality.
Title? Too far off, I’m afraid. Once again…
Numbers. Numbers. We have 3 GKs, 3 LBs, 4 CBs, 2 RBs, 6 mids, 6 attackers – and that doesn’t include Woodurn, Ijaria etc. in a 433 that’s 2 full sides plus cover. Sign 2 more and we’ve got a handful of lads who’ll be pissed off to miss out on European football entirely this season.
There is a big difference between being light on numbers (which I don’t think we are) and light on depth of quality (which we might be).
KM1806, all your comments are full of sense. Most of us have not thought of champions league qualification possibly being the reason our two major targets have not gone to the extreme to force their way to Anfield. I see great possibility in that.
light on depth of quality (which we might be)….no might about it if you consider we only scraped 4th last season with no other competition. This is another shit FsG window and further proof, if any where needed, FSG will not bring Glory to Anfield
the biggest ‘what if….’ of 2008/09 was ‘what if Torres and Gerrard had been fit to start more than ELEVEN league games together. We were poxed with luck that season and were by far the best team in the league. United got lucky, their one world class player that season, Ronaldo, never missed a game. Our two world class players barely played a game
Also had a bad day yesterday. What with all the Glen Campbell tributes and the Barca action. Never the less, VVD is mandatory to play and compete on 2 fronts, AOC is a good move as it weakens both Arsenal and Chelsea. Let’s hope the silence precedes the incoming transfer action.
Finally, for what it’s worth, reading Neil is the same as listening – interesting, provoking but never spoon fed.
“Klopp may well be thinking he doesn’t want to compromise on a signing to get in the way of some of his young talent”
Nothing should get in the way of any talent in the first XI. They should be talented enough to play and add to our campaign. Development isn’t for the first team to do, its for the U21s.
I’ll never understand the Wichita Lineman love. By The Time I Get to Phoenix, maybe. Especially as it is done by the Four Tops.