Our reputation still holds - but for how much longer?
After an encouraging performance on Sunday all eyes will be on the game against Bolton to see whether this is indeed the start of a revival at Liverpool FC or simply an aberration that gives the false illusion of hope. Whilst all Liverpool fans will hope it is the former, the task that confronts the club's players, manager and owners should not be underestimated.
Rafa Benitez left a squad in decline. Yes the overall quality of the squad was better than what he inherited, but only marginally. That he spent an extremely large amount of money in all but his last season or two in charge should guarantee as much, if not more. On too many occasions Rafa went for quantity rather than quality. That we could have bought David Silva for ÃÂ£22 million but chose not to in favour of adding more than one player to our squad still leaves a bitter taste. Despite everything that the owners were, Benitez is to blame for this. What have the players Liverpool FC bought instead of Silva provided the club?
Xabi Alonso's case is another example of when Benitez put his personal vanity ahead of the club's progress. That he could have reconciled his differences with the player for the good of the club was obviously asking too much. It is no coincidence that Liverpool's fortunes have drastically fallen with Alonso's departure. He played a pivotal role in the team. Not only did he develop into a solid ball-winner but he was excellent in building up attacks and providing Gerrard the confidence to push further forward and play just behind Fernando Torres. With Alonso's departure our team was left without a spine and the subsequent poor results were sadly inevitable. Benitez's excellent work in bringing in a player of Alonso's class for under ÃÂ£15 million was nullified by one act of pride and narcissism.
The fact that Benitez left us with three world-class players is quite frankly embarrassing. A club of Liverpool's stature should have more, many more. However it is more the fact that Reina, Gerrard and Torres are surrounded by far too many average players that is real problem at Liverpool. No club can boast of eleven world class players, but what differentiates the great clubs from the good ones is that apart from star players, the rest of the playing squad is of a very high level. Take Chelsea for example, they have four out and out quality players in Chech, Cole, Essien and Drogba. But what makes them such a great team is that they have supplemented these players with very good ones like Alex, Bosingwa, Malouda, Mikel, Anelka and Lampard. This is something that Liverpool need to address and pretty quickly. Top players nowadays want to play with best and win trophies on a regular basis or they will move one, plain and simple. Contracts have lost their worth and meaning. They are not even worth the paper they are written on.
However it is not all doom and gloom for Liverpool. The one advantage they have, and it is heightened with the arrival of new owners, is history. Liverpool FC is still held in high regard not only in Britain but across the footballing world. Top young players still aspire to join a great club like Liverpool because of the history and heritage that is has. Recent quotes attributed to Ibrahim Afellay, an excellent young Dutch playmaker, prove as much. Hodgson and the owners need to take advantage of this and sign some quality players before Liverpool FC loses its appeal.
That a player of the calibre of Afellay still regards us as 'one of the big clubs' is comforting indeed. Afellay is the latest in a long line of Dutch players who have been gifted with an innate football brain. Pacy, skilful and a great passer of the ball, he possesses the qualities that a club like Liverpool should always be on the lookout for.
However, such is the shortage of quality players at Liverpool that one or two additions will not do. Liverpool needs four or five quality signings. However I believe and hope that NESV will avoid the temptation to spend heavily in January because if resources are limited indeed, then January market does not provide the same sort of value that the summer window offers. A statement of intent is needed for sure and a quality signing will no doubt be welcomed, but the brunt of the rebuilding process needs to happen in the summer after a proper evaluation of both the squad and market has been conducted.
The next few months are perhaps the most crucial in the history of the great club. If Liverpool manages to recover from this slump and push up the league and somehow star challenging for the Champions League places, then this club will once again be in a position to attract the very top names and build on an already lofty reputation. If however Liverpool falters and fails to string together a run of consecutive wins and finds itself barely qualifying for the Europa League then I am afraid NESV will have a real fight on their hands to keep hold of their best players, let alone find new ones to complement the ones they have.
However as ever I will look to the positives. It was a good performance on Sunday and another one this weekend might just provide the impetus we need to push up the table. A win is imperative not only for the short term future of Liverpool Football Club, but its long-term survival as well.