By Lee Jaundrell 29/3/12
‘If you buy above average players, you end up with an above average team.’
I don’t know who actually said that about the current Liverpool team, but I think they got it spot on. Kenny Dalglish (and Damien Comolli) have spent a lot of money (also recouped a sizeable amount) on players in the past 15 months, but have Liverpool really had a chance of a top 4 finish with the quality of player bought? Dalglish has been fighting a losing battle to be honest. Throw in some bad luck, a few poor performances and you have a team currently lying seventh in the league, an above average position.
This is a season which has seen Chelsea struggle, Arsenal play poorly until a recent upsurge and Tottenham falter lately. It is a season with top 4 places were up for grabs. Next season I believe will be tougher, at least 2 of those 3 will improve, if not all 3. The top 5 will look impregnable, maybe for some time.
So where did it all go wrong (to steal a bellboy’s question to George Best) for the Carling Cup winners/FA Cup Semifinalists? The above average signings!
Andy Carroll;- A cult hero in Newcastle, big, strong, great in the air, are all the things we expected from big Andy (or ponytail as my wife calls him) but have seen very little of this. The odd good flick on, a couple goals but thats about it. The stat doing the rounds on Twitter of Liverpool’s record when he starts recently is astounding, won 5 and drawn 2 of the last 7 games he’s started. It would appear he brings the best out of the players around him. If he is to prove successful, surely he needs to start every game. But to date at the price paid I’d rate him a 5 out of 10 signing. Average
Jordan Henderson;- A lot of money was spent on this up and coming midfielder. Young, English, good one touch player, plays with his head up and obviously has ability, but maybe he hasn’t done it for the reds so far this season is because he doesn’t have game intelligence. He seems lost being played out of position on the right. He never makes the right run, he receives the ball, plays a quick one touch pass then looks lost to what to do next.
In Dalglish’s first spell as Liverpool manager he had the out and out winger on the left John Barnes and the more flexible Ray Houghton cutting inside to help the midfield from the right, unfortunately Downing and Henderson are not Barnes and Houghton.
The big hope for Henderson is that he will blossom playing as a box to box central midfielder, he reminds a bit of David Platt but without the goals. Saying that, was David Platt really that good without the goals? 5/10. Average
Stewart Downing;- Liverpool needed a left winger, they went out and bought the ‘best’ available English left winger, and paid what was needed. That’s part of what the Moneyball principle says,‘fill what’s needed, pay what’s needed.’ But Downing has been, for want of a better word, pants. Bought, you would think, to provide the service from wide for Ponytail, sorry big Andy Carroll to thrive on. Downing this season couldn’t cross a road. I don’t have the stats. but the number of crosses that reach a Liverpool player in the box is minimal. In some quarters Downing was made Man of the Match in the Carling Cup final against Championship Side Cardiff, but in the whole of that game, I can remember only one cross which reached it’s target. Maybe he’ll improve, but will he get the chance? Raheem Sterling came on against Wigan and looked bright. Dalglish has a decision to make between now and the end of the season, 2 of Downing, Bellamy, Maxi or Sterling to compete for the left sided role, in my opinion, Downing is forth on that list. 1/10. Poor
Charlie Adam;- Oh Charlie, Charlie! £6million isn’t a lot of money is this day and age, Liverpool should of had a bargain, but it hasn’t quite worked out. Adam has talent, an excellent range of passing, a good dribbler and £10million’s worth of corners. Firstly, those corners, Liverpool have scored 4 goals from 247 corners in the league this season, read that slowly 4 from 247! Adam had had some good games, but the bad ones far outweigh them. Poor decision making, especially after a good surging run has been part of the downfall, and talking of downfall, why oh why do you fall over so often looking for free kicks. 6/10. Slightly above average considering his cost
Not one of the above 4 signings would get close to getting into the sides in the top 5, how can we of expected Dalglish to make Liverpool a top 4 team with these 4 in the heart of the team?
There have been good signings too; Bellamy has been an excellent free transfer, his performance against Man City in the Carling Cup Semi Final was just immense. Enrique has been part of a very strong defence (Johnson, Skrtel & Agger included), and offers variety going forward. He is quick, strong, good on the ball and is very confident, though at times he hangs onto the ball a little too long. That leaves the one major successful signing, Luis Suarez, for effort, skill, and will to win you couldn’t ask for more.
This leaves the question of whether with these signings, and the unfortunate injuries to key players, did Dalglish have a chance of taking Liverpool back into the Champions League?
The squad appears deep in above average talent, but seems to lack a very strong first 11. Which seems to be the complete opposite of the time under Benitez, when the first 11 was very strong, but underneath there wasn’t much. At times Liverpool have been excellent, the defensive partnership of Agger and Skrtel is arguably as good as it gets in the league this season, with Skrtel, in particular, putting in a player of the season performances, well until he was moved from right side centre back to left side to accommodate Carragher in Agger’s absence, and has looked quite shaky against QPR and Wigan.
In attack the team has produced chance after chance, though not always clear cut. Suarez being at the heart of these chances, either creating of trying to finish, and in most cases both. He is trying too hard, if that’s possible, that when a chance comes is way, is finishing has been poor due to the effort used in creating. Gerrard is currently Liverpool’s best finisher, as the game against Everton again proved, but he has been playing far too deep for most of the games he’s played.
Lucas has been a big loss, Spearing, although committed, wouldn’t get into most Premier League sides, he was shown as a level or 2 below by Man Utd away earlier this season, buying a defensive midfielder last January was imperative if the top 4 was to be a realistic target.
So, in conclusion, the signings are not up to top 4 class, blame can be apportioned to both Dalglish and Comolli for this. The side has also lacked direction at times, are we a pressing side, or a sit back and absorb side. At times it has been both, at times neither.
If Liverpool are to get back into the Champions League soon, radical changes are needed. Whether that is massive investment in players during the summer, or a new radical, progressive manager is put in place instead of Dalglish to push the side on, or maybe both is in fact needed. One thing is for certain, if things stay the same, and above average players are again bought in the summer, another season of being above average is in store. Dalglish 6/10. Comolli 3/10.