Posts Tagged ‘Arsenal’

‘Do you know what I don’t understand?’ I said to the other half, in a serious monotone. ‘Quantum physics!’ she laughed; probably more out of pity than anything else. My jokes have never been the best.

It makes sense that I don’t understand quantum physics – hence why my joke was so funny. But what doesn’t make sense (and what I also can’t comprehend) is this feeling of optimism I get at every ‘new season’s eve’.

I even had it last year. Well! It was a little different last year. Maybe more along the lines of ‘it won’t be that bad’. Even the signing of Joe Cole made me wonder if we could push our way into the top four. Maybe he’d just gone stale at Chelsea and he’d be rejuvinated in red. Oh, how wrong was I? Poor misguided fool.

It’s not wrong though, is it? It’s perfectly normal to get questions running through your mind:

What if all the signings turn out to be first class, can we push for top four or maybe even better?

Will it make a big difference with us not playing in Europe, while others around us are?

Have Arsenal blown their chances of top four, with two of their best players on the way out of the door? (obviously not the best of poets either!)

Can Kenny Dalglish carry the team to silverware, given the form he got out of a weaker team at the end of last season?

Despite my current optimism my brow has become increasingly furrowed with each signing we’ve made. I’m not sure I understand the logic of paying such a premium for English players. The signing of Andy Carroll still makes my head spin. Not that he’s a bad player and not that he can’t become a great one. Just because the level of improvement we’ll need to see to warrant such an expensive investment is vast.

There is clearly a strategy in play. A plan has been formalised and is being followed with great rigour. Inexorably leading us to fielding the highest number of british players a Liverpool side has seen in a long time. After harping on so many times last season about the need for Fenway Sports Group to plan fully and think differently. I would be a hypocrite to start complaining now.

You can’t help but feel that we’re at a tipping point though. The last chance saloon? If the plan doesn’t work, worse – if it backfires completly, the top four could be a long lost forgotten dream. Our owners don’t appear to have the same financial clout as the clubs we’re competing against, they’ve even admitted as much. So if this doesn’t work – is there money for a plan B? Doubtful.

And yet, I feel optimistic. That optimism is bourne out of trust. Trust in Fenway Sports Group, Damien Commolli and in particular Kenny Dalglish. Three parties all pointing in the same direction, singing from the same hymn sheet with the same goal in mind. What would we have given for that at the start of last season?

No European football will undoutbtedly have a telling impact on how the season unfolds. How many times did we see strong European performances followed by lacklustre domestic showings a few days later. European games put an additional pressure on squads, which in the past has been quite telling. Let’s face it none of those teams in European action are going to want to face us a few days after a trip away.

As for the signings. Well I have to trust those who make such decisions. I’ve been puzzled by them, but I believe those, who know far more than me, believe in why they have made them. Even at a premium. None of them are bad signings, just expensive ones. But if we get greater team cohesion from the outset (and into the future) who’s to say what might actually happen next season.

Cards on the table time. The bit I’ll probably cringe at come the end of the season. But I am going to be brave and set it in cyberspace stone. I think we’ll finish top four, probably with a cup. That will be a platform to build from for the future.

With a dose of good luck, or maybe even just avoiding the dose of bad luck we’ve been known for, I think we could possibly achieve even more. There’s a plan – it’s different and seems to be getting followed meticulously. Put that together with our great club’s key figures all pointing in the same direction and the worlds greatest fans behind them – who knows. Maybe we’ll just skip straight past the platform step.

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As I classed Andy Carroll as the marmite footballer, it would appear my last post was a marmite post. I believe it fell down 50/50 between those who agreed with what I was saying, and others who felt I was being overly negative. The most astounding responses I received though (on twitter mainly) were from people who were just happy we were ‘spending money again’. It would appear that to some, any climbing up the league table is secondary to ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. I find this mentality of ‘potentially wasting money being ok, as long as we’re spending it’ quite baffling to be honest.

I understand some of the logic behind it. Following the years of the ‘sell to buy’ and then ‘sell to survive’ policies of Hicks and Gillett it was indeed good to see the money coming in being used on the squad, and not interest payments. I was merely questioning the way in which the money was being used on a largely unproven striker. I also pointed out that I could well be proved wrong, but at this moment in time I do not see where the value is coming from. Andy Carroll was a risk and with risk comes the potential for reward or loss. Which way it falls is anyone’s guess at this moment in time.

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As the season finally draws to a close the inevitable speculation surrounding Rafa Benitez has intensified to the point where we, as fans, really don’t know what’s going to happen. It is fair to say the number of fans demanding his removal have increased, but it would also be fair to say that a number of hardcore Rafa fans have galvanised their defences for the man.

In some ways Rafa is a victim of his own success. Driving the club forwards, despite the problems around him and without the spending power of his main rivals, like he had done prior to this season was never going to be replicated every year. Meanwhile the club has reached a critical stage across all of its operations off the pitch.

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Today David Maddocks posted an entry on his mirror football blog. I have only had cause one other time to respond on my blog about a work of journalism and, while this entry won’t be as ‘loud’ as my response to Henry Winter, there are some points I want to get off my chest. However rather than writing thousands of words I’ll quote David and then add in my own thoughts.

“Why the ownership issue has been clouding the real reason for Liverpool’s struggles this season: Rafa Benitez”

The title of the piece and already hinting that the struggles endured by the whole team, and not only Benitez, this past season should not be used as an excuse for poor performance. I’m sorry but no matter where you work, what you do and who you work for if there are political shenanigans, a lack of capital investment, auditors casting a material uncertainty over the club’s future, a director telling a customer to ‘go away’, demonstrations against the club, fans chanting about a dislike of the owners etc. (and I really could go on) it will affect all levels of the club/company. This is as true of Tesco or Ford as it is of Liverpool Football Club.

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So the first offer is on the table. According to reports, on Saturday morning the Rhone Group tabled an offer of c.£120m for a 40% stake in the club. Valuing the club at £300m; only £200m shy of the current owners’ valuation. The negotiations commence then and Rhone, or any other investors, find themselves in a strong negotiating position (with RBS applying pressure to reduce the club’s debt by at least another £100m). That said, the more investors who show their cards, the more chance that Hicks and Gillett have of seeing the offers rise towards their valuation. Liverpool Football Club is after all a major brand with some significant potential both on and off the pitch.

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New billboards aimed at the upper echelons of Anfield can now be seen within the Liverpool area. The billboards which pronounce “Tom & George: Debt Lies Cowboys Not Welcome Here” are simplistic, presumably by design, and have the desired impact. Indeed as someone who has been hesitant about Spirit of Shankly and the negative affects of our American owners I actually find them to be effective in the cause.

There appears to have been a significant drive from Spirit of Shankly to increase membership numbers and tweeting evidence would suggest they are. That’s not to say they’ve won over all comers. Fans I speak to still refer to the infamous Munich chants. A reprehensible act which I think will leave them tarnished for some time to come. However, there is little the union can do to repair acts of the past. What they can do, as they are, is stay true to the cause and keep their noses clean from here on in.

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Just did a double take… yes there are only 12 premiership games remaining this season. Only 12 games but, as we are all painfully aware, so much to play for. The coveted fourth spot quite possibly being essential to the future prosperity of our club. The loss of revenues would be significant in itself but then you add in prestige and brand considerations and well… we have to finish fourth.

Finishing fourth may not be as easy as we think, hope or wish though. Manchester City have their billions and while the transfer window is closed there is little denying the quality already littered throughout their squad. Much the same can be said for Tottenham, while Villa remain resurgent under Martin O’Neill. However, not one of these clubs (luckily for us) has taken advantage of our fall from grace earlier in the season. By now it is possible that, had any of the three clubs had the mettle, they could have cemented a fourth spot for themselves. A lack of experience has resulted in inconsistency for the ‘wannabes’ and for that we are thankful.

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There are some people out there this morning who, even at this stage, owe our manager an apology. There is little denying that you don’t know who you are – but for clarification…

You are the naysayers who told us (quite categorically) that the manager had lost the dressing room, despite eleven men playing their hearts out for every one of at least the last 900 minutes of football – finishing this recent run with 10 men playing with more passion, determination and heart than all the naysayers put together. The ones who called for Martin O’Neill to take charge immediately,  before we claimed 17 out of last 21 possible points; for those not in the know – representing title-winning credentials. You are the people who referred to OUR OWN manager as a ‘spanish waiter’ or a ‘retard’ or any one of many other derogatory comments I’ve seen.

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Let us skip past the Hicks and Gillett part of this post shall we? By now you should either sign up to the idea that the owners lied, filled their pockets with gold, piled us into debt for no reason while making our club a laughing-stock, or,  just be tired of the continual drone of news stories, protests and blog posts. Either way there is a very compelling argument to say that our owners, for the mistakes they have made, should put the ‘for sale’ sign up, take what they can and leave the Anfield area (not that they will without financial inducement). Allowing our club to move on to pastures new, but would pastures new bring a short respite or a long-term solution?

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Questions From Fans

Posted: January 14, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Manager Talk
Tags: , ,

Fans are often described as fickle and while I have been berated in the past for using that term, I think most level-headed people would agree that it’s often suitable. Despite years of progress and success, as well as amassing over 80 points the season before. In trying times, when a club needs support, these are some of the questions being asked from ‘fans’:

  • His judgment is failing. He used to see what was needed and buy top-class players. But he has allowed too many key players to leave and didn’t invest in proper replacements. Babel et al are not good enough, are they?
  • We’ve dropped so many points and he blames other teams for defending in numbers. It’s obvious how ‘lower’ teams are going to play, why can’t he change the style to suit the occasion?
  • He has allowed cliques in the dressing room. Our team spirit is nowhere near as good as Manchester United’s, is it?
  • Alex Ferguson changed his back-up team lots of time (Brian Kidd/Steve McClaren/Carlos Queiroz/Mike Phelan) but he has surely paid for sticking with Sammy Lee?
  • I’m still an ‘In Rafa We Trust’ but does all the booing show he’s lost the confidence of many supporters?
  • Hasn’t he been too happy to defend the board and the financing of the stadium as excuses for not competing with Chelsea and the like?
  • Chelsea were ruthless enough to get rid of Scolari – isn’t it time our board did the same? He can’t re-energise this team. The game must be up if they don’t qualify for the Champions League.

I’m sure some of you are nodding your heads and others are getting red in the face, ready to explode.

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