It's is one of football's accepted clichés, but Liverpool's form this season makes a mockery of the term 'team in transition'. It's just a weak facade for failure...
Football managers are often lauded for their mind games, man management and tactical planning. Isn't that the least we should expect, given that it's their actual job..?
The sales of replica shirts are not much of a guide to anything, other than poor taste in clothing and the delusion that a football shirt is appropriate leisurewear for social occasions.
The most successful clubs usually sell the most shirts. Top of the list are Manchester United and Barcelona. Of course. What a surprise. Also in the top ten is famously potless failures Arsenal, which might be something of a surprise given their manager's inability, until this season, to realise he's been wrong all along and his critics right.
Arsenal's global appeal might be understandable considering their endless, if fruitless, Champions League qualifications and the league titles they won half a generation ago. However also in the top ten is Liverpool. The fact that Liverpool still pull in big shirt sales despite not even being near the top of the English game is a testament to how big a football name Liverpool remains. Other clubs in the top ten shirt sellers have a long list of major trophies in the last 20 years to support them, especially league titles, but Liverpool just have the Champions League. The last four years have been especially dispiriting dross, so these sales are not glory hunter sales. There's no glory in supporting Liverpool.
Watching the team play is monumentally frustrating. Half the bloody side look well off the standard required to be a top four club, half the side look good enough to be league champions. The manager seems to flip between being insightfully astute and being a potato-headed fool. He signs utter rubbish and top quality. Can he really spot a player that'll be any good for them in the Premier League or is it all just hit and miss luck? I mean Iago Aspas. Really?
Steven Gerrard, their totemic player, seems to go from being axiomatic fulcrum to being a redundant but un-droppable creaking hoofer trying to re-live former glories.
While being some way from being called a fan, like many people, I'm broadly pro-Liverpool and I'd like to see them do well, and that just makes watching them so carpet-chewingly frustrating. I'm not sure why I'm so affectionate towards them as I have no connection. Maybe it's all those glory nights in the 70s and 80s, maybe it's the fact that they still seem to be an old school working class club and less touched by corporate whoring than some (though not many), maybe it's the residue of my Rafa Benitez love making me feel all warm and fuzzy - and by the way, you should never have sacked him, never.
Whatever it is, I'm not alone. The continuing popularity of Liverpool is really quite a phenomenon in these fickle, success-chasing times. That Champions League trophy must have helped sustain global interest in them but that was eight years ago now, and eight years is a long time in modern football.
With no league title for a generation, it'd been easy to imagine them becoming also-rans but they haven't. Go anywhere in the world and Liverpool are still big news. They have supporters clubs all across the globe and are especially popular in Scandinavia.
This popularity has been sustained on almost no success so presumably it is rooted in some sort of genuine empathy for the club and its history. So imagine how massive Liverpool would become if they won a league title or won in Europe again and began to do this more regularly. There is a widespread, casual interest in Liverpool, a default to goodwill such as my own which would flourish into outright support where they to become properly successful again. The riches that await a successful Liverpool are phenomenal and would be on a scale unimagined by pretenders like money-bags Manchester City and Chelsea.
A resurgent Liverpool FC would even be good for world football, as one of the Big Beasts would be back on the biggest stage and going toe-to-toe with other big names of world football. Anfield would once again become a place to intimidate and inspire rather than the apologetic, quiet stadium it all too often is today. Clubs like City and Chelsea can spend their billions in order to be successful but they're a long way from attracting the kind of warmth and affection that many hold for Liverpool. Either would struggle to maintain popularity without trophies. Liverpool seem to sustain on nothing more than the fumes left behind after success has driven away.
I wonder if the club's owners really grasp how big Liverpool could become. They've sunk decent money in - much of it wasted by poor managerial judgement - but nowhere near enough to transform the club into title challengers. The cultural and sporting power of a successful Liverpool would be licence to print money and would, in the long-term, repay almost any degree of investment. The worry, of course, is that Brendan is a bit too...well...Brendan-ish to know what the hell to do with a lot of investment.
For all of the mickey-taking we do about him, rather like the club itself, a lot of observers would rather like Rodgers to do well and to prove that his ideas about how football should be played and how to go about rebuilding a big club, are right. But are they? When you see them fail to compete properly against Arsenal on almost any level, it's natural to have a lot of doubt.
I just can't understand why Liverpool still have so many average players in their squad and why they even get a game. It suggests that the owners don't yet have real faith either in their acquisition as a money-earner or their manager as a visionary. There's probably no other club on earth that could generate the income that Liverpool could once they are successful. If the owners dumped half a billion quid into the club over the next three or four years, they'd have it all back and much more within the decade.
It's all there for Liverpool. They're forever on the brink of being the biggest club on the planet. Then they take to the pitch and you realise how far away this really still is. It does my bloody head in, so God knows what it must be like for a Liverpool fan.
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