Ed Woodward gets plenty of criticism (and some of it richly deserved), but Nick Miller describes a numbers man pushed into the Old Trafford limelight. It's not easy...
It's been a long time in the making, that Southampton Philosophy. And in one summer, it's all been ripped asunder. Has it been replaced by another or the same old?
It's always nice to start articles off with a big, attention-grabbing statement or outrageous prediction, so here we go: Liverpool could win the league. Startling stuff, for sure.
As such, people are getting awfully excited and telling us that everyone will be delighted if this happens, something that Matthew Stanger covered superbly here. As it happens, your humble Profile365er would largely be in favour of a Liverpool title win, if only because a) it's something a bit different and b) the final phase of the meltdown already well underway by a decent section of Manchester United's support will be quite, quite magnificent to witness.
A corollary of being told to be happy about Liverpool winning the league is that we're also being told that Steven Gerrard is the neutral's choice, a conquering hero finally given his just reward and we'll all be delighted if he gets the missing piece of his big medal collection. This is quite a conclusion to reach, because you don't have to be a [redacted] with a [redacted] to understand that some might find the Liverpool and England captain objectionable.
It doesn't stop there though, because we're also being informed by some giddy sources that winning the league will make Steven Gerrard a better player. Indeed, the Daily Mail insisted this week that Gerrard would be the best player in Premier League history should Liverpool triumph.
Of course as Mediawatch on Tuesday noted, the Mail makes statements like this for the attention, much like a child who removes all of their clothes in a playground, or Morrissey when he says basically anything at all, and should perhaps therefore be ignored, but this is a theory that has been mooted on assorted TV and radio broadcasts of late too.
It's a curious idea. Gerrard has undoubtedly been a brilliant player for Liverpool and occasionally England over the past 15 years or so, the book on his ability surely already written, proofed, picked apart by lawyers and sent to the printers, so why would Liverpool finishing top of the league change that?
It's not as if this title charge is because of him; while his retreat to a rather more withdrawn midfield role has certainly helped Brendan Rodgers fix a problem or two this season, he certainly isn't the primary reason for their success. Off the top of one's head, in the list of important factors for Liverpool their two brilliant strikers, incredible pace on the counter attack, the blistering way they start games and Rodgers' tactical planning and flexibility all rank above a solid season in a withdrawn central role by their captain.
From a players' perspective, the winning of titles often has plenty to do with dumb luck. Of course the best players generally gravitate towards the best teams, and once there several individual performances will lead to a successful team, but the obvious nature of football is that if one player is brilliant and the other ten are useless, you aren't going to get very far. Much like an actor can only do so much to determine the quality of a film, a footballer can, in most circumstances, only do so much to win a league on his own. Gerrard himself is the perfect example of this - he has certainly had better seasons than this in a Liverpool shirt, but this term he has a better collection of colleagues and manager, so thus his chances of winning something increase. It doesn't take a deep understanding of the game to know this.
It's not as if we haven't known Gerrard is good enough to be part of a title-winning team before either, and that other managers have picked up on this as well, as the two near-moves to Chelsea and collection of other offers from some of the shiniest and most successful teams in Europe will prove.
Titles do not necessarily reflect a player's quality, particularly if said player remains at one club for reasons other than football, which Gerrard certainly has. The recent obituaries for Tom Finney, who won exactly no major trophies in his career, are evidence that the absence of a shiny collection of pots on the shelf do not mean that people won't remember how good a player is. The honour-less individual player might think their career a little unfulfilled when they sit around the fire and read their ghosted autobiography to their children, but their quality is not defined by their medals.
Steven Gerrard might be the best player of the Premier League era - you can argue that among yourselves, although not in the comments section of this article, please. However, whether Liverpool finish first, second, third or 19th (after a late points deduction for Daniel Sturridge's stupid dance) shouldn't matter in those arguments.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter