Building the champion team
Posted by Rushian on November 18, 2003, 04:15:35 PM
They say it is better to have a Champion Team than a Team of Champions. Well, probably. What some people fail to realize, however, is that to build a team capable of becoming champions, you need players who are champions in their own right. For there are some footballers who have the look of the champion about them, and some (no matter how good they may be) who don?t. Unfortunately, too many of Liverpool?s players fall in the latter category.
A cursory glance around the league and we see several of these champions. Arsenal have in Thierry Henry a man who can carry any football team, but he is ably supported by Vieira, Wiltord, Pires and Sol Campbell. As much as we?d hate to admit it, Manchester United has champions all over the pitch ? Mikael Silvestre, Ryan Giggs, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and of course Roy Keane the pick of the bunch. Claudio has invested Roman?s roubles wisely at Chelsea, and it looks like the likes of Adrian Mutu, Damien Duff, Wayne Bridge, Hernan Crespo and Eidur Gudjohnsen are going to ensure the Blue machine keeps on rolling till the end of the season.
Gerard Houllier has rightly said that his team has three leaders, right down the middle in Hyypia, Gerrard and Owen. They form the backbone of the team, and the tone of any game depends on how up these three are for it. Harry Kewell has started all of Liverpool?s Premiership games this season, and he has proved every bit a champion. He never stops trying, and will be an important part of any championship assault we plan to make.
The left back position is a problem for us. John Riise is a good enough replacement for Kewell on the left wing, but defensively he leaves us too vulnerable. Djimi Traore shows promise but unfortunately not enough quality. The perfect man for the job, however, currently nurses a broken leg, but one would feel that though Jamie Carragher makes a great fullback, he is a better centre-half. For a key component in any championship-winning side is the full-back?s ability to get forward and support the attack, and deliver quality balls into the six yard box.
Till we find that left back though, the combination of Hyypia and Henchoz will do fine. Igor Biscan, despite recent performances, is still an accident waiting to happen, and he lacks the conviction and purpose required of a champion player. We have found our championship-material right back: Steve Finnan continues to impress both defensively and while going forward. His cross to set up Heskey?s goal at Fulham was outstanding in its conception and execution.
It seems very harsh to say that the jury is still out on Jerzy Dudek ? he is an outstanding goalkeeper, a proud international, and has saved us on numerous occasions. Sometime, however, in the next 18 months Chris Kirkland needs to be given an extended run in the first team. If only he could steer clear of injury.
Dietmar Hamman?s importance to Liverpool is without question. He ties up the loose ends behind the midfield, protects the back four, and crucially, allows Steven Gerrard to get forward. Danny Murphy is a very neat player, he is the master of all things simple, and a brilliant exponent of the dead ball. Sometime soon, however, one of them have to be replaced, for there is an urgent need for more quality in our midfield. And I am not alone when I state my belief that the team able to prise Rafael Van Der Vaart from Ajax will have a real shot at Champions League glory. That boy has unquestioned talent, and the confidence to show it in the face of the world?s best defenders.
We can only hope Michael Owen signs a new contract, and that if he does, he will soon be rejoined by the excellent Milan Baros upfront. Sadly, players such as Traore, Biscan, Heskey and perhaps even Vladi Smicer (despite admittedly recent good form) will never be a vital cog in a championship-winning team, and must be replaced by players of that quality, perhaps in the mould of Boumsong and Cisse. It is frustrating when we realize that in the last two years we have released players who have it in them to mount a championship assault, most notably Jari Litmanen and Patrik Berger, both of whom left for a combined total of nothing.
On that note, after five years, it is time to evaluate Gerard Houllier?s reign as manager. He was definitely made us a more professional outfit, his attention to the ?little things? ?diet, for example ? is remarkable, and he clearly has the support of his captain (with Michael Owen notably offering strong support this week). Liverpool have not sacked a manager in fifty odd years, and I doubt that is going to change. Houllier, however, does not inspire the message the second best is not good enough. To support your players is one thing, but to repeatedly say it doesn?t bother you that your strikers miss big chances in big matches is worrying ? I have written here in support of Le Boss before, but he cannot accept mediocrity. To do so would be akin to welcoming it. Bill Shankly once said,"I was here during the bad years too. One year we finished second." That is the attitude our players need to be fed.
Several changes, then, are in order. The transfer window opens in January, and Houllier?s actions then, and at the end of the season, are of immense importance. The fact that he gave a trial to an out of contract 32 year old in Milan Rapaic is, frankly, disappointing, as have been some of his other purchases - read Bernard Diomede and Jean Michel Ferri.
In the meantime the two French kids Pongolle and Le Tallec must be allowed to grow into their roles in the team, as it will only be a matter of time before they lay strong claims (if they are not already) to a starting role. We must also pay due attention to our young Academy players, and it is about time that we decide whether or not Richie Partridge and Neill Mellor have a role to play at Anfield. John Welsh should make the jump to the first team soon and I expect he might be a big player for us in the future.
How do you build a championship-winning team? You fill the pitch with dedicated Champions. Not just two or three, but enough on the field, and on the bench, to blow the opposition away, week in, week out. The time has come to produce that Champion team.
? redsofmerseyside 2003
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