Liverpool Football Club's standing within the Premiership

Posted by Col on December 27, 2003, 06:13:41 PM

If it were a market, the top three would be seen to have a monopoly, that's for sure. The drop in television revenue and the like has affected everyone bar about 6 clubs equally, so now everyone bar Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle and ourselves are working within roughly similar budgets.

The top three have awesome economies of scale, the more money they get, the better they become, the more they can spend, and this just isnt possible for the rest of the Premiership. Their size can work against them though, and it's no suprise to see Chelsea regularly spending over the odds on players - Damien Duff, anyone? They cannot be touched in terms of money management at the moment - until Mr Abramovich's interest in his new hobby dwindles and he sells out to someone who cant realistically afford to keep the same cash flow statures.

This would mean that give them a short while, and they too shall sell up, and the trend will continue. It may be the case, however, that the Roman empire grows expinentially, and they become the new Real Madrid, a team of superstars with the ability to buy anyone they want. They are not there yet, but there is definite potential for them to do so. For now, or so it seems, they are out of everyones league in terms of the amount of cash they can throw at problems and the unfortunate realism is that, no matter how much we hate it, money can buy success, if the spending is in the correct areas and economic loss is not an aspect.

Leeds failed because they spent more money than they had, in an all-or-bust gamble, and they lost. Boo hoo, sucks to them. The thing is with Chelsea, they have money. Unlimited amounts, or so it would seem, at least whilst they are still being run by Mr Abramovic. So in that sense, they cannot fail in the same way Leeds did. The only way they will fail is if Claudio Ranieri's man management skills cannot handle 2 full squads full of superstars - that would be an immensely hard task for any manager, anywhere. Chelsea's biggest hope, and also their potential biggest downfall, is that they are not currently being run as a plc, but all their money comes from private investment. The reality is, if Roman sells up, Chelsea are no more. The amount of debt Chelsea Village plc were in before he came along is testament to the fact that the other moneymen within the Stamford Bridge setup do not know what they are doing, and they simply wouldnt be able to pay the wages of 25 international stars. They woul 'do a Leeds'.

However, in Peter Kenyon they have secured the services of one of the best moneymen around. He was one of the main reasons United are as big as they are now - not just in playing terms. His marketing knowledge seems to know no bounds, and whilst everyone outside Manchester United's staff and fan base despises the Manchester United brand - it cannot be denied that it is an awesome brand in terms of simple selling power, much like the New York Yankees (a club Utd have an affinity with and marketing collaberations). How many people wear the famous NY logo without knowing whether they play baseball, basketball or American football?

Manchester United are much the same, they are a brand first and foremost, a football second. Many fans will disagree, but it is the truth. As the NY logo does not imply they are a sports team, just a commercial brand, so too now does the Manchester United badge. In case you hadn't noticed, If you look at the crest, they have dropped the words 'Football Club' from their crest. Commercialisation at its worst.

There can be no doubt that their selling out has got them where they are today - the biggest club in England, whether we as Liverpool fans admit it or not - and they seem to have become so big tat they are untouchable in terms of economic threat. They are ruthless in the way they manage their cash, and are simply too clever to lose. They have exploited the commercial market to the maximum, and it has only benefited them as a team.

They can afford to spend £30,000,000 on one defender, £28,000,000 on one midfielder and have one of the best Academies around. They are currently the number one club in the country, due to a number of reasons.

Alex Ferguson brought an air of arrogance to the club when he moved from Aberdeen, and whilst speaking with a United fan on Christmas Eve, he admitted it played a major part in making them the team they are today, but is also the reason everybody else seems to hate them. A lot are jealous, but some are not. We are not, because we are more successful than them. We weren't hated when we were on top, we were respected and feared. Manchester United plc currently rule through fear, and it's done them wonders.

Although they do have many gloryhunting fans (inevitable with success), they also have one of the most loyal sets of fans around. It is often commented that their travelling contingent is the best in the country, and I find it hard to disagree. If - and don't read anything into this - we were United fans, then every one of us would be that little bit more arrogant than we are now, even if we were not the team on top. The reason? They are ruthless. They are arrogant. They are run like a business, but the football side benefits. They have extremely loyal fans who will keep providing them with cash. They have played the plc game and succeeded. They will only grow, and the rest of us are playing catchup.

In my opinion, the two aforementioned clubs are streets ahead of anyone else in the Premiership in terms of the business approach and the amount of cash they have, even despite the fact they are run differently. Whilst United are shrewd in their signings and they make less blunders than most ( eg Veron cost twice the amount they sold him for, and they have had some truly awful players in the last 10 years - Taibi, anyone?), Chelsea seem to be content to use the scatterbomb approach - buy and buy until the problems are solved. They can, and they will.

In footballing terms, the 'big three' is made completed by Arsenal. Arsenal are an interesting case, for whilst they have some awesome players and a first-class manager, they are not a rich club. They cannot afford the move to Ashburn Grove they have their hearts set on,  and will not be able to do so unless they start winning major trophies on a more regular basis. Put simply. though, they do not have the squad to do this. Take out Vieira, Pires, Henry and Ljungberg, and they are no more than an average side. They do not have the strength in depth that United and Chelsea both have in abundance. Nobody does. However, they are always a threat and nobody would be able to complain if they won the league again very soon - they brand of football they are capable of is astounding and a true joy to watch. In Theirry Henry they have the best centre forward in the world, without question. He can win them games on his own, and has done many times in the past. His all round game is unbeatable, and his finishing outstanding. Wenger, Vieira and himself are the 3 reasons Arsenal are such a good team - their finaincial mis-management however, ensures they are not a big club.

Liverpool are the only other big club in the league, despite not having a team consistently capable of challenging for major honours. The way we are run financially is excellent, considering the fact the last thing we want is to go down the plc route. It is often noted how much money has been available to Gerard since his arrival, and that is testament to the board. No matter what we may think of individual members personally, they have made the money available when needed, and that is all we can ask for.

We have a manager with excellent knowledge of the European game, and a footballing brain second to none. Whilst I am not convinced that all the backroom staff are up to the job, it cannot be denied that Gerard has so far done wonders for us. He has brought us back into contention for trophies, albeit not the ones we would like, just yet, and assembled a squad capable of being champions.

Or should that be a team capable of being champions, but a squad only capable of being pretenders? We have seen this season that injuries can hit us hard - and when certain players are out we just do not look up to the job. Try telling me that and team facing a lineup that involves the names Owen, Gerrard, Hamann, Kewell, Carragher, Hyypia etc will not be bricking themselves, and I will slap you with a wet kipper. They are champions each and every one, and deserve to be up there at the end of the year.

However, should our teamsheet read Cheyrou, Heskey, Riise, Murphy, Traore and Diao, and they would not be scared. They would be confident. The quote "There are two great teams on Merseyside - Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves" unfortunately does not ring true any more, and we all know it. I am a great fan of Murphy, I like Riise and I have defended Heskey for years on end - but they are not performing like we know they can.

Emile was amazing in the treble season, but now he is below both Baros and Sinama in the pecking order to partner Michael Owen up front. What went wrong? That is something I'm afraid only he knows, and only he can sort out. Personaly, I don't think he will get the chance - he's had enough of them in the past and doesn't deserve another. I feel excited when Flo plays up front in a way I haven't since Michael came along, and Baros is a breath of fresh air. Emile, to me, is not a centre forward. Or a winger. Hell, I'm not sure he's even a footballer at the moment, but then when I look back to the treble season, I know he is; I know he was. He's had the longest drop of form in the history of football - or has he? I get the feeling now that during the treble season he was playing above his station - the rosiest of all purple patches - and will not be able to recreate that form.

Danny Murphy is another who frustrates me. I really like him, I know how good he can be, but I don't get to see it often enough. Yesterday was a perfect example. He pulled off two quality backheels, but failed to be able to pass the ball 10 yards. He's about as consistent as Smicer, and that's frustrating.

Vlad is one of my favourite players, and yesterday showed why. I thought he had a cracking game, and has been playing quite well for a few weeks. He's started to throw himself around a bit more despite his diminutive stature, and seems to be playing for the shirt more than ever. On this form, he's a great asset. When not on form, I want to strangle him.

Some of our other 'squad players' have a hell of a lot to prove, though. Riise is a perfect example of someone who had a great first season, but has gone downhill rapidly since. There's no question that when Carragher and Finnan are fit, he'll be on te bench. And that's his own fault. Semmy has shown his quality, and deserves his place in the team at the moment. The same cannot be said for all, though, take Bruno Cheyrou for example. Although he's been plagued by injuries, our 'new Zidane' hasn't quite lived up to his name. He's not even a new player, really, as he doesnt ever seem to have played!

Igor has, on the whole, impressed me a lot this season, and Djimi has improved tenfold. I would not be happy with them as a defensive partnership just yet, but they have both proved themselves to be reasonable backup.

All in all, we have a good squad. Not perfect, but way above where we're playing at he moment. Players like Salif Diao should not be anywhere near a Liverpool first team, but with 7 players out, we can't complain about having an international midfielder as backup. If we had everyone in our first team fit for a sustained period, we would be up there. The solidarity seems to be coming back, and the players will back the manager to the hilt. And so tey should too, for he is the reason they are here.

In my opinion, Liverpool's first XVI is as follows: Kirkland, Finnan, Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Diouf, Kewell, Gerrard, Hamann, Owen, Baros, Dudek, Riise, Smicer, Murphy, Sinama.

That leaves out players like Le Tallec, Heskey, Biscan, Traore, and Cheyrou - all of whom we know can produce the goods (take the above formation to be if we play with a standard 4-4-2, my opinion of personnel changes with the system we use, the opposition etc etc).

That, to me, is a very good squad. That squad can win things. If every player on the teamsheet played for the Liverbird, we could achieve great things. Our problem is, that a select few do not seem to do this. They do not fight for the cause, and hence do not produce their best. They underperform, and Liverpool Football Club should not tolerate underperformers. Some need to be shipped out, there is no doubt about that. I will not name names, we all know who doesn't deserve to be here.

Do we need to bring in someone to motivate the players more? Or should that be the backroom staff's job? For all his technical nouse, Houllier is not a motivator. Thompson is, but as we saw with Fowler, he lets things get too personal. The majority of our players have the abilities required, but some also have a lack of motivation / desire to use them. That is a problem which must be solved, and if I knew how to do it, I'd be manager right now.

The thing is, I don't know how to solve it, you don't know how to solve it, and as hard as it may be to accept, nobody currently at the club seems to know how to solve it. That, for me, is the major worrying factor about the club at the moment - the fact we don't need to throw money at this particular problem, but because of this, we don't seem to know how to solve it. A worrying thought indeed.

Still, the staff know a lot more than me, and they will get it sorted, hopefully sooner rather than later. Then, we will challenge. Then, we will win things. ALLEZ.

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