September 6, 2012
When soccer fans think of the best current teams in the English Premier League, Liverpool usually isn’t one of them. However in their heyday, the club wasn’t just one of the best in the UK, it was one of the best in Europe and the world with five European championships to their name as well as numerous English titles. They haven’t won the title since the Premier League was born in 1992/93 with their last championship coming in 1989/90.
When they won their last league title they held the English record at 18 championships, but have seen that eclipsed by Manchester United’s new mark of 19. The team’s slow, but steady decline in the Premier League has been somewhat alleviated by the winning of several domestic and European trophies over that time, but fans are still getting impatient.
With two losses and a tie in their first three matches of the current 2012/13 campaign, the club has gotten off to its worst start in 50 years. The fans suffered through a brutal season last year with the team finishing in eighth position in the 20-team league, and finished closer to the bottom of the table than the top of it.
Some of the reasons for the decline over the last several seasons have been bad management, bad transfers, and simply bad play. The team has struggled mightily over the past couple of seasons with some of the league’s mediocre teams, especially in their home games at Anfield. Things really started to go from bad to worse after they won the European Champions League in the 2004/05 season. This is sort of a strange time to slide though since they were losing 3-0 in the final to AC Milan and came storming back to tie the game and then win it in penalties.
While that scenario would have lifted the confidence of most clubs, Liverpool couldn’t sustain their high. They were still a good team, no doubt about it, but compared to Liverpool clubs of the past they were just a shadow of their former selves. Rafael Benitez was the manager at this time and he simply lost the plot. His team selections and substitutions were controversial to say the least and he started paying exorbitant amounts of money for mediocre players.
Benitez was eventually fired and Roy Hodgson, the current manager of England’s international team was brought it. Hodgson suffered the same fate after he also made some bad player decisions and couldn’t motivate the club. Liverpool fans rejoiced when he was replaced by former manager Kenny Dalglish, who was in charge the last time the club won the league title. Dalglish was in charge last season and led the club to the League Cup championship as well as the FA Cup final, but the team’s league performances were enough to seal his fate and he was sent packing at the end of last season.
Former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers took over the reins this summer and immediately started to dismantle the team. Striker Craig Bellamy left to join Cardiff, Maxi Rodriguez was let go as was Alberto Aquilani and Dirk Kuyt while Charlie Adam was sold to Stoke and Jay Spearing was loaned to Bolton. However, the most talked-about and debated move Rodgers made was loaning English international striker Andy Carroll to West Ham for the season. It was bad enough that Dalglish paid a record 35 million pounds for him from Newcastle, which is a record for a British player, but Rodgers sent him packing without any backup.
When Carroll left, Rodgers didn’t have anybody to replace him and the squad is dangerously thin in the forward department with Uruguayan international Luis Suarez and newcomer Fabio Borini as the only proven strikers in the squad. Rodgers made a huge mistake by letting Carroll go before he found another forward to take his place. The manager simply assumed that American international forward Clint Dempsey would be brought in from Fulham, but the Texan ended up being transferred to Tottenham Hotspur just before the transfer deadline ended on Aug. 31.
Liverpool was embarrassed 3-0 by West Brom in their season opener before tying Manchester City at home 2-2 and losing at to Arsenal 2-0 at home. This represents just one point out of a possible nine and it puts the club eight points back of first-place Chelsea already. The poor results and the Carroll fiasco led club owner John W Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox, to write an apology to the team’s fans on its official website.
Henry tried to defend the club’s record as well as the handling of Carroll. He said the team tried to find another forward, but it just didn’t happen. However, he still didn’t explain how they could let Carroll go first without making sure they had a backup plan. He said the usual, such as he was disappointed, but the club is still trying its best etc. He then gave Rodgers a vote of confidence and said he believes in his manager’s judgement.
Unfortunately, Henry then blamed Liverpool’s former owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks for the current mess at Anfield and said the team is still trying to undo the mistakes that the earlier regimes made. He said it can’t be done over night and also admitted that his ownership group has also made some errors since taking over two years ago. He added that the club is in better shape now though than it has been for several years.
Many observers feel Liverpool has nobody to blame but themselves for the current state of affairs and don’t have any sympathy for them. One of soccer’s golden rules is to make sure you don’t let a major player leave until somebody else is brought in. It was believed that former Liverpool and England star Michael Owen may be signed to add some depth to the squad, but Rodgers said he was injury prone and too old at the age of 32. Owen, who was a free agent after leaving Manchester United at the end of last season, was then signed by Stoke City.
Fulham claimed that Liverpool could have had Dempsey if they were willing to pay the price for him, but they offered just three million pounds. Dempsey was then sold to Tottenham for double that amount. Another striking option was Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge, but that deal also fell through. Liverpool is more or less stuck with their current squad now until January when the next transfer window opens. If any of their forwards suffers an injury between now and then, the club could find themselves in the relegation zone by Christmas.