Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dear Liverpool: ENOUGH ALREADY

The latest installment in the ongoing soap opera at Anfield is that Hicks and Gillett are supposedly on the verge of refinancing the loan they took out to buy the club in the first place. This suggests that the status quo is likely to remain, at least in the short term -- they won't be selling out to DIC. The question, though, is whether it's going to do Liverpool any good.

Their recent string of results aren't exactly confidence-inspiring: four draws in a row in the league, with an FA Cup win over Luton shoehorned in there. The 5-0 thumping of Luton was sort of encouraging, but it was also the bare minimum you'd expect, considering that their opponents were so decimated I suspect they'd been posting on the club website before the game trying to round up players. As for that string of draws -- against City, Wigan, Boro and villa -- those were all matches that Liverpool really ought to be winning. Their performance in some of those games was better than others, but the fact remains that they weren't ruthless enough to kill them off. And because of that, they've been dragged down into the pack of teams chasing the fourth Champions League spot, rather than up with Chelsea pushing United and Arsenal for the title.

Steven Gerrard has come out and admitted that the off-field drama has affected them on the pitch, to which the rest of us have replied a resounding "DUH." Much as they might want to just ignore it all and get on with playing, that's not easy to do. But if Rafa is clever about it, he should be cultivating a siege mentality with the team -- something that managers like Ferguson and Mourinho have been very good at -- and getting them playing for each other and, especially, for him.

Rafa does at least have the fans behind him now in his power struggle with the owners. Only a year ago, the Kop was acclaiming Hicks and Gillett as their white knight, riding in to rescue the club. Now they've decided that the Americans are the anti-Christ, whereas the Saudis are the latest saviours, which is naive at best and heading for Newcastle levels of delusion at worst. DIC aren't any more likely than the Americans to value "the Liverpool way" over their own bottom line.

Nor are new owners any more likely to keep Rafa Benitez in his job; it's quite possible that they'd want to bring their own man in. One could hope, though, that they wouldn't handle their relationship with the manager in such a ham-fisted manner. Hicks and Gillett have dramatically undermined Rafa's position by talking to Jurgen Klinsmann, no matter how they try to spin it after the fact. And the claims that they were worried about communication problems -- as if these problems were totally independent of anything they could have done -- are just absurd. How hard is it to pick up the phone? It's not as if they have to rely on the Pony Express to send messages to Melwood.

I really don't know what to expect anymore. It's possible that they could resolve their differences, and everyone will get together in a circle to hold hands and sing kumbayah. It's possible that they could sack Rafa and bring in Jose Mourinho, in which case I will curl up into a tormented little ball and cry. Or it's possible that one or both of them (Hicks and Gillett don't even seem to agree with each other half the time) could decide to sell out. And they're going to want to make a significant profit if they do, which means the new owners will probably load the club up with even more debt than it's carrying now. Yay.

So what can we really hope for, from these owners or hypothetical new ones? In an ideal world, the club would be owned by people who believe that the best way to turn a profit is to embrace and build on the club's traditions. In this clearly imperfect world, with the over-riding importance of broadcasting revenues and billionaire Russian oligarchs, some serious investment in the squad would be nice. I'm not saying they need to go out and buy a team of Torreses, but maybe a few more Reinas and Alonsos to go with the Gerrards and Carraghers.

Also: A bit of stability, rather than all these apocalyptic headlines. Is that really too much to ask?


weenie said...

I just want these off the pitch shenanigans to be over with so we can just produce good results on the pitch.

And Rafa to stay too but I could be in for disappointment! :-(

sp3ktor said...

The game against Chelsea in two weeks is looking increasingly pivotal for their season, lose and they could be half a dozen points adrift of that 4th Champs League spot (a position they certainly won't finish any higher than)

Anonymous said...

Hey! I just wanted to say, I love reading your blog! I especially enjoy it because I support the same two teams as you. There are not too many United and Liverpool fans around!

I agree completely with what you say about the goings on at Liverpool. I think everyone needs to calm down and give the new owners a chance. It's true they messed up pretty badly by talking to Klinsman and making it public, but really I doubt that DIC would be that much of an improvement. And as for Rafa, I hope they don't sack him. I don't really understand his selections most of the time, but he has proven himself before. It's up to the players to repay him.