The news that Fernando Torres will be with us this season is clearly a welcome relief.
Nothing has been heard from the striker himself however we are told he is looking forward to getting back for the new season. At the beginning of the summer I expected us to lose at least one of Torres, Gerrard and Mascherano, with the latter being favourite to go. To lose two of the three would have been a severe blow and any money received would not, have fully compensated for the message their departure would have sent out about the state of the club. Nonetheless even though he is staying Torres, inadvertently or not, has given us a warning shot across the bows. We need to have concrete signs of improvement, or genuine plans in place for us to do so, by this time next or it will almost certainly be “adios”?
Torres wants success to make him more inclined to stay. I don’t know if winning the UEFA Cup would do it for him but if he does he will have probably earned it, even though he won’t be starting tonight’s game.
Last season when went out of the Champions League I wrote a piece
defending the credibility of the UEFA Cup or as it is now called The Europa League.
My reasons for doing this were based on a number of things. Firstly I was trying to be positive about the disappointment of our early Champions League exit. Secondly I still haven’t really come to terms with the new fashionable practice of clubs openly prioritising their games and fielding weaker sides in certain competitions. To my mind any piece of silverware was worth having. The third reason is that I don’t like arrogance so for us to give a competition short shift, that many clubs would love have qualified for, it is just that and misplaced to. The fourth reason was that Liverpool has a long and proud tradition in the UEFA Cup. It was our first European trophy and was (before we went onto greater things) the culmination of years of struggle and perseverance on the pitches of Europe under Bill Shankly. You couldn’t belittle that by not the taking the competition seriously and not in the fiftieth anniversary of his coming to Anfield?
However as we prepare to face the might of Rabotnicki (sounds like a kids toy that takes loads and loads of batteries but always breaks down by Boxing Day) I have to confess that I am wrestling with this!
I want to like the UEFA Cup I want to say “come on Reds go for it, win it for a record fourth time” however, the prospect of the campaign simply fills me with dread! To my mind the current format is prohibitive to any team seriously contemplating an assault on all the competitions they are able to enter. It’s simply too much, too many balls to keep in the air. Something has to give?
One only has to look at what Mr H and Fulham went through last year in this competition, their campaign went on and on and on! The question is when compared to other priorities, such as improving on last seasons Premiership position, is the effort required to win this competition disproportionate to the reward, and what might have to be foregone in order to achieve it? There is also the knock on effect of having to play “Sunday catch up” because the UEFA ties take place on Thursday. Last season I felt that by playing nearly every Sunday we were being punished, put in some kind of footballing dunces corner, excluded, to be kept away from the other teams. Irrational I know but there you go!
UEFA should take the blame for all of this. For shunting this competition out to Thursday so as not to crowd their precious Champions League games and of course to maximize TV revenue, for allowing too many teams to enter and for a poor competition format. A straight knock out format from the very start would be less demanding and would certainly increase its appeal, but having a convoluted league format is simply too much?
I know some will say we should take every game seriously but how can you when faced with these sort of demands? May be if we were in better shape we could have a go but I think the natural instinct given everything that happened last season and the overall situation, is to turn in on yourselves and prioritise, to me at present the UEFA Cup is behind the League and the FA Cup and should not be allowed to detract from progress in these competitions. There I’ve said it, but even though I’m writing this I’m still not 100% sure!
Anyway to tonight and reports suggest Mr H is pondering whether or not to wheel out more experienced players however, even if they are ready, and have managed to get the holiday sand out of their toes, I believe that he should have a policy of playing the kids, certainly for the earlier stages of this competition. It would give them much needed experience and leave the “big boys” free to concentrate on making a much needed mark in the Premiership? Hopefully we can improve on the performances against Grasshoppers and Kaiserslautern, see a collective “step up” that will at least put us in a good position to finish off the tie at Anfield in a weeks time?
Oh and a goal would be nice too!