On my son’s bedroom wall is a poster of the 2007-08 Liverpool squad. This was a part of this controlling parents attempt to make sure that my easily influenced and suggestible young offspring was “steered” into making the right choice of football team to support. I think it’s going to plan!
Anyway, if you strip out Rafa and all the backroom staff we see twenty four players. Of those only seven remain in the squad today – Gerrard, Carragher, Kuyt, Lucas, Agger, Aurelio and Reina. Is this a comment on Rafa’s propensity to chop and change when he was in charge? I always felt he didn’t give players enough time to settle before shipping them out, two seasons at least. Yet even allowing for that, it is also a sign of how high “player turnover” can be at club.
This summer will prove to be no exception. We have a “new” manager who has inherited a squad that is still mainly Rafa’s slightly less so Hodgson’s. Having weighed up the goods, seen what is on offer and, crucially for him, secured a longer term with us Kenny will no doubt want to bring in his own signings and get rid of those he feels are surplus to requirements. Fenway have said there will be money available to do this but they will also want to cut costs and clear out “dead wood”. I read in the papers it’s around £50m but this is surely anyone’s guess? I don’t always think it’s a good idea to tell all and sundry how much we have to splash as it could distort the bidding process. “What, £15m? Look I know you’ve got £50m so we want at least £20m”
From our point of view things are also not helped by the fact that this summer looks like it is going to be an extremely active one. Take the top four, The Mancs will have half and eye on replacing older or retired payers such as Scholes, van de Sar and Giggs or course I exclude Gary Neville from this list as clearly he is irreplaceable – in his own mind at least! Manchester City have a bottomless pit of money and will probably use it in their relentless quest for world domination. So do Chelsea who perhaps need to use it more than most as again their squad is aging. Arsenal have kept the purse strings tight for a few years but after another season of flattering to deceive surely Wenger will spend if only because the fans demand it? Add to this the fact that UEFA’s “fair play” financial rules are moving closer and may become a harsh reality. So perhaps this is the last chance for many clubs to make big money signings without making adjustments elsewhere on the balance sheet?
Who is on our shopping list and where is the priority? This is of course is always open to debate however to me we need to concentrate on defence and midfield. What a turnaround from a year ago when everyone was suggesting that we needed a top class forward to ride side saddle with Torres. How things change, Fernando is firing blanks in West London we appear have got our front line more than sorted with Carroll, Suarez and Kuyt “perm any one from three” first team choices?
Midfield is a less than clear cut affair. We have enough players but seem to lack that strength in depth and, above all, creativity. This is Kenny’s biggest “problem”. I suspect we are resigned to the fact that Alberto Aquilani will not return from his Italian loan spell and will want to secure a permanent move over there. It’s a pity as I suspect Dalglish would give Aquilani more leeway to flourish that Rafa did however, with us not competing in Europe the dice seems fairly and squarely cast in favour of whatever Italian club wants to sign him? Moreover I suspect this will be for considerably less than the £20m or so Rafa paid for him, ouch!
Perhaps we thought the absence of Aquilani would be offset by the acquisition of Joe Cole however, injury and bad form have hit him hard. I’m still well disposed to Cole, he genuinely seemed to want to make a go of it and seemed desperate to do well. I hope Kenny gives him at least another season to try and right his wrongs however equally it wouldn’t surprise me if he left and along with players such as Milan Jovanovic and Christian Poulson who will surely be part of a wider wage and fat trimming process?
Perhaps Cole’s future depends on others? Would Kenny be keener to keep him if say Maxi or Meireles decided to up sticks even though last season they spoke favourably of his influence. Let us also not forget that effectively Kenny also has a “new signing” coming back if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Steven Gerrard should be free from injury and ready to play under his boss something that we saw precious little of last season.
As I write the midfield runners and riders appear to be from the following Ashley Young, Stuart Downing, Charlie Adam, Charles N’Zogbia and Jordan Henderson. Who we go for is anyone’s guess. We are likely to bulk at Sunderland’s £20m valuation for Henderson and surely it will hard to prise Downing AND Young away from Villa. Of the two Young looks the best prospect but we are likely to face stiff opposition for his signature which is not helped by Aston Villa’s managerial situation. Charlie Adam is has been repeatedly linked with us to the point that I keep having to remind myself that he still plays for Blackpool and Charles N’Zogbia seemingly appears on everyone’s shopping list. Whoever Kenny goes for it will not be just a question of creativity and who can give Suarez, and in particular Carroll, a decent supply but also who will make way and what any new player’s demands will be – it seems that Fenway won’t be in any mood to push the boat out in this area?
The issue of our defence is little less complicated. One of the many positive points of Kenny’s return was the emergence of youngsters such as Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson. All bodes well for the future and I wouldn’t be too annoyed if Kenny decided to run with one of these next season to try make one a permanent fixture in the first team. However, consensus seems to be that we need a centre back and, wait for it, a left full back – yes again! I guess at present we are thin in defence. Sadly we can’t rely on Daniel Agger to stay injury free and we also have to face up the fact that Jamie Carragher is no spring chicken! That leaves us with just. Skrtel, Kyrgiakos and Danny Wilson – respect to them but also enough said!
I would also be prepared to sell Glen Johnson for the right price. As a defender Johnson makes a very good midfielder and I believe we could use the money to obtain someone whose mind actually seems to be on defending rather that going AWOL and attempting to emulate Ashley Cole, Roberto Carlos or Daniel Alves! The other option would be push Johnson into midfield with might mean we don’t have to spend as much this area?
Defence rumours appear to centre on Bolton’s Cahill and Blackburn’s Jones and Newcastle’s Enrique. All seem to fit the bill they are young and we should be able to secure them at a decent price however again we are likely to face considerable competition. Not being in Europe clearly doesn’t help but hopefully Kenny can work his own personal magic and can also sell the club as one that is “on the up”?
Everything seems to point to us making some substantial signing whilst at same time having an extensive clear out and cutting the wage bill. If the past is anything to go buy I wouldn’t put it past Kenny to spring a surprise and announce a signing that no one had suspected. Whatever the case it seems certain that we are likely to see a few ex players in the 2010-11 squad poster but then again has any pre season been different?