Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Season Ahead

It’s been a bad summer. A world-class manager lost, the values of the club gone to greed. Parasites are at the helm and we can do little about it, except wait and hope for a benevolent owner committed to stability, the regeneration of Anfield, and success. I had to wonder what matters until Hicks, Gillette, Broughton, Purslow and PR are out, and some of the traditional values of the club return.

Then I remember the game of football, and the thrill of being a Liverpool supporter: unity, defiance, winning. And there’s a season ahead, a title there to be won. Forget the Yanks, their lies and their cronies and let’s get on with it.

Yes, we’ve got it tough. To finish in the top-four would be a fantastic achievement; to win the league like the Miracle of Istanbul. Yet there is plenty to suggest that with stronger spirit and better luck than last time out, we can be involved in the title race.

The squad is light but there is a nucleus of a great team. Two seasons ago most of these players ranked number one in Europe and top-scored in the league, totaling 86 premiership points––a record-breaking number for a non-title-winning team.

There’s been asset stripping since then. But Jovanovic, Maxi and Cole are three excellent free transfers. Alongside Gerrard, Kuyt, Aquilani, and Babel, it’s seven players competing for the attacking positions in the team, and all offer something different––from pace to power to guts to guile. There’s potential for them to be the most fluid, fastest-moving, and feared outlets in the league.

Add a left back, a central midfielder (assuming Mascherano goes), and a striker, and suddenly there is strength in depth. Mix in the young prospects forcing their way into Roy’s thinking—Eccleston, Pacheco, Palsson, Amoo, Ayala, Ince, Shelvey, Wilson, Kelly, Mavinga––and there’s enough reason for optimism.

Then there is Torres: the matter of the best striker in the world. For the past two seasons he’s been fit only half the time. Now, however, Peter Bruckner and one of the best medical science injury prevention units in the world are part of the back room team. They can be more valuable than any individual player. If Torres plays thirty-plus league games, fit and on form, who knows what records he’ll break, and how it will galvanize the rest of the squad.

Another positive is mainstream Media will be more forgiving to Roy Hodgson than to Rafael Benitez. Whatever the rights, wrongs, senior sources, and xenophobic choices of the bashing the Media gave to Rafa, it had a negative affect on the team. Now we have the new darling in charge––going English is back in vogue and never mind the World Cup. Roy’s merits as Liverpool manager are debatable––he may be good, he may be great, he may be awful––but at the least we’ve got the Media monkey off our back. That relieves pressure from players, brings feel-good and freedom to play.

There is no team that we should fear. Chelsea are aging, United are broke, City are crazy, Spurs or Arsenal no more likely than us. With no Champions League give youth its chance in the Europa League and the Carling Cup, and keep first-team players fit and able for a title tilt.

This season won’t be easy, but I want to believe and give it a go. That's where the love of the game comes from, and after one tumultuous summer, I'm ready to claim it back.

(photo provided by Flums)

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