The Daily Mail recently ran with the headline “Liverpool beat Manchester United to sign Danny Ings as striker agrees personal terms”, which might be greeted with positivity by some, but it a sign of how far the club has fallen under Brendan Rodgers, despite having the best season in their Premier League history two seasons ago. The joyous images of that season, with wave after glorious wave of gung-ho attacking football spearheaded by the mercurial talents of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, supported by the likes of Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, and Raheem Sterling, who–bar the Brazilian–enjoyed their best seasons to date, are now faded, distant memories, tarnished by the misery that Liverpool fans have had to endure in the season that has followed.
The 2014-15 campaign, which should have seen Liverpool invest the proceeds from Suarez’s sale to Barcelona in 2 or 3 world-class–or thereabouts–players who would help sustain the club’s growing philosophy of fast, attacking football at the very least, if not bring about immediate improvements on the magic of the Uruguayan striker. However, the club brought in the likes of Mario Balotelli (a tried, tested, and discarded nuisance of an individual, whose comparisons with the Spain-bound Suarez were as disrespectful as they were distasteful, and a player whom the likes of Mourinho and Mancini couldn’t have washed their hands of sooner), Adam Lallana (talented but incredibly over-priced), Rickie Lambert (a signing that seemed like one of those free fan visit days, where a 10-year-old starstruck Liverpool fan is given a free tour of Anfield on his birthday, except that this case involved Liverpool actually PAYING 4.5 million pounds for a 32 year old), and a fair few other duds. To make matters worse, Rodgers rejected a 10-million-pound bid for Fabio Borini, owing to their lack of options up front, and taunted Spurs for spending 100 million pounds in the transfer window and not challenging for the title. My biggest worry when Liverpool appointed Rodgers was what I call the “small club syndrome”, where managers who move from smaller clubs (no disrespect, Swansea), to a big club (although Liverpool can’t quite call itself that anymore) tend to continue buying players who are good enough for a mid-table side, but are not nearly ready for the big time. Look at the strikers, bar Sturridge, that Rodgers has brought to the club. Fabio Borini, for 10.4 million pounds. A player Rodgers worked with at Chelsea and Swansea, so the statistics say, although I scarcely remember a thing about him from when he supposedly played at those clubs. Borini has played 37 games for Liverpool, scoring 3 goals. Then Samed Yesil, who cost a million pounds, and has made 3 appearances for the club, one of which was in the docu-TV series “Being Liverpool”. Then Iago Aspas, who cost 7.5 million pounds from a team that just about escaped relegation from La Liga. Aspas boasts 1 goal in 15 appearances. Moving on, Mario Balotelli. The less said about 16 million pounds down the drain, the better. 4 goals in 24 appearances. Lambert cost 4.5 million, and paid Liverpool back with 3 goals in 30 appearances. Finally, Divock Origi. Supposedly a promising player, and was better than Lukaku for Belgium at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but paying 10 million pounds for a player right after an international tournament, and loaning him straight back to the team he was bought from smacked of Liverpool’s desperation to not let other teams “beat” them to the signing. Origi was voted in the worst Ligue 1 team of the 2014-15 season. So, in all, Liverpool have spent 40 million pounds for 5 strikers (not counting Sturridge and Origi), getting 11 goals in a 109 games. That is nearly a goal every 900 minutes.
And now Rodgers has outdone himself. Buying a striker from a nearly-relegated Spanish team wasn’t enough, so he has gone and bought a striker from a relegated English one. Danny Ings might turn out to be the greatest English talent since Wayne Rooney (or since James Milner, Brendan Rodgers will argue, pointing at both Ings and Milner in his dressing room and talking about “attitude”), but if he really is, he wouldn’t have just 9 appearances for the England U-21’s at the age of 22. In fairness, he did well to score 11 goals in 37 Premier League games for a team whose most creative talent was its manager in press conferences, which isn’t saying much. But let’s add that tally–assuming he does as well for Liverpool in the next season, to that of Liverpool’s current bunch of strikers. That makes it 22 goals in 146 games, at a cost of approximately 42 million pounds. Is this truly how Liverpool intend on replacing Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres?
I like James Milner as a player, but are Milner and Ings going to replace Gerrard and Suarez? There is already talk of Milner being given the captain’s armband at Anfield, which speaks volumes about the trouble Liverpool finds itself in. I truly believe that unless Liverpool can pull one out of the hat and sign a Benzema or a Pogba this summer, they will find a top-10 finish in the 2015-16 season very difficult. This is not an outlandish prediction, given that their top goal-scorer and assist-maker in the 2014-15 season was a 35-year-old defensive midfielder who had the “worst” season of his career, and was booted across the Atlantic in January. I return to the Daily Mail’s belief that United have been “beaten” to the transfer of Danny Ings, and reiterate my doubt that United, who will most likely end with a player like Benzema, Benteke, or some other 30-million-pound striker come the end of the transfer window, will complain too much. Given they’re almost willing to give Robin van Persie away for free, I’d say they’ve never laughed harder at Liverpool in Old Trafford. United suffered a poor season, but responded by sacking the man “responsible”, bringing in one of the great European coaches of his generation, a man with a CV containing Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax, as opposed to Reading, Watford and Swansea, and gave him 150 million pounds to spend as he wished. Liverpool cannot afford that kind of transfer spending, and even if they could, I highly doubt they trust Rodgers to know what to do with it. The sheer gap in financial status between the clubs is exemplified by the fact that nobody at United is really bothered that Falcao cost 6 million pounds and 265,000 pounds a week in wages, and scored only 4 goals in 29 appearances. To them, that was a drop in the ocean. I believe Ed Woodward responded to critics of the club’s transfer policy and inactivity in the early stages of the 2014 summer window by saying that United can do things in the transfer window that other clubs can only dream of. And then he signed Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, the former the man of the match in the 2013-14 Champions League final, and Argentina’s best player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the latter arguably then the best striker of the 21st century after Thierry Henry and Luis Ronaldo. In that same window, Liverpool bought Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli. As I said, you can almost hear the Old Trafford suits laughing on their way to withdraw another 150 million pounds from the bank. Liverpool, meanwhile, are celebrating Kolo Toure signing a contract extension. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ksf6ofDON8E I fear Brendan Rodgers will forever be known as the man who kicked Gerrard out, and turned Liverpool into a team accustomed to mid-table mediocrity. I see dark times ahead at Anfield.