Showing posts with label the sky is falling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the sky is falling. Show all posts

01 September 2010

On "Destructive Summers"

If you follow me on Twitter (I'm sorry, I don't mean to plug it at every opportunity, it's just a medium I've increasingly used), you know I'm prone to infrequently reference indie rock music. Even if it seems to alienate people. Well, I've had The Hold Steady's song "Constructive Summer" in my head for some time now. The relevant line from the chorus, and the impetus for the title of this post, is "We're gonna build something this summer..."

By now, I'm sure you've seen Tom Hicks' quote from last January, most likely said to deflect attention from his son telling a supporter to "blow me, fuck face." It's how I planned on leading this post, but multiple websites beat me to the punch. Nevertheless, just in case, here it is again.

"January is a poor quality market. The summer window will be big."

Well, it's September 1. And the summer that was supposed to be "big" in terms of transfers has been anything but, at least in regards to incoming ones. As if that's any surprise.

In: Milan Jovanovic (free), Joe Cole (free), Jonjo Shelvey (£1.7m), Danny Wilson (£2m), Christian Poulsen (£4.5m), Brad Jones (£2.3m), Raul Meireles (£11.5m), Paul Konchesky (£3.5m + player exchange) = ~£25m

Out: Yossi Benayoun (£6m), Mikel San Jose (£2.6m), Albert Riera (£3.3m), Diego Cavalieri (£3m), Krisztian Nemeth (£1m), Javier Mascherano (£19.9m), Damien Plessis (undisclosed), Lauri Dalla Valle (player exchange), Alex Kacaniklic (player exchange), Alberto Aquilani (loan), Emiliano Insua (loan), Philipp Degen (loan), Nabil El Zhar (loan) = ~£37m

Fees, where available, are taken from the excellent LFC History – expect in the case of Mascherano. The BBC originally announced it as £17.25m, which is what the site has, but Barcelona's Director of Football announced the fee as €24m, approximately £19.9m. The Plessis transfer, completed after the English window closed, is listed as undisclosed, waiting for confirmation from Panathinaikos or "confirmation" from the media. We'll call it around £1m for now. I'm surprised that LFC History has the Konchesky deal as £3.5m plus the two youngsters; I've seen lower figures or simply player swaps rumored, but theirs are the numbers I'm using. And then there are the inevitable signing-on fees that free transfers often receive, which could be countered by the fact clubs often pay a loan fee, although I haven't seen that confirmed for any of Liverpool's deals this summer. So these figures are rough estimates, as per usual, but it gives us an approximation to work with. Clearly, I wish there was more transparency in the dealings, but I wish there was more transparency in a lot of things. It's in Liverpool's best interest, especially these days, to be as obtuse as possible. And since it probably reflects the club's current financial trapeze act, we can probably add another £8m to the "transfer" expenditures because of Benitez's £6m golden handshake and the £2m needed to pry Hodgson from Fulham.

Regardless, it's the fourth consecutive window where Liverpool's reaped a profit, and with eight players brought in while 13 left, a shallow squad's gotten even shallower. It's yet another symptom of Hicks and Gillett's malignant, debilitating reign.

Rushian, from RAWK, updated his post on homegrown players and Liverpool's 25-man squad, to be named later today – a clearer and more concise version of what I attempted to explain two weeks ago. And after this summer's wheelings and dealings, Liverpool won't be naming 25 to their squad. More research is needed, but I'd imagine there are few Premiership sides with that few senior players. I understand that some of the under-21 players will have a role to play this season – specifically Ngog, Pacheco, and Kelly – but it's still skating on very thin ice. If injuries strike anywhere near as badly as they did last season, Liverpool could be left stranded smack in the middle of shit creek.

After talking up the necessity of another striker, Hodgson's left empty-handed, reliant on Torres, Ngog, Babel, and potentially Kuyt, evidently waiting until the Mascherano money came through to find a warm body to fill an oft-discussed hole. But that never came to fruition (thankfully, if Carlton Cole – a more-experienced, more injury-prone, and much more expensive, version of Ngog – was the main target), which prompted outrage from all corners of the internet. Outrage is much-needed right now.

It's all further proof that no matter how much we wish differently, what occurs on the pitch is sadly a secondary concern. I'm sorry to continue beating that drum until the skin tears, but I don't see any other option.

Look, that Torres and Gerrard are still are the club is probably the best news we could have hoped for from this window. Meireles is a promising signing, as is Joe Cole (although from what little we've seen so far, I'd be happier if he weren't nailed-on to play behind the striker). Jovanovic is a versatile attacker, Shelvey and Wilson are clearly two for the future (and I'm desperate for signings not focused on the short-term). Both Poulsen and Konchesky can "do a job"; I've talked myself into Konchesky ideally being another Finnan mainly as a counter-reaction to "HE'S SHIT, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT" echoing around every forum. That I'd rather have Insua isn't Paul's fault, and Liverpool had been linked to loads worse.

But to pretend I'm not disappointed with the course of events over the past month would be disingenuous. Yet that's nothing new either. Make no mistake, Hodgson bears the blame for next to none of this. The enemies are Hicks and Gillett, and their self-styled director of football, Christian Purslow. I don't include Martin Broughton in that trio to complete a Four Horseman of the Apocalypse analogy in case he finally succeeds in finding new custodians. We were all disappointed when Kenny Huang publicly cooed then bailed, but it's worth noting that he's done similar in the past with the Cleveland Cavaliers. All quiet on the western front isn't necessarily a bad thing – I won't pretend I'm a natural optimist, but just because it's not being played out in the press doesn't mean nothing's happening behind the scenes. The crucial date seems to be early October, when RBS can call in Hicks and Gillett's mounting loans. The pace should pick up as that nears, and let's all join hands and pray no other bank will refinance for those snake-oil scoundrels.

I'm sick of suggesting diminished expectations and sounding pessimistic in every post, you're sick of reading it, but Cassandra's warnings seem prophetic once again. If Liverpool's still in this situation come January, or God forbid, a year's time... well, if you thought this summer was bad in regards to player exit rumors, you won't enjoy the next.

To come full circle with my marginally esoteric music references, the lead single and title track from the aforementioned Hold Steady album was "Stay Positive." And yes, "We gotta stay positive," especially when it comes to supporting the players on the pitch. But we also gotta stay realistic. And angry.

29 June 2010

On Roy Hodgson

Well, the Echo says it's official. Roy Hodgson will be Liverpool's next manager.

It became apparent earlier today that it was only a matter of time. When the various hacks who couldn't wait to stick the boot into Benitez are tripping over each other to praise the hiring (see here and here, among others), finalizing the move is a mere formality. It seems as if D-Day is July 1st, probably so Standard Chartered can have their name all over the press conference when the new sponsorship deal kicks in. Just so you know where priorities lie.

No, it's not who I wanted, not that it matters. And the fact that it took nearly a month, despite Hodgson being the odds-on favorite the entire time, makes me even more annoyed. I'm tempted to think that the rumors about Woy waiting to see if Capello was sacked/resigned are true – it can't just be because of his BBC World Cup gig – and that's beyond depressing. But that's Liverpool these days.

Nothing personal against Uncle Woy. When he takes the job, he deserves our support simply for being Liverpool manager. He's not Phil Brown or Iain Dowie or Sven Goren Eriksson. The club could have done worse, and 'could have done worse' is probably the best the Liverpool can do thanks to Hicks and Gillett.

But it's settling for mediocrity, at best solely in the short term, and it's partly at the behest of the British media. It's Purslow picking their current flavor of the month in the hopes of getting in the hacks' good graces. Were this 2006, it might well be Steve McClaren. 2007? Sam Allardyce. Hence my skepticism of the tabloids' darlings. No offense, Roy.

To be fair, Hodgson ticks a lot of boxes. Pity they're not necessarily boxes we want ticked.

I don't mean to cut him off at the knees before he even begins. I will do my utmost not to let my appreciation for Benitez or my abhorrence of the owners color everything I write. I don't think this blog will change much, although it'll take me some time to get used to Hodgson's style, especially if there are substantial squad changes this summer (not saying there will or won't be, also that's clearly the fear). And the priority is still getting the owners out, although it looks like fan reaction to Hodgson will help catalyze that movement if various internet forums are anything to go by. Maybe this hire at least helps arrest last season's downward spiral on the pitch. Because that was supposedly the point, even though I've written my suspicions otherwise.

First, the positives, in the hope there's some optimism to be found by scouring under rocks.

• He's proven capable of working with a small budget, and getting the best out of players available to him. See: the last two and half seasons at Fulham. That team was bound for relegation when he took over. Andrew Johnson is the only player who cost more than £5m, and he was Fulham's record signing at around £10m. And given what we know about Liverpool's finances, Roy's not gonna have much of a budget unless the worst-case scenario happens and there's a mass exodus of big names.

• He's English... and the media love him! I absolutely detest that this is a "qualification" – especially the latter part – but it's horrifically true. It's a hiring that's already being lauded by Fleet Street, and if you don't think that's important to Hicks, Gillett, Purslow, and Broughton, well, I've got a club to sell you. Got £800 million?

• He's experienced in England and Europe. It may not be title-winning experience outside of Sweden and Denmark, but Hodgson's managed 16 (now 17) teams in eight countries, including the national sides of Switzerland, UAE, and Finland. That he's helmed clubs longer than I've been alive makes me feel young for the first time in a while. Out of 20 Premiership gaffers, only Ferguson's managed longer.

• It's "semi-permanent." Maybe I could phrase it more delicately, but Hodgson is 62. Even in the best of situations, which this isn't, I don't think he'll be managing more than two or three seasons, no matter how long his contract ends up being. Maybe even as few as one if the owners finally find some sucker to take the club off their hands. And I'd imagine Hodgson's okay with that – or he wouldn't have taken the job. No matter what's been said, I still don't think anyone's signing a long-term deal until Hicks and Gillett have been hit by the doorknob on the way out. Hodgson's had a rolling one-season deal in each of his campaigns with Fulham.

• He's not Eriksson or O'Neill or Klinsmann, etc. Just saying.

Now, the worries.

• It's not exactly an impressive hiring. I still think Benitez is, at worst, one of the top ten managers currently working in world football. The likes of Pelligrini or even Deschamps (surprisingly suggested in the last few days) would have seemed like less of a step down. At least with Dalglish, we would have seen the fans happy, with a man who lives and breathes Liverpool at the helm of the club. But now we've got a journeyman manager – again, no disrespect meant – who seems like a big step down from Rafa. And I'm deathly afraid the players will see it the same way.

• He's been at exactly one "big" club. And I'm almost positive Paul Ince was the biggest player he managed at that big club in his one permanent stint with Inter. His second, two years later, was as caretaker for the last month of the 1998-99 season (interestingly, Inter had four managers in the two years between Hodgson's shifts). Sadly, this worry is contingent on Liverpool still being a big club.

• His signings at Fulham are, um, somewhat dubious. 1) Eddie Johnson. 2) £10.5m for Andrew Johnson. 3) A fairly heavy reliance on the underwhelming Scandinavian market. 4) Nearly every transfer is either a free or a loan, although there are a lot of "undisclosed" fees (for example, Duff was rumored to cost £4m). 5) He actually paid money for Eddie Johnson! Eddie Johnson!

• Hicks and Gillett are still here. Needs to be said again. And again. And again. Until they're gone.

At the end of the day, Liverpool paid £6m to send the previous gaffer to the reigning European Champions and then hired Fulham's. But when some of other names discussed are those of Martin O'Neill and Sven Goran Eriksson, Roy Hodgson looks more than acceptable. If I had to list my favorite candidates out of all those leaked to the media, he wouldn't be far from the top, although not number one. To paraphrase one of the most overrated basketball coaches on these shores, Bill Shankly is not walking through that door. And this stage, it's about survival – yes, I just wrote that about Liverpool Football Club – and that's something Hodgson's proven capable of.

Over to you, Roy...

26 June 2010

EXCLUSIVE!!!!1! LFC MANAGER SEARCH PROCESS REVEALED



I hate this summer, these owners, and Purslow so much. This is why I keep doing World Cup match reviews, and why there have been few posts about Liverpool. Because there's been no news from Liverpool – just obfuscation, smokescreens, and unfulfilled promises.

It's Dalglish. No, it's Hodgson. No, it's Pelligrini. No, it's Hodgson. No, wait, we're after Rijkaard or Deschamps, we promise. Ugh.

Wake me up in August.

14 June 2010

What does Benayoun's sale mean?

I see sacking Benitez isn't going to stop the exodus of players. Awesome. Like that ever was the case.

Yes, it's not official yet, but it's been mooted so long it's bound to happen. Benayoun's on his way to Chelsea, and all that's left is figuring how much more than £5m Liverpool will get. It certainly won't be double that, the supposed asking price. And I know it's shouting into the wind, but maybe let's not let Broughton take part in negotiations?

It'll be a shame to see Benayoun leave. It's even worse to see him on his way to Chelsea. The squad's already paper-thin. There's already a dearth of useful creative players who can change a game. And Yossi was unforgettably one of Liverpool's best two seasons ago – you know, when the team was good.

This is the new Anfield, the new Liverpool, under its two loving owners.

My sole consolation was the sale was evidently in the works before Benitez was fired. Maybe it's part of 'the plan' (not saying there is a plan, as going two weeks without Rafa's replacement suggests a lack of one). Maybe it's not the first trickle of the incredible awfulness that would be a fire sale of Liverpool's top players.

We honestly don't know the full extent of Liverpool's woes – just that we're woeful right now. My cynical suspicion is that the owners want to sell a bunch of big names this summer in an attempt to pay down the debt before selling the club, but my hope is that selling the main assets when you're trying to sell the club is stupidity beyond even Hicks and Gillett.

Regardless of the situation, it's still infuriating and was avoidable, and the owners still need to be held accountable more than ever – which is why I keep bringing up the likes of Spirit of Shankly. Supporters, no matter where they live, need to have some sort of representation in the fight to oust the cancerous owners. Spirit of Shankly seems the best hope of that by some distance.

In an ideal world, Liverpool would be able to keep Benayoun and add to the squad, and we'd have never heard the names of Thomas Hicks and George Gillett. Sadly, that's not reality. The reality is that Yossi Benayoun is 30 years old, and Liverpool paid £5m for him three years ago. While I wish moving from Liverpool to Chelsea weren't a step up, that's the situation we're in after this season. He'll probably get a nice pay raise, signing his last big contract. It's hard to begrudge that, and if he wants out, so be it. Liverpool's fairly compensated – or as fairly compensated as they're gonna be – and it's crucial that every player actually wants to be here, willing to fight for the shirt, with the situation the club's in. See: almost everything Pepe Reina says.

If selling him helps avoid selling the likes of Gerrard or Torres, it's for the "best." As key as Yossi's been in the past, he's still more expendable than others. Liverpool has Kuyt and Maxi on the right, Gerrard in the hole, and Benayoun's rarely been at his best on the left. There's also the chance Pacheco will get more opportunities – and I'm almost positive Dani counts as a homegrown player starting next season (having joined in July 2007).

And honestly, the real reality of the situation is that £6m, which is what the fee will probably end up being, only covers Liverpool's interest payments for 54 and a half days.

Again, thanks for everything, George and Tommy.

03 June 2010

Acta est Fabula, Plaudite!

Well, I hope you're all happy.

This isn't an obituary of Rafa's tenure, because I won't be able to do the man justice, and there will be enough of those anyway. But this rant might be an obituary for the club.

All the tactical nonsense, all the questions over whether Benitez was too conservative, or spent unwisely, or didn't hug the players enough, it's all insignificant. It's all insignificant because of the cancers who still own this club.

I'm sure some actually will be happy that Rafa's gone. I'm obviously not one of you. And given that there will be no long-term hire until the club is sold, I'll be stunned if any of the 'name' managers mooted would even interview, let alone accept this poisoned chalice. Dalglish as interim manager is the best possible situation, and seeing Kenny's legacy tarnished by the "custodians" is just as depressing as Benitez's exit.

Don't believe for one second that this is because of player power. That Torres or Gerrard or Carragher wanted Benitez gone. Each player's on record, multiple times, discussing how Benitez has improved their games – Torres especially. And even if it were true, you can't let the inmates run the asylum in the best of circumstances, but it's even dumber when there's a full-on riot in the yard.

Hicks and Gillett now hold every single card.

I'd bet any amount of money this leads to major players sales, which will pay down debt, so Hicks and Gillett will make a profit. Paying down the debt makes the club more attractive to vulture buyers, and it'll help ensure that Hicks and Gillett make a profit on this institution.

The club couldn't sell any player without Rafa's okay thanks to the contract signed last year. That barrier's gone. No more little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Be prepared for a tidal wave of excrement now that the dam's broken.

I am absolutely heartbroken on a personal and football level. Not for Rafa, who'll get a fantastic job somewhere (probably Inter), and not because he hasn't the third-highest winning percentage of any Liverpool manager this century (behind only Dalglish and Paisley). Not for me, whose predictions and analysis over the last few years has been proven wrong and meaningless. I am heartbroken over what's become of, and will continue to happen to, Liverpool FC. The most decorated club in English football. And it is only going to get worse.

02 June 2010

I Hate Everything

Update 10:45am: Endgame. Official Statement from Liverpool FC on Benitez's exit. Eulogies to follow later. When I have some semblance of sanity.

---
Just when I thought I could ignore malignant Liverpool "news." Ha. Not with these cancers in control.

Not long after 8pm British time, the Internet exploded.

Liverpool offer Rafael Benitez a way out of Anfield

The "relevant" part:
Liverpool have attempted to pave the way for Rafael Benitez’s departure by offering their manager a compromise deal to leave the club this summer.

In what amounts to a vote of no confidence in Benitez, the Liverpool board approved a proposal to the Spaniard which would see him depart Anfield with a lucrative pay off worth in the region of £3 million up front.

According to the terms of the five-year contract he signed in March 2009, Benitez is entitled to a £16 million severance package but given their current financial predicament there is no possibility of Liverpool being able to come up with that kind of money, regardless of their desire to bring about a change of manager.

As such, the club’s hierarchy is hoping that Benitez will stand aside without demanding the windfall that he would otherwise due or else they will have no option but to allow him to continue in the role he has been in since the summer of 2004 in the knowledge that he is no longer wanted/

And it's by Tony Barrett. Needless to say, my heart still hasn't slowed down, and I'm working on my noose knots.

My first thought was the usual Benitez defense, of which there are countless on this site. We can do the "he's underrated and unfairly criticized" or the "Liverpool will lose star players and everything built since 2005" arguments. But I'm sick of those, you're sick of those, and it'll accomplish even less than usual. Now's not the time to debate Rafa's managerial merits.

What I will repeat is this. I continue to believe that Rafa is the last line – the only line – of defense against the owners of this club. Purslow is the bank's yes man. Broughton is a Chelsea fan. The majority of the board is made up of Hicks' and Gillett's friends and families. If Rafa goes, then all those references to Leeds and Newcastle really could come true. Say goodbye to Torres, Gerrard, and Mascherano. Say goodbye to a worldwide scouting network that's brought the likes of Pacheco, Insua, etc. Say goodbye to stability, and any semblance of the Liverpool Way.

It's truly become Benitez versus the Tumors, and the owners know it. Which is why the story's come out like this. There are no quotes from Rafa or his agent, only reports of the Board's actions. And it's at 8pm, giving Benitez no time to respond but ensuring that the national media will have nothing but Rafa come morning. It is a power play. And it is yet another disgusting example of what Hicks and Gillett have done to this club.

Once again, we're airing our dirty laundry in public. Even if Benitez's isn't gone, this is the day Liverpool Way truly died. Shankly is rolling in his grave so hard the coffin might come out.

My only hope is that Benitez will tell to owners to sit and spin. He has no need to take £3m when owed £16m with years left on his contract. Hopefully he'll continue to be a bulwark against the criminal negligence of the custodians. But it doesn't look good. Fight. For the love of all that is holy, please Rafa, fight.

Being a sports fan creates such a feeling of impotence at times. It's especially hard when we're an ocean away. I know first-hand that Americans love this club and want to help. One of the few things we can do on this side of the pond is join with those who are doing something. Help Spirit of Shankly help us.

07 May 2010

Just Because You Keep Repeating It Doesn’t Make It True

The anglophile and political junkie that I am, I watched the BBC’s streaming coverage of the UK election for more than a few hours last night. I can’t help these masochistic tendencies. And even knowing what I know about the media, I was still amazed to see a narrative fully created with less than a quarter of the results in.

With hours of airtime to fill, politician after politician was interviewed, and every one was forced into the cliché of ‘we’ll have to wait for the full numbers’ while the hacks fumbled for a storyline. David Dimbleby et al went with whether Gordon Brown “had the moral right” to form a government with a hung Parliament imminent and the Tories with more seats. Evidently, it’s still going on this morning, although I haven’t fully caught up on the “news.”

By midnight US time – seven hours after polls had closed – I was screaming at the computer for one of the random Labour stuffed suits to respond, “Look you nitwit, numbers don’t lie. If no party has a majority, we get first chance at a coalition. It's not rocket science.” Never happened. It didn’t fit with the “Tory wave” narrative that’s been lovingly built for more than a year. If there was any narrative, it should have been “A pox on all your houses, third parties never win, and all politics is local.” But that’s too stunningly simple. It’s evidently easier, and more fun, to fit the facts to the story rather than the story to the facts. As Liverpool fans, we should be used to that.

We’ve watched a narrative forced on Liverpool all season long, one in a long line of unfair criticisms of this club and manager. I hate drawing any parallel between Gordon Brown and Rafa Benitez, but the hacks have long been planning both men’s downfall (a downfall partly of each’s own making, but that’s another essay), and have been willing to mold the “news” – any news, even speculation – to make it fit. Speculation like what we’re frequently forced to rely on in football, and which the pundits had to rely on last night while waiting for winners to slowly arise.

We all succumb to the narratives around Liverpool, and I’m admittedly as reactionary as most. Neither Benitez nor Liverpool has said anything concrete about Juventus or buyouts, but every word from either is diagnosed in great detail for a clue. The recent club statement – or what was lacking in that statement – on the meeting between Benitez and Broughton (and Purslow!) has invited even more. That the Guardian’s article states Benitez won’t hold a press conference before the Hull match invites even more speculation that feeds into the frightening storyline.

It’s little use listing the misguided narratives and half-truths used to bash Benitez, but it makes me feel better: zonal marking, rotation, transfer spending, poor man management, too defensive, never plays young players, etc. Yes, there are truths in many of them, but a quick search of my archives hopefully demonstrates that there are arguments against those myths, as well as arguably more important reasons why he needs to stay.

I should apologize for the weeklong silence, but I’ve been hard-pressed to write anything about the club. Morale is still in the toilet after a long, disappointing season with zero light at the end of the tunnel. Off-field turmoil is as virulent as ever, unabated after the aforementioned meeting. I just haven’t had the stomach for it, and I’d rather wait for reality to play out instead of forcing a narrative into words for once. Otherwise, it’s shouting into the wind.

The preview of Sunday’s match, thankfully the last of the season, will be late tomorrow or early Saturday.