Last night Liverpool played Chelsea in their last home game of the season. With Spurs and ManCity almost assuredly denying us making fourth, it was a case of damage control, as well as trying to boost the confidence of the fans and the players. With Torres out, we had no established striker (sorry Ngog, not yet. Kuyt, no you've ceded the striker role a long time ago; I still love you though). Gerrard's form has been lackadaisical on average; rarely have we seen him perform on the same level we saw last season. Johnson and Skrtel weren't available to defend, so we had to make do with Masch in the right back position. Aquilani is just starting to come into form and fulfilling the potential the fans have placed on him so much earlier in the season...
If you've been following their season, I don't have to fill you in on more of the team roster. It's a pointless exercise. The score last night? 0-2 to Chelsea. At least we made it harder for MancUnt to clinch first, eh? I didn't even bother checking our place in the table after the game, that's how messed up this season has gotten.
Over the course of the last 6 or so months, there have been plenty of rumors about who'd end up staying or who'd be brought in for the new season, but the main ones lately have been about Rafa Benitez's possible move to Juventus, and whether Torres would leave for greener pastures (either back in Spain or with ManCity).
Count me as one of the fans who doesn't want Benitez out. Yes, he has been griping a lot lately about the lack of funding available for him to strengthen the squad. Yes, he has admittedly made some miscalculations in team tactics and squad rotation. And, yes, he made some crap buys. BUT. So does every manager, and given the kind of money that was available to him, he could only buy upon selling players the club already had, so choices were clearly limited. When you've won the Primera Liga twice, with Valencia, there had to have been something special about you that led to those titles. And you had to have been given the time and the financial ability to make it happen. The same thing goes here at Liverpool, as well.
At the root of the problem lies the mismanagement and ineptitude of owners Gillette and Hicks, who have run the club into the ground, effectively snuffing Rafa's transfer kitty. The recent announcement that they have put the club up for sale is only a good thing. However, if they don't take any offers by July, I don't think the financial situation will change for the better. But changing managers, regardless of whether Benitez chooses to leave or is booted out, when there is no fundamental change in the finances, won't make things better for the team. Better to keep Benitez, with the same owners, than to have the same owners, with a manager who hasn't had the benefit of 6 years with the current squad.
So here is what needs to happen: keep Benitez, Yanks OUT. A new owner, who can give at least 40-60 million pounds for summer transfers before the 2010/11 season starts. Get it done.
I won't even pretend to know which players are the best for the squad, and which ones should go. There are already plenty of armchair coaches/managers who rely on Football Manager or FIFA Soccer 2010 stats to determine the "ideal" squad. You think just because a player has a 90+ rating in FIFA, he'd gel instantly with the squad? Don't be daft. But here's what I think, and hate me for it if you like: we don't need Gerrard next season.
At least as a first string player. Don't get me wrong, he's done great things for the club, but this last season has done nothing to assure me of his "world class" status. Last night's backpass to Drogba may have just been a fluke, but it's symptomatic of a greater degree of his "not giving a shit" attitude this season. So relegate him to the bench, and give space to Mascherano, Lucas and Aquilani to run the midfield next season. Or, sell him for about 30 mil, and get a good young player, or two young players with huge potential. Better yet, give the captain's armband to someone else. Someone like Pepe Reina.
Overall, this season's failures (and I won't sugarcoat the term failure) are almost entirely a product of Liverpool's inability to compete in the transfer market. I just hope G&H can leave this summer and let someone else run the club's finances, make things easier for Rafa (or God forbid, his replacement) to strengthen the squad. The last thing we need is to sell someone like Torres just so we can buy 3-4 new players because there was no other alternative.
Otherwise? Here's hoping next season, everyone else screws up more royally than Liverpool.