Posts tagged: manchester united

Liverpool, Suarez, and Why I Think Dalglish is King

By , January 4, 2012 5:19 pm

Please excuse my lengthy piece on the matter, as I realize the whole Suarez affair has been extremely upsetting and exhausting for everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club. And most of all, for Luis Suarez himself. One of the major issues with everything that has happened since that fateful day back in October is the way it has drawn whole sections of England and even Liverpool fans apart. You may agree with what I have to say, or not. Either way, I will respect your opinion even if I don’t believe it myself. This is much the case with the FA, but I am personally having a more difficult time than some accepting the way they’ve handled this case, dished out its punishment, and gave reasons for their decision based on the term ‘probably.’ I am also finding some of Liverpool’s handling of the case poor, in only so much as to how Suarez was represented. I firmly believe Liverpool’s players and Kenny Dalglish have done everything right in their support of Suarez, and I salute their bravery in the face of countless media articles, opposition fans, and even anti-racist organizations turning on them. This must be acknowledged, because as much as some people simply want Liverpool to just roll over and move on, like they would have done under the previous regime, it’s nice to know the team will stick by someone, believing 100% in their innocence whether others do or not.

I read the 115 page FA report, cutting into my New Year’s Eve festivities to do so. At first, I found the reading to be very uncomfortable with the allegations about what Suarez said. It wasn’t pretty, and I thought after the first few pages that Suarez may in fact be a truly awful person despite all obvious evidence to the contrary (mostly referring to his jovial nature, electric smile, and passion for the game. He may be snarky at times, but that is what makes him a great player, not necessarily a horrible human being.)

But as I continued to read, I began to feel puzzled, confused, then I started to laugh. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the claims, the lack of corroborative evidence, and the pure lack of evidence at all. When I finished page 115, I kept scanning back thinking I had missed something. But no. The FA had no real evidence on which to base their judgements on. Simply that they somehow found Evra a more convincing and reliable witness than Suarez, even though Evra was not the one on trial, therefore Suarez is found guilty of racially abusing him, but is also not a racist. Confused yet? I was, and still am.

Who Do You Believe When So Much Is At Stake?

Before I go any further, I’d like to point to some other articles that have broken down and analyzed the report, as well as some other articles on the subject. I agree with their sentiments, and while I’d be happy to do the breakdown myself, I would just be repeating what others have already said very succinctly. A great piece by Stuart Gilhooly, the solicitor for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland, can be read here. A few great pieces on the Anfield Wrap here, here, and here. This post by @joescouse_LFC is also a great read regarding the breakdown of the report’s numerous inconsistencies. Plus the excellent language dissection by Professor in Hispanic Studies at Brown University, Aldo Mazzucchelli here. (Also, while in the middle of writing this piece, Paul Tomkins has of course trumped me with his own excellent article here. A must read, and so much of it I agree with).

Any logical person who has read the report, Liverpool fan or otherwise, can see the glaring inconsistencies and bias that is there. And when I say bias, don’t misunderstand that I think the FA and all of the footballing world have it in for Liverpool. While it sometimes does appear that way, I simply mean bias in the FA’s strong correlation between Evra’s events and the truth, despite no evidence or witnesses to support it. And of course, because the FA published its reasoning, the media takes that as word on high that they must be right, no matter how flawed their reasoning is and no matter how many times they use the word ‘probably’ or some variation thereof.

There are two things that some have casually mentioned, but that I find astoundingly atrocious when reading that report. The first is the FA explaining that while they believe Suarez is categorically NOT a racist, they basically explain his comment to Evra simply as ‘heat-of-the-moment’ and ‘we’re all a bit racist sometimes.’ I am appalled at this comment and the logic with which it is brought about.

From the horse’s mouth:

Paragraph 342: We asked ourselves whether a player (Suarez) with this background would make the comments that Mr Evra alleged. We took all these points fully on board and thought long and hard about them before finding the Charge proved. We dealt with them in the following way.

Paragraph 343: Mr Suarez’s background as described by him in his statement raised doubts in our minds, in the first instance, as to whether he would ever make the alleged comments. We recognised that Mr Suarez’s background together with the seriousness of the Charge, meant that a greater burden of evidence was required to prove the Charge. We formed the view that, overall, the preponderance of the evidence favoured the FA’s case.

And here’s the kicker, Paragraph 344: We took into account the fact that it is a real albeit unattractive trait of human nature that we all act from time to time, to greater or lesser degrees, in ways which may be out of character. This is especially so when we feel under pressure, or challenged, or provoked, or pushed into a corner. We do and say things that we are not proud of and regret, and that we might try and deny, sometimes even to ourselves. We occasionally do or say things that we would be embarrassed to admit to family or friends. It is not inconsistent to have black colleagues and friends and relatives, and yet say things to strangers or acquaintances about race or colour that we would not say directly to those closer to us.

And their incomprehensible conclusion, Paragraph 345: Bearing these considerations in mind, whilst we were initially doubtful that Mr Suarez would make the comments alleged by Mr Evra, we proceeded on the basis that the factors relied on in relation to Mr Suarez’s background and experiences did not mean that he could not or would not act in this way. We weighed these considerations together with all the evidence when asking ourselves whose account was more probable.

Why am I appalled by this part of the report? Because the FA has basically said that people in a highly tense situation will of course say something racist, but would never say the same things to their best friends of another race because that would be too embarrassing. This is so insulting and bizarre to me, someone who despises racism and prejudice in all its forms. And the fact they can come up with the conclusion that despite Suarez having NO history of anything he was being accused of, having a grandfather that is black, playing with black players, and being involved in a charity that supports and encourages young black and white children to play together and stamp out racism, they STILL believed that he must have said what Evra alleged. If anything, with all their decisions based on ‘probabilities’ and ‘likelihood’s’ this would make Suarez LESS likely and ‘probably’ impossible to racially abuse someone in the way he is being accused of.

The second of the astounding atrocities is the confusing manner in which the FA on one hand defends Suarez, giving him some benefit of the doubt when it comes to his limited use of the English language and the way he may feel nervous at having to defend his good name in light of such serious charges. Yet, they neither seem to care or believe that those two things could be why there were some inconsistencies in what he said. And on the flip side, the way that he speaks his own language has somehow been summarily dismissed as wrong because Evra, someone with the ability to converse in Spanish, but by all means not fluent, especially in Suarez’s dialect, claims Suarez said something that Suarez refutes. Personally, I’m going to believe the person who grew up speaking that language and is fluent in it, but obviously the FA does not.

On that note, as many others have stated in the articles I linked to above, despite what you may believe, I am not defending a ‘racist’ in my defense of Luis Suarez. Accusations like this are beyond me. The club, manager, players, and many fans believe he is innocent of the allegations of being a racist and using racist language. The part where many people differ is their understanding and the importance they give to the idea that there may be – brace yourself – cultural and language differences between two different cultures and languages. I know this may be hard to grasp for some, especially it seems from the English speaking countries like England, but it’s true. I think we can all agree that Spanish and English are undeniably two different languages. There, I’ve said it. Get out your pitch forks and start lynching.

A great comment was made by Glynn on The Anfield Wrap’s article Suarez: Why the Guilty Verdict Was Correct stating, “That’s a fairly reasonable article, however, like the media at large, you also are taking the English literal meaning of the five letter word which Luis has admitted using (negro) and presenting it as proof of Luis’s guilt. There’s no attempt to explore the meaning in the cultural-linguistic context in which it was originally used – and that this is dismissed as not even being worthy of discussion smacks of xenophobic arrogance.” This is excellently stated, and concisely explains what I said above.

On this basis, I just cannot understand how people keep pointing to the fact that Suarez admitted using a word, which to him is completely harmless and not only not racist, but not insulting either, as clear evidence that he’s guilty of racially abusing Evra. Think about it for a second. If everything we said in one language was insulting to someone in another, we’d all be apologizing everyday for everything we say. Doesn’t the FA’s logic on this seem completely illogical?

Many also keep pointing out that: ‘ignorance is not an excuse.’ Really? It is a perfectly good one to me when Suarez, by his own admission of using the word, clearly had no intention of insulting or racially abusing Evra. Because if he did have those intentions, it would be much easier to lie and profess that he said nothing at all. And if what he admitted to saying was misconstrued by Evra as something racist, how is that Suarez’s fault? He was honest (perhaps too honest seeing how horribly he’s been treated over all this) in saying what he said because he felt he had nothing to hide. I, as I’m sure many others, have also done this in their lifetime; been honest in a situation where we had nothing to hide, but were found guilty of something anyway because of the way it was perceived by someone else.

If this was such a grievous mistake made by Suarez, then shouldn’t the powers-that-be have done the right thing in just explaining to Suarez that despite him speaking in his own language, they found it abusive and therefore unacceptable? Giving him a one-game ban and explaining to Liverpool and every other club that foreigners need to be given better lessons on understanding the culture they are now living in? Surely this kind of scenario should have been sufficient for anyone even if it does reek of xenophobia.

Perhaps if Evra had attempted to discuss what he thought he heard with Suarez, the ref, and the managers before making the accusations to a television channel, then Suarez would have easily been able to apology for any misunderstanding and clearly explain what he meant in saying what he did. People have told me I’m foolish for thinking of this and it could never be an option. And clearly a logical, sound, and rational approach to all this from the FA was also never an option after reading their report. I don’t know how I could be so silly as to think that they would be any of those things with such a serious charge being made.

To comment on current rumblings, in regard to those in the media, Man United corner, and any opposition or Liverpool fans that agree with the notion that Suarez should now apologize for what he’s done, let me say this. Saying he should apologize is an outrageous thing to ask when they are referring to an apology for making a racist remark, which he categorically denies he did. If anything, maybe an apology for the simple misunderstanding on the part of Evra, but never, NEVER should he be made to apologize for something he didn’t do which is racially abuse Evra. From my own negative experience of a similar situation to Suarez’s, where I was being accused of all kinds of outlandish things by people around me, none of which I was guilty of, did I ever think that apologizing was right. I knew in my heart of hearts that I did nothing wrong, and at the end of the day if someone else felt otherwise, that truly was their problem and not mine. I think Suarez feels much the same as he continues to deny doing anything malicious or racist in any way, shape, or form.

I’ll make two more comments about this whole sad and sorry affair.

First, I’m not excusing some of Liverpool’s misguided tactics in all this. It seems to become more and more clear that their handling of the situation as far as preparedness of Suarez and other witnesses, as well as the lawyers chosen were perhaps not the best. So many on various websites, forums, and twitter have been able to logically dispute so much of what was said it’s almost incomprehensible that an institution as big as Liverpool didn’t have the absolute best representation in their corner. They seemed to have screwed up royally in some ways that made it difficult for Suarez to truly defend himself.

But this is also not to say that I think what Dalglish and the team has done was ever wrong. Obviously the media see the support of Suarez’s manager, teammates, and fans as blind favoritism and in turn they are of course supporting a racist, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dalglish, to his great credit, has stood by his player in the face of criticism from every corner. Read the transcription of his press conference after the Manchester City game here and you can see that he is defiant and still 100% believes in Suarez’s innocence, while also condemning the ‘blind’ favoritism the FA and media have for Evra. This is what makes Dalglish so brilliant, and why Liverpool fans will always see him as the king. While Suarez may be young, and relatively unknown to the British footballing world, Dalglish is not. Anyone that doubts his sincerity and integrity throughout his prominent career as a player and manager is sorely mistaken.

Which brings me to my second point. I want everyone to imagine being in this situation themselves. If your good name was sullied across the country in every national newspaper, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, and forum, and you knew yourself to be completely innocent of what was being said, would you not try and fight for yourself? Would you not expect those closest to you, who know you better than everyone and who know the truth as you do to stand up for you in every way they can? Perhaps I find this more difficult than most as I’ve been in a similar personal situation where I had ONE person on my side, and no matter how hard I fought, how hard I tried to prove what was said about me was untrue, and how much I pointed to the past as an example of why those things would never be true, no one believed me. Sometimes it’s easier for people to believe one thing over another based on their own prejudices, biases, and mistakes they’ve made in the past by projecting their negative (and ill-informed judgements) onto others. I would hope that most would want the same support Suarez has received if they were in his shoes, and would also offer it to someone they truly believed was innocent. By all means let’s “Kick Out Racism” from the game, but not by slandering someone based on no evidence, who is most likely innocent if not completely misunderstood in this situation.

To conclude, I feel for Luis Suarez more than anything. Neither him, nor Liverpool, and even to a certain extent Evra and Man United, have come out of this smelling like roses. But Suarez is the one that has to live with these unfounded accusations the rest of his life and especially his footballing career.

Not only that, but say a scenario occurs in the near future, maybe next season, or two seasons down the road where an opposition player is having a torrid time against Suarez, much the way Evra was having on the day in question, or felt aggrieved at a decision that went in Suarez’s favor against him, and he felt in the heat of the moment to accuse Suarez of racial abuse after the match. Despite it not being at all true, and simply based on this player’s word, the FA will look to this current case and decision as an easy way to convict Suarez again and have him permanently suspended. Serve the ban, pay the fine, whatever. But this isn’t a case of a bad tackle where a player serves his suspension and it is easily forgotten and never brought up as evidence next time he makes a challenge, a challenge which can easily be proved on video evidence. This is the man’s career at stake on the word of someone else. A word with no evidence behind it. A word that has yet to be corroborated. By anyone.

And just as this incident was ‘proven’ based on one man’s word against another (despite the FA so cutely saying that this just wasn’t the case), what’s to say that won’t happen again? No one has believed Suarez thus far despite nothing against him holding water, so even less evidence is bound to find him guilty too. This is what I find most disturbing and worrying for Suarez’s future as a world-class player. So forgot how you feel about Suarez, forget he plays for Liverpool, or whether or not you deem him a racist, forget the ban and the fine. Simply think about how easily he was found guilty based on one other person’s word and how easily that could happen to you, your star player, your wife, brother, parents, or child. Then see if you’ll feel the same way Liverpool did in their defense of Luis Suarez.

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

By , January 13, 2011 2:54 pm

The fortunes of Liverpool Football Club look to be much brighter after the return of one of their legends, Kenny Dalglish. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the club looks set to become successful once again.

Dalglish Returns To Liverpool

After what proved to be one of the worst periods in Liverpool Football Club’s history, the manager that oversaw it all is now gone. And while there are still some, mostly in the media it seems, that believe Roy Hodgson was not given a chance to shine, it was obvious to about 99% of Liverpool fans that his reign had become untenable.

When the news eventually came of his departure, along with the installment of one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players and managers, the future looked bright once again. King Kenny as he is affectionately called by the Liverpool faithful took time away from his vacation to swoop in at the first call from owner John Henry. It didn’t take much to persuade the 59-year-old to take charge of the club for the rest of the season. It is well known he continued to eat, sleep, and breathe Liverpool despite not having been a player or manager there in two decades.

Dalglish’s effect on Liverpool has already been immense. Having been there less than a week, the whole mood around the club has changed. The owners are behind him, the fans are behind him, and most importantly, he is behind the team and the players. What Hodgson lacked (and he lacked a lot), was the ability to unite the football club and the team behind him. His appointment wasn’t a popular one on Merseyside, and the fact that he managed a mid-table team to some mediocre success in the past did not allay any of the fans’ fears he wasn’t the man for the job. It took him six short months to prove this, and a devastating first half of the season is what he left as his legacy.

As a result, the team has been left low on confidence and with less talented players and more deadwood than was at the club last summer. That was not all down to Hodgson, but a lot of it was. He plunged Liverpool into believing it was no more than a mid-table team and expectations of anything grander would never be achieved with a squad like that. It was Hodgson’s belief that given the time and money to put his stamp on the side, he would bathe the team in glory once more. But what glory was he referring to? That of being safely mid-table? That of going into games desiring just not to lose? He proved with his signings, tactics, man-management, and team selection that he was out of his depth. I hate to say it, but I really can’t think of anything positive he left with the club, except his resignation.

The trouble now is that all the damage he did to the club will be difficult to undo before the season ends. If Hodgson thought it was difficult to take a team that previously finished second and seventh in their last two seasons to loftier heights, than the challenge on Dalglish’s shoulders must be far greater. The team currently languishes in 13th place, and if not for the unpredictable nature of the league this season, they may have been in a far worse position.

While I don’t pretend that Dalglish is the long-term answer for Liverpool, he certainly makes for a bright spark to come in and help arrest the club from plummeting further. As he has done through most of his career as a manager, he intends to win by playing football as he used to. I believe that most fans disliked Hodgson not just because he lost, but also because he refused to play in any kind of positive or attractive manner. Many of the players that Roy so rudely alluded to as not good enough and below par, are seasoned internationals and just 18 months earlier, part of a team that finished second in the league and gained one of their highest points totals ever. You don’t do that without footballing talent and skill. These players want to play football, they want to pass the ball from the back, they want to win the ball in the opposition half and attack, they want to move around the pitch with pace and purpose to win football matches.

This is where Dalglish comes in. Despite not having managed for a while, he is a footballing mastermind. Few have achieved what he has as a manager and there is no reason he can’t apply the same ideas he’s always had to a team begging to play attacking, creative football again.

The first two results of his reign have been unkind. What was always going to be a tough game against United at Old Trafford was compounded by the fact that United earned a ghost penalty in the first minute, and Liverpool had Gerrard sent off after only 30 minutes. This not only made the game more difficult, but also exhausted the players for their next match to be played three days later.

Some will be quick to point out that had Hodgson lost these two games, he would well and truly be crucified. But the fact remains that Liverpool fans saw a lot more in these two games than just two losses. The spirit was back, the passing was back, the disappearance of hit-and-hope long balls was back, and against Blackpool, Fernando Torres looked back. They may have lost these two games, but the wins will come if they continue to play in such a manner.

That’s not to say there aren’t criticisms to be made, and Dalglish is just as accountable as any other manager. I believed his team selection wasn’t the best against Blackpool, but then he is trying to discover just what his best team will be. He made substitutions far too late in the game, and that is something I couldn’t take with Hodgson or Benitez for that matter. And to be fair, the team started very well, but petered out in the second half. A lot of that had to do with the previous game at Old Trafford being played with ten men for 60 minutes. Even so, the defense was all over the place at times, and the passing left a lot to be desired.

The team has a lot of hard work ahead of them, and when I say the team, I refer to the players, Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clark, Damien Comolli, and John W. Henry. No one expects success overnight, and it may even be a season or two before Liverpool are back to their best. What’s important now is the progress the team makes from here until the end of the season when they will have time to further assess where the club is at on all fronts.

Unlike the previous manager, the belief that the future looks good for Liverpool is back. While they may be facing a difficult time in the here and now, and the media continues to be unsupportive of Liverpool, their fans, and their future, those that understand the club will know what lies ahead. So as one manager and era comes to an end, let the next begin with nothing but hope in our hearts and the king back on the throne.

A Message From Liverpool To Manchester United: We’re Not So Different, You And I

By , October 19, 2010 1:14 pm

Wayne Rooney Eyes A Move Away From Old Trafford

They say that football, like most things in life, is cyclical. Peaks and troughs await the best and worst of teams, and just how long each one lasts is up to those involved. By no means is either a high or low guaranteed to be forever, which for some teams can ultimately be good, or for those at the top, a disaster.

Just ask Liverpool. This is the team that was at one time the best in England and the best in Europe. Consistently, year in and year out, they competed with the best players and best managers the game had to offer. It must also be pointed out that this period of utter dominance in the 70s and 80s was followed by a period of footballing wilderness in the 90s, at which point another team took over as the dominant force in England (more on them in a bit).

Even in the 2000s, Liverpool maintained their dominance in the “Top Four” domestically and continued to be commanding on the European stage. Under Rafa Benitez alone, Liverpool made it to four European semi-finals in six seasons, along with two finals, winning one of them. Although there were always some setbacks, Liverpool looked a great side in Benitez’s penultimate season by finishing second in the Premier League, their best finish in a long time.

But alas, Liverpool still find themselves in the position they are in now. From finishing second place two seasons ago, to seventh place last season, to currently in the relegation zone. It’s a harsh reality to observe after five years of steady highs and rebuilding, but the crash has hit and hit hard. The team now flounders after three years spent under poor ownership and previous and current miss-management. While there’s no one person to blame, whether it be the owners, Benitez, or Hodgson, the club has slid from its position of grace and is struggling to cope.

Then there’s Manchester United. A team so dominate in the 90s and 2000s that they climbed from winning seven division titles before that period to winning 11 in the last 17 years. Oddly enough, they won their 18th league title two years ago, equaling Liverpool’s all-time record, the same year Liverpool finished second at the end of an excellent season. Both teams finished the 2008-2009 season on a high, with a visible momentum for the future.

Eighteen months later and United look a completely different side, while, like Liverpool, selling their best players off and not bringing in adequate replacements. You can look at the negative impact owners such as George Gillett and Tom Hicks have had at Liverpool and see a very similar impact the Glazers have had at United. While they appeared to improve for a time under the American family, they have found themselves faltering after some notable sales and a heavy increase in debt.

This season has no doubt started poorly for the runners-up. A succession of dropped points to teams like Fulham, Everton, Bolton, Sunderland, and West Brom have left them stewing in mediocrity. No longer are they the fearsome team from the Northeast that used to put teams to the sword, but rather a side with a geriatric core and a defense resembling a sieve.

It’s not necessarily a game of “Let’s Blame The Owners,” but the debt that United now find themselves in, despite their large gate receipts and continued appearances in Europe, has to be worrying. And even with the incredible haul of £80 million for Ronaldo, whom have they replaced the prolific player with? The team has failed to attract stars of that caliber and started to become a team of unimpressive ‘value’ players. The likes of Valencia, Javier Hernandez, Michael Owen, and Gabriel Obertan have yet to impress at Old Trafford, and most importantly, they’ve yet to impress the only star player left in Wayne Rooney.

It’s sad news for those that follow United to hear of Rooney’s apparent desire to leave the club, following in the footsteps of his former strike partners Ronaldo and Tevez. The situation may change, but he appears out the door to the nearest trophy winning side in blue.

As Ferguson and Rooney remain at odds, it’s the first time the public have been privy to chinks in the United armor. While it may seem unfathomable to United fans to be protesting outside a courtroom to oust their current owners and languishing in the drop zone in desperate need of a turnaround, that’s exactly what Liverpool fans thought a year ago.

Is It Just Me, Or Are Defenses Shocking This Season?

By , September 23, 2010 8:36 am

Chelsea Have Proved How Poor Defenses Are This Season

You have to look pretty hard at the Premier League results so far to find a decent amount of clean sheets. It seems that with each game in this short-lived season, it’s becoming increasingly less likely there will be no goals. While this is good for entertainment value, I can guarantee every club is not happy with their defenses at the moment.

Two of the obvious examples are Liverpool and Manchester United. Despite United’s recent win over Liverpool, neither team has started the season well. Most worryingly for both sides is the fact that their defenses have leaked so many goals.

Between the 2005/2006 season and the 2008/2009 season, Liverpool were known for being the clean sheet keepers of Europe. No one was able to hold a 1-0 score-line like them, and you always felt confident they wouldn’t concede.

Now they can’t keep a clean sheet to save their life, unless they’re not scoring themselves, that is. That being said, they’ve actually performed well in the Europa League, but it’s hardly the same opposition the Champions League and Premier League offer.

United have done a fair bit better, but once again they are a team whose defense is a shadow of their former self. So far this season, they’ve conceded two goals against Fulham, three goals against Everton, and two against Liverpool. Two of these games they dropped points in and the other they won by way of Liverpool’s defense being slightly worse than their own.

Merely two years ago in the 2008/2009 season, when Man United last won the title, they kept an impressive 24 clean sheets in the league. With Vidic and Ferdinand at the back, you felt their defense was always rock solid. Now that’s not the case.

Liverpool and United aren’t the only teams in the league giving up goals. Arsenal have kept only one clean sheet this season and that was against Blackpool. Manchester City, Tottenham, Everton, and Aston Villa have all conceded goals.

Not even Chelsea, the current league leaders with maximum points this season, have kept a clean sheet in all five games so far. That being said, Chelsea have also majorly contributed to the lack of clean sheets in the league overall. Their goal difference is +20 after only five games.

This statistic is slightly misleading, though. While Chelsea have started the season well, you’d have to say their fixture schedule has been incredibly kind. Winning 6-0 against consistent bottom of the table teams is not what you’d call impressive. In reality, it’s a combination of Chelsea’s excellence in front of goal, as well as incredibly poor defenses that have created their overwhelming lead at the top of the table.

It’s still too early to decide anything concrete about the season, but one thing is fairly obvious. The defensive frailties of the top teams could really cost them by the end of the season. That being said, I hope it continues if only to make the season more interesting.

Let The Silly Season End And The Real Season Begin

By , August 12, 2010 1:31 pm

The Premier League Can't Start Soon Enough

In the four weeks since the World Cup ended, there’s not been much to note in the world of football. The summer suddenly became what it usually is between seasons: long and dull with no football in sight.

For any real fan, summertime is depressing. There’s no action to speak of for three months, which leaves you no choice but to grasp onto the ridiculousness of the silly season. Thank heavens there was a World Cup this summer because the post season has been one of the most uneventful in years.

The “word of the day” this particular summer transfer window has been one many clubs haven’t used for a while: value. Long gone are the days of the open checkbook and the ludicrously overpriced sales tags attached to the world’s top stars. No longer will clubs be willing to fork out £30 million for a player without batting an eyelid. In these hard economic times, even multi-millionaires need to pinch some pennies here and there.

Perhaps the Premier League is now finally catching up with the rest of the footballing world with its newfound thriftiness. They are being forced to look for players who provide value for money, rather than offer the biggest amount they can think of knowing the other team can’t say no (£80 million for Ronaldo to Real Madrid anyone?).

Bye Bye: Chelsea Gets Rid Of Some Dead Wood At Stamford Bridge

Chelsea, so often the big spenders in the transfer market, have barely made a peep this summer. They are doing themselves some favors by getting rid of the, shall we say, ‘old’ dead wood around the club. Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Ricardo Carvalho, and Deco will all be playing their club football elsewhere next season.

So far, they’ve only brought in Yossi Benayoun, who, while a talented player doesn’t have the same ability to change games and unlock defenses as his predecessor Joe Cole. The squad they have will be strengthened more by players returning from long injury spells, including Drogba, Mikel, and most importantly, Essien, than it will from new signings.

Manchester United's Season Hinges On The Form Of Wayne Rooney

Still, the fact that Chelsea has done so little in the way of transfer dealings is definitely a sign of the times. And despite the big money Manchester United made off the Ronaldo deal last summer, they have yet to spend much money either. Their only summer signing of note is the Mexican World Cup sensation Javier Hernández, who, to be honest, doesn’t fill me with dread when I look at him on the pitch. With very few new recruits in key positions, Manchester United have every opportunity to go backward this season after their failure last year to pip Chelsea to the title.

United’s starting 11 is aging rapidly in the form of Giggs, Scholes, a 31-year-old Rio Ferdinand, and a 40-year-old Edwin van der Sar. But it’s the enormous chasm that Wayne Rooney left when he was injured last year that should be United’s chief cause for concern. There’s no way Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov can get the job done, and it will be the young Hernández’s first season, all too soon to carry the team himself. Without a fit Wayne Rooney, Ferguson’s team is in danger of falling way off the mark.

Can Mancini Deliver The Goods To Man City This Season?

Manchester City has been the only team willing to splash out the absurd amounts of cash on new players. They are believed to have spent around £77 million already, and with the arrivals of James Milner and Mario Balotelli imminent, their spending will reach the heights of around £130 million by the end of the transfer window. Despite having this grand notion that they’re doing something radical in bolstering their squad in such a manner, they are only doing what Chelsea did a few years ago, and it won’t last.

It can’t last, as Chelsea can now attest too. Even billionaire owners have to work with what they’ve got and shelve the spending after a while. This is really the season where Man City will have to prove that all this money is going to good use. They finished a very decent fifth place last season, just missing out on the Champions League, and look to be one of the most frightening prospects for the new campaign. But if things don’t change by May 2011, Mancini will be looking for a new job and the oil rich Abu Dhabi Group will cut off City’s supply of endless funds.

Christian Poulson, Another Shrewd Summer Signing For Liverpool

Then there’s Liverpool. After a devastating previous season in which they finished seventh and only through a fortunate turn of events squeaked into the Europa League, this season will be looked at as one for improvement. For the first time in a long time, Liverpool fans, players, and staff are realistically focused on rebuilding the team and looking for progress rather than trophies. That’s not to say they aren’t in with a shout. The league title might be a bridge too far for new manager Roy Hodgson, but with a fit Torres, Gerrard, and Aquilani, there’s no reason this team can’t finish in the top four and even go on to win the Europa League and a domestic cup.

This season for Liverpool is all about starting over, and due to their current lack of new ownership on the eve of the first premier league weekend, ‘value’ has been on the lips of everyone involved with the club this summer. So far, Liverpool have done a pretty decent job of finding players who are a value for money. Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic, and Fabio Aurelio came on a free, while Danny Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey, and latest signing Christian Poulsen all came for less than £10 million combined. While the strength in depth to actually challenge for the title can’t be there until a much needed injection of funds comes from a new owner, this Liverpool squad has definitely used the word value to their advantage, more so than any other team in the league so far.

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