It’s amazing what can happen in football in the span of a few days. As I sit and reflect on what turned into a turbulent weekend for Liverpool Football Club, it’s hard to decipher through all the mixed emotions. There have been ups, there have been downs, and there has been a lot of anxiety in between waiting to find out which one was coming next. In the end, the January transfer window closed with us saying goodbye to a player who disappointed many with the manner of his departure, creating a gaping hole in our collective heart where the love for him used to be. And while this pain may be the legacy he has left behind, it’s much more important to now look to the future.
Cue Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Don’t worry; I will get back to Fernando Torres, as his becoming an official Chelsea player does not mean he’s nothing to do with Liverpool at all anymore. But for now, I’m going to focus on the positive, and for the first time in a long time, there is a lot to be positive about.
This is the first transfer window in eons that Liverpool has been truly involved in. Let’s just step back for a minute and appreciate this. I know many fans (especially those at other clubs that don’t quite understand LFC or know what we’ve gone through) are quick to point out the massive transfer fees splashed out by club owners FSG in the last few days. Many are saying the £55 million or so was a ridiculous amount spent on two largely unproven strikers, one who last played in Holland, and one who just entered his maiden year in the Premier League. But when studied a little more closely, they may just prove correct and perhaps in time, a bargain.
Let’s first look at Luis Suarez. He’s a young (24), versatile striker who can play off a central striker, on the wing, or in a partnership. Anyone who has watched videos of his goals on YouTube can attest to his natural and predatory striking ability. He’s quick, he’s feisty, and he has a hunger to play at Liverpool. He arrived at the club thrilled to be there and has since been caught on film at Melwood with an enormous smile plastered on his face.
He is quoted as saying in his first official interview as a player, “I’m very happy to be here, to me this is the most important club not just in England, but in the whole world.” He claims to have watched Liverpool as a boy and followed the English league, while also pointing out that the Liverpool fans are the greatest in England. He says it’s a dream to play there. There’s not much more you can want from a new star signing, and Luis has endeared himself to the fans almost immediately with his warmth and excitement for the club. His goal scoring record speaks for itself with 49 goals in all competitions for Ajax in the 2009-10 season. It remains to be seen whether he can replicate this sort of form in England, but he looks to be a fearsome and electrifying prospect.
Andy Carroll, the other new addition about to don the famous number nine shirt, came as a bit of a surprise to Liverpool and its fans. With Torres so abruptly putting in a transfer request at the end of the window, it left Dalglish and Co. scrambling. In the circumstances, you might expect some rash and silly decisions to be made. Liverpool needed a replacement striker fast with Torres on his way out, but FSG was not about to throw away all their plans on building for the future simply because they had little time to make a snap decision. They were never going to buy just anyone, even if it was with one eye on the summer to make the real purchase. Bringing in the right player was paramount, but FSG also had an opportunity to make a real statement of intent.
When the name Carroll was first mentioned, I was skeptical. Although he has shown a lot of skill over the first few months of the season, this was still Carroll’s first time in the Premier League. And immediately the colossal transfer fee Liverpool offered for him took me aback. But once I had some time to look past the inflated fee (some of which is due to the Man City effect, some due to the fact he is English), I was able to see the potential of the player. For starters, he is a mere 22-years-old, and only just turned 22 this month. He has the ability to play well for a number of years to come and if successful, could potentially offer Liverpool a sizable return on their investment should they wish to sell in the future.
According to Kevin Keegan, Carroll is one of the three best headers of the ball he’s ever seen. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s also technically sound with his feet. Watching him earlier this season, you could see the way he was able to use his strength to power into the box, challenge extremely well for headers, and score some lovely goals, of which he already has 11. From the initial evidence, you get the feeling that he has a lot of the skill Torres has, combined with dominant heading prowess, and most of all, the ability to hold the ball and link up play. For all Torres’ strengths, the latter was never his cup of tea.
What could also prove quite exciting is something else Torres lacked: the ability to play as part of a strike partnership. With the attributes of both new strikers, it seems clear they have the opportunity to compliment each other very well. Carroll could play up on his own with Suarez on one side and Maxi, Kuyt, Cole, Jovanovic, or Gerrard flanking the other, but the pair could be lethal with Suarez playing just in behind. With Carroll’s ability to hold up play and create around the box, coupled with Suarez’s finishing and ability to join in the play, the partnership is starting to seem mouthwatering.
And how it all comes full circle is the partnership of Torres and Suarez was also looking quite tasty before Torres’ oddly timed decision to leave was thrust onto the club. Upon more reflection, it’s key to remember that Torres was never very good at playing in a partnership. All the times it was tried with him at Liverpool, nothing ever seemed to work. And for those that say the surrounding players at Liverpool just aren’t good enough, then what excuse can be made when Torres plays with Spain, up front with David Villa, and always looks out of place and ineffective?
This begs the question of how the Spaniard will fit into the Chelsea system. With Drogba, a player who is also used to playing up front on his own, it will be interesting to see how the two combine. And this means of course that Anelka will have to be dropped to make way for the new striker. Or perhaps Drogba will be dropped. Or maybe even one of the coveted midfielders of Lampard, Essien, or Malouda. Abramovich may have been keen to finally get the prize he’s always wanted, but Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti may not be thanking him anytime soon for the re-think he will have to do with his squad.
As was mentioned in the previous post regarding Torres’ poorly timed (and possibly ill-advised) decision to leave Liverpool, Chelsea are an aging team looking more on the verge of a slide rather than an ascent. While they may continue to have an inordinate amount of funds to invest, they will need to replace the most important positions on the team, all at the same time, very soon.
This is compounded by the fact that Torres will turn 27 before long and could very well have played his best days at Liverpool. Take Michael Owen as an example of a striker who has looked a shadow of the player he once was. His speed was exhilarating to watch, and while his finishing skills have never really waned, the consistent injuries and time on the sidelines has affected him mentally and physically. Speedy players tend to burn out younger as their hamstrings continue to give way more easily. The evidence of this was clear the last 18 months or so with Torres, and Liverpool fans had to put up with a number of spells of him injured or lacking in confidence due to his injuries. This was always something that should be a concern for Chelsea, and one they might be worried about sooner rather than later.
It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Fernando Torres, and at this moment in time, I’m not quite ready to forgive and move on. I believe the way he handled his departure from the club was unprofessional and disrespectful to everyone at Liverpool, especially the fans. The timing, the motivation, and the exact reasons for his desire to leave a team that idolized him are still not clear, and it will be an interesting few weeks ahead as some of the truth comes out.
At the end of the day, it’s a shame that Torres couldn’t see to give Dalglish and the new owners until at least the end of the season to prove him wrong about Liverpool moving in the right direction. That is of course if we are to believe his main reason for joining Chelsea is to win trophies. He tarnished what could have been legendary status at the club, similar to the one the current manager still has. In my opinion, I feel he will one day regret the decision he has made (if he hasn’t already), and he will have no one to blame but himself.
Even Ryan Babel, a much maligned and indifferent player to most of the fans left with parting words of appreciation and gratitude for his time at Liverpool, even going so far as to say he wishes everyone at Liverpool luck and hopes they end up in the top four where they belong. Torres’ parting words, as he joins Chelsea tonight, so far have been, ”This is the target for every footballer. To try to play at one of the top-level clubs in the world and I can do it now.” Make of that what you will, but as his respectability amongst Liverpool fans is currently rock bottom, not even mentioning the club and his time there strikes yet another cruel blow.
It’s difficult to say when I’ll be able to look at Torres with appreciation and respect once more. I’m sure it will happen one day, but the way in which he deserted the team when it had a bright future to offer him is still fresh in my mind.
But what is important now are the two new players that have joined Liverpool today. Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez are the future of the football club. And as Kenny Dalglish said in his laconic comment today regarding players, “The most important people at Liverpool Football Club are the people who want to be here.” And right now, those people are two young lads named Luis and Andy. Welcome to Liverpool.