One of the obvious consequences of failing to qualify for the Europa League last season is that it means Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli will have to work harder to bring the best players to Anfield this summer. As footballers have become more and more short-sighted over the years, even one season without European football is almost unthinkable for elite players (irrespective of the fact that they would be joining one the most exciting projects in world football by joining the Reds this summer). All this may add up to Liverpool not being able to attract a ‘marquee’ signing this summer. However, it will not necessarily mean that we cannot still be confident of a top four finish this season.
When FSG came to Anfield, one of their first observations was that our wage bill is not reflected in the quality of our squad. Most Liverpool fans agreed. It is often said that the big teams can be judged by looking at who they can bring on in the middle of a game to unlock a defence or ensure they don’t concede an equalizer. When you look around at the teams that qualified for the Champions League last season, their benches regularly included established players such as Dimitar Berbatov, Park-Ji Sung, Nicolas Anelka, Andrei Arshavin, Adam Johnson etc etc. Meanwhile, the only player that could be described as ‘established’ from our bench was Joe Cole, a player who has suffered with form and injury and who seems to personify FSG’s observation.
Even Tottenham, the team that finished above us in fifth, boasted Defoe and Pavlyuchenko on their bench for their recent trip to Anfield. More than anything else, this gives Managers such as Harry Redknapp (not to mention Messrs Ferguson, Wenger, Villas-Boas and Mancini) more options than those currently open to Dalglish. This lack of options is why Rafa, Roy and Kenny have not been able to finish above 6th over the last two seasons. The managers above them have had far more attacking options open to them.
Although making a £40m breathtaking signing (a Torres for 2011 if you will) would be great for the hopes of the fans, it will only give Dalglish one more option than he already has. Instead therefore, signing players such as Henderson, Downing and Adams – all players who can play in more that one position – will open a plethora of options for Dalglish going into the 2011/2012 season and equip us with the depth that at least Spurs and Arsenal have at their disposal. Kenny would have the players to be able to switch between 4-4-2, 4-4-2 (diamond) and 4-3-3 with ease. And all for the same price as a Torres for 2011.
The players we have been linked to this summer may not have the pulses racing in the way of those linked to the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Alexis Sanchez, but this is the time for the sort of calculated spending that will take us above the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal next season. It is not the time for putting all of our eggs in one basket in the hope that one player will be able to win us the league at FSG’s first attempt.
Once European football has been achieved next season, the players who are not considering coming to Anfield this summer will do anything to join King Kenny’s Red Revolution. That will be the time to look for the marquee signings.