April 25th, 2010 by SeveSanchez
I have to apologize for leaving the last post on a bit of a cliffhanger. What I had planned to be a simple explanation of why Liverpool are in their current sorry state became something else. I won’t say rant, because that would be unprofessional (and hey I correctly used multiple SAT words), but it was definitely a title challenger in the Long Winded League. I’ve since pondered the situation and am now ready to bring closure to the analysis of Rafa’s plight, as well as dish out some insightful backhanded compliments.
That’s right, I will now discuss how Liverpool resolve their immediate problems. (You’ll find no mention of ownership, stadium construction, or the like, because those issues are playing elsewhere in the Long Winded Premiership). Rafa, write this down.
In part one, I hinted at two directions Rafa could go: “Import a replica of the Bearded Basque, or tailor your tactics to better fit the current players.” But I’ll expand on what I mean, as well as add a third possibility.
1. Purchase an Alonso Replica
The simplest thing to do would be to ask Real Madrid really nicely if they’d let Liverpool have Alonso back. But Florentino Perez doesn’t trike me as the forgiving type, so Rafa must look elsewhere. He must locate and buy an authentic deep-lying player, one who can effectively contribute to attack while remaining in his favored defensive formation. Think Andrea Pirlo but younger, and possibly with a man’s name. This player must already be comfortable playing just as Alonso did- no conversion from another position BS. Under the current system, Rafa plays non-traditional wingers (Kuyt, Benayoun, Maxi) as wide men. Which isn’t bad in itself, but it heaps importance on an immaculate trio of central midfielders. There’s the explosive attacker (Gerrard), the ferocious ball winner (Mascherano), and the Alonso role. Find one player to fill that missing link, and Liverpool return to last season’s form.
2. Change Philosophy about Prioritizing Defensive Shape
Stop obsessing about “controlling the game,” you psycho! Sounds simple, but Rafa has spent six years building to do just that. It would take a complete overhaul of tactics, strategy, formation, player selection, substitutions, practice structures, everything. I won’t pretend that this is an easy task, but it’s what top managers must be capable of doing. Even Harry Redknapp does it to success…(yes, that’s backhanded compliment #1). And listen to the benefit: it costs Liverpool absolutely no money. Nothing. That’s what the change is all about. Altering the team’s playing style to maximize the resources (players) that Rafa currently has available. No “transfer kitties” or “war chests” or any storybook euphemism for spending cash.
3. Acquire (and play) Genuine Wingers
REAL wingers. REAL REAL GOOD wingers, to be precise. Ribery and Robben would both fit the bill, and I didn’t even have to look past one team. But I’m about to, in order to enact backhanded compliment #2. Manchester United, the words make me sick just to write them. But I believe in “Know thy Enemy” and I know a dirty little secret about them. They compensate effectively for a “meh” central midfield by employing explosive, genuine wingers. Doing so de-emphasizes the reliance on the CMs, and stretches the point(s) of attack against determined opposition. Now, while this sounds like it must coincide with my second point, it actually does not. If you get legitimately dangerous wingers, you simply play them ahead of Kuyt/Maxi/Benayoun and watch Liverpool reap the benefits. You don’t alter anything, just trust them to operate as they know how. This brings up an important side note, before we wrap things up. I don’t have any gripes with the aforementioned faux-wingers, at all. They’re all really number tens, playing wide. They don’t complain, they expend great effort, and each one has a formidable skill set. Sound familiar? Yes, all three of them fall under the Riise Corollary. Not exceptional enough at the position Liverpool needs them, but too talented at certain things to be left out of the team. If you buy some class wingers and play them, it automatically sorts out that enigma.
So there we go. Three (almost) quick fixes or varying cost and effort to Liverpool’s short term problems. And now, a moment of silence for Rafa’s decision to change nothing and continue giving upbeat press conferences.