Another wasted pre-season - by John Brennan
Must we? Really? Again? Oh, go on so. To be clear, this isn’t (read, “wasn’t supposed to be”) some downtrodden piece on the new season. I’ve put my money where my mouth isn’t and had a tenner on us for the Title and (11/1) and a fiver for the European Cup (35/1).
It’s my annual donation to Paddy Power’s retirement fund. And it cost me a fiver more this year, as they qualified for the European Cup, the bastards. What do you mean, I bet on us to win a competition we haven’t even qualified for? Stupid, me?
But, and you knew there was a big but coming (think Molby), this is all going to end in despair again, isn’t it? We say it every time: it’s the hope that gets you. So, the secret it to not have any. Except, three days out from the new season, we all do. Faith, no; hope, yes.
First things first. This “window” (it used to be called the close season) has been a shambles. Who is running the Club? These guys are incompetent, not quite Gillett (the best a man can get?) and Hicks (would love to hear his namesake Bill’s take on him) incompetent, but incompetent nonetheless. But we have a new Main Stand, they’ll say.
What, meaning more money in their pockets? Oh and the Club shop is almost ready. Although the floor will probably fall through just before it opens. Who’s in charge of transfers at the Club? Not the CEO, Peter Moore, who took to Twitter to deny any involvement. Klopp? The receptionist? Who knows? Nobody, that’s who. The Van Dijk “saga” was humiliating, at best, a sackable offence at worst. Thing is as nobody knows who’s in charge, nobody knows who to sack.
We can criticize Klopp all we want. He often has too much to say for himself. He has spoken out against the home crowd on occasions. Some of his tactical decisions have been questionable. Just like some of his signings. But he’s working with cowboys and could well walk if things don’t change.
I think he’s taking the piss out of the Board with his statements about “new players”. Alberto Moreno was shit when he was good. If he’s the answer to our problems at left-back, what’s the fucking question? Everybody knows we’re vulnerable to crosses coming in. so it’d probably be reasonable to buy someone who knows how to stop them. Milner as a new player? In the middle of the park? Just what we needed!
We’re spoilt for choice up front, but that hinges on Coutinho staying. That’s probably not going to happen, is it? He wants out and Neymar’s departure has obviously opened the way to that happening. McManaman, Owen, Mascherano, Alonso, Suarez and now Coutinho. Spain’s big two have done well out of us, haven’t they?
Mané, Firmino and Salah playing behind a fully-fit Sturridge (thank you, I’m here all summer) is enough to make any defence sit up and notice. Add Adam to the mix when he gets back and you could easily see this team scoring goals, although the 78 (SEVENTY-EIGHT!) of last season will still be hard to overhaul.
The problem, of course, is not and never has been up front. It’s been at the back since Klopp got here and before that when Rodgers was in charge. Since Carra retired, basically! The last four Champions conceded 33 (Chelsea), 36 (Leicester), 32 (Chelsea) 37 (City – and they scored 102 in 2012-2013). Last season we conceded 42!
So it’s not difficult to see where the problems lie. If we start next season with a back-four of Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren and Moreno, we’re fucked. If Keegan’s philosophy at Newcastle was “you score three, we’ll score four”, our reality will be “we’ll score three but concede four”. Twelve clean sheets out of 38 tells its own story. You can argue the rights and wrongs of the van Dijk fee (well you can’t really, as there’s nothing right about it) but unless we strengthen at the back we’re going nowhere and when we go nowhere, our best men leave.
If we happen to qualify for the European Cup, we’ll have at least six huge games before Christmas and hopefully more thereafter. One of the reasons we had a decent season last year was the fewer number of games. Klopp is being told to “do more with less”, effectively.
This is all conjecture at the moment. If Coutinho stays by some miracle and we get van Dijk in, then things will look a lot brighter. We’re devastatingly good going forward but a lot of that hinges on Coutinho (take his 13 goals from last out of the team and Lallana’s 8 and suddenly things look a lot gloomier).
We’ll know more in six weeks’ time but safe to say that Paddy Power will make money from my Title bet. Yirrip, however, could be a different matter. You just never know with this team. The bigger the night, the more they want it… “Enjoy” the new season.