When Kenny Dalglish returned to Liverpool midway through last season, the side had a dramatic upturn in fortunes. What was great about this period was that a number of young players were given a chance, and most of them took it and performed outstandingly well; Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly, John Flanagan amongst others, came into the side and did not look out of their depth, and they gained vital first team experience.
Which is why Liverpool’s transfer spending this summer is a worry, where do these players-and those coming up behind them-fit after Liverpool’s big summer spending? Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing will provide much needed strength in depth, but will they keep out players who could have gained vital experience for the future? Will the youngsters who did so well at the back end of last season just be destined for bit-part appearances as substitutions and in the Carling Cup?
There is no pressure on Dalglish, and although every Liverpool fan wants to get back into the Champions League, he could really have used the next season or two, to blood and fully develop the youngsters he already has into a really solid team that could be successful for years to come. One of the best things Rafael Benitez did when at the club-aside from bringing a fifth Champions League title to Merseyside-was put a winning structure in place at the academy. Under the guidance of Jose Segura and Rodolfo Borrell, Liverpool have quickly developed an academy program that is capable of competing with any of the others around the world. The structure is in place, and they have started to produce some really good players, but the importance of giving these players a chance and not always looking to invest in short-term, big money signings, is key.
Under the guidance of director of football Damien Comolli, Liverpool have gone out and spent big on homegrown talent, regardless of the risks that this may pose. Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll have been bought with a long-term goal in mind, but for £50 odd million for the pair, it is a huge risk to take for the club both on and off the field. Other signings like Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing aren’t getting any younger, but have been brought in to make an immediate impact over the next season, but is this at the expense of the team’s long term future?
It seems as if it is a thin margin, and a difficult balance to achieve. Liverpool are caught between building a squad for the future by developing their academy prospects and the young recruits they have bought, and building a squad to achieve success in the short term, thus sacrificing the long term development of the team.
As long as the up and coming players are given a fair shot and a chance to develop and prove their worth in the first team, alongside the more established names, then I don’t see why Liverpool can’t work towards both short term success and their long term future. The risk is that by continually investing and bringing new players to the club, the talented youngsters who are already there, are forced further down the pecking order and struggle to make the break through to an already over-crowded senior side.
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