When Liverpool invested in taking Brendan Rodgers from Swansea this summer and appointing him as their new manager, they were investing in a new vision for the club. But the process of developing that vision and Rodgers ideology for the football club, demands that principal owner John W. Henry and the Fenway Sports Group continue to back and invest in their new man.
Because the status of the club and the realities of this league demand that Liverpool cannot continue to regress anymore. Rodgers had to be backed to the hilt; now was not the time to verge on the side of caution or hesitate in making the decisions that the Ulsterman requested. Otherwise the changes made in getting rid of Kenny Dalglish were made redundant.
But the stark reality is that FSG have fallen short in the support of their new man and new project. Yes, investment has been made this summer and supporters weren’t oblivious to the fiscal responsibilities that have come with the last 18 months of spending. But in failing to acquire a new striker for Brendan Rodgers, the club have left the job half done. Time will tell quite how serious the implications of this will be. But the lack of depth up front has the capacity to spell big trouble for the red half of Merseyside.
As this summer’s transfer window progressed, it felt as if Liverpool were assembling a squad with real balance but more importantly, in the shape of the man that they’d brought in to take the club.
The £15 acquisition of Joe Allen from Swansea has still left a handful of supporters dubious, especially after the vast sums spent on the likes of Stewart Downing. But Allen has looked to settle well, he fits the new style but most importantly, he was Rodgers number one transfer target. The club recognized how much their new man valued Allen as an integral cog in the machine and they backed him up by getting the deal done.
Similarly, Fabio Borini was a player that Rodgers has worked with before and clearly values highly enough to demand that the owners shell out near on £10million for him. A player that is young, technically astute and versatile, he fits the Rodgers mould that FSG invested in acquiring.
But this is where progress seems to have to come to a grinding halt for Rodgers in the transfer market. Snapping up the exquisitely talented Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid on loan was a wonderful bit of opportunism that has boosted the squad, but perhaps not where it was in the most need of boosting. Liverpool were in desperate need of bringing in another frontman by the end of the transfer window. The future of Andy Carroll was always up in the air but both his and the departures of more unconventional front men in Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy left the Rodgers with only two conventional strikers.
And quite remarkably, the status quo remained as the transfer window slammed shut. Liverpool’s ranks of recognized frontmen currently consists of both Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini, a player who himself, is a newcomer to Premier League football. For however talented the pair may be, Liverpool have begun the new league campaign with an alarmingly weak frontline. Even if Rodgers’ 4-3-3 system is extremely fluid and interchangeable, a long term injury to Suarez in particular, could prove terminal for any goals they wish to achieve this season.
But the fact is, it simply should never have got to this stage at Anfield. In particular when Rodgers’ principal target was ex-Fulham, and painfully now Tottenham Hotspur striker, Clint Dempsey. The American offered not only real quality, as his 23 goals demonstrated last season, but amazing value. Fulham reportedly wanted around £5million plus for the 29-year-old. Astonishingly, this was apparently too much for the Liverpool board to contemplate, and a counter £3million was reportedly their return offer. Unsurprisingly, this was rejected and Dempsey subsequently joined Tottenham Hotspur on deadline day.
In his open letter to the club, John W. Henry stopped short of addressing the Dempsey issue directly, but he gave a relatively unsubtle hint to exactly how he felt about it.
The 62-year-old said:
“Spending is not merely about buying talent. Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years.”
It’s hard to argue with the overall merits of Henry’s admirable ideology but he seems to be naïve to the process in how you go about achieving this. Just throwing Rodgers in with his 4-3-3 and ensuring all the players have average age of the squad is nice and low doesn’t mean anything. For starters, age is only a number and all great squads have ben built with at least some bedrock of experience. Turning your nose up at a striker who’s got 17 goals in the league when you’ve only got two recognised frontmen on the basis he’s 29 isn’t smart. In fact to put it mildly, it’s pretty foolish indeed.
Supporters understand that the wage bill at Anfield after a culture of paying high money for questionably quality, had to be slashed. But not backing Rodgers on Dempsey, just because he had a low re-sale value, is an unbelievably poor showing of judgement. Although in terms of quality, finance and ambition, Manchester United’s purchase of Robin van Persie isn’t on the same plateau as Liverpool’s pursuit of Dempsey. But at the end of the day, they made a purchase, regardless of age, that they thought could drastically improve the prospects of the squad. For the price that Dempsey was available for, there are no excuses for Henry and the FSG.
But perhaps far more poignantly, the club haven’t just let Rodgers down but they’ve in some respects, displayed a public lack of faith in the ex-Swansea man. Of course, their intentions to run the club sustainably suggest that there isn’t anything deeply cynical about this. But when they invested in his vision for the club, they were trusting him with taking Liverpool forward. Why back him with £25million but then baulk at paying £5million-odd for Dempsey?
Rodgers has got off to a difficult start at Anfield but similarly to Andre Villas-Boas’ fate at Tottenham Hotspur, he has been let down by a higher figure of authority. Fans need to see through that and back him to the hilt; an away fixture to Sunderland followed by a home game against Manchester United suggest that patience may have to be a virtue in the coming weeks.
How do you feel about Liverpool’s faliure to attain Clint Dempsey? Were they right to stick true to their principals given his age or is it a serious error of judgement? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views.