If you’ve read any of the media coverage concerning Liverpool over the last five months, chances are you would have learned of the club’s competitive demise and self-imposed exile from the future of the domestic game’s upper echelons. The ascendancy of Spurs, Aston Villa and Manchester City have all threatened to break the long-time stranglehold of Liverpool’s annual top-four finish, with Spurs ousting of the Merseyside Reds’ Champions League berth this term indicating that the pretenders may have finally caught up with the Anfield side. As such, scribes have viciously stuck the knife in with Liverpool at their most vulnerable, hastily stating that this season’s performances indicate the ‘end of an era at Anfield’ and that the club may remain in mid-table mediocrity for a generation.
Granted, Liverpool’s 7th place finish, their worst since 1999, indicates that all is not well at Anfield, but is such hyperbolic eulogising merely the work of Fleet Street men eager to sell papers or a true prediction of what the future holds for the club?
Let’s start with the grim stuff first. Tottenham’s fourth place means that Liverpool will be deprived of Champions League football for the first time since the 2003/04 season. This unexpected absence from Europe’s elite competition will serve to act as a detriment in a variety of ways. Firstly, the deprivation of revenue money from the competition will reduce much-needed income for the debt-ridden side. Secondly, the lack of Champions League football may force the club’s top stars to seek pastures new. Thirdly, next season’s absence may diminish the pull of the Anfield side for prospective summer targets.
However, Manchester City’s inability to finish fourth means that Liverpool will have a greater chance of finishing within the top-four again next season, with the Eastlands outfit now unable to bring in the calibre of player they seek. With no Champions League experience, it is unclear whether or not Spurs will be able to successfully handle playing top-level competitive on two fronts – their Champions League jaunts may be to the detriment of their Premier League campaign. Whilst Fulham’s run to the Europa League final this year has been admirable, it is all too apparent how the existence of a constant ‘European hangover’ has affected their domestic form (they finished in 12th place this season, down five places from 7th in 2008/09).
Based on newspaper opinion alone, one might have assumed that Liverpool have had several successive bad campaigns in a row, manned by Graeme Souness Mk II. The crucifixion of Rafa Benitez, a man heralded just one year ago for commandeering Liverpool’s closest title tilt in nearly 20 years, has been unrelenting. Choosing to neglect his achievements in Spain with Valencia (two La Liga titles and one UEFA Cup in three seasons, breaking the Real-Barça stranglehold on limited means), his stellar achievements with Liverpool in the Champions League (2 finals, 1 victory, 1 semi-final, 1 quarter-final in 6 seasons) and his year-by-year improvement of a once-stagnant Liverpool side (finishing an agonising four points away from the title in 2008/09, despite battling against sides with far greater means), the media have instead instigated a witch-hunt to rid the club of their best manager in 20 years.
As well as deciding to dedicate column inches to the downfall of English football’s most successful institution, those on Fleet Street have deliberately failed to suitably publicise the great deal of positive work that has taken place upon Merseyside in the last year. The recent and impending signings of Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey and Danny Wilson represent a cherry-picking of the nation’s finest young talent, and proof that work is already being done in order to secure a bright future for the club on the field. Behind the scenes, Christian Purslow has admirably toiled behind the scenes since his appointment as the club’s managing director last summer. Thanks to his work, Liverpool have secured a lucrative new sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered, a deal set to rake in £80m over four seasons. On a lower level, Pepe Reina, now widely regarded as the finest custodian in the Premier League, recently put pen to paper on a new six-year contract. Team-mates Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano have constantly re-iterated their love for the club and their desire to remain at Anfield.
This deplorable eschewing of rational perspective within the media underlines ignorance of the notion that ‘one swallow does not make a summer’. As a Liverpool fan, I heartily acknowledge the gross underachievement at Anfield this season – 7th place and no trophies just isn’t good enough for a club like ours. But to brand this season as the dawn of a generation-long terminal decline? Oh please.
When you walk, through a storm…
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