The 2011-12 Premier League campaign is one that the majority of those involved with Liverpool will want to forget, as the club have struggled on a weekly basis. Dropped points at home to the likes of Wigan, Blackburn and Norwich have cost the Reds any chance of Champions League qualification, which was seen as the ultimate aim, following a summer of heavy investment.
As a result of on-field failures, the new arrivals have shouldered much of the blame, with their below par performances frustrating fans and gaining much criticism in the media. One player who has been particularly disappointing, is Stewart Downing, who arrived in a £20 million deal from Aston Villa, with a reputation as one of England’s finest wide midfielders. The 27-year-old was an effective creative force last term for the midlands club, but has struggled to produce a similar level of performance at Anfield, failing to notch a single league goal or assist in 34 appearances.
However, the winger fails to believe that the club’s poor displays are all down to the new arrivals, and thinks that the blame should be shared evenly throughout the team:
“It’s someone’s opinion (that new players haven’t delivered). Others might take it hard, but it doesn’t bother me. It’s easy to look at the table and think just because it’s not gone well in the league that it’s the new players’ fault. But that happens at every club. There are more than four or five players in a squad and we have all not done it, not just the new ones. It’s as a team. Sometimes the new ones haven’t played and we have lost games. It’s a building process, it takes time, it’s not overnight.” Downing told The Guardian.
“There are seven or eight new players in the team and that’s quite a lot. You’re expected to come in and set the world alight but sometimes it doesn’t happen. But there are positives. We are building a good team. To win the Carling Cup in the first season and potentially the FA Cup as well would be a great start.”
It must be said that the ex-Middlesbrough man had a point, as a vast array of Liverpool’s seasoned pro’s have failed to produce the goods on a regular basis. Aside from Jose Reina, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, the majority of the club’s long-serving stars have been thoroughly disappointing, which has contributed heavily to the team’s stuttering form. Fine results have been achieved away at the Emirates stadium and Stamford Bridge, yet the Merseysiders have continually dropped points to lesser opposition, due to failures in the final third of the pitch.
In particular Dirk Kuyt has frustrated this term, struggling to reproduce the combative displays that fans of the club have become used to. The Dutchman has been in and out of the starting XI so far, with his form not convincing Kenny Dalglish to make him a regular starter. Since his arrival from Feyenoord, Kuyt has been a reliable source of goals from the wide-right position, and it can be no coincidence that with his stuttering displays Liverpool have struggled.
As Downing said, football is a squad based game, and unless all players are performing and contributing the side is likely to struggle. The inflated fees Liverpool parted with to secure the likes of Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson have, understandably, received attention, yet if established stars are struggling the transition for new players will become even more difficult.
It’s been a tough season for the club and its new arrivals, however a decreased level of media scrutiny next season may see the investments pay off, and aid Liverpool in their quest to become one of England’s top sides.
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