By Andy Ollerhead
I could start this article with something out of leftfield and try to wax lyrical about shaving foam for free kicks or the colour of the seats in the Upper Centenary Stand but there’s only one question that matters in L4 this summer.. .How do you solve a problem like Suarez? An upfront £75 million in used notes from Catalonia’s finest has certainly given us a few options but with a month left of the transfer window we’ve still got an abrasive, wriggling, improvisational genius shaped hole in the flamboyant attack that carried us to last season’s ‘close but no cigar’ tilt at the title. Crucially it’s a hole that was also filled with 31 league goals and almost half as many assists during that fingernail shredding run to second. So what do we do with the cash?
We could dwell from now until the start of 14/15 season proceedings and beyond on the wisdom of the sale but I’m gutted. Suarez might be a little bugger but he was our little bugger and selling the third best player in the world isn’t intuitively the first step you want to take to crack on and jump the gap to top. The nagging sense of deja vu I’ve got comes from the worry that we have repeated the mistakes of our last second place finish in 2009, when the sale of every Liverpool supporter’s midfield man crush Xabi Alonso. It left the best Liverpool side of the Premier League era without a heartbeat. The parallels are striking- in 08/09 we were arguably the best team in the league and contrived to mess it up ourselves. Xabi was our player of the season, easily one of the best players in the world in his position and we got a fee for him that most reds would have been deemed satisfactory even if we were still slightly traumatised by his exit.
The problems arose, as they may well do this summer, when it came to spending the money in the right place. I know quite a few Liverpool fans who agree that Alberto Aquilani was a talented midfielder who never really got a fair break at Anfield but even so, replacing the team’s key component with an injured Italian carrying no experience of the speed of Premier League hustle and bustle, and no chance of a pre-season to help adapt was somewhat short sighted of Benitez. It was certainly the key contributing factor, that caused to our woeful slide from second to seventh in 09/10.
So what are we after this time? For a few post World Cup weeks Brendan’s answer seemed to be attacking midfielders and lots of ‘em. In a Wengeresque fit of trequartista titillation we were linked to pretty much every number 10 in Europe and beyond even though £45 million has already been spent on Lallana and Markovic to swell an area of the pitch already decently stocked with the talents of Sterling and Coutinho. This may signal an end to last season’s excitingly unpredictable fluid formations and a return to Brendan’s favoured 4-3-3 with Sturridge as the main striker and interchangeable playmakers swarming around creating chances. A return to rigidity could also signal a return to some semblance of defensive stability, a key feature of any title winning team which we seemed to throw out of the window last year.
To this end, I’m made up that defensive reinforcements have finally joined with Lovren signing last week and it seems that we’re still in the market for a left back What we do know is that with 75 million Suarez dollars still burning a hole in Ian Ayre’s Harley Davidson branded wallet, we’re back in the Champions League and last season’s horrendous third kit consigned to the bargain bins in Liverpool One, there is no reason why we can’t attract some defenders that can actually defend. There’s a nagging feeling that so far we’ve replaced Suarez with Rickie Lambert though and I don’t think many fans are convinced that it’s a swap that will bridge the elusive gap from second to first. If that’s the case then the next four weeks will be the most crucial four weeks of transfer window that we’ve ever had…