Gutted: n. 1) A feeling of intense desolation, akin to the feeling of having one’s insides ripped out. 2) A sweet colloquialism that should be adopted into American parlance along with the words “wanker”, “bullocks” and “knackered”. Example: Ethan Armstrong will be gutted if Liverpool FC sell Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.
Here it is: if Liverpool stay fit and don’t lose Xabi Alonso, they’ve already got the winning formula.
The recent £17m move might be the key to solving their big problem: Glen Johnson will be instrumental in helping the Reds dissect the ten-man defenses of Stoke, West Ham, Fulham, (and I presume…) Wolves, Birmingham, Burnley, etc. If Liverpool could have figured out how to get through such throngs of penalty area loiterers last season, they would have won the title with room to spare.
Also, from what I’ve seen of summertime Riera, it looks like he’ll come back with the bristling promise he displayed last fall. He looks good. He stalled last winter. But he’s allowed one first season rut. Now it’s time to get to work turning defenders and launching in balls. Get to it, Albert. I know you have it in you.
So, between Johnson and Riera (with help from Insua/Aurelio) Liverpool will have a solid wide game on both sides. Something Zenden and Pennant didn’t bring. Kuyt does a fine job turning people, but doesn’t have the speed of a winger. Sometimes he has a cross. But now, I see the Dirk making sweet interchanges with Johnson who will be charging in from backfield like Napoleon storming across a continent. I’m seriously getting excited about this. Especially Johnson.
Liverpool should go in for one more quality signing (more on this in part 2). But the most important thing is they don’t sell Xabi Alonso. Mascherano either.
At this point, I don’t think either of them will go, but I can’t muster the confidence to believe Florentino Pérez isn’t in his office, right now, watching highlights from May’s 2-6 spanking: when Barça obliterated Real at Real. He hurls the remote through the television. He stands on his desk and, à la Gary Oldman in The Professional, he screams: “Bring me everyone!!!!”
Boom. £100m. Xabi and Javier move to Madrid. (Hey… that’d be a good name for a Spanish-language bromantic comedy…)
Seriously though: please stay, amigos.
These two are the core of this team. With them controlling midfield, Steven Gerrard knows he can burst forth and tear apart defenses. The back four know they’ve got a first wave of defense (largely in Mascherano) to break up attacks before they need to worry. Stick Lucas in for either Alonso or Mascherano, and the captain won’t soar with the same confidence, the centre-backs won’t feel as covered. Mascherano’s a brick wall. Alonso’s a seer. Strength and vision. These two are the Liverpool midfield. Irreplaceable. Unless, of course, Real wants to do a straight swap, one of them for Kaká… What say you, Señor Pérez? No? It was worth a try.
Now, (assuming there’s no coup on Xabi and Javier), if every Liverpool starter can agree not to get injured all season, the Reds can absolutely win the title as they are. But who can depend on that? What happens if Stevie or Torres get laid up for a long stretch? I said if Liverpool stay fit. We can’t bet on that. The Reds need an insurance policy…
Tomorrow: Part 2…
Warning: Harry Kewell will come up in the discussion. No, it’s not what you think. But I’m giving you some advanced notice so we can all stay friends.