If Steven Gerrard is the heart of Liverpool then Xabi Alonso was one of the lungs. So Liverpool just lost a lung. It’s lung-wrenching. I know they have a potential organ donor lined up (AS Roma) and that a new lung (Alberto Aquilani) could be on the way already, but what if the operation doesn’t take? They won’t know until the season gets going.
You really want to know your key organs are working before you get out there and start running about full tilt. Things can quickly go awry. See: Robbie Keane.
When Liverpool finished second last season, four points shy of the top, it was clear this season would require some tweaking. No serious overhaul needed. A lick of paint here. Replace some vinyl siding there. Liverpool finished last season with a group of players who could almost win the title. They could look at it up close and admire its shine. They could definitely smell it. No touching. A couple adjustments could put the title in reach.
Enter Glen Johnson for Alvaro Arbeloa. The proven right-back who loves to get forward and create chances. Kuyt and Benayoun are at their best drifting in toward the box from wide areas and with Johnson providing reinforcement on the wing, they’ll each have much more freedom to do so. Potentially a stellar adjustment.
After the Johnson pick-up, I put Liverpool at the status of title-ready. Maybe one more purchase to be safe (perhaps a back-up striker for Torres, yes?) But Boom! Crash! Now the Reds have hit a wall. Last season’s most influential playmaker packed his bags and went to the great Spanish talent vacuum: Real Madrid. It feels like as Liverpool got in sight of the top of the ladder, Florentino Perez cut the middles out of the upper rungs. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
I know this was unavoidable. Real have the money (well they don’t actually have the money – they have banks who don’t care that they don’t have the money, which is just as good), and Xabi wanted to go back to Spain. Two inexhaustable forces.
Despite my naive belief that the deal would collapse at the last minute, Xabi’s leaving now seems like it was a forgone conclusion all along.
There’s nothing to be done but move on.
Today, the same buzzing network that told us Xabi was going seems convinced Aquilani is on his way. Searches on Bing and NewsNow call up a slew of articles that claim the deal is nearly done. (Liverpool have also been linked with Standard Leige’s Steven Defour and there’s still talk they might go for David Silva. Though it feels like they’ve been going for Silva since the Bronze Age.)
If it is Aquilani to replace Alonso (reports insist the deal could be tied up in the next week), hopefully the feeling Rafa and co. have about the 25-year-old Italian comes from the part of their instinct that told them Torres and Mascherano were the right targets. Not the instinct that told them to spend £7m on Andrea Dossena.
I know a club is not any one man and, as a supporter, I have to accept my favorite players are not always going to stick around. But Xabi is a tough one to let go. Other than Gerrard and Torres, I think I’d rather give up any other Liverpool player over Xabi. (Ooh: Javier… I didn’t really mean that… please don’t go anywhere, dude!)
Really, I don’t really want to give up any of the first team players except Dossena, Lucas and Andriy V*****n. But Xabi going leaves that big empty hole in the middle. It feels irreparable. It’ll take a lot of convincing from the new kid (whoever he may be) that we’ll be alright.
Again: a lung is missing. I’m feeling wheezy.