The Football Association recently banned prized Liverpool striker Luis Suarez for eight matches on the grounds that he made derogatory comments toward Patrice Evra during the club’s fixture against Manchester United. While the Anfield outfit may appeal the ban, the Uruguayan’s lengthy suspension is all but a done deal especially after the FA released the evidence on which they based their decision. In addition, the Reds will have to cope with the loss of Lucas Leiva, who has been brilliant for the club in cohesion with Charlie Adam.
Liverpool Football Club is in a rebuilding stage. Manager Kenny Dalglish has a boatload of talent training at Melwood, which ranges from the experience of Steven Gerrard to the youth of Jonjo Shelvey, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll. Many predict that the Suarez’s ban will hex the club’s season as the Copa America hero has been the squad’s key source of goals and creativity.
However, the loss of two of the first team’s strongest players may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the red half of Merseyside because Dalglish is now free to tamper with Andy Carroll and his overstocked midfield.
Several questions have been asked of Andy Carroll, the target man signed by King Kenny nearly a year ago. Plagued by injury at first, the former Newcastle man put his left foot and ponytail-distinguished head on display with a brace against Manchester City, giving supporters reason to believe, singing “There’s only one Andy Carroll.” The £35 million pound signing has stuttered since with numerous appearances on the bench and many performances that have frustrated fans and the Englishman himself. Despite the criticisms Carroll has faced, few have been able to see how the youngster has helped the Reds succeed. Friday night’s 3-1 triumph over Newcastle United, in which the No. 9 featured as the loan attacker, showcased the physical threat incurred by those who must match up with him. In the Newcastle match, many balls were swung into the area for Carroll who was tightly marked by either Williamson or Coloccini, while against Blackburn the striker was matched up with Christopher Samba. The Liverpool man failed to finish against his former club, but he drew the two centre-backs away from the Reds’ midfielders. When Steven Gerrard marauded into the box to score, Captain Courageous got through easily as the backs were distracted by the threat of a cross to the towering forward. The focus defenders put on Carroll will spur Liverpool to goals, as he will either be free for a header or blanketed, opening up space for others to attain glory at Anfield.
With the absence of Suarez in the midst, it will be an important eight matches in which Kenny and his men must figure out how to use Carroll’s height and aerial ability to create scoring opportunities.
Kenny Dalglish will also have the luxury of throwing five in the midfield over the coming weeks. Jordan Henderson will be able to prove himself as either a winger or central midfielder and Stewart Downing can be tested on the left flank as well as the right (I would love to see him combine with Jose Enrique). Meanwhile, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey would benefit from some quality time on the park with the assistance of seasoned captain Steven Gerrard.
The above midfielders need to find their identity and role in the club’s future. For example, will Jonjo Shelvey become a box-to-box midfielder or will he primarily assist in the Reds’ attack, as he did throughout the preseason? In the last few matches, Jay Spearing has played as a deep-lying midfielder. Yet last year, the prospect played in a traditional central midfield position.
Another important decision that must be made by the club is whether or not to treat this campaign as a chase for fourth, or one in which the lads will aim for the Champions League spot but use experimentation to produce a better side for the future.
The “instant gratification” temperament that has taken football by storm is one that is thoughtless and wasteful. Many Chelsea supporters are calling for Andre-Villas Boas’ head, but the tactician has had a mere half-season with the Blues in the world’s most difficult league. How can one expect a man to turn eighteen men into the invincibles within five months? It is simply not possible. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been at their respective clubs for years and one must not overlook the success each has had. History shows that the longer a manager stays at a club, the better the side becomes, as that coach may bring in players to fit his preferred system, or they are able adapt to the system that best suits their current team (the past few Chelsea managers have all ended up at the 4-3-3).
The same goes for players, as they need time to gel and learn one another’s style of play. Dennis Bergkamp and Johan Cruyff have spoken of the importance of team chemistry, which of course comes with sticking together for a long period of time. Thus, Liverpool must commit to the future. Instead of looking for a title this season, which is obviously out of reach, the club must look two, three, or perhaps even four years down the road to gain silverware.
This squad is packed with talent and, next to Manchester City, is the best team on paper in the English Premier League.
During the transfer window and into February, Carroll must play and his abilities must be utilized. In addition, youth should not be ignored for success now, as it will only come back to bite the club in the future. If Shelvey, Spearing, and Henderson sit, the club will be right back where it was last year. To site Ferguson again, he has stated time and time again that he will not leave United without a strong youth base. It is not right to frustrate a young players by squandering their opportunities, for talent must be observed and put to use in the right way. The loss of Suarez and Lucas opens up spaces in the squad for experimentation, in which the right fit for the club’s youth may be found. Success never comes overnight and Rome was not built in one day, thus all Liverpool supporters must have patience, for greatness will return to Anfield with time.