At the tail end of the 2012 summer transfer window, Clint Dempsey seemed certain to move to Liverpool. The squad needed an injection of experience in the attacking line; a player with versatility and a knack for scoring goals. All seemed well, with the American poised to depart from Fulham and head to Merseyside. A web page even supposedly listed him in the squad prematurely. But of course, it didn’t happen. Everybody went home early and Dempsey wound up wearing #2 for Tottenham Hotspur.
Now I fully expect that the situation has more nuances to it than we know, and I don’t expect any club to divulge all of the information or lay all of their cards on the table. But as far as we’re aware, Brendan Rodgers wanted him but FSG would not sanction the extra money, believing that it did not represent proper value for money. They wouldn’t allow this “quick fix”. Since then, Liverpool have seen Luis Suarez become Superman in the attack. Around him, there have been few contributors in the way of goals. Raheem Sterling has been great, but terribly overused at the same time. He currently bears an unhealthy weight and responsibility on his 18 year old shoulders. He should be coming on as a sub, happy and safe in the knowledge that the fans depend elsewhere for goals and anything he manages is a bonus. At the same time, an improved but still relatively ineffective Downing and makeshift wide forwards Shelvey, Cole and Suso are all doing jobs best suited to, say… a Dempsey, or a Sturridge. Two figures who failed to arrive in the summer (for whatever reasons).
The thing is, it’s fine to plan for the long term. In fact, it’s great. On the whole I support FSG’s transfer policy. But what you have to realise is that you are in no way guaranteed the time necessary to see those long term plans come to fruition. Unless you properly cater for the now, ensuring that the current team has enough skill, experience and depth to reach its short term goals, it’s entirely possible that you’ll never see those long term plans. It’s a fickle old game. Even winning the most lucrative trophy in domestic football, the cash explosion that is the Champions League, doesn’t guarantee you time when things aren’t going well.
Say you have five really good youngsters in the squad, all in and around the age of 20. In five years they’re going to be great, international quality players. But at 17-21, perhaps they’re not ready to take on the full responsibility of their team’s fortunes. Maybe that weight on their shoulders, at such tender ages, is a burden and hampers their development. Imagine an 18 year old CB being at major fault for his team conceding a goal in a big game. The team loses, and the fans are devastated. There’s no telling how that might affect him. But if it happens to an Agger, or a Carragher? They’ll deal with it. This is where you need players who have been around the block; mid-to-late twenties and beyond. If you don’t have those players in your squad, you need to get them. Experience is priceless. If you don’t have it, you can’t simply wait for it to grow from within.
For me, what FSG need to realise – or Rodgers must convince them – is that sometimes it’s absolutely correct to step outside of your policy. Exceptions must occasionally be made. If you’re really smart with your overall policy and recruitment, and also very lucky, hopefully you won’t have to step outside of it too often. But from time to time, needs must. And when needs must, for the good of your long term plan, you must take care of your short term welfare.
This is an important window for Liverpool. Get it right and the second half of the season can bring more goals, more consistency, more points and a higher league position. Get it wrong, and they could spend the rest of the campaign treading the same water.
The window of opportunity is finally open again. Will FSG, Rodgers, Ayre and Liverpool take full advantage?
Only time will tell.
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This article was first posted on January 1, 2013